Adobe on Wheels

Audrey Thompson

Zion National Park Zion National Park
Zion National Park Zion National Park
Zion National Park Zion National Park

A week before our trip, Donna asked if we needed to borrow a cooler for the weekend at Zion National Park. “No,” said Ivan. “We already have a cooler.”

“We do?” I was surprised. We used to have one but I know we threw it out years ago. For our trip to Moab last fall, we bought a cheap styrofoam cooler. It only needed to last us till dinner time.

“Yes, we have a cooler. Ours is specially made for Subarus,” Ivan advised me.

This was the first I had heard of our having a cooler specially made for Subarus. “When did we get it?” I asked.

“Yesterday. I bought it at the dealer’s,” Ivan explained. “It plugs into the cigarette lighter, so that you don’t have to use ice. I hate ice.”

I began to understand why I had not heard about this cooler before. Coolers that you buy at the dealer and plug into your Subaru are not going to be cheap. “How much did this cooler that ’we’ bought cost?” I asked in a friendly voice.

“A hundred dollars,” Ivan said.

“A hundred dollars!” I had to object. “Why would we need a hundred-dollar cooler that plugs into the car? Other than this one weekend a year, you never drive the car anywhere except to American Fork. You can buy a styrofoam cooler for $1.50 and a bag of ice for another $1.50. Why did we spend $97 more than we needed to on a cooler we will only use once a year?”

“Styrofoam coolers do not cost $1.50,” said Ivan. “You are thinking of what coolers cost when you were a teenager. Styrofoam coolers no longer cost $1.50 and T-shirts no longer cost $7.00. Things have changed. Besides, the whole point is that we don’t want to have to deal with ice. I hate ice.”

There was room in the cooler for about a week’s worth of supplies, but either you would have to eat them quickly or you would need to keep driving. Things are only actively cooled while the car is running. That is, unless you don’t mind wearing down your car battery. Or carrying around a spare battery. You can get a special adaptor for hooking up a spare battery to your cooler, but you have to buy the adaptor separately. Plus, you would have to buy the spare battery.

There is also a special AC-DC adaptor for if you want to plug the cooler into your motel room outlet. You have to buy that separately too. Ivan had not realized that the AC-DC adaptor came separately, so it was not till we got to the motel that he began to mourn its absence. “This is only half a cooler without the adaptor,” he complained. “I will need to go out and buy one tomorrow.”

“I don’t think there is a Subaru dealership in Springdale,” I said.

“It doesn’t matter. I will drive till I find the adaptor,” Ivan said. If nothing else, driving around would cool off the stuff in the cooler. “There is an Ace Hardware in Hurricane. I can buy the adaptor there.”

Ordinarily, we would not have known about Ace Hardware stores in Hurricane, but we got lost in LaVerkin, on the way down from Salt Lake City. We stopped at a grocery store to pick up the supplies Ivan had forgotten, and when we came out Ivan wanted me to take pictures of the grocery store’s truck, and by the time we got back on the road, we were all turned around.

Farmer’s Market Truck

I am not blaming Ivan for having stopped at the grocery store. It is easy to forget stuff on a trip. The stuff that Ivan forgot was pretty vital, but I have forgotten vital stuff myself in the past. A couple years ago, when I passed through the airport security checkpoint on my way to Oregon, a man opened my carry-on bag and proceeded to rifle through it. “Gross,” I thought. “That man is pawing through my underwear.” I paused to amend the thought. “If I had brought any underwear.”

I had to buy new underwear at the Fred Meyer in Corvallis, with my sister shouting, “What size underpants do you want?” across four aisles. The saleswoman was very sympathetic. “Family?” she asked understandingly.

Outside the grocery store, Ivan insisted on my taking a picture of the truck. “It even says on it, ’LaVerkin’,” he pointed out. I took a picture of the truck with the “L” for “LaVerkin” monogrammed on the mountain behind it. Hurricane has an “H” monogrammed on one of its mountainsides. I say monogram, but it is really more like publicly sanctioned graffiti. Mountain monograms are very popular in Utah. The University of Utah has a U on the mountain behind it. Mountain monograms are low-level, scratchy-looking initials. There is nothing spiffy like the L that Laverne wore in her clothes in the Laverne and Shirley show. That LaVerkin hillside would look a lot classier with a Laverne-style L.

