Just two short weeks after Kyra finished her mission, she wanted to go back.

So she, Laralee, and I hopped in the car and headed southwest on a crazy road trip to Bakersfield. Kyra thought it would be fun to show us the areas where she served, including old apartments and other haunts, former mission companions, and several of the friends she’d made as she taught the gospel in the area. She also wanted to join her friend, who would be attending the Los Angeles Temple for the first time.

Things didn’t start out well. The forecast for the mountain passes was pretty dire: heavy snow, avalanche warnings, and intermittent closures of I-70. We waited an extra hour before leaving Thursday morning, thinking that would give the road crews some more time to clear the snow. As we hit the highway, we received a text from Megan, in which she casually mentioned that I-70 had been closed (again!) due to avalanche danger near Copper Mountain. I continued driving while Laralee used her phone to check road reports, and after confirming that I-70 was closed for an unknown length of time, we turned back for home.

Back there, we looked at some alternate routes. We could take a wide detour along highway 9, avoiding the closed portion of I-70. It would add a little time, but at least we’d be able to get through the mountains. As we prepared to get back in the car, there was an update from the road crews: highway 9 was closed due to a rockslide. Hmm.

After further consideration, we agreed to take the northern route through Wyoming, along I-80. There were warnings of fog and blowing snow, but at least the interstate was open. We left, and sure enough, for at least fifty miles we drove through thick fog with visibility of only a few hundred feet:

But I-80 remained open, and we made it through Wyoming and into Utah. We learned that an avalanche had indeed closed I-70, covering several cars (no fatalities, fortunately). Since our route had taken a huge bend northward, we were actually in position to cruise through Provo where Alex is living. We called him and asked if he’d like to join us for dinner that night. His girlfriend Kaitlyn came along, as well as our nephew Brandon and his wife Kayla.

It was fun to see all of them again, and to meet Kaitlyn. After some burgers we continued on what was becoming a pretty long day. After a night in a hotel, we passed Baker, California: the home of the gigantic thermometer:

It was only registering in the low 50’s, unlike the last time we’d passed it (a few years ago), when it was near the top at 110 or more.

Eventually we reached Bakersfield, where we stopped at the mission office.

We met Kyra’s former mission president and had a great chat with him. He’s a really busy man, so we were lucky to catch him in the office and have a few minutes together. I’m grateful for the service and sacrifice he gave not only to Kyra, but to some 400 or more missionaries that have come through the mission during his three-year tenure.

We cruised the area, meeting her old companions and friends. Despite being widely known as the “Armpit of California”, both Laralee and I found Bakersfield to be quite nice. Kyra says it probably helped that it had rained the day before, so the smog was gone, and it wasn’t over a hundred degrees. True.

The next morning we picked up a couple of missionaries, crammed them into the back of our car, and headed south to Los Angeles to attend the temple. Sadly, I only had my nifty fifty camera lens, so I couldn’t get a good wide-angle shot of the entire temple.

We took some photos on the temple grounds. Here are Kyra, her (favorite) companion Sister Williams, and an old MTC friend Sister Woodland:

And of course me and my sweetheart.

We drove back from Los Angeles, visited a few more people, saw a few more sights, and decided to get started on our long trip back home. We ended up in Barstow that night.

On Sunday we’d planned to drive about halfway home, stay for a night, and then finish the trip on Monday. But I-70 was once again in dire straits: they were running hourly “avalanche patrols” in helicopters, the road was reported to be icy for about a hundred miles, and we were cautioned about “powder clouds” which are apparently precursors to avalanches. Also, there had been a “record-breaking” avalanche near Aspen. Although it wasn’t directly on our route, clearly there was some concern on the part of the highway department. We decided to take a chance, and bomb it for home in a single day. We girded our loins and headed north.

Along the way we saw gazillions of Joshua trees, and felt like we should stop to see what they felt like. As it turns out, they’re incredibly sharp.

We stopped in St. George to visit Cil and Jim, and had the added bonus of Kenzi and Spencer! All of us enjoyed an awesome two-hour lunch, but then it was time to hit the road again. We took deep breaths and turned east onto I-70, hoping for the best. As it turned out, the interstate was dry almost the entire way. No avalanches, no ice, no powder clouds. We rolled into our driveway at midnight after a one-day drive of almost 950 miles. Total mileage: just over 2,600 in four days, for an average of 650 miles per day. I think that’s a new record for us.

All in all, it was a good time and I’m glad we could support Kyra in visiting everyone. It was fun to see where she’s been hanging out for a year and a half. Now we have to start preparing for another multi-thousand-mile trip to Montana next week…