Road Trip Part 3 (North Cali)

Ahhhh.  San Francisco!!!  How de hell am I going to navigate this hulking beast of a truck across San Fran with a trailer on top of it?  Crazy drivers (Cali drivers… sheesh!) are an issue.  They are bad. Narrow roads are an issue. So are the hills and construction etc etc..  Trying to find the UCSF medical center while trying to go up and down hills was an experience not easily forgotten.

But we made it.  We also parked right on the main road.  That was a bit of a joke really.  Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.  Oh, and back and forth.  You see, trailers are weird.  They just don’t like to go the way you’d like them to go.  I can write an entire book on how I fail at backing up the truck with a trailer. But that would only be pathetic at best.

In anycase, we parked the car by UCSF and took Maya to the children’s clinic.  Let the beauracratic night mare begin. First, sit and wait.  Then, called up to the info desk and be asked a bunch of questions.  So far so good.  Alright, then, off the finance building.  Cross the road down a bit, take a left.  etc etc.  Finally find the finance department and wait.  You then have some finance type tell you that they can’t process you because are a “full pay”.  Therefore, I must head back to the clinic etc etc.  And this is while the clock on the parking meter is ticking and Maya is gettig impatient.  Then, there is a discussion amongst the staff and only after a half hearted jesture of complaint, we were pushed through.  Up you go to the poke room upstaires.  OK.  Oh…  We don’t do pokes.  Maya has a central line. Could we please use that?  Sorry, we don’t do that.  We’re not allow to access the port.  Oh… ok.  I guess, I’ll have to ask the nurse for that.  Yup!.  Down to the clinic again.  Blah blah blah… “Oh… OK.  Please take a seat in this other waiting room”.  Well you get the picture.   At the end of the day, the good news was that Maya’s platelet did not degrade that much.  Woo hoo!  That was a load off our mind.  Although there is that nagging feeling, it was easy to ignore.

So, for the day we decided to go to Monterey Aquarium.  At the aquarium, the RV parking was $40.  Um…. no thank you.  I’ll walk a few blocks.  And we did.  It was horrible.  The temperature was only in the 70’s.   and there were wild animals, sea lions lounging on the beach etc.  🙂  The aquarium was marvelous.  And I felt that it was well worth the effort to see it.  When asked Maya a while later what she remember the most, I think the aquarium was one of the tops.  So, that was also something for me.  On the other had, I was a bit worried about Indira having left for work.  I was imagining that Maya would whine for Indira.  That was not so.  Maya was a big girl and had a great time.  No small amount of Kudos goes to Taylor.  He really came to the rescue and became the ideal older brother and really took good care of Maya. I was a proud daddy.

It was a long but joyful day.  We were together and we had a marvelous day.  I don’t think I could have asked for a better day.  After the aquarium, we were heading up north.  But, we did make contact with Jonathan and he was in Oakland.  OK.  What do I know about Oakland?  Just another city.  Ummm… no.  You don’t really want to be in Oakland we find out.  Nothing bad happend to us.  But, it’s one of those US cities that people talk about and for a good reason. Nope. Don’t want to go back there anytime soon.

The kicker came that night.  A resident saw Maya’s file and called me.  Hello?  Yes, I am calling about Maya Kim.  Oh… this is her father.  How can I help you?  Well, Maya has 25% blast in her peripheral blood and we’re wondering where Maya is, so we can scan for Leukemia….


Of course!  Oh no… my heart sank.  Blasts are immature white blood cells. Immature!!!!  I should have connected the dots.  But I hadn’t.  And on top of that, around a day or so, Dr. Sholler called and asked to see her in Michigan for Aug 16th.  Our dream of heading up to Anchorage was dashed with that call.  But moreover, the sinking feeling caught up with us in a heart beat.  Indira was already in Toronto by now.  How can I tell Indira that we may be looking at a secondary cancer?  At that moment, all I could do was keep the scream inside.   I can’t tell Indira.  She will freak.  And we won’t know exactly what is going on until we head back to Michigan.

For me, those were the hard few days.  The days were passed in a daze.  Yes, we did stop along the Northern Cali and Oregon coast.  Yes, we did stop at the redwood forest.  But they were now obsticles between where we were and Grand Rapids Michigan.  Even still, we had to head into Canada to drop off Mom and Jonathan in Vancouver.