Farmer’s Market Truck with LaVerne L
LaVerkin Revised. 

The reason that the name LaVerkin exercised such an attraction for Ivan is that LaVerkin is rather an unusual town. Not everyone has a place like LaVerkin in their state. LaVerkin has outlawed the U.N. and mandated the universal ownership of firearms. I took a picture of the graveyard, where they bury the casualties.

The graveyard where they bury the casualties

LaVerkin is not the only exotic place in Utah. In Cedar City, thousands of miles from any ocean, there is a lighthouse. We do not know the story behind that. Even if we were told, it is possible that we might not understand. Ivan and I are from Illinois, which is also thousands of miles from the sea, but has no lighthouses to speak of.

Thousands of miles from any ocean, there is a lighthouse

Driving away from the LaVerkin grocery store, we confidently made our way through Hurricane, after which we were dumped back on the expressway, ending up in St. George. “If you end up in St. George,” Frank had told us, “you have gone too far.” We laughed when he told us this. As if we needed to be told.

It was on the way back from St. George that Ivan noticed the Ace Hardware. On the way through Hurricane the first time, we had noticed a trailer dealership offering a special on its adobe model. This was the first time we had seen an adobe house on wheels. We stopped and took pictures.

Adobe mobile home

A couple came through to look the place over while I was taking pictures. They were in and out of that adobe model by the time I was on my fourth photo. Evidently the sag in the trailer is indicative of what things are like on the inside.

By the time we got to Springdale, it was almost dinner time. Ed called us on the cell phone just as we drove into town. Donna had told him to find out if we had stopped somewhere to shop. Suspicious that we hadn’t called, she assumed that we had found an Indian jewelry store and stopped there on our way to Springdale. It did not occur to her that someone could get lost in LaVerkin.

Things have changed quite a bit since our first group outing to southern Utah. That first time, we went to Bluff; Bryan brought along his cell phone, using it to call ahead to ask the hotel clerk to give all the keys to John and Marlia. I remember being impressed that anyone I knew would have a cell phone. It seemed very sophisticated to me. On this trip, half of us had cell phones, although most of them didn’t work.

Ivan using his cell phone that only worked when standing outside next to the car

Because of Ely’s birth, Bryan and Doris weren’t with us this time, but if they had been, you can be sure that Bryan’s cell phone would have worked. Bryan is very plugged in. Quanah proudly imitates him. Accustomed to seeing Bryan with his cell phone tucked into his belt, Quanah had a plastic spoon tucked into the front of his diapers the last time I saw him. He looked very dapper and manly and sophisticated.

Donna walked up just as Ivan and I got out of the car in Springdale. Ivan immediately showed her the electric cooler. She was very impressed. “I want one of these,” she said. She and Frank also have a Subaru.

It was not long before Ivan realized that there was no way to plug the cooler into the motel room. He began making plans for shopping at Ace Hardware the next day.

Donna said, “We’re going on a walk in Zion Park tomorrow morning. Are you two coming?”

Without the faintest trace of regret, Ivan said, “Sorry, I have to go shopping. I have to find an AC-DC adaptor for the cooler.”

“Can you do that earlier or later?” Donna asked.

“No,” said Ivan firmly. “It may take me all day.”

This did not really come as a surprise to Donna. Ivan does not care to walk anywhere that does not lead to ancient ruins. Everyone knows that Ivan does not walk for pleasure. Everyone except Octavio, I should say. After I had sent around photos from our walk, Octavio said, “It’s too bad that you aren’t in any of the photos, since you’re the one taking them. But why wasn’t Ivan in any of the pictures?”

Group shot with no Ivan

“Ivan didn’t go on the walk,” I said.

“Oh, that’s right,” said Octavio. “Where was he?”

“Ace Hardware,” I said. “He had to go there for an adaptor.”

“It’s too bad that he had to miss the walk,” said Octavio.

