Our Trek Westward to Seattle (Opa post)

It was almost exactly 25 year ago that Ellie, our boys and I trekked westward to Arizona to explore the Grand Canyon.  That was 1991, and our three boys were 15, 13 and 10. We met the Petersons and the Livingstons at the Grand Canyons and the next day disappeared over the rim of the canyon and began our trek down the canyon.

Now, 25 years later, we trek westwards from Wheaton to Seattle to join two of our three sons and their families for life in Seattle.   This trek began on Friday, February 26, a day after the sale of our home in Wheaton and the repair of our ailing Honda C-RV.   Ellie and I pushed westward to get to Eric and Bonnie’s home in Colorado Springs late on Saturday afternoon.  It was a wonderful visit. Bonnie and Eric welcomed us warmly as did their kids.   We had dinner with then on Saturday evening and church on Sunday morning.  With their large family it’s a challenge to organize activities. But, Opa played “Three Billy Goats Gruff” in the basement under the old Kniffin bench.  Thomas and Lilly loved it!  I think Catherine and Mary have pretty much outgrown it, but that’s okay. Little John-John, now two, joined into the fun.  Little John was born with a club left foot.  He had a operation on that foot before the family left DC two years ago.  The operation was very successful, and now John can romp around with the rest of the gang.

Here’s an Iowa story for our readers.  On the first day of our trip, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel restaurant for dinner.  It was Friday night, and the place was jammed with people. So, instead of waiting 35 minutes for our own table, Ellie suggested that we ask a sitting couple if we could join then at their table.  So we sat down with a couple and began chatting all sorts oft things – kids, RAGBRAI bike ride, cancer, careers and more.  After a awhile, this couple got up to pay their dinner bill. After a few minutes they returned to our table to thank for joining them for dinner.  Then, he told us that he’s paid for our dinners! I told Ellie – “Well, that’s Iowa for you.”

From the Springs,  our pace slowed considerably, and we were glad for that.   Snow and icy roads did not slow us down.   But, a chance meeting with a lady in the mountains of Colorado was a delight.   Ellie and I stopped in mid-afternoon at a small Thai restaurant to take a brake from the drive.  We ordered tea and egg rolls. Conversation ensued with a lady at the next table.  She and her husband were graduates of Moody Bible Institute (MBI) and had served as missionaries in South America.  We talked about all manner of things for 45 or so minutes.  She was very pleasant.  Imagine meeting a graduate of MBI in the mountains of Colorado!  She was a delight.

We spent the night in Tuba City, a town in the desert east of Flagstaff on the Najaho Indian Reservation.  Learned more about the Najaho culture and the hogan, a nice museum located near our hotel.


Our next stop was a delight.  We traveled down through the Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona on Rte. 89A with its red rocks.  What a lovely community.  It has indeed been discovered, and the prices of goods and services reflected that.  The weather was warm.  I hiked in the Red Rock State Park on the Eagles Nest Trail, and it took me along the ridge of the canyon with a wonderful view of the canyon  and various rock formations that included the Cathedral.  A nature walk the following day along Oak Creek with a park ranger gave me tidbits of info on the flora and rock formations in this park.  The final stop in Sedona took us to a Catholic chapel encased in the red rock formations.   This chapel was sculpted in a vertical formation to fit nicely into the rocks on the cliff.  This chapel reminded me of the Matisse Chapel in Vence in southern France, where several of Matisse’s paintings hung.


Dee Luse, a friend from Wheaton, had invited us to visit him in his home in Scottsdale just outside of Phoenix.    Dee and his wife Sharon had built a lovely home in this desert home.  Dee lost his wife just last year to the ravages of Alzheimers Disease.  He had cared for her for 5 years as she drifted away mentally and physically.  Now he was alone and sought a new companion.  His cousin John Chapman was with him, and we learned more about the Chapman clan.

A striking feature around Scottsdale is the desert landscaping.  No more artificial lawns that requires constant watering.  Now the homes in Dee’s subdivision have rocks and pebbles and feature cacti and bougainvillea.  One must adjust to the realities of one’s environment, and with constant water shortages in the Southwest the desert flora only makes sense.

Palm Springs

From Scottsdale, we traveled west across the desert to Palm Springs.  Palm Springs includes about 5 different communities – Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta and Indio. Neil’s coach sits in a beautiful resort in Indio, and so that was a our first  stop.  We played some pickleball and then joined Neil and Robert and Nancy Kennedy for dinner at a local Italian restaurant.  We stayed with Bob and Nancy rather than spring for another hotel, and had  good fun with the two of them.  Bob, a native of Brooklyn, is a most pleasant conversationalist, and we covered many different topics over out two days with them.

With Neil, we went to the Indian Wells tennis tournament, now a major event for the world’s top players.   Great facilities here quite similar to those at Flushing Meadows in New York for the U. S. Open.  Aside from watching two good matches, we caught Serena Williams and Andy Murray on the practice courts.

Visit with Heidi and San Francisco

The next stop:  Larkspur, a suburb of San Francisco, and dinner with cousin Heidi Swan.  We drove north through the San Joaquin Valley.  The weather was dry and sunny until we entered the San Francisco metro area, and then the weather changed to rain.  It was fun to see Heidi after all these years.  She seemed very well.  She works long days at a doc’s office.  She recognized the cast on my left wrist and saw right away that I’d broken my scaffoid (navicular) bone in my thumb.  We covered many family topics over the many years that the Swans and the Kniffins had lived in New Canaan great chats!

The next day we took a ferry to the docks of San Francisco and walked along the piers.  It was Ellie’s first trip to San Fran – it was short but a good first visit.

At the Rustic Bakery in Larkspur we breakfasted with Sabrina Kniffin, my 1st cousin once removed.  We had first met Sabrina in Chicago ten years ago when she came to our fair city in the Midwest to rendezvous with a boyfriend.  Sabrina now lives in Sonoma County in the town of Sebastopol  (I think that’s right).  She never pursued college and is able to get along with odd jobs, such as bartending.  I imagine that she has a pretty good next egg that was handed down by our Uncle Howard, Sabrina’s grandfather.    Sabrina lost her Dad, Howard Jr. to cancer and emphesema in December.  Her mother now lives in upstate New York in Binghamton.  Sabrina went back to New York for  Aunt Barbara’s 98th birthday.  She seemed happy but I have to think that she’s a bit lonely as a single person on in her mid-to-later 40s.

On to Seattle

We hit the road to get to Medford, OR, home of Brian and Melissa Nieuwenhuis.  Their two boys are now about ten and eight.  The older Evan (I think) was born on May 28!  The boys were friendly.  We went to dinner at a local Applebee’s and then said good night to them.  They are happy in Medford.  From appearances, Brian is doing well with the U. S. Weather Bureau.  He loves this field of work.

After a good night’s sleep, Ellie and I made our final push onto Seattle.  Southern Oregon was very rainy, and the mountains were imposing.  We finally arrived in Seattle at the Rainier Avenue Church, where Tim was involved in a small group discussion.  The boys had done a wonderful job of making our apartment at the Angeline Apartments livable so that we could just plop down on our beds and enjoy a good night’s rest in our new home!

To complete this blog, we need some photos, and that will be my next task to bring this journal to its conclusion.

(To be continued).




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