Twentynine Palms, CA is about 1200 miles straight west from Oklahoma City. Since we started a little late after having breakfast with my cousin Vicki, we chose to take our time and make this trip with two stops so our arrival into Twentynine Palms on the third day would be fairly early. We stopped first in Albuquerque and then the second night in Flagstaff. This gave us an easy 4.5 hour drive on our last day. The further west we went the hotter it got. When we crossed the Colorado River into California, our car thermometer read 109. But the drive across the Mojave was uneventful, mostly because there really isn't anything to speak of once you leave Kingman, AZ. We arrived at the gate for the base where Marianne met us and got us our pass so we could drive onto the base. From there it was just a couple miles to their new base housing.
With the arrival of Weiler, the Kappels were now worthy of a four bedroom house on the base. The place is really very nice with a fenced back yard, patio area, garage, and a good air conditioner (the best part). The first action was to unload the piano from the back of the van. Michael had helped me load it in Cincinnati, but even better help showed up to lug it out of the car and into the house. The Marines landed!! Clint and three of his friends showed up to do the heavy work, allowing me to only look like I was helping. Don't let Don kid you- he couldn't resist "helping" so with all these strapping Marines to help, Don was still in the middle "pulling his weight!" These Marines by the way are the Lieutenants that served under Clint in Afghanistan. What a fine looking group! Gotta admit, it made me proud just to be holding onto the piano with those four Marines.
And it wasn't too long before Reeder was playing "Grandma", her recital song.
Our arrival was only a couple of days after the movers had arrived with all of their stuff. Consequently, our visit provided not only the main object of this trip (to see Clint), but also provided Marianne with some help in moving in, unpacking, putting away, putting together, fixing, painting, and taking care of kids (the last part almost entirely done by Max). I don't think I saw Don "resting" for even a moment. In addition to painting four rooms, putting together two bikes, a barbq grill (the toughest of his assisngments- but he finished in time for us to cook steaks for supper!), shelving, cabinets.... (I bet it isn't hard for you to decide which color Reeder picked and which color Hayes picked...)
After a nights sleep our first assignment was something more official. The Colonel in charge of Clint's Battalion was transferring and a change of command was needed. Now the Marines take these things very seriously and include a lot of pomp and circumstance. They brought out their vehicles (below is a Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) that they use in their job. The change of command was really impressive- makes you so proud- proud of my son, proud of the Marines and proud of my country!
Next came the men under the Colonel's command (although since it was really hot, they only marched out 30 from each of the five Companies instead of all 120 men that make up a company). Below is Clint leading his Company in the parade and the Company "at ease" while the outgoing and incoming Colonels said a "few words".
And they even marched a few horses around the parade grounds.
Best of all we got our first family picture that included Weiler!
But everything wasn't just work and parades. We did take a little time for some fun. Marianne and I blew up the inflatable pool so the kids could cool off. Unfortunately the pump to inflate the pools was still packed in one of those boxes piled in the house.
And Clint's "coming home" present to Hayes was.... Drum roll please....
And Reeder and Hayes both got new bicycles to ride.
Hayes and I were out "riding" a couple of times and he would always slow when he passed this BIG BIKE!
I asked Hayes if he might want to take a closer look. He was excited.
Then he told me, "Grama, when I get big I will ride in the middle seat and you'll ride on the back seat." I do think I might have to decline that- even from this charmer!
And Weiler simply enjoyed being there with everybody and smiling.
And Clint got a brand new grill although the picture below was pre-new grill. Nonetheless grilling out in the back yard was an almost daily event.
One real downside of the trip was that Clint didn't have a lot of free time. One would think that after spending several months working 20 hour days getting ready to go to Afghanistan and then spending 7 months over there working essentially 24 hours a day, the Marines could give a guy a little time off. Two unfortunate things happened to prevent this: 1) Clint got a new assignment and a new Colonel when he returned and 2) his replacement for his old assignment wasn't due to show up for another month or so. Consequently, Clint was working two jobs while we were there in preparation of a much needed vacation with his family. But I might mention that Clint started this "vacation" by climbing Mt. Rainer! How's that for taking a break!
He did get some time to catch up on sleep and holding his new son.
And Clint and I even squeezed a trip in to the park!
So Max and I focused on helping put the house in order and spending some time with Marianne and the Kids. One morning before temperatures got too high we even ventured out to Joshua Tree National Park for a little hiking and rock climbing. Reeder and Hayes love to climb on the rocks and they are getting really good at it for kids that are 3 and 5 years old.
OK, so Hayes isn't climbing in this picture, but I couldn't resist this smile. Not sure anyone can resist this smile!
Weiler wasn't quite ready to try out his climbing shoes, but he enjoyed the show and got to climb with Mom.
Weiler even got a good bit of cuddling from Grandma Max.
Part 3 coming next: Bryce Canyon, Boulder, Utah and Anne Peair's wedding, then home.