“Not at all,” I said. “Ivan had a very full day. It was exactly the kind of day he likes. He shopped, he read, he wrote, he drove, and he didn’t walk anywhere. It was an excellent day.”

Actually, it hadn’t started out all that well.

I had chosen a breakfast place from the booklet of restaurants that the motel handed out. It turned out to be one of those places where you order at the counter and then go find a seat, which would have been okay except that the food was not good and the seat I chose made Ivan cranky. I chose a seat by the window, where we could look out at the view, then went to get my tea.

No window in this window

When I came back, Ivan was sitting at the table glowering, his arms crossed in a hostile attitude. “You realize that there is no window in this window,” he said. It took a moment for what he’d said to register. There was no glass in the window. “We might as well be outside,” he elaborated.

Luckily I had brought the camera with me. I got it out and turned it on.

“What are you doing?” Ivan demanded.

“Taking your picture. Hold that scowl,” I ordered, as I waited for the camera to come on. Ivan started to laugh. “Stop that,” I said. “Keep scowling.”

Ivan tried to scowl. “I can’t,” he said. “You’re making me laugh.”

“Can’t you fake it? You’re not much of an actor,” I complained.

“It’s not my fault. You’re a lousy director,” Ivan argued.

You’re not much of a director

It was just as well that the food at the restaurant with the view was not good, as I had to get back for the walk in the park and Ivan was anxious to find his adaptor.

The motel is right next to the park, so the group walked over to take the shuttle to the Lodge, where the hike to the emerald pools begins. On the shuttle, Olin and Anna Sophia took turns sitting next to the window. It was vexing for them to have to share, but they refused to sit anywhere other than together. Whenever it was their turn to sit next to the window, they would squeeze their three-year-old faces through the few inches of window, making the most of every second of their turn, while the other sat and waited, disappointed and perplexed.

At the Lodge, Octavio reassembled Izel’s stroller, and we all started up to the middle emerald pool. The path is not really built for strollers. John, Octavio, and I carried Izel and the stroller a little way up, then stopped while Sandra went ahead to check out the path ahead.

Waiting for the verdict
Waiting for the verdict

Sandra came back to let us know that the stroller would only have to be carried now and again, not the whole way. I was sent ahead to take pictures of Izel’s princely caravan. “When Izel is older and complains that he is the middle child and that no one ever thinks about him or does anything for him, we need pictures to prove that at one time there were fleets of people carrying him up and down mountains.”

Izel being carried by Octavio, Ed, John, and Brian
Izel being carried by Octavio, Ed, John, and Brian

The point of the walk to the emerald pools at Zion is the walking, and the view. There is not really a lot to do when you get to the middle pool except look at things.

Nature Nature
Octavio Marlia

Mostly, people milled around and talked, or ate and watered.

Donna, Ed, Frank, John Group shot
Savina, Briana, Izel, Dolores Octavio and Izel

Or took pictures.

Taking pictures

Olin and Anna Sophia were the only ones who spent much time looking at the emerald pool itself, although “looking” may not be the word I want here. Olin and Anna Sophia did not have spare time to mill around or take in views. There was a bunch of stuff they had to take care of.

Olin and Anna Sophia Olin and Anna Sophia
Olin and Anna Sophia Olin and Anna Sophia
Olin and Anna Sophia Olin and Anna Sophia
Olin and Anna Sophia Olin and Anna Sophia

The views were great but there are even better views if you go further up. Ed suggested that we take a longer hike to where we could get up really high. “It’s a wonderful walk,” he said, and spoke eloquently of its merits. I was beginning to be persuaded when he mentioned the narrow pathways with sharp cliffs on either side and the chain you cling to so that you don’t fall to your death. Suddenly I remembered that I had shopping of my own to do. Also, I had to check on Ivan. It was possible that he might have gotten lost in Hurricane.

Further eating took place at the end of the hike back from the emerald pools. Really good food, but kind of healthy. The Buendías strolled over to the Lodge to get some pizza. There is only so much health that you need to waste time on if you might be plunging to your death in the next couple of hours.

