Grand Canyon, Here We Come

Last week was a whirlwind because of our out-of-town visitors. My sister Jo, her son Frank, and his two sons vacationed in California. The main purpose of the trip was for Jo to finally visit the Grand Canyon, something that has been the desire of her heart for years.


Cousins Steve and Delia, me, Tia Maria, Jo, Frank, Harris and Mike


On a whim, it was decided that we would drive to Colton. Frank wanted to relive all the nostalgic places that he visited in his youth, like the Country Boy Market (now a dollar store), our mother’s home and the place where he and his cousins walked for a special treat of ice cream. Colton remains the small town that I remember, but for at least an hour Frank wanted to find the drugstore that sold the ice cream. Although the area is only two square miles, we drove around for what seemed to be an eternity; but we never found the elusive drugstore. From there we visited our older brother Robert’s gravesite.

We also made arrangements to visit our 98-year-old Tia Maria at our cousin Delia’s home. I pray that when I get to be her age, I will have the same sharp mind and attitude that she has.


St. Michael’s Abbey

Amusement Parks

While Frank and his sons spent two days at amusement parks, Jo and I found our own adventures. Our first outing was to St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado Canyon. On our first attempt we never found the abbey; that day was a maze of misguided GPS directions, so we gave up and accepted defeat. The following day after Mass, we finally made it to St. Michael’s Abbey. Both Jo and I were in total awe of the grand, majestic church and its surroundings. There is something mystical on that hallowed ground and I look forward to attending a service there.


Thursday was set aside for shopping at the retailers in Cabazon Outlets, one of the largestes discount malls in California. The weather took an ugly turn, and I had never experienced cold temperatures like this. This is an outdoor mall in the low desert. But when we made our way to different shops, it started to snow. I was not dressed for this rude spell that Mother Nature surprised us with. I was shivering in my thin layered raincoat, while Jo was prancing around in the long camel hair coat that she borrowed from me. “Hey, do you want to trade coats?” I asked her. “Absolutely not!” she answered. I offered my suffering up to the Lord and continued to shiver.

Frankie, me, Nellie, Mike, Jo, George, Gina, Mike Ciriza, Harris Frank, Rong, Ronda, Lee, Nick, Maya, Reina and Robert, who took the photo

We had to meet our brothers and their families for dinner at 6 p.m. So by the time we had finished shopping, we were cutting it close. I made an announcement that I needed to change into warmer clothes, so we needed to go to the place where we were staying. My nephew Frank wanted to go straight to the restaurant, but I won that battle. We were to meet at Las Casuelas, a popular Mexican restaurant in Palm Desert. The day before I had received a group text message informing us that the location of the restaurant had changed. Since I do not open group text messages, I only read the first line. It read Las Casuelas. It turned out that we were an hour late for our dinner because Las Casuelas has three restaurants with the same name on the same street! We went to the wrong one! Mass confusion ensued, and I was in a panic scrambling to find the last text message.

Our brothers George and Mike and their families were gracious as we tried to explain the situation. I knew all along that I was going to take the fall. How can anyone make an excuse for being late one hour? I quickly ordered a Margarita and sat next to my cousin Nellie, who warned me “You’re going to get drunk if you drink that!”  I was still thawing out from the cold and felt guilty. Guilt makes you do stupid things, and after drinking only half of the Margarita, I suddenly became more talkative. I even gave a quick tutorial on how to tie a scarf. I explained that I learned this at the University of Tiktok.  It was wonderful visiting with our family, although out of seven siblings we’re now only five.


My husband Mike  did all the driving, in  Jonah, my Prius. The following morning we left for Arizona to pick up our sister Norma, while Frank picked up his wife Lindy at the Phoenix International Airport. We decided to meet in Flagstaff. We arrived  just in time for dinner. Red Lobster has the best bread, but that’s about it. It was Friday and since we are in Lent I ordered fish and chips. To describe this meal would say that I would have been better off going through the trash dumpsters. As usual  I ordered the wrong meal,  and poor Norma followed my lead.

Jo, me and Norma
Frankie, Lindy, Frank and Harris

The Grand Canyon

We were all up early to catch the train to Williams for the grand finale of the trip. The Grand Canyon did its due diligence and commanded the most breathtaking views. The weather received the memo to stay clear for our visit as well. Finally, Jo’s wish came true!  That night we dined with a wonderful turkey dinner with all the trimmings. With so much turkey left over, I made sandwiches for the road.


My car telling Mike to rest


The Weather 

After dinner we said our goodbyes to Frank, Lindy and the boys. Jo was going to ride back with us to drop Norma off, while Frank and his family drove to a hotel near the Phoenix airport. Around two o’clock in the morning, the snow made an unwelcoming appearance. Mike could not sleep because he was worried about getting snow chains. The plan was to leave at six a.m., but many of the roads were closed. By 8:30 a.m. it was clear enough for us to start our treacherous trip back home. Mike’s instructions were, “Please don’t pick any fights with your sisters, and try not to talk too much.”  I was the navigator, so this was going to be a challenge. During the first leg of the trip, we were traveling 23 miles per hour. As much as I find driving next to semi-trucks annoying, this time I welcomed them because they were paving the road for us.

As soon as we got out of the snow, Norma started the conversation about her 21- year-old cat Boi; she was worried that he may have died. “What am I going to do? I don’t even own a shovel! He better not have died on my bed!”  Well, much to her surprise, Boi was the welcoming committee! The cries of the old cat brought joy to my sister, and we all gathered around to pet the elderly tabby.

Birthday Party

Mike and I had to be at a birthday party for Will, Sonja and Jacob at 6 p.m.  How Mike puts up with me is a mystery because he drove straight through, making only two pit stops. We made it home by five, got ready, wrapped the gifts and were at the restaurant at exactly six o’clock. We were the only ones there because I did not open the group text informing us that the reservations were for 6:30!

My Prayer

Dear Lord, I thank You for Jo’s visit and all the joy that she brought with her. I pray for all of my siblings and their families.  Please keep us safe, and may we always have You in our midst. Amen.



Related Posts