Sunburns and Saddlesores
“Why don’t we bicycle to Utah from California for our next vacation—all ten of us?”
That wild-sounding statement launched us on a 775-mile bicycling experience. Vicki Lee, a Brigham Young University graduate student and our only daughter, immediately requested that we send her bicycle so she could start getting in shape. Blake, a missionary in the Paraguay-Uruguay Mission, opened his next letter with, “Wait for me!”
Between that autumn night’s decision and the next July 5th lay a jungle of preparations. By taking apart two discarded 10-speed bicycles, we repaired a third one and sent it to our daughter. Birthday and Christmas presents that year for the rest of us were no surprise to anyone.
Training began immediately. So did planning our itinerary. To avoid interstate highways, where it is illegal to cycle, we had to take Highway 88, which reaches an elevation of 8,543 feet at Carson Pass. By pedaling across Nevada and part of Utah we would end up on Utah Highway 24, which reaches an elevation of 8,406 feet, just before descending into the small farming community of Loa, Utah, where my wife’s mother lives. We planned to cycle an average of 50 miles a day and travel an additional 50 miles in the car.
By maneuvering carefully and removing the rear seat of our 12-passenger van, we had enough room for six bicycles. The other four were stored in the travel trailer, which also served as a chuck wagon, master bedroom, and storage vehicle. We mounted a large sign on the rear of the trailer to caution motorists that there was a “Large family of cyclists strung out ahead.”
Thursday, July 5, 1973, 7 o’clock in the morning—zero hour had arrived. After a short but sincere prayer, we were off!
The trip itself is a blur of happy memories—of being with Blake again after his two-year mission, of riding in 100-degree temperatures cooled only by the breeze we created ourselves as we pedalled along; of whiffle ball games wherever we stopped for the day; of songs we would sing as we rode along; of sunburns and saddlesores; of laughter and happiness and being together. What can compare with an exhilarating 45-mile ride down the eastern slope of the Sierras? The thrill was a combination of our speed—sometimes 50 miles per hour—and spectacular scenery—majestic pine forests, lush green meadows, and sparkling mountain streams.
Sunday found us in a tent on the Nevada desert holding sacrament meeting, with our bishop’s approval, in the cooling evening air. Mark, Layne, and Keith administered and passed the sacrament; Blake spoke on setting and achieving goals.
Brent completed the first step toward the Eagle Scout award his two brothers had already earned by cycling 50 miles in one day. It was 104 degrees, the wind was against us, and the road went uphill. We rode along giving moral support as he sped along. After stopping for water only two or three times, he passed his test with flying colors.
Our destination was in sight now—only 35 miles to go, but with a stretch of highway that climbed from an elevation of 4,500 feet to a summit of 8,406 feet. Puffing and panting, we reached the top. Dressed in blue windbreakers, laughing and singing, we reached Grandma’s house. Happily we collapsed on her cool front lawn.
Vacation to Nauvoo
The drone of the station wagon engine and the hot humid air coming through the windows from the endless Nebraska cornfields lining the freeway made all of our family drowsy. I began thinking of the cool mountain streams and the many-colored fish, those large pines, and the blue sky of the Pacific Northwest. That’s the vacation we had planned, so why were we speeding along a Nebraska freeway on our way to Nauvoo, Illinois?
My thoughts wandered back to early spring. As I was drawing a parallel in my mind between England’s Sir Thomas Moore and the Prophet Joseph Smith, a strong impression came over me: we should take our four children to Nauvoo.
At first we found many excuses why it would not be possible, but gradually we were drawn into acceptance of the idea, and then we enthusiastically embraced it. And now we were speeding eastward, our small travel trailer tugging gently behind.
We had carefully budgeted our money to include food, gasoline, and minor repairs. Picnicking in city parks at noon under the shade of the large midwestern trees was one of our favorite times. Often we felt impressed to change our route when the gasoline situation looked discouraging. At the beginning of our trip we developed car trouble and almost returned home, but after prayer we felt impressed to go on. We found the necessary car part and spent our home evening on Monday installing it.
