Friday, July 17, 2015

Texas or Bust: Destination--Lake Murray, Oklahoma

We all slept pretty darn well in the hotel in Goodland, Kansas Monday night and were super grateful we could just get dressed and leave Tuesday morning without having to break down a tent and pack away sleeping bags and pads.

This was the beautiful sunrise Jared captured at the edge of the hotel parking lot as we started to load up the burb that morning (a three-man job with the heavy, uncooperative lift gate!)

We checked out of our hotel and continued on our way. When we stopped the night before, we were still in the Mountain Time Zone. Ten minutes after we were on the road that morning, we crossed into the Central Time Zone making it an hour later right off the bat. Kind of depressing to lose an hour so soon, but it meant we were at least in our new and final time zone! Goodland is a lot farther north than I expected. We headed east on Interstate 70 until we reached Salina in the upper middle part of the state and dropped south on the 35. This took us right through Wichita.

Around 9:30am, I caught JJ "poking the bear"--almost literally! Cooper was pretty cramped and struggled, to the point of frustrated tears, for quite some time to get comfortable. Once he settled down, JJ thought it would be funny to poke him in order to elicit a riled-up response out of his big brother. We quietly and firmly scolded JJ and told him to leave Cooper...alooone. For everybody's sake!

Twenty minutes later, JJ switched sides and was trying to bother his other brother. Brave, silly boy.

When Jared was a little boy, his family lived in Caldwell, Kansas (not far off Interstate 35) and in Medford, Oklahoma--about 20 minutes from Caldwell across the state line. Since this was the closest we'd ever be to his old stomping grounds, it was a no-brainer for him to show all of us where he had spent some of his younger years when his dad was practicing medicine as a private physician. It was going to be a day of (Jared) family history! What an incredible opportunity!

Jared made the detour from the 35 and cut almost due west on the 166 and continued on the 81 towards Caldwell.

It's a sleepy little spot on the map. Very quiet (probably not the best place for this generation of Houghs :) and quaint.

It was fun listening to Jared drift to another time remembering different streets and places, talking mostly to himself about businesses that were still there or no longer there, as we slowly drove through town. I was impressed he knew exactly how to get to his old house. He lived in Caldwell between the ages of 3 and 7 before they moved to South Bend, Indiana.

And here it is: the little blue house at 320 South Main.

It was tempting to get out and knock on the door to see if we could take a peek inside, but we were still on a bit of a time crunch to make it to the Oklahoma/Texas border that evening. Instead, we sat on the opposite side of the road for several minutes while Jared animatedly shared the stories that came flooding back to him.

The first thing Jared did was direct our attention to the few small steps off the porch and explained that his older brother, Kevin, had pushed their little sister, Nicole, off that front porch in plain sight of Grandma Hough. Kevin immediately knew he was in trouble when his mom escorted him inside and marched off to get "The Comet" (a thin, wooden paddle given to her by her college sorority and--according to Jared and his siblings--very appropriately named). Jared, of course, followed close behind. He didn't want to miss out as a spectator to his brother's whoopin'. He distinctly remembers Kevin asking his mom how many swats he was going to receive because she always let them know the amount ahead of time. However, on this occasion, her normal one word, numeral response became a dreaded two-word response. She firmly retorted, "Count them." That was a bad sign! :) Jared, however, wonder brother that he is, stood there and just in case Kevin had other things to focus his attention on, he counted the swats for Kevin, all the while laughing at his brother's expense. Kevin got TEN swats. Jared continued to laugh while Kevin rolled around on the floor holding his rear end, writhing in pain. When Kevin was done and realized Jared was still laughing, he chased Jared upstairs and fulfilled his big brotherly duties. Jared smiled at the memory and declared that it was a beating worth taking. He added that, to this day, Kevin still holds the record for the most swats received from The Comet in a single sitting. Jared, however, admits that he, personally, probably holds the record for the most swats in a given day, though he couldn't say what that number was. He said he liked to spread his swats out. (I wish I could have video recorded Jared relating this story. I was laughing so hard, I was weeping.)