Lawn ornaments Lawn ornaments

My family works on something of the same principle. It is not so much that there are a lot of cliffs to fall off of in Peoria as that you just never know, really. When Chuck and I went to visit Mom and Dad last month, Dad was on the South Beach diet. He was scrupulous about it except for the night that we went out for pizza.

Chuck and Dad outside Agatucci’s
Chuck and Dad outside Agatucci’s

There is not a lot of chance of falling off cliffs, in my family. You would be lucky to fall off the sidewalk. The main family activities are eating and talking. When I went to Corvallis this summer, Annika expressed great satisfaction with my visit thus far and laid out further plans. “Tomorrow,” she said, “we will do the same things as today. We’ll get up and sit on the couch and chat and then we’ll have breakfast and chat. After that, we can lie in the hammock and chat some more. Then we’ll go to the library, and while we walk, we can talk. Then on the way back, we can talk some more. We’ll get home in time for lunch, and over lunch we can chat.” The remainder of the day followed a remarkably similar theme.

Action shot of Annika and Audrey
Action shot of Annika and Audrey

Still shot of Annika and Audrey
Still shot of Annika and Audrey

Ivan likes a fuller day, with shopping in it. He had had a very full day in Hurricane. First, he had checked out a store in Springdale to see if they had the adaptor, but that store carried nothing that anyone would care about. “It was just a store for tourists,” he told me. “This whole town is nothing but a town for tourists.”

“You’re a tourist,” I pointed out.

“Not your archetypal tourist,” Ivan corrected. “This is a town for archetypal tourists.”

“There is no such thing as an archetypal tourist,” I objected. “There are just different kinds of tourists, and you’re one of them.”

“Nonsense,” said Ivan. We were driving at the time, and he pointed to some people on the sidewalk. “There are some archetypal tourists right there.” It was true that they had on funny hats, but there was otherwise nothing to say that they weren’t shopping for an AC-DC adaptor.

Hurricane is not a tourist town. You would have to call it a rural town. Not that standards for rural towns don’t vary. I had a phone call this morning from a company representative asking if something we had ordered had arrived on time. I said that it had. She asked if we had had four hours’ advance notice before it was delivered. I said that actually we had had twenty-fours’ notice. “Probably because you’re in a rural area,” she said, meaning Salt Lake City. We live ten minutes’ walk from downtown.

Presumably because Hurricane is a true rural town, it had the best Ace Hardware store in living memory. Ivan described it in lush, extravagant detail. “It was like going back in time thirty years!” he exulted. “The aisles were crowded with everything you could ever want, only it was modern stuff. They had all kinds of things crammed into that store.”

“I’m glad you had such a good time shopping,” I said. “It sounds like a seminal experience. Would you call it seminal?”

“You would have to call it seminal,” Ivan agreed. He had bought the adaptor he wanted — the very adaptor that the Subaru cooler called for, at a convenient price for which someone else might have bought forty-four styrofoam coolers — along with a fancy new power strip much like the twenty-five fancy power strips we have at home. Ivan needed it for his laptop.

The back porch of the motel has a view that you don’t find at most motels. I asked Ivan if he had spent any time on the back porch, reading and writing.

Back porch of the motel The view from the porch
Ivan on the back porch
Ivan on the back porch
Savina and Donna in the garden
Savina and Donna in the garden

“Reading, yes, writing, no,” said Ivan. “There are no outdoor outlets for the laptop.” It was the kind of motel where people had not really put a lot of thought into things. There were gardens, a pool, a hot tub, picnic tables, a river, a mountain view, hammocks, garden chairs, and swings, but nothing remotely in the form of an outdoor outlet for laptops. The one real point in the motel’s favor, as far as Ivan was concerned, was that it kept a combine in the front yard.

A combine in the front yard

When Donna got back, she came by to see if Ivan had found his adaptor. Donna likes to be kept up to date on shopping information; also, she figured she might need a cooler adaptor herself sometime.

Later that evening, Ivan observed, “You can tell that that electric cooler was designed for men by men. It has all the stuff that men care about, with adaptors and everything, and nothing that women care about.”

