L casually mentioned that we should go out to the desert to see it, so I researched different locations that might be good viewing spots. I got the idea of taking my dad with us, and couldn't shake it. I just knew he'd want to go and see it.
As luck would have it (and I've been PRAYING for cooler weather, so I can only blame myself) the clouds and fog began to roll into Southern California at the end of the week. Everywhere I looked from the coast to the mountains was going to be cloudy and overcast during the meteor shower. We could have gone to Bakersfield, but that's really far, and really, no one wants to go to Bakersfield. We could have gone to Baker out in the desert, but I couldn't think of a single place to stay there. Or at least any place where I could sleep without imagining bugs skittering around in the dark. Ugh. Baker is a place where you stop for a potty break and maybe a drink while on your way to Las Vegas, but that's it. No staying overnight. Las Vegas looked like it would be clear, but again, you'd have to really go out far from those lights to see the ultimate display. And it's a few hours' drive away - not good for my parents.
Finally, on the Weather Channel website I brought up Palm Desert, and during those early morning hours it was going to be "mostly clear." It seemed like a good compromise so I called Dad up and asked if he'd like to go. He sounded excited, yet a little hesitant. What about his medications? Would it make him feel worse to lose sleep? And I understand. When you're in the middle of chemotherapy, everything is a crap shoot. He was nervous that he wouldn't be a good traveler, but I reminded him that I have medications I have to bring too, and that I don't like to have my life defined by illness. I don't want to miss out on special events because I might not feel good. And he would be with family who would understand all of those factors. So he threw caution to the winds and got excited.
My mother was less than enthusiastic at first. But she has a kindred soul in L, who hates all things having to do with morning, and who always takes care that we stay in a place that is clean and pleasant. We ended up booking rooms at the Holiday Inn Express and they had free breakfast! That sealed the deal for Dad. That's another way in which I'm my father's daughter: we both love a good breakfast. Bacon? Sausage? Eggs? Pancakes? Cinnamon rolls? Juice? Yes please to all.
I quickly threw some Snickerdoodle dough together and baked them up for the trip (knowing my dad has a famous sweet tooth. Oh yes...me too.) They came over to the house at around 5:00 Saturday evening and off we went. I kept scanning the skies on the way out to the desert and it was cloudy and stormy looking. But as we drove around the San Jacinto mountains that surround Palm Springs/Palm Desert, the clouds dispersed. And although it had been 90 degrees that day, the evening was cool and comfortable. I had to laugh though - at home it was chilly and we all had sweaters on. Everyone there was running around in shorts and sandals. During the drive out, Dad kept commenting on how he was enjoying our little adventure and my heart was happy.
We checked in and met back in the lobby to grab a bite to eat. There was a Panera Bread close by on Highway 111, so we set out and enjoyed sandwiches and salads. If anyone ever goes there, please notice what a nice staff they have. They treated my parents with such kind, friendly respect, and they should all be congratulated more than the little bit I gave them.
And then it was back to the hotel and off to bed. We were going to get up at 3am and head out to a special spot up in the hills on highway 74 that L and I had scouted out. Amazingly enough I was able to knock right out and didn't wake up until my iPhone alarm started playing the running brook sound, which is my alarm of choice. Much less jarring than a loud blaring sound. We met in the lobby and off we went. I'm sure the desk manager on duty thought we were nuts, but then again, I'm sure they've seen everything. My mom and L were a little groggy (OK, a lot groggy) but Dad and I were wide awake and ready to go.
This isn't fair. Mom doesn't usually look like this. (She will kill me for this picture)
Normally (when it's not 3am) she looks like this:
See? She's always been such a pretty mom.
Dad is a lot more chipper in the morning. He was happy and ready to go. You'll notice there are no
early morning pictures of L and me. You're welcome.
I wish I could say that we saw hundreds of meteors. If you were viewing in a clear sky away from city lights it was said you could see between 25 and 30 meteors an hour. Here is what I was hoping to see:
I wish I could say we saw even several of them. But we didn't . We started to notice a fine layer of clouds here and there very high up, and it did affect the show. It definitely needed more cowbell.
We sat there until 5am - 2 hours - and all told we saw about 9 meteors. Most were small, faint, and quick. Two of them, however, were spectacular, streaking gloriously across the sky, and when they put on their show we got very excited. When that happened it looked more like this picture, minus the trees. And the house lights.
All in all, it was still beautiful and amazing, and I feel lucky to have seen the ones that we did, considering city lights and the clouds.
But the real show was the family adventure we all had together. Instead of staying home because it was easier than making an effort, we traveled from our home base, got up at an ungodly hour to sit in the cold darkness together, and sat for 2 hours looking at the stars, making our necks ache. We laughed. We talked. L and my dad pointed out constellations to my mom and me. We cheered at each meteor (although each person didn't see ALL of them) and at the best two of the night we were reminded of why we'd come.
It was amazing how many cars traveled by that lonely turnout during the hours of 3 and 5am. A couple of them slowed down to see if we needed assistance, and then quickly sped on when they saw we were fine, just crazy people watching the stars. I half expected the police to come check us out, but that never happened. Luckily. Finally at 5am we decided we'd had enough and we packed it up and started back to the hotel and sweet sleep. As we drove down the winding road we saw a couple of other cars that were pulled over with their occupants watching the stars. For some reason (because the show hadn't been all that I'd hoped), seeing other people doing what we'd done made me feel validated, less crazy. There were other people who had indulged their imaginations as well, wanting to see a cosmic event.
Before we retired to our beds, Dad wanted to make sure we were all meeting for breakfast at 9:00. I sleepily replied that I wasn't sure if I'd be there and that L most certainly wouldn't be - he is not a breakfast eater. I could tell he was disappointed. And wouldn't you know it - I woke up at 7:30, almost exactly when I usually do on a normal day. I tossed and turned a bit. I got up and took my meds, and then decided I might as well go down and have breakfast with Mom and Dad. Bacon was sounding pretty good.
When I knocked on their door I think they were surprised to see me. We had a good time eating and talking, and Dad was in good spirits talking about our little foray into the night. Sometimes just breaking routine and doing something different sparks you up a bit. I know it has that effect on me. So even though we didn't see quite the beautiful display my imagination was hoping for, we made a memory. We decided to go for it and take a chance. And it was fun. A special memory with my dad I won't ever forget. Thanks Mom and Dad for being good sports, and once again indulging my whim. And to my true companion L - thanks for realizing how important this little adventure with my Dad meant to me. It was such a special time scanning the heavens and marveling at it's vastness. We were small and insignificant, yet inspired to achieve great eternal heights all at the same time. An ordinary weekend spontaneously transformed into a nocturnal adventure spent viewing nature's fireworks, (or in our case, nature's sparklers with a couple of spectacular fireworks slipped in for fun). Filed away in memory as one of the best weekends ever.