To be honest, I don’t really know how we got to Vancouver.  I do recall being iritated with all the traffic around Seattle. And I recall spending few hours at my sisters place in Vancouver, but that was just an over night, for we had a long way to drive still.  We arived at my sisters place on Aug 11, late afternoon.  We spend a few hours with her and next morning, around noon headed back to Michigan.  It was to be a long long drive with nothing to do, but disect the potential outcome that was ahead of us.  What is ahead?  Is this the final days for Maya?  How shall we survive all this?  Should I be grateful for this month?  Did we really time it so well?  How will Indira react to this?  How will Taylor take the news?  How will I deal with this impending news?  These were the heavy questions that crawled along with me each kilometer of the way back.  Long and heavy was our journey back home.

Road Trip Part 3 (San Diego)

After packing the bike away, we started off. Master Jon Jon needed to head back to Toronto for a few days.  And he was flying out from Las Vegas.  It’s only…500 miles.  So, off we go.  The worry begins. Is the RV OK?  Will the RV handle the load OK in the dessert temperature?  I tell myself it will be OK, because we’ve already have done so.  But, I am really trying to placate myself. Alright…. whatever happens happens.

We start off.  The route is the same one we took on the way to Las Vegas from the Rockies; through I-70. The predominant feeling that I leave Utah is that I need to return for more intimate rendevouz with her.  I wonder who will join me then.  There is the Smokey Mountain road which I will need to explore.  Then the national parks, such as Capitol Reef, Bryson, Escalante, Arches all await us.

The drive is long, but everyone was in good spirits. After we got onto Hwy 15 heading toward Las Vegas, there was a very loud clang. Each noise such as this is always followed with that sinking feeling;  “oh no… now what?”  We pulled over on the I-70 and take a look.  Wouldn’t you know it?  It was the RV awning.  Because we were crossing the dessert, and it was windy, the wind had taken the awning and opened it right up.  So, basically we had a sail blowing all over the place on the side of the interstate.  Both Taylor and I jumped on the frame that held the awning in place.  We were both lifted off our feet.  Just imagine a sail boat in a dessert with it’s sail up.  That’s what it was like.  And when I came to the realization that we were not going to be able to deflate the sail, I did the only thing I could, cut the sail.  So now, Jonathan and I were trying to hold the awning down.  Taylor is at the top of the RV with a big kitchen knife.  “Are you sure dad?” was what I heard and with a nod, Taylor started to cut.  Well… it’s few hundred dollards down the toilet. But, there were no other option in any case.  Being on the interstate with the highest speed limit that I am aware of, is not a good place to spend time.  And so, the awning came down.

What does one say at a moment like this?  “Well…. we are all safe”.  And we are.  It took too long to get to Las Vegas, but we pulled in early evening and said our good byes to Master Jon Jon.  He will regroup with us after he is back in a few days.  He parked his bike in the parking area and will catch up with us around San Francisco.

The rest of us had to make time to San Diego.  We needed to be in San Diego for August 2nd blood test for Maya. Indira already had booked the Ronald MacDonald house and we were all excited with taking long showers.  Although the dessert was remarkable for us, one does get sandy.  It took three rinces to get the sand off of me.  (I could just be unhiegenic too, I guess)  We checked in and enjoyed being plugged back in to civilization.  Cable TV???  Well, nothing remained to be on T.V. so, we also took a drive out to LaJolla for an evening stroll.  And another milestone was reached.  We had driven some 4000 KM over the rockies, across the dessert to be here.  And we made it!  That was something.  It was nice to see the glimmer in Maya’s eyes.  Yes, we made it.  It made me feel good.  This is an accomplishment of some sort.  I don’t quite know what, but it felt like it was something.  We like San Diego.  I think I would like to move here.  Simply put, it’s just a lovely lovely city. It fits me perfectly.  Oh well… one day?

Next morning, Aug 2nd 2012, we had our visit at the hospital.  The long and short of it was, Maya needed platelets.  Both Indira and I didn’t know what that meant.  After all, in our solid tumor experience, low platelets were only associated with taking harsh chemo.  While we were concerned, we did not connect the dots that something was terribly wrong here.  And the pediatric oncologists also seemed to be very impressed with Maya.  Even with platelets hitting rock bottom, Maya was in great spirits.  She was bouncing around and being her usual bubbly self.  We could not imagine what might be happening inside.

