Tag Archives: visit your home state

Family and the Open Road: Down Home America

28 Jul


Jerry and I recently journeyed 3,200 miles over ten days, through 12 states and numerous cities from San Francisco to Pittsburgh, following the path of family. We crossed deserts and mountain ranges, skirted farmlands and big cities, and stopped at every roadside curiosity that caught our fancy.

…on our way home.

Funny word, home. For the past 20 years, home to us has been a cozy place in Virginia where we live and love, and where coffee is served in ceramic mugs—not those annoying, plastic lidded paper cups that emit all substance and steam as a single, scalding jet stream through a tiny, razor-sharp puncture hole…but I digress. Sorry, it’s been a long trip.

However, as we drove eastward, the idea of home took on an entirely new meeting.

We sure felt right at home for three nights in Sacramento, staying with Troy and Jodi and their beautiful girls. Jodi put out the Call to Family, and people I haven’t seen in years swooped in like excited chickadees to say hello.

I’m truly honored to have married in to this Anderson/Perkins/Fitzsimmons tribe, (part of the Mary Oswalt’s Daughters clan). The Oswalts know many secrets about life, inherently or otherwise. They put family first, they love fiercely, and they speak the universal love language: good food. If I wrote about all the wondrous foods I consumed in Sacramento I’d quickly max on word count and make us all hungry again, but I will say that Liz’s carrot cake and Melissa’s banana pudding are worth the price of a plane ticket, should you be so inclined.

…which led to an invite to see the garden—a tamed jungle of nearly all the richness our earth has to offer to anyone like Cousin Liz who can coax it out. Liz is also an artist, although I’m not sure she knows that yet. I cried when she gave me a piece of Sacramento Home that I’ll treasure always: A Liz-made quilt that belonged to Aunt Lois, one of The Sisters.

I could stay here for a while and just love these people, I thought.

Strawberry Reservoir

The Strawberry Reservoir in Utah–looks like home.

All too quickly we hit the road, headed East on Highway 80 through Nevada and Utah, a beautiful route lined with forests and mountain lakes. Such beauty! For days we flew past, (and stopped occasionally to gawk at) glorious evidence of God’s infinite imagination.

We could live here, we said to each other.

NOTE: In another blog post I’ll tell you about the salt and the bugs, Steamboat Springs, doughnuts, and Touchdown Jesus, but this post is about home, so let’s get back on the road.

We paused again in Loveland, Colorado, an amazingly beautiful town just east of the Rocky Mountains, to see my sister Sue and her husband Dan. We stayed long enough to enjoy some brontosaurus steaks and home-made potato salad,(a recipe I aim to acquire soon). Sue and Dan are storytellers, and, after the boys toured Dan’s amazing automotive wonderland, we sat in their back yard well into the night listening appreciatively to their NASCAR-sales tales in the soft glow of garden luminaries, wishing we had more time.

But the next day we were back on the road, driving toward Denver. There we stopped to see Jerry’s dad and Cathy, who, because of a tragedy, are now parents to 9-year-old Precious in what should be their retirement years. There’s a light in Grandpa’s eyes that makes me think that sweet little girl is not a burden at all.

Still meandering eastward, we lingered for a while in Indianola, Nebraska, where Uncle John and Aunt Peggy filled our bellies with home-cooked stew, complete with vegetables freshly harvested from the plot of goodness outside the kitchen door. We lamented together over the butterflies in the peach trees (who knew they could destroy a peach crop?) and the varmints in the garden, and, after pulling up a few new potatoes and admiring the pair of ‘68 Fords John is loving on in his shop, we again had to wrench ourselves away from home to continue the journey.

Life is so simple here. We could get to like this.

We drove through miles and miles of waving cornfields in Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, loving the abundance of it all. And the peacefulness. Nearing the end of our journey we traversed Ohio and holed up for the night in Pittsburgh, where we met our oldest son for dinner at a nice, home-style restaurant. Sorry, I experienced no inclination to settle down in Pittsburgh; however, I so enjoyed being with my son that I treasured every minute, even the part where he and Dad just sprawled out on the hotel bed afterward, watching the Nats play ball while I finished some editing work.