Story #2) Doc and Karole had a concrete patio put in off the back stairs behind the house. While it was in the beginning stages, wooden boards were anchored in a grid-like pattern to divide and mold the concrete once it was poured. The concrete hadn't arrived yet, but Karole knew to instruct Jared to stay away from the entire set-up and not to climb on the wooden frame. At some point, Jared thought this instruction from his mom was just a suggestion, because it didn't take long before he was up on those wooden beams, practicing his balancing act. According to Jared, his mom materialized out of nowhere at the back door with The Comet in her hand. Jared knew what was coming and that he couldn't charm his way out of that one. Five swats for him.

Story #3) After the concrete patio was put in, the Caldwell area got a rare ice storm one winter. Kevin and one of his friends decided to pass the time by sliding across the patio like an ice rink. Unfortunately, Kevin's friend slide across it, fell, and cut his head open. Fortunately, Kevin's dad (our beloved Doc) was able to take him to the small hospital and stitched him right up!

Story #4) One day Jared was playing with his dad's pocket knife--where, as you're folding it to stow, once the blade is well on its way back down, it snaps shut. Doc, saw his young son with it  and firmly said, "Jared, stop playing with that knife." Jared said he would, but the second the words were out of his mouth, the knife blade snapped right down on the middle of his left index finger. Their house (built in 1900) was constructed in such a way that you could go from the family room, to his parents' bedroom to the living room and back around in a circle thanks to double sliding wood doors between the rooms. After the knife clamped down on his finger, Jared immediately took off running and screaming, doing a big lap around the house, with the knife still attached to his finger! On the second lap, he took a detour to the bathroom and pulled the knife off. He ran it under cold water, repeating to himself that it didn't need stitches. His dad caught up to him, peered over his shoulder and said, "Yup. That needs stitches." Doc took Jared to the small ER and sewed Jared up with four stitches. He still has the scar to prove it!

Story #5) Kevin had an acquaintance/friend who lived on the other side of the gravel alley behind their house. This boy had a dog named PJ. It was a large, ornery mutt. Jared wouldn't really call PJ a mean dog per se, but if you were to run in the opposite direction of the dog, PJ would chase after you and nip you wherever he could...and not just at your feet or ankles...sometimes the side of your torso! As it happened, the Houghs had just gotten their first family cat--a gray, striped tiger kitty, named Annette. This boy would always brag how his dog had killed many cats in the past and as a mean-spirited kid (case in point: he vigorously shook a can of beer and purposely waited for little Jared to come around the corner then sprayed it all in Jared's face) would always warn and taunt them, "Hope your cat doesn't get left alone outside or my dog will kill it." Well, when Annette was around a year old, Jared spotted Annette up on top of a picnic table in the neighbor's yard. PJ was on the ground barking up at her. Annette, of course, was in full-glory-cat-mode, with her back arched complete with hissing and growling. Jared and Kevin were obviously worried for her safety and about to intervene, but before they could, Annette launched herself on top of PJ's back and tore into him with her teeth and claws. Their initial "Oh no! Annette!" quickly turned to a shocked and encouraging, "Oh yeah! Go Annette!!" Annette jumped off the dumb dog and widdow Mr. PeeJay wan all da way home. They didn't hear any bragging from the boy after that.

You can't see it in the picture of the house, but to the left of it, Jared explained, according to his seven-year-old memory, there was this "huge field." Jared concedes it was probably just a little patch of side yard. However, regardless of the size, he said that he and Kevin and their best buds--the Bocox brothers--John Charles (Kevin's age) and Kirt (Jared's age) would play football for hours over there. It was always the big brothers against the little brothers, but Jared says that he and Kirt held their own!

We drove around the corner to see the back side of the house--there was no garage, just an alley that cut behind the homes where people could drive through and possibly park their cars.

Jared had some fun memories of Chisholm Street.

Chisholm is the street coming towards us (not the street we're parked on). This was the next street behind Jared's home. It's where he finally learned to ride his bike. There is an ever so slight incline, but for the most part it looks pretty darn level. Yet to a seven-year-old, it looked like Mt. Everest! Jared would start at the top and race down it, feeling free, yet fearful! It's so funny the way we perceive and remember things as a child.

