Sunday, March 1, 2015

Dusty's Bucket List Vacation

I think everyone has a “bucket list,” you know things they would like to do someday, long term dreams so to speak. Usually they are fun and unnecessary things, and in the busy days of having a young family seemingly unattainable. But sometimes we are given an opportunity to check something off our list when we least expect it.
Since I was a little kid I have loved looking through the farm magazines when they land on the kitchen table. Shiny new equipment, pictures of other farms all over the world and once a year there would be sections devoted to the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California. I went to school on the north side of Spokane, and in many cases we farm the first fields as you head out of town, this meant that I was pretty much the only “farm kid” in school. (That is if you define farm kid as someone whose family actually derives a significant portion of their income from farming, there are lots of people who have ten acres and a horse and call themselves a farmer.) Farming is more than a job your dad has, it is a lifestyle and that shapes your worldview, changes what you do after school, and changes what you value in life. School can be an isolating experience in many ways, and although I really enjoyed all of my schooling, I did feel different, somewhat because I felt I was the only one who had a farm background.
This is what I did for fun in my free time
Not many kids can wore boots, hat and belt buckle to a formal dance in high school. Lucky for me Erin didn't mind.

Every February the Spokane Ag Expo was always exciting to me because it was a whole show full of other farmers. It was a reminder that I wasn’t the only farmer around. After high school, going to WSU was really great, there were a ton of other “Aggies” there, and I got to make a bunch of new friends that also came from farm backgrounds. One of those friends was Grant DeVries, and through college and in the years since, Erin and I have really come to cherish our friendship with him and his wife Andrea. They have three kids; Noah, is a year and a month older than our JJ, Lydia, who is a year and a month younger than our JJ, and now they have Levi, who was born in December. Having kids that are similar in ages and play really well together makes for great times when we can make the 3 hour journey to Prosser to see them.
Grant and I in our WSU days
At Grant and Andrea's wedding.
Now, back to more current events, Grant works for a company in Prosser that builds custom orchard and vineyard sprayers. I could give you some details, but really all you need to know is that they are really cool, and Grant can tell you anything you need to know about them. Last year Grant’s company decided to rent a booth at the World Ag Expo, and they had a lot of interest. This year they wanted to take two sprayers instead of one like the previous year. So, Grant asked Erin and me if we wanted to haul one sprayer down and he and his family would haul the other one. Despite being in the middle of setting up our new house, and Erin being in the 34th week of pregnancy, and a 20hr drive to get there we jumped, okay, I jumped at the opportunity check the World Ag Expo off my bucket list, and Erin was excited to go somewhere warm and sunny not the grey of Spokane winter especially on a room and fuel paid vacation with great friends.
After spending a couple weeks tuning up our ’93 Chevy with 204,000miles on it for the trip, Erin, JJ, and I loaded up and headed to Prosser on Saturday Feb 7th. We got to Grant and Andrea’s and hooked up the trailer and made final preparations for the journey in the morning; well the journey in the morning, and the afternoon, and the evening, and the night, and really, part of the next morning.
Ready to go

Lunch break
Sunday morning we loaded our families up and headed out for California. We left Prosser about 8:30am, and drove down highway 97 across central Oregon and into Cali. We stopped in Weed, Ca for dinner and it was pouring rain. When we left Mickey D’s to continue on south on I-5 it was still pouring rain, like really pouring rain, windshield wipers on high, 35mph on the freeway, just following the taillights kind of rain! I have never driven in rain like that before, and did I mention there was a high wind warning, and we were pulling a trailer with a $40,000 sprayer on it? It was exciting to say the least. Once we got to Sacramento it cleared up and I let Erin drive for a couple hours. Maybe I should say, Erin let me NOT drive for a couple hours. Over dinner we had decided to push through to a hotel in Tulare for the night, so that we could sleep a bit and be in town to setup at the expo on Monday morning. Despite all  of our kids, who did great, it did take us until 3:30AM to roll into bed in Tulare, CA, but it felt great to get there.
Washing off the road grime
Monday we slept in, washed the road grime off the sprayers and headed to the show to set up the Vine Tech booth. It was simply incredible to see the size and scale of the ag show. I have never seen so much agricultural equipment in one place, let alone so much equipment that I had no idea how to identify. We really were just there to set up and only got a glimpse of what we would see over the next few days of the show. After things were all setup, we loaded up and headed out to the vacation rental house where we were staying. The drive from Tulare, across the central valley and up into the foothills was pretty amazing, all kinds of orchards, dairies, vineyards, and hay fields lined the highway as we followed truckloads of oranges. The house we stayed at was beautiful, set up on a hill with great views and lots of space for the kids to play. It also had a pond, a pool, a hot tub, a sport court, and a kitchen. It even had a spiral staircase and an underground tunnel to a game room. And by room I really mean a whole extra space where some other friends that now live in California, Erin, Jon and their two kiddos slept over for a couple nights of our stay. While all of these features were great and did get used over our stay, the kitchen was most appreciated. Andrea had planned out great meals for our stay. After setup, the drive to the vacation house was a bit farther than we had hoped (just over an hour) which meant that we had just enough time to unpack, settle in a bit, eat and go to bed.


The pool and "game room"

What a view!

The next three days were filled with exploring the Ag Expo and hanging out at the house. I don’t really have the words to describe the expo, it was really amazing, almost overwhelmingly so. Acres and acres of equipment, most of which was nothing we could use at home, but all very interesting to learn what it does. I was very impressed by all the nut harvesting equipment, shakers, tenders, and trimmers, strange looking stuff to this Washington farm boy. Tulare is known for its dairy industry, we even drive by a Kraft plant on the way to the show (apparently the yellow squares my wife says are not “real” cheese, do at least come from milk), and the pavilion dedicated to booths for dairies was huge. All the stuff was fascinating, but the most fun part of the show was exploring with Jayney.

 Here we are checking out a bunch of the show booths

She loved it, like really, really loved it. She wanted to walk around and look at all the tractors, and climb up in them all with me, which made my heart swell at least two sizes too big. It was really cute. I was surprised that she cared as much as she did for a three year old. She has questions about everything, “what does this do?”, “How does that work,” “Is that for harvesting?” I could see here really trying to understand and take in everything she could. She begged us not the leave every day. On Thursday Grant and I went to the show to tear down and left Erin and Andrea with the kids to “relax” at the house. When JJ learned that I had gone to the “tractor show” without her she was more than a little bit heartbroken. Erin was eventually able to reminder her the house had lots of other fun and friends to distract her from her sadness, but she wasn't easily convinced that anything in the world could possibly be better than the tractor show!

Plus one more toddler (and baby Cora not pictured) when another couple Erin and Jon came to visit for a couple days too.
Friday morning we left the vacation house and drove to Redding, Ca to stay the night in order to break up our drive home. After taking the families swimming in the hotel pool, most of us were able to get a good night’s rest before the final push back to Prosser the next day. Saturday we made it back to Prosser, and after letting the kids play and some visiting, Erin and I left for home mid-day on Sunday.  

On the road again!

This sunset brought to you by a toddler potty break

Mt Shasta

I will catch you daddy!
And when we got back to Prosser after our long trip what did they want to do? Well, go for a ride in the car, of course!! HA!

Overall our time in California was awesome, being able to get away from our “to do list”, see the World Ag Expo, and spend time with friends in warm weather was very refreshing; despite the long commute from the show to the vacation house and the fact that Tulare is 1,049 miles from home. Erin and I are really glad we got to go on such an adventure this spring as a prologue to our adventure of a new house as a family of four!


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