This moody crew drove its minivan the length of the panhandle in an impromptu state parks vacation for July 4 weekend. The Oklahoma panhandle feels like the end of the earth. There’s just something about it! That flat, red desolation!
This is what I mean by moody:
I mean Laila locked us out of the converted chicken coop we were staying in after we put her in jeans. She hates jeans. So, naturally, she locked us out and cried in her underwear for about 20 minutes while we had breakfast. Might I mention she’s 4 .
Eli is a wild man who enjoys breaking things. The first thing he did in our chicken coop was pull down a curtain and curtain rod. He is becoming an expert flinger. Kind of like a World Cup flopper, except he flings — himself on the ground when you commit the offense of blocking him from what he’d like to fiddle with. I know it’s because I’m his mother that I find these tot tantrums endearing – only a mother would.
I committed the crime of purchasing Mark non-spicy beef jerky. My laser beam eyes put holes in his face. I wished.
We’re really a pleasant little family. Move along, nothing to see here.
Despite the above described mood fluctuations, we had a nice time. Laila rediscovered swimming in floaties and a princess tube at a lodge we stayed on night 1 of 2 at Roman Nose State Park. Might I mention that 2 days is plenty of vacation when you’re toting kids 1 and 4. High. Maintenance. Little people.
Roman Nose in northwest Oklahoma is full of gypsum-streaked hills and has clear, natural springs. The whole state is one big crazy geology lesson. We stayed at a lodge.
I grabbed a snake out of the pool filter with one hand there. Eli was on my shoulders at the time. Everyone else had run out of the pool like Jaws had been spotted. I guess I figured I’d seen enough wildlife shows when I impulsively grabbed the snake by the neck. My left hand clasped Eli’s feet together. I didn’t really grab that darn snake close enough to its little snake face, and its head just bobbed back and forth with a little too much flexibility. This is the part I tell you it was a baby snake. Still. I was the baddest motha%%&*%$ at that pool. Mark sees me in a whole new light now.
We next traveled to Gloss Mountain, which seemed to me to be more mesa than mountain, about 25 miles northwest of Roman Nose. It is bright red Oklahoma rock and soil laced with selenite, a mineral pioneers used to make glass windows.
By that time, I figured we were, like, halfway to Black Mesa, a park I’d had on the brain for a while because of the remote location and interesting landscape. We weren’t halfway there. More like, 1/5 there.
I had forgotten Eli’s sun hat. It’s not like we were planning a desert vacation. I got him a motorcycle gang-style skull cap from a gas station.
When not in a cell blackout, I managed to reach a B&B in super-tiny Kenton, a town of 17 people. They had one room left: a chicken coop that had been converted to a room. We rolled up at dusk on day 2 and walked into the innkeepers’ July 4 family reunion. Three cats, a Pyranees dog and a lab mix wandered around a crowd having hamburgers and hot dogs and iced tea. Kids chased toads. We felt awkward. We wished we’d bought brews 40 miles ago, the nearest store ’cause after that drive, a cold one sounded mighty fine.
The innkeepers — Vicki and Monty Joe — at the Black Mesa Bed and Breakfast are extremely warm and lovely and our awkwardness melted away. We chatted up the various family members around and befriended an astronomy enthusiast who later showed us Saturn through his telescope.
Eli’s CF never came up once. We did his vest and pills and let him be a little kid, running around, cozying up to the cats and dogs and playing in the dirt. I felt more relaxed about his issues than I ever had been while out and about in the world. It felt like another step in the right direction for all of us.
We made a pact to save for a pickup and pop-up camper to further torture our children and relive our childhoods! Mark’s family drove all over the country in a pop up. My family took non-planned rando excursions throughout my youth all over the Great Lakes state.
These trips shall be resurrected, blended, improved upon…it is written.