Other random Caldwell memories Jared recalled:

*The only movie theater near Caldwell, was the drive-in theater between there and Medford. To watch a movie indoors, in theater seats, with A/C would require a 60 mile drive to Wichita or 40 mile drive to Enid.

*Doc taking Jared and Kevin dove hunting, except that the boys were the retrievers! (Ha ha! :) Doc would shoot the birds and the boys had to run and bring the dead fowl back to him. This was before Doc got his hunting dog ;)

*Fishing around the small ponds in the area. Kevin once whipped his pole back to start his cast but wasn't looking behind him and snagged Jared's cheek with the treble hooks. Thankfully no stitches this time.

*Catching really small bluegill in the small farm ponds so Doc and his pharmacist friend, could bait their trout lines to compete in the yearly catfish tournament. Jared remembers going out in the Chikaskia River at night watching them, waist high in the water, bait the trout lines. The cranky old-timer fishermen made fun of them saying cow tongue and chicken liver were the successful choices of bait, but Doc and his friend WON first place!!

*Going to watch the Caldwell Blue Jays play high school football.

*Going deer hunting with Doc and sitting in the tree stand with him. Doc never killed a deer while Jared was with him, but not because he didn't want to. Just never got the right shot.

*Walking over to the stockyard...down the alley from their house. Watching the animals, mostly cattle and horses, being brought in to be sold or auctioned off.

I could listen to Jared tell stories all day and all night. He is a gifted storyteller. But I was jolted back to reality. It was well past lunch time at this point in our travels. I was sitting in the back with JJ, who was getting VERY agitated. The poor kid can't speak enough to express himself, so he did the only thing he could. He screamed. And cried. And screamed some more. He wanted out of his car seat, that much was clear. This was our fourth day on the road. I suspect he probably felt like this was his fate--to always be in the car in his blasted car seat.

I was shocked to discover it was almost 2pm! Jared remembered a spot in town and so we headed there. The RED BARN. Jared's family ate there frequently because they could walk there, too! Unfortunately, it closed at 1pm. So we headed towards Medford, OK, which was about 20 minutes away.

On our way out of town, we passed the hospital that Grandpa Hough worked at. ("Itty bitty living space" comes to mind).

Doc was an "everything" doctor back then. He took tonsils out at this hospital, admitted his patients, did ER shifts, and delivered babies there. He was the old-school family practice physician. He even did house calls in Caldwell as well as barters with patients for payment. He traded his services for fresh milk and honey from one patient and received a shot gun as payment from another. He even took care of a friends' hunting dogs. One year, Doc sewed up a dog when it got its leg caught in barbed wire and another time he gave them both cortisone injections as they got older to make sure they hunted well.

By this time, JJ had pretty much lost it. He was inconsolable. I couldn't get him out to snuggle, so I just rubbed his face and stroked his head. Poor thing. He screamed most the way to Medford. Once we arrived, we stopped at the first food venue we could find. That was Margie's Place.

We were all relieved we could get JJ out of his seat. He wasn't wearing any shoes, though. When I went to go look for them, I couldn't find them anywhere. We had a lot of stuff crammed in the car, but I was thorough in my search. I could only conclude we must have left them at the hotel but that didn't seem very likely. I walked through there twice before we left to avoid this very thing. They must have been under a couple towels that were on the floor. *sigh* Oh well, he still had his crocs and those other shoes wouldn't have lasted him much longer anyway.

It was around 2:20 when we arrived and thankfully, for the patrons' sake, the place was empty. And cool. The air conditioning was divine!