And so, after the clinic visit, we decided to head to an all  you can eat Korean BBQ in San Diego.  It was really nice, busy etc.  Everyone was eating like this was our “last supper”.  Except me… of course and my mother.  In my case, I was simply eating “grass”.  that was all good.  My mother didn’t know that it was all you can eat, and so she was as busy putting food in Maya’s mouth as well as Taylor’s mouth.  It was only when we were leaving my mum clued in that it was an all you can eat buffet and a bit too late to order.  I could only roll my eyes at my mum.   I felt cheated because mum didn’t eat as much… mum felt cheated because she could have eaten more…. Oh well… that’s how it goes.  I wonder how many of you guys can relate?  We also caught a movie.  The ladies (mum, Indira and maya) decided to go see some useless kids show and Taylor and I went to watch some useless non-kids show.  I don’t even recall what the show was, so it must not have been too great.  Transformers may be?

What I do recall is that the following day was spent at pinery beach.  It was just perfect. It was hot, cloudless without being unreasonably hot.  The fact that we’re on the pacific coast did not suck at all.  Maya enjoyed spending the day at the beach.  She did get bored and Taylor and I did have to keep her accupied.  But over all, it was a relaxing way to spend the day.   Matter of fact, I think we could easily spend the entire summer on the Pacific Coast Highway and spend no more than a night or two in one spot.  We must consider that this coming summer.  Perhaps, and with some luck, we can spend the summer of 2013 on the beaches somewhere.

When this trip started, I figured a rough idea is all we needed.  I didn’t want to be tightly bound to a schedule.  I wanted to let the moment move us.  This trip turned out completely opposite to my original schedule. Here are some examples:

  • Need to be in Michigan July 18th.  Check.
  • Need to be in Las Vegas July 24th. Check.
  • Need to be in San Diego Aug 2nd.  Check.
  • Need to be in San Fran Aug 9th.  OK.
  • Need to be in Vancouver Aug 12th OK…
  • Need to be back in Michigan Aug 16th. OK…

For someone who did not want to move about with a time deadline, we found that our entire trip was driven by dates and locations.  Well…  what can you do?  Matter of fact, there were days when a newly devised plan was thrown out the windown within minutes of coming up with one.

Now, we need to slowly make our way up to San Francisco. We wanted to do another CBC in a weeks time.  We don’t want Maya to be low on platelets again.  So, we started our way North.  However, within the first 15 minutes, I knew I did not want to stop in L.A, which is two hours north of San Diego.  Traffic was horrible getting out of San Diego heading towards L.A.  OK.  Well, we need to get to Anaheim so… bite the bullet.  We were heading to Disney Land (or World or whatever the hell the place is called)  At some ungodley hour, we pulled into Anaheim.  The RV park in the area wanted $100 to park the RV for few hours.  And… I just never understood that.  Why would I drag a house around and pay hotel fees?  I don’t know.  And I won’t pay it either.  Again, we parked at the Walmart parking lot.  I did have to pay something like 20 or 30 dollars to park the RV the next day.  Park entrance is another story I will not tell.  But oh well… Well the trip to Disney, while alike to pulling teeth, was wholly an act of apeasing Maya.  Maya wanted to go to Camp ooch summer camp, but we were not home.  So, Disney was a trade-off to not sending Maya to the camp.  Oh well…

It gave me no small measure of gratefulness to get out of Disney the following day.  And was very happy to be on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).  If you don’t live on the coast, you just don’t get the opportunity to see the North American Pacific Coast Highway.  It’s beautiful.  There are more beaches than you can ever want.  Since watching the movie “Into the wild“, I wanted to find a nice secluded spot on a beach just to hang out and live for few unmemorrable days.  PCH seem to offer many beaches for exactly that.  And I was happy.  I think we were all happy to have the beaches to our left.

San Francisco was on our agenda next.  After all, Indira changed her flight many times to try to squeeze as much time as possible.  After all, we had another blood test to get to.  We did spend a couple of days on the beaches. I really liked Pismo Beach, because you can camp right on the beach.

Road Trip Part 2 (Canyon Lands)

Well… into Utah.  I love Utah.  The ruggedness of the land is something that I always admired.  Now that we are here, I feel a sense of calmness that this place exude.  And mother earth gives it freely.  If you stop… you can perhaps feel it in your bones.

Heading into Utah was very special for me.   It’s beauty is like no other.  The expansiveness, the great big sky, the colossal rocks and the unforgettable red is something to see.  And I wanted my family to see it.  So, it is with a bit of glee that we headed into Utah. Destination was Moki Dugway and then to Canyon Lands.  Some pictures are here.

