On Wednesday our plan was to leave mid-morning and drive to Coolidge. Two things delayed somewhat our departure. First, Tara had some laundry she wanted to finish up before packing. Second, I had to reschedule our cable modem installation until after they put the run from the cable demarkation point to my office - which I'd forgotten was disrupted by the satellite TV installation.
The other thing that was a change from my perception was that we were taking my car, not Tara's - due in large part to the large box of party supplies (mostly paper goods) purchased around here. Because of this, I needed to fill up on gas, not wanting to risk being low in El Centro where gas is always more expensive. We also needed dishwasher detergent and I wanted some more fruit for the road. So I stopped at Von's after the gas station, slowing our departure a bit more.
So, we ended up leaving about 11:00 or 11:15, instead of the 10:00 or 10:30 I'd have wanted to. But we had no serious weather issues and made it to El Centro by about 12:30 for a late lunch (or really late breakfast in the case of the adults) at the Denny's there.
We pressed on, making a stop at the Love's in Yuma for lower cost (or lower tax at least) gas and a bathroom break. After Yuma we pressed on towards Coolidge. One thing I didn't count on was that after two rest areas (one closed, however) in the first 80 miles east of Yuma, there would be no rest areas, or even clean and safe looking gas stations, between Gila Bend and Casa Grande. So, by the time we got to Casa Grande the boys were both in serious need of a stop.
I also forgot to grab my GPS, so we were relying on Tara's parent's to give us directions. But the interchange between I-8 and I-10 in Casa Grande snuck up on us before Tara got through to her mom. I took a slightly educated guess and headed "west" on I-10 (which is more or less north towards Phoenix). I then started looking for a place I could pull off, finally exiting towards a large collection of fast food restaurants (and as it turns out an extensive "big box" type center. After rejecting the Culver's for not being completed yet, and the In-and-Out for not wanting to try to figure out the magic code that would get me something without beef, we headed towards and into the Chick-fil-a.
This was a bit busy, even for a weeknight, because two different groups were having fundraisers there. After visiting the rest rooms, and getting our food, I dropped our receipt off at the elementary school for their fundraiser (I'll always support a school if it doesn't cost me anything personally). I even let them know that we were just passing through.
As it turns out, I'd also gotten off on the exit that leads to Coolidge. Between Tara's mom's directions, and my own look at the google maps on my phone, I was able to find the R.V. park where we would be staying.
Tara's grandmother has been coming to Coolidge for many years (probably the late 1970's), first with Tara's grandfather and since his 1999 death, by herself. For much of that time, she's been staying in a trailer at an adult only RV park. Several years ago, Tara's parents bought another trailer in the same park, and have also been coming down during the winters.
Over last summer, however, the water on Tara's grandmother's trailer got turned on - very likely maliciously, but we cannot confirm that. As a result, there was significant damage to her trailer. So, she was staying first at Tara's parent's trailer, and then when they arrived at the trailer owned by a friend who is now permanently hospitalized due to Alzheimer's. Fortunately, she'd been given the keys back to her trailer on Wednesday, so she was back in her essentially brand-new trailer, and we got to stay in the friend's trailer. The Kid stayed with his grandparents, since any other choice would have been objected to probably by both kid and grandmother.
On Thursday, we spent some more time getting settled in, and finalizing plans for the party. Unfortunately, Tara's mother took on orders of magnitude more of the party planning than she should have. As a result, the main thing that was left to do was order a cake, and get a few last minute things. In the afternoon, Tara and I headed back to Casa Grande to visit the World Market and Target behind the Chick-Fil-A for a few final things. A few extra things came home with us from World Market (some candy, some shortbread and some ginger beer, if I recall).
Thursday evening Tara and I headed for the Sonic in Coolidge for dinner, and neither of us were that good (but we both passed on shakes - mostly because we had new Jell-o branded deserts that were fairly good for us back at the trailer).
On Friday, the morning was taken up by Tara and her mother with final planning. In the afternoon, I took Tara and The Kid to the Casa Grande National Monument. We got there a bit before 2:00, and were in the museum when they announced that a guided tour would start at 2:00. So we headed over to the starting point for the tour. It turned out our tour guide was both quite knowledgable about the monument - both the ancient history, and the more modern history of the research and protection of the ruins. Since she was also a retired school teacher (and apparently a snow-bird from Michigan). Much to my pleasant surprise The Kid throughly enjoyed the tour.
Before heading back, we stopped off at The Safeway across the street from the monument (literally - it is a straight shot across Arizona Blvd. to get from the monument driveway into the Safeway parking lot) for a few things - mostly some more Coke Zero and some fruit. While we were in there, I thought to look in the mexican food section for non-mild green chili. After finding none, I decided to go to the frozen food section and look for frozen Bueno chili. Score! I picked up one hot and one mild of each red (actually a paste) and green.
As we were checking out, Tara observed someone clearly in medieval garb and wondered if they were with the SCA. I quickly remembered that Estralla War wasn't too far away - and the pair quickly confirmed both suspicions, they were with the SCA and were at Estralla War.
We later went back to Sonic (but took our food home since eating a salad behind the driver's wheel of a parked car is a bit tricky), and again didn't get any shakes. Tara and The Kid got Blue Cocoanut slushies - something I wouldn't think of getting for two or three reasons (I don't like cocoanut, nor slushies).
Saturday was the party. As Tara expected, her mother was all ready to through the schedule that they'd prepared on Friday in the trash to set everything up early. Tara - and probably her father - were able to slow her down a bit. Our first major set-up responsibility was to get the food from the nearby IGA grocery store. When we went it, about 10:00, the day was partly cloudy with calm winds. When we left about 10 or 15 minutes later, the sky had turned brown and the wind was blowing more than 15 miles per hour, kicking up the sand that made the sky brown.
We had some concerns about people getting to the party - or at least the fairly small number not coming from within the fairly compact R.V. Park. As it turns out most of the people arrived on time, and the party was very enjoyable. Tara successfully got her mother to get food first, and then sit down through much of the party.
The only late arrivals were Tara's cousin Matt and his partner, Matt. After they had both put in 60+ hour weeks, they had a bunch of errands to run, and didn't leave until noon for a 12:30 party. Since they live on the north end of Phoenix, and I-10 was closed for a ways between Casa Grande and Tucson, they were well over an hour late. By the time they arrived, the cake had been cut and many of the people had departed. But they still enjoyed the time (and I had a good talk with the other Matt - who I can talk with better than a lot of the party attendees).
This morning, our plan was to leave between 7:30 and 8:00 (and I think I'd hoped to be off by 8:30 - which we succeeded in doing in spite of all of the adult's tendency to be caught in what I called the "talk trap")
The trip was fairly quiet. We got a little rain between Casa Grande and Gila Bend - where we stopped to be on the safe side. We had a lunch at our usual Cracker Barrel in Yuma - which was a bit longer than some times since they had a large Sunday lunch crowd. There was snow on the ground in the San Diego high country, but the roads were clear. Our only major incidents were an earthquake during lunch, and nearly being hit by a large chunk of snow melting off of a sign just outside The Golden Acorn Casino's truck stop.
Tomorrow, The Kid has school - having had the whole of last week off. But Tara and I are both off.