We ordered our food and the waitress brought out some snacks for the kids while we waited, which was super sweet and fortunately, the wait was not that long. Margie and another friend working there were making small talk with us. They obviously knew we were not from their town or perhaps they noticed our Oregon license plate. Jared explained that we were moving to Texas but that he had lived in Medford years ago and wanted to bring his family by while we were passing through. The ladies asked him his last name. He said, "Hough--my dad was a doctor here and in Caldwell." One of the ladies' eyeballs got big and she exclaimed, "He was MY doctor! I loved Dr. Hough!" (Everybody does!) She then called her friend, who was working at the local bank and asked her if she remembered Dr. Hough. She did and this banker friend just happened to work for Jared's dad years ago. Holy cow! What are the ODDS??? Who knew that after 34 years, this doctor's son would be driving through this old town with his own children and would randomly stop for lunch at a restaurant owned by a former patient of these children's grandpa!? Pretty darn neat! Jared's actually amazed that some of the same people are stiiiiillll living in Medford. Jared prefers small towns, but I think Medford is a bit on the teensy weensy side, even for Jared. As of 2010, the population was a whopping 996.

As an interesting back story, Doc and Dr. Ray Stowers (med school buddies) opened up the very first dedicated doctor's office in Medford, OK right after their "fellowship." (It was medical school, a 1 year fellowship and then physicians went straight to work--there was no such thing as a residency back in the day). Until they set up shop, people living in the area would have to travel to Enid, OK which was about 30 or 40 miles south of Medford just to see a doctor. Not long after the practice opened up, there were some business differences between Doc and Ray. However, an opportunity arose to take over a family practice in Caldwell, so Doc went there and Ray stayed in Medford. Jared was 3 years old when the family moved from Medford to Caldwell. Jared doesn't remember anything about Medford. Apparently, the roof of their house collapsed on them, but Jared has no memory of that. It's just information he's been told.

We thanked Margie and her crew for a delicious meal and announced that we needed to be on our way. It was after 3pm and we were already an hour or so behind schedule. Furthermore, we dreaded putting JJ back in the car and didn't want to prolong the inevitable. He put up a good fight, but not good enough. We hoped that a full tummy would encourage a little nap time. 

This place was across the street from Margie's. We got a good chuckle out of it. Only in the south!
Back on the road, we headed toward the southern border of Oklahoma. We were looking forward to this evening's camping spot. Lake Murray State Park also had miniature golf and a playground. Sure can't beat the $12 site fee! We were hoping to get a campsite near Elephant Rock or Cedar Cove--located near the amenities, but it was first come, first served. It looked like a pretty big park and we hoped that with it being a Tuesday, we wouldn't have to fight a lot of crowds.

As we traveled the next couple of hours, we shouldn't have been at all surprised that we drove right into another storm. This was at 6:20pm. We would be stopping shortly for the night. But it clearly wouldn't be at the campground. Blasted weather! It got the best of us this time around, for sure!

We found a Best Western near the highway and I prayed I'd have similar fortune as I did the night before with a compassionate front desk attendant. I jumped out and gave my weary smile and moving-from-Oregon spiel. The lady said she could get us into a room with 2 queens and they could bring in a cot. I quickly calculated the number of beds per people ratio and figured we could put a kid (or two) on the floor. So I agreed to take it. Compared to the room the night before, it was about $40 cheaper--and then when we saw it, we realized it was also about 40 square feet smaller!! Seriously--it had two queen beds with just enough space in between for a small night stand, and one small, little cushioned chair in the corner by the front window. I had my doubts that a cot would even unfold in that room. It was gonna be the night of sardines. But with the thunder crackling and lightning flashing across the sky with another storm rolling in behind us, there was no other option. We'd make it work. We hurriedly brought in our things and it was not a moment too soon before the deluge of rain descended. This was taken from our motel room door in between downpours.

Dinner was conducted in the same way it was the night before. The jet boil was set up in the bathroom and we ate our planned Mountain House dehydrated dinners. It was pretty late already, so we ate dinner and basically crawled into bed. We squeezed the cot parallel to the first bed right in front of the door. Fire hazard? Probably. Jake (who had a pretty bad headache and wasn't feeling well) was assigned to the cot. Cooper took the cushioned (non-reclining) chair in the corner. He extended his feet and rested them at the top of the cot near Jake's head. (Thank goodness he's short!). We gave Cooper a blanket off our bed. The three littles shared a bed like they did the night before. Although with the thunder and lightning, JJ didn't stay in his bed for long and found his way to us. At least we were clean and dry and safe.