Master Jon Jon drove and I decided to ride my bike.  At times such as this, I wish I didn’t have the side car.  While it is nice to have it, it takes away from the motorcycle experience.  After all, with the sidecar, the bike is no longer a bike.  In anycase, when we did get to moki’s dugway, it was another moment that had me emotional.  I was happy, I was grateful with a sense of accomplishment, filled with a sense of amazement and wonder, proud to have my family here … and filled with grief.  Grief because life has pushed us, me in particular, to take these rather dramatic actions to live.  In some ways, it’s silly.  After all, should we not all live to the fullest?  Yes of course, but in some juvenile ways, I guess being pushed into living fully is hard. It’s hard to explain all that was flowing through me.  But there we were.

At the bottom of the escarpement, I decided to make two trips; once with the ladies and once with the boys.  The RV could not make it up the switch back.  So, the bike came in handy.  The first run was with the ladies.  So, we were four up on the bike.  Indira sat behind me.  My mother and Maya in the side car.  Maya did not want her grand ma to be with her in the side car, but… tough luck kid.  When we got to the top of the escarpement, I was filled with all the emotions.  But that is not that unusual.  The place is a very power place.  My mother told me later that she had tears in her eyes.  It is like that here.   Subsequently, I took the ladies down and took the boys up.  They were also blown away with this place.  You can see forever it seems.  Taylor in particular told me later that Moki dugway was more spectacular than the Grand Canyon.  It is perhaps because you don’t expect the vastness of this place.  Well… check! It’s another one off my list.  And I am at this moment a very happy and fulfilled man.  I am grateful for this day.

By this time, it was getting dark.  So, we started on our way towards canyonlands .  It took forever it seems.  It’s only two hunder miles (or 320 km) but google says it will take five hours.  When we made the turn off onto 211, from 191 we thought we were close.  Well… it wasn’t until 2 AM we’ve finally arrived.  And we ended up parking for the night at the visitor centre.  There were clear signages stating that no over nights were allowed on the visitor parking lot.  But it was 2:00 AM and there wasn’t a thing we wanted to do at that point.

We laugh at our trip to CanyonLands now.  But there were a set of events that were remarkable.  First and most serious (almost) event was that the RV almost fell over a cliff.  I was on the bike and Jonathan was driving.  The road has dropoff on the right hand side and Jonathan was traveling faster than even I can turn on the motorcycle.  I was shouting into my helmet NO!!! There was no way he could make the turn.  But… somehow at the very last second, he made the turn.  My heart went over the edge to about a 100 feet drop.  I don’t know how he managed to make the turn.  Jonathan doesn’t know how he made the turn.  We thank God or whatever force that played the part to just nudged the RV on the road.

By 2 AM we were all very tired.  We were looking for a camp site.  These camp sites are not like the ones you find in Ontario, tightly packed.  And in one site, we had to make a tight turn in a round about.  Well… we got ourselves stuck.  The round about was too tight and we could not make the turn.  Of course, we could neither back out either.  Backing up with a trailer is a non trivial task to start, let alone for amateurs in the pitch of darkness.  What we ended up doing was moving large boulders out of the way so we could make the turn.  These boulders must have been 400 – 500 lbs each and in order to make the tight turn, Taylor and I had to push them out of the way.  We pushed and at times, we rolled them out of the way.  And we also were trying to be as quiet as possible because there were people camping just feets away as well.  I am sure we were like a bull in the china shop crashing about.  We appologize to these campers who were rudely interupted by us novice RV’ers.

Next morning, we finally found a beautiful camp site.  The tag on the post said that they were supposed to be out by noon that day.  We ended up waiting until 4 PM.  To make the long story short, the campers made a mistake on the date.  In any case, we grabbed the camp site and had a lovely few days.

What I will remember from our time in the Canyonlands is this.  We had the most perfect day as a family there. In particular, we all decided to go for a hike. Master Jon Jon taught Maya about the inukshuks and encouraged Maya to add to them.  We climbed on big rocks and marvelled at the previous settlement areas.  We talked about a large boulder that cleaved off a larger rock and how we knew it was a recent event.  Jonathan took little trips on his motorcycles and found his bravery here.

I personally wanted to stay for few days more.  But, we needed to get back to Las Vegas to drop Jonathan off so he could fly back home for a few days.

The third part of our journey was waiting for us as well.