If you read my last series of posts on building my fourth doll house, you know that getting it built was just the first step. Following its completion and seclusion in a closet for almost a year, the next activity was to actually deliver it to my second granddaughter—a precious six-year-old who lives in California.
Inspiration for this doll house came from these painted ladies in San Francisco, just north of where she lives. When I took on this loving project, I deep down knew the only truly safe way to get it to her was to put it in the back of my wife’s car and drive it out there. Well, the pandemic delayed that delivery for almost a year, until this past September.
When I first took on this project and knew what the delivery method would be, I envisioned my wife and I taking a two-to-three-week trek from our home in Memphis, TN out to San Francisco. Along the way, I figured we’d stop to see Carlsbad Caverns, the Grand Canyon, and Meteor Crater and drive on parts of the historic Route 66 highway. But dreams and reality are not often the same and so the trip a year later was planned quite differently to accommodate all parties involved.
But rather than a multiple week’s long leisurely trip, it turned out to be a nine-day race—a miniature version of the original concept to deliver a miniature doll house.
My wife and I pulled the doll house out of its hiding place and carefully loaded it into her car the afternoon before we left. Then on Wednesday morning, we headed off on the first leg of our 2,100-mile trip.
When I realized that we would be taking a much faster trip, I tried to figure out how we could drive that distance over three days. I typically do all the driving (I love to drive) and traveling by car, I try to limit daily drives to about 500 to 550 miles but have done as much as 650 miles in a day before so I knew extending it about 50 miles would be reasonable. If my wife helped out with the driving, I thought it would not be too onerous if we could clock about 700 miles each day.
This trip being almost exclusively on Interstate 40, turns out it is not possible. First, 700 miles from Memphis is out in the middle of nowhere. To be able to get a bed that wasn’t outdoors sleeping in the desert with coyotes, we would have to drive a bit further all the way to Amarillo, TX—735 miles away. Our second day would be a more reasonable 610 miles further to Flag Staff, AZ. But then our third day would be the longest with 755 miles to their home, part of which covers desolate stretches filled with billboards that say, “last gas stop for 75 miles.”
So rather than seeing the sights I would love for us to see, we saw straight highways stretching all the way to the horizon…
…huge, long trains pulled by as many as eight engines stretching miles and miles long and disappearing into the horizon…
…and even the unneeded airplane storage facility in the middle of the Mojave Desert, at first sight giving the impression of a tremendously busy airport based on the number of airplane vertical fins off in the distance (zoom in and you will recognize the tails of hundreds of airplanes).
One advantage of traveling East to West is the mile markers all end on the western border so when you cross into a state, you can tell how many miles it will take to traverse the entire state (284 in Arkansas, 331 in Oklahoma, 374 in New Mexico, and 359 in Arizona). Unlike historic Route 66 which goes all the way to the Pacific Ocean, I-40 dead ends into I-15 which heads south to Los Angeles, so I didn’t have that usual marker once we hit California.
Our only site-seeing stop was in Needles, CA when we hopped off the highway to see one of the historical Harvey Houses, the restaurant/hotel chain that sprung up as the railroads crossed our nation. To get there, I got to drive on the famous Route 66.
Only it had been turned into an Amtrak waiting room which was closed. We did at least get to see the classic fountain next to the railroad tracks.
We made it to our final destination at about 8:15 PM on Friday night, too tired and hungry to go see our grandkids.
On Saturday, we went to our son’s house and while my wife and daughter-in-law took the kids off to soccer practice, my son and I carefully extracted the doll house out of the car and set it up on its table in its new home.
Thankfully it had made the cross-country trip without any damage.
When my granddaughter came in later, she was most surprised and delighted to find the new addition to their home. We also gave her some starter furniture to open, and she immediately sat down and began to play with it. In fact, for the rest of Saturday and much of the day on Sunday, she practically played with it non-stop. It brought tremendous joy and satisfaction to me making me feel that all the months of building it and the drive out to deliver it were well worth the effort.
Since we were operating on an abbreviated timeline, we only had the weekend to spend with our son and his family, but while it was too short, it was a most enjoyable visit. Monday morning, I drove my wife to the airport for her flight home so she would be available to help with our in-town grandkids. Not needing to travel back as fast, I then started my four-day drive back, more akin to the leisurely cross-country trek I had originally envisioned.
Arriving at my destination between 4 and 5 each afternoon, I still did not have sufficient time for much sight-seeing but on my second night back, I stopped in Albuquerque and after my day’s drive had enough time to visit one of the Breaking Bad film sites where Walter and Skyler laundered their drug money…
…before hitting one of the top 10 craft breweries in Albuquerque.
My last travel day from Oklahoma City, I was plagued with delays due to construction as well as accidents once being stranded on top a bridge in Arkansas for nearly 30 minutes. But I felt fortunate as traffic in the opposite direction was even worse.
I made it home about 4 in the afternoon, tired of driving (odd for me) but pleased with the successful outcome of the trip. The next time my wife and I travel out west, if we do, we will definitely take the time to see all of the sights we did not get see on this miniature version of a road trip.