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Mimi and Papa's Covid-19 Road Trip

By Dennis Rainey

Our offices remain closed, so I’m working from home on our porch and enjoying a break from the heat while a herd of thunder showers march and rumble through our neck of the woods. The pristine solitude interrupted by the thunder reminds me Who is in control. I’m also reflecting on a recent road trip that Barbara and I just completed, and of the importance of the next generation.

We’ve been very careful about the pandemic and “SIP-ing” (sheltering in place). For three months we didn’t go anywhere. Okay, we did go to Sparkman, Arkansas, a couple of times. I dare you to find it on the map. And to Memphis to babysit our 19-month-old grandson, Lincoln. But …

It was time …

… time to break loose and hit the road and see our latest granddaughter, two-months young “Lillian Love Rainey,” four of her siblings, and five of her cousins … and, oh yes, connect with our adult children and their spouses. All of whom live on the Front Range of Colorado.

How do you spell LOVE?

Because of Covid-19 we weren’t sure what, if any, restaurants would be open on the road, so Barbara and I packed a cooler with thin sliced turkey and Havarti cheese, fresh tomatoes, mayo and horseradish (my fave on a turkey roll-up) mustard, salt and vinegar chips (Barbara doesn’t like those chips) and a few diet A&W root beers (her fave). Which turned out to be a very smart move.

And we headed out.

The temps soared to 100 degrees and the chilled air of the Rockies was calling.

Empty roads, empty hotel

Our first night was in Oklahoma City. The interstate was creepy … not in speed, but in how few vehicles were traveling. I thought maybe the rapture had occurred and we were “left behind.” The Marriott hotel we stayed in was even creepier … 13 percent occupancy. Nothing echoes like an empty hotel. Virtually no one was wearing a mask. That was really creepy.

After unpacking we hunted for the endangered species: Safe restaurants with some good food. Those diners were AWOL.

We checked out the next morning and headed northwest, in hopes of getting Barbara some time to do some watercolors of the landscape near Raton, New Mexico.

Lesson #1: Watercolors do not work in New Mexico with winds gusting to 45-55 mph. We abandoned going north and traveled further west. At our son, Benjamin’s, recommendation, our second stop was Eagles Nest, N.M., altitude 7,000 and change.

That small mountain village had few hotels and even fewer restaurants open that evening for dinner. As in none!

Back to the cooler and our tasty peppered turkey-and-cheese rollups.

The temperature the next morning was in the low 30’s and with the wind made it feel like 20 below zero! Lesson #2: Temps like this are conducive for ice sculpting, but not for WATERcolors.

So packed up and headed to Red River, where it was snowing. Lesson #3: Snow adds interesting texture to watercolors that Barbara wasn’t the least bit interested in.

And then we meandered on to Taos where every resort was closed and B&Bs were only allowed to sell 50 percent of their rooms. Our B&B already had 500 cancellations for the summer and the owners were wondering how they were going to make it.

Our cooler was getting lighter. Fortunately we found Orlando’s restaurant, where we ate three times in two days! Their fish tacos were superb. Lesson #4: Tex-Mex is necessary for survival!

Over the next two days we enjoyed the beauty of this artsy, mountain community and then journeyed west out of town, visiting the Rio Grande Gorge. Pretty cool. Then we “dropped in” on the nearby “Earthship” community. Pretty interesting.

On to Colorado

We then traveled north for six hours in search of fulfilling our mission as grandparents.

Ben, MK and Lillian Love... note that I am taller than Ben!!

We arrived at Ben and Mary Kay’s home and went on a journey with our grandkids to a well- stocked outdoor nursery where Barbara helped Lillian and her sisters pick out trees to plant. We selected a cherry tree for Lillian, a plum for the two Rainey “Bigs” (sisters Savanah and Caroline) and a peach tree for the “Littles” (Anabelle and Katie).

We made them promise we would get the first pie from each tree.