“I think you may be generalizing unduly,” I said. “It is true that I don’t care about the cooler, but you could hardly say that Donna doesn’t care about it. Donna is very interested in that cooler.” Through certain strategic non-purchases in Springdale, Donna had saved herself $165.00 on jewelry, noting with satisfaction that that was exactly how much she would need if she were to buy a cooler and adaptor.

People are satisfied by different things. On the way to the restaurant that night, Olin spotted a mule deer across the street from the motel. The deer was the only good thing that happened to Olin for the next twenty minutes.

Mule deer

All the way to the restaurant, he worried that Anna Sophia was not going to join us. There was considerable relief amongst many of us when she did. At breakfast the next morning, the same story was played out, when a certain crankiness manifested itself. I am not saying in whom, necessarily.

Ivan, Donna, Frank, Esther Dolores and Olin

I had taken Olin’s chair, temporarily, while he went to check out the stone water fountain. He came back to ask forlornly, “Where am I going to sit?” I offered to move, but he refused. “This is the chair I want,” he said to his mother, pulling at hers. Dolores offered to move. It turned out that that was not really going to take care of the problem. “But where is Anna Sophia? We saw them putting stuff in the car,” he finally burst out. “I thought Anna Sophia was coming.”

Shortly thereafter Anna Sophia showed up. It is not entirely clear whether Andrea, Brian, and her Omi had planned on coming to breakfast or whether she had left them no option, for she had earnestly explained to them, “I just need to see Olin one more time before we leave.”

Olin and Anna Sophia

Less important to Olin than Anna Sophia, but right up there in the upper reaches of life satisfaction, was ketchup. Olin did not let the ketchup out of his sight. My mother tells me that this was pretty much the theme of my own childhood. When I was two, she took me to a truck stop for lunch and we sat at the counter. The trucker next to me asked for the ketchup and I passed it to him, watching carefully as he used it. I then asked for it back. Every time that ketchup bottle travelled down the counter I stopped eating so as to monitor the ketchup. “Could you please pass back the ketchup?” I would ask. There was zero chance that I was going to continue eating without that ketchup bottle in front of me.

Olin and his personal ketchup

Now that I am grown-up, I no longer feel the need to keep the ketchup bottle in front of me. Usually, now, it is a camera. Sometimes two cameras.

On the way back to Salt Lake City, Ivan and I drove through Kolob Canyon. Each of us had a camera. We seldom walked further than twenty feet from the car.

Kolob Canyon Audrey in Kolob Canyon
Kolob Canyon Kolob Canyon

When we got home, we were frankly surprised to find so little evidence of destruction. It does not take Gaston long to destroy things. The night before we left, I had gone over to Glenn and Raegan’s to give them four typed pages of instructions about taking care of the cats, along with many oral warnings about Gaston. Glenn laughed, remarking, “Someone should write a story about this.” I thought he meant about Gaston; I told him a story about Gaston. “Of course, you realize that I don’t mean about Gaston,” Glenn pointed out. It is possible that he considered four pages of typed instructions excessive for a three-day trip, although when Donna takes care of the cats, she considers four pages a minimum. I did not tell Glenn what Amadou says about the instructions I hand out to students about writing papers. “These instructions are even longer than the papers are supposed to be,” Amadou says. He says it with a surprising degree of satisfaction, actually. Amadou is something of a completist.

In the Dykes’ family, Kanyon is the completist. “I think it is probably time to feed the cats, now,” she reminded her parents every hour or so. “You haven’t been going over there to feed them without me, have you? When are we going again? Now would be a good time. Gaston is probably hungry.” While Gaston ate, Kanyon would stay with him, which is the kind of full-service, complete and undivided attention that, unaccountably, Gaston has come to expect.

Because Kanyon had taken such good care of Gaston, the house was in surprisingly good repair when we got home. Thrilled to have us back, Gaston raced through the house, stopping periodically to kiss my face. I haven’t broken it to him or the other cats yet, but we are going to be forced to go on quite a few more road trips. It will take another fifty-two trips for that cooler to pay for itself. We’ll need to take a minimum of three cooler trips per year or we’re never going to make it.

Gaston plays with Ivan’s cane
Gaston plays with Ivan’s cane


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