I could be happy doing this for a long time.

One blog post isn’t nearly enough for me to record my pining. How much I wanted the time to…get to know Jodi like a sister, particularly in a busy season I recognize oh, so well, and assure her that, despite not getting more than a glimpse of her man over the heads of those two bouncy girls, she and Troy will get time to themselves again…to read Paddington stories to Blake and hang out with Margaret—who I suspect shares my sense of humor…to learn about Sue’s childhood, especially the years before I was  born…to play that perfect practical joke on Doug…just because, well, he’s Doug…to have a real talk with John about more than just the weather…to be there with Uncle John when he turns the key on one of those cars…to—well, again with the word count issue…

In essence, Jerry and I gathered snippets of family across America, and came back to Virginia with a new definition of home. Our home is a bountiful and beautiful nation filled with natural wonders, some harnessed by man and others too magnificent to tame, and we want to see it all. Our home is a 3,000-mile stretch of people gathered around tables in kitchens and backyards across the country, bound by a love that endures across time and distance. Our home is family.

And we love you all. Thank you for your generosity and your love. We miss you already.


People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. — Luke 13:29

Back Yard Bonanza

27 Aug

My family lives in Northern Virginia by chance. We moved here courtesy of the U.S. Military for our last tour of duty 17 years ago, and just haven’t gotten around to moving home. Truth be told, we don’t exactly know where home is.  I’m a native Rhode Islander, and I pine for the water and sand. My husband grew up in Montana and Colorado, where it’s all about the mountains and snow. So we sit here in the suburbs while the years tick away; we’re like sloths trying to choose our next tree. For years our only certainty has been that we won’t be staying in Virginia. The traffic, the hurried pace, the shopping malls—not for us.

Falling Spring, Covington, VA

Falling Spring, Covington, VA

However, a new family hobby may be bringing our future more clearly into focus. We’ve been geocaching for more than a year now. That’s a different story for a different time, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll describe it as an international pastime involving more than two million containers logged according to their longitude and latitude. Or, as one popular slogan explains, we use billion-dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods.

This hobby has taken us to places we’d never have seen otherwise.  We’re half-way through our quest to find a cache in every county and independent city in Virginia. That’s 95 counties and 39 cities. In the process, we’re discovering Virginia.

This past weekend, we drove along the West Virginia border, through the George Washington National Forest, stopping in counties with names like Bath, Bedford, and Botetourt. We spent a night in Harrisonburg and a night in Roanoke. Between the two stops, we found a breathtaking waterfall in Covington, we snaked alongside the James River through the Appalachian Mountains, and we stumbled across the gravesite of the WWII U.S. Marine Corps general whose artillerymen may have kept Uncle Frank alive at Iwo Jima (yet another story, coming soon to a Portrait site near you).

Pirates guarding the pier

Couple of beach bums guarding the pier at Colonial Beach

Our recent trip has left me reflecting on the many historical, peaceful, and bizarre sights we’ve seen in the past year or so—and how our opinion of Virginia is changing. There’s a lot more here than asphalt and tail lights. We’ve watched the Serenity Schooner sail into Yorktown, admired the pirates at Colonial Beach, and waited for the sun to set over the Shenandoahs.

We’ve visited so many monuments and grave markers that we’re developing a fascination and appreciation for America’s history while searching among headstones at Arlington for the graves of Iwo Jima flag raisers, standing at Stonewall Jackson grave site statue wondering what he’s looking at for all eternity, or even just hanging out in Middleburg, where Jeb Stewart and his cavalry were skirmishing just before the battle at Gettysburg.

Serenity Schooner

Serenity Schooner sailing to Yorktown..
is our ship coming in?

It’s been a most excellent adventure…and we’re only half-way through our journey. As it turns out, Virginia is a tad larger than we first thought, and much more interesting. In fact, on each trek, we add another site to our growing list of places we want to go back to when we can spend more time. More importantly, in nearly every place we visit, I think, wow, I could live here.

Next trip: Smyth, Grayson, Patrick AND Henry counties. I can hardly wait…

I’m starting to think we might be Virginians after all.