After my parents came to Newton, we drove straight South to my sister's house in the very edge of Texas before heading over, all four of us, to Southern New Mexico for the family reunion. Our plan was to take Audrey's car along with my parents' so that she and I could drive back to Texas while my parents went straight home. We were about halfway to New Mexico when Audrey's car started smoking and eventually just completely died on the side of the road. This was in western Texas, and on the drive home we realized how lucky it was that we were only 20 miles away from a reasonably sized town. We managed to find a salvage business that was actually open on Sunday, and she sold it right there on the side of the road. Luckily, my parents were there so we all piled into their car and made the rest of the trip with no further problems.
My family is spread out all over the United States, so it makes getting everyone together in one place a but of an accomplishment. It had been five years since we were all together (we were only missing one cousin), so as you can imagine we had all changed a bit since the last time we were together. Its always weird to me seeing other people who have grown up with their extended family close by, when I only see mine every few years. What a difference distance makes! It is wonderful to see everyone when we can though.
We spent a lot of time just hanging around my grandparents house and enjoying each other's company. I was thoroughly impressed by my 12 year old cousin who can do a Rubik's Cube in 40-some seconds. Wednesday was the busiest day. In the morning a few of us went to the Living Desert just outside of town, which was basically like a zoo with local plants and animals. At the end was a giant greenhouse full of succulents from around the world - it was awesome. I walked in and knew immediately that if Leah had been there she probably would have peed her pants with excitement. That afternoon the whole family, except for my grandparents, went out to the Carlsbad Caverns, as per tradition. I'm pretty sure we go every time we are in Carlsbad - and for good reason. They're impressive! We hiked down and around, and then the cousins and my dad all decided to hike back out, something we've never done before. We had a little bit of a race against the clock, to make sure that they wouldn't close the gate on us, but we booked it on out of there! Imagine speedwalking uphill for a mile to get out of a cave. That was about it. As we reached the mouth of the cave though, we saw this giant beam of light shining in because of the angle of the sun. It lit up the whole first area and was just brilliant. I've never seen something like that before.
We finished up that day with a picnic that my grandparents met us out there for, and then watching the bat flight out of the cave in the evening. I forever have negative connotations with the bat flight because once when I was much younger we ran across a rattlesnake on the way back from it, and it is forever stuck in my mind. It was kind of cool, but there were less bats this year because the drought is bringing their numbers down, sadly. While we were waiting for the bat flight to start we were entertained by my dad convincing my younger cousins to lay out in the desert and try and lure in vultures.
Thursday morning Audrey and I had to drive 6 hours extra to pick up a rental car to get us back to Texas, but we made it! I got Friday to hang out with her, and we went to South Padre Island and enjoyed the beach before I have to go back to landlocked Kansas. This morning we went to Mexico for about two hours and did a little shopping, and I fly back to Kansas this afternoon.
Overall it was a wonderful vacation, but I am excited to head back home!
- e (plus l)