One more day. One more half-day of driving and we'd be in College Station. We were soooo close.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Texas or Bust: Destination--Kansas

It's hard to believe that yesterday marked the one year anniversary that we entered the "College Station Valley." It's been an eventful year and we're still getting used to some things. We miss our old life in the Farmington Ward and Aloha area, but we love our new home.

Monday, June 30, 2014, we headed into the unknown. A few of us have lived east of the Mountain Time zone (Jake and Cooper were born in the Midwest), but it's definitely been a while and as a family, we had never driven this particular route we were taking east of Utah. We were excited to see new things and places.

Our travels this day would take us from Lehi, Utah through the entire state of Colorado and a little bit into Kansas where we would camp in Goodland for the night, just barely across the Kansas state line.

We were up and at 'em and out the door by 5:15am. Poor kiddos, barely awake and crammed in like sardines. This was most definitely the antithesis of "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed." JJ looks perky, but I assure you, he wasn't.

Here are some pictures of the last stretch of Utah shortly after the sun came up.

We entered Colorado at 8:30am. Three states down--only four more to go!!

About an hour later, we needed a potty break. So we stopped at this rest area with a small military memorial. Cooper's 4th grade class did reports on the individual states and the state he ended up with just happened to be Colorado. He was spouting off fun trivia he remembered from the Centennial State :)

We got to walk right up to the chopper. Pretty cool. (Not really sure where Calvin is at this point ...but he obviously made it back into the suburban with us!)

One of the gifts Kathy Tawzer gave us in her bag o' goodies was a magic marker set (that only colors on special paper). We gave that to JJ and he had a great time with it. Jared and I were reminiscing about how much we loved road trips with our family when we were younger. But back then...we were not forced to sit, locked into one position or seat, the entire time! We could lay on the floor in between the seats, under the seats or sprawl over an entire bench seat. We were free! In fact, when my family moved from Georgia to Alaska, I spent most the time hanging out in the cargo area of the van, listening to music, playing with cards and dreaming about boys :) But times have changed and it is so much harder for the little ones. Which is why we were so grateful even for little things like a couple "magic" markers and some sheets of paper to go with them, for they made a huge difference in breaking up the monotony.

Before we left the last rest area, we did some seat swapping. I went to the middle back behind Jared, Cooper moved over to Jake's spot on the other side of JJ and Jake moved up in the passenger seat. Thought we'd shake it up a bit, share the leg room--especially since Jake is as tall as me!

A couple hours after crossing the Colorado state line and we were getting into some higher elevation with mountains and cliffs.

And before we knew it, we were driving through Vail Ski Resort--which was interesting to see in the summertime. Beautiful country though, no doubt.

The drive through Colorado, mostly the mountain passes, were a lot more up and down and twisty-turny than I had expected. Jake and I had headaches from it.

We at lunch in Denver around 1:30 at Fazoli's--a fast-food chain serving up pasta dishes. We managed to stumble into a $5 lunch special with thirty minutes to spare. What a blessing! For some reason, we felt like we were eating "better" by eating Italian than greasing it up at a burger joint. And it was definitely a lot less greasy. We loved Fazoli's when we lived in Michigan and haven't been to one in over a decade. So we considered it a treat. Kids loved it too! There was something for everyone.

Jared got a soda to drink with his meal. As we sat down at our table, Karcyn decided she wanted to read the writing  that was on the outside of his cup. She pulled it toward her using the far edge of the lid. It moved a little bit, but then tipped right over. Jared's 32 oz. soda went splashing all over the table in front of Karcyn, in her lap, all over Jared's right leg and shoe and of course, the floor. It was such a mess, we had to get up and move to a different table and apologetically alerted an employee. We wiped Karcyn off as best we could before our lunches arrived at our new table. Our meals were the perfect portion size and felt much better in our stomachs than a burger and fries would have. After we ate, Karcyn and I went into the bathroom to wash the sticky soda residue off her legs some more. I took advantage of the automatic hand dryer to dry Karcyn's shorts. Gave me flashbacks of when I was roasting her underwear over the campfire a few years back when a sneaker wave caught her off guard at a ward camp out on the Oregon coast.