MK, Caroline, Katie, Savannah, Annabelle and Mimi a strong workforce

While two-month-old Lillian Love napped, all eight of us dug holes and planted the three trees in disguised dirt that I pronounced was “concrete!”

Mimi (Barbara) had read a book, Reforesting Faith, What Trees Teach Us About the Nature of God and His Love for Us, by Matthew Sleeth. So we gave the “Bigs” and the “Littles” a competitive assignment of searching their Bible apps for the “three most important trees” in the Bible. Major League Baseball has not opened up, but these four young ladies knocked it out of the park! We were impressed that all four of them found the three most important trees: The tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis; The “tree” (cross) that Christ died on; and the “Tree of Life” in Revelation 22. Zacchaeus climbing up in the Sycamore tree to see Jesus was a close fourth place.

I believe our children and grandchildren are capable of far more than we challenge them to do.

That evening we competed in a fierce card game of “You’ve Got Crabs,” between four teams of two each. A great SIP after-dinner game.

The great invasion

The next morning we traveled north to Rebecca and Jake’s, where five more of our brood of grandchildren (ages 3.5 to 10) were waiting … not for us, but for an invasion of gummy bears. It seems that when we come to town we attract herds of gummies invading out of the Rocky Mountains. I was the first to hear them coming and whispered to five bear slayers, “Do you hear ‘em? They’re marching …” It took a moment for them to “hear,” then they bolted out of kitchen through the front door like they’d been shot from a cannon!

The gummies had invaded, infested and set up zone on the front porch, snaking their way down all of the steps to the sidewalk. Doesn’t John Denver have a song named after the gummies, “Rocky Mountain SUGAR High”?

Later we enjoyed a two-mile walk to dinner with Jake and Rebecca. By the end of the meal I knew why it was one of Jake’s favorite places to eat. The pizza was so delightful that it was one of those rare times that I wished I had an extra stomach to eat more.

Trash talking

In the midst of our time hanging out with Rebecca in her garden, our son Samuel boasted/texted a picture of the raised flower and veggie beds that he had built. He threw down a challenge for me to build one. My own son, who is quite good at woodworking, was trash talking me! He was having fun, knowing that his dad scored in the lower two percent of the global human species in his ability to work with his hands. It was humiliating.

But I was not about to be bullied.

Hey, Covid-19 didn’t give us many options for entertainment, so I doubled down on him and hired an architect to create blueprints (NOT!), and Mimi and I made our first of five trips to Home Depot with our masks on and our professional shopping list in hand.

Two hours later we arrived back with plenty of 2 X 6’s and 4 X 4’s, a box of screws, 12 massive bags of soil and peat moss, and plants (heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkin, and sage) … and went to work. Three hours later the professional grade raised veggie bed had been handcrafted and masterfully put in place by a true professional.

I sent a video back to Samuel and he immediately declared the picture of my accomplishment a “Modern Day Miracle!”

I hate to admit it, but there’s no way that little 4-foot by 7-foot bed is going to contain all those plants. I’m going to check back in with Rebecca August and find out which neighbor’s yard has the pumpkin?

Ice cream caper

That evening it was time for some more sugar and since “Sweet Cow” (Papa’s fave ice cream shop) was not really open for business, we got all five of the kids “masked up” and found another ice cream store that had no one in it and was safe.

As I enjoyed my peanut butter and chocolate ice cream I did the math of what it would cost to take all of our 25 grandkids and their 12 parents out for ice cream … it’s a really big number, just for ice cream … but by any comparison an inexpensive memory maker! We were glad to be there with “the five” and do it!

That night we read a few more hundred books to the kids and “listened” for more gummies.

None came. Lesson #5: Load an extra cooler for gummies next time.

The next morning we re-loaded our cooler (with some food) and began the journey back to humidity and heat. On the road we listened to sermons and we talked about our summer schedule … which, with God’s favor, will include the healthy birth of … you guessed it … grandchild number 26 in early August!

There’s more than one way to take over the world … even in a pandemic!!!

Stay tuned! The best is yet to be,


Psalm 112:1-2

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