Nauvoo is indeed one of the most peaceful places on earth. It was here I gained a deep and abiding testimony of the divine calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I walked where he walked. I saw the things he must have seen. As I continued to read the history books, I began to feel the enormous spirituality of him whom the Lord had chosen.
I wept in the conference room in Brigham Young’s home as I thought of those brethren who were responsible for making major decisions concerning the future of the Church. I felt the strong, warm spirit in Carthage Jail. I marvelled as I realized the sacrifices made by those men in that upper bedroom.
I visualized Elder Bunch, his blacksmith shop in the background, preaching to a young man drifting down the Mississippi River on a raft with his dog.
Independence, Missouri, became sacred to me as I thought of the city and temple to be built there. I dreamed of the great priesthood meeting to be held in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman where the Savior and all who have held the keys of dispensations will gather.
How could fishing compare to those feelings I had had? I had been obedient to the promptings of the Lord, and we had been blessed.
Retreat for Two
The tensions seem to drain slowly from my body, and I feel strangely at peace with the world as I sit here in my rocky haven on the beach. The rock I’ve found for a chair is warm and dry, but the frothy spray shoots high all around me, and I feel its soft touch on my face and hair. A lone seagull stands sentinel on the rocky crest above me, and a black sea bird dives through the foam of the cresting wave, his timing flawless as he escapes toward the open sea. A crab clambers up the rocks, reaching tentative feelers ahead to ferret out danger; then, seeming to sense my presence, he scurries sideways into a crevice in the rocks and disappears into sea foam suds.
As I sit here I think of a friend’s remark as I told her of our plans for this trip. “Do you mean you’re going to leave your children all alone? Don’t you worry all the time you’re gone?”
I had to admit honestly that I didn’t worry at all. The children, under the supervision of our 17-year-old daughter, are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.
“But don’t you feel guilty not taking them with you?” she pursued the subject. Again my answer was an emphatic, “No.”
Parents need vacations away from their children, just as much as children need vacations with their parents. As a result of these few days away from the family, I’ll go home tomorrow a better wife and mother. My husband will be a better husband and father, and a better bishop, after being away from the 750 members in his ward family.
This time together gives us an opportunity to analyze the problems of each child, discuss our family goals for the coming year, plan vacations (which we always discuss with the children at the next family council meeting after our return), and renew our courtship and love for each other.
What a joy to sit in a restaurant all alone, looking at the lights across the bay, and smiling at the young couple at the table next to ours as they mop up the spilled milk, make the emergency trips away from the table, and try to quiet clamorous chatter.
I’d forgotten what it’s like to take an entire shower without interruption, to spend three unbroken hours at the typewriter, and still have time for this quiet hour on the beach before meeting my husband for lunch.
We have several rules for these personal spirit-renewing trips: (1) We never call the children. They have our phone number and can call us if the need arises. (2) We never buy a newspaper. Our escape from normal pressures must be complete. (3) We use the telephone only to call for restaurant reservations. We don’t even give our number to friends who might be staying in the same hotel. (4) We turn on television only if it is equipped with an FM music station.
If you are wondering how we can afford it—we can’t! We combine these personal vacations with seminars or conventions that my husband needs to attend. Usually my accompanying him adds less than $100 to his total expense, including meals, transportation, and extras.
Do we really forget our children when we leave them like this? Of course not! As we clamber on the rocky beach, we vow to bring our 15- and nine-year-old boys here sometime. When shell collecting, we find special treasures for our six-year-old who loves all living things, and a tiny baby shell for the two-year-old. I spot a book which I loved as a young girl and buy it for our two teenaged girls. I write long letters and cards to our missionary son. The only souvenirs we need for ourselves are the pictures we take and the memories of this interlude that we can share in quiet moments.
As I sit here in the sun, hearing nothing but the waves seething against the shore, watching the surfers, swimmers, and shell-gatherers far down the beach, I feel secure in my answer that there is nothing to worry about when I leave my children. A remark my daughter made when we discussed this trip with her and explained her responsibilities in our absence gave me security. She said, “Mom, I hope when I get married my husband will take me on trips like Dad takes you. I think that would be really great.”