As we left the area where Fazoli's was to get back on the highway, we took Highway 70 East. Jared asked me to call ABF to arrange the delivery of our moving truck because they aren't open on Tuesdays (weird) and we were arriving on Wednesday. He also had me call UHAUL to reserve a small trailer that we could hook up to the burb in order to take stuff to our storage unit. After I got off the phone with ABF and confirmed a 1-5pm delivery on Wednesday, Jared blurted out, "How'd we get on the 76??" Jared going on the wrong road, going the wrong way, was very unusual. But it happened. I wasn't paying attention because I was on the phone but it must not have been very well marked. So we ended up spending thirty extra minutes turning around. Not exactly what you want to do when you already have a ten hour day on your plate. The kids were being champs so that really helped!

The east side of Denver was very flat and open. It felt like we should've been in Kansas by that point already. But it would still be several hours before we had Colorado behind us.

About 4:30 in the afternoon we watched a storm build in the direction we were headed, including lightning.

It was around then, that Jared and I reconsidered our plans to camp out at the Mid America Camp Inn in Goodland, Kansas for the night. I started to Google lodging options to see what was available in Goodland that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg. We found a Comfort Inn and I jumped out to see if they had any availability for a family of seven. 

Around 6pm, I greeted the front desk clerk with a weary smile. I explained we were moving from Oregon and had planned to camp here for the night but the weather got the best of us. I asked if she had a vacant room for our family and said there were seven of us, but to give a more accurate picture of our situation, assured her that three of them were little people. (I always hold my breath when I mention the size of our family in these types of situations. Six people is usually the max in hotel rooms. I love all my children, but it really makes traveling so much more expensive!! Oh yeah, which is why we don't do it unless we're moving halfway across the country!) I braced myself for a two-room quote, but this gal, bless her, was able (or out of her compassion simply chose) to put us in a suite with a King bed, a pull-out queen and said they would bring in a cot. I quickly did the math. That would be six at most, but figured someone could sleep on the floor no problem. While I was mentally arranging the kids in their respective spots, she added that there's a recliner in the suite as well that could be used as an additional sleeping option and before she could finish her sentence, I blurted, "We'll take it!!" Amazingly enough, that only cost us $125. Even though we had planned to camp in order to cut costs, I was secretly grateful for a soft bed and warm shower--and indoor pool. I know Jared was secretly feeling the same way--especially as our driver whose sitting positions in the car were reduced to one all day.

We pulled around to the other side of the hotel and found the door that our room was closest to and parked there so we could unload our bags and food for the night. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Utah, we discovered that the rear lift gate wasn't working. It was losing it's "juice" that would propel it upwards and keep it up. That meant that it was, at the very minimum, a two person job to get bags and supplies out of the back of the burb and load them back in. Such a pain, but if this was the worst "mechanical" issue we faced in this 2500 mile trek through seven states, we'd take it.

After unloading the truck, we made a quick stop at the local Walmart to restock on healthy snacks for the road the next day. Some of the kids cashed in their quarters they earned by keeping their name clips up all day long and made their own special purchases. Then we needed to eat. While our lodging arrangements changed last minute, our dinner plans, would not. That's where costs can really add up. We still ate our Mountain House meals. Jared fired up his Jet Boil from his previous high adventure days with the young men and away we went. It was actually a super delicious, warm and comforting meal. Everyone had their very own pre-ordered, preferred dinner. Easy to make and easy clean up!

After we filled our stomachs and got things put away for the evening, we decided to check out the pool to burn off some energy and stretch our muscles.

Ahhh. The hot tub was divine.

Didn't take long for everyone to crash. Karcyn, Calvin and JJ were on the sofa bed.

Cooper was on the cot.

Jake was in the recliner and Jared and I had the bed. The longest day on the road in mileage (693) and traveling hours (13) was behind us.