Part Two: April 19 – April 20. Weekend in the desert.

Saturday morning, April 19, after waking up at Lynn and Bill’s and having some fantastic waffles and fun conversation for breakfast, Justin and I drove out to Desert Hot Springs, where his Grandma Rose lives in a very nice RV/trailer park in a double-wide home with a surprisingly large yard. Her ex-husband, Justin’s maternal grandpa, Dennis, lives in the trailer next door. Yes, it’s a little strange. He comes over every morning to take out the trash for her and takes care of chores around the place; she cooks meals for the both of them. And they’re both very happy to be able to maintain their own space. I think it boils down to that they don’t want to be entirely alone, but they do want to be in control of their own homes, and he owes her a lot for what he put her through when they were married. Either way, it works for them.

Most of Saturday was spent driving around the area sightseeing and doing a little bit of shopping for the next day’s meal. I’d never been into the desert before, so it was really interesting to me, just looking at the landscape and experiencing that environment. It really does feel like you’ve opened the oven in your face, that dry heat that burns down. Sitting in the shade, it can be nearly comfortable, especially if there’s a breeze blowing, but shift a few feet over to be in the direct sun and it’s burning hot. And it wasn’t flat like I had been expecting. I should have known better, considering the placement of the Rocky Mountains and all, and there are quite a few mountains in the area of Desert Hot Springs, some of which even had snow on the tops while we were there. Standing in 95 degree desert heat and looking up at mountains capped in snow is a strange experience.

Also, there were a lot of wind turbines and solar panels!

Sunday morning, Easter, Rose and I drove to a sunrise service with a friend of hers. It was a lovely service held in a golf course, so there was green grass leading up to a rocky hill, where the pastor stood for his sermon. It was lovely, even though I got completely distracted by the adorable little 1 or 2 year-old boy with bright red hair sitting in the row ahead of me.

We got back home to Rose’s house and then there was work to be done. She started working on making Easter dinner, Wendy worked on repainting the concrete driveway, and Justin and I hung her bathroom door and then decided to work on the stairs leading up to Rose’s house.

I’m honestly can’t remember when exactly that decision was made, but Wendy put her foot through the ramp leading up to Rose’s porch and Justin decided that it wasn’t safe for the ramp to stay that way. If Rose put her foot through, she might break her ankle, which would be trouble enough, but if she fell and hurt herself even more, she might get stuck outside in the heat of the sun and that was a thought Justin wasn’t able to bear. So he looked up how to make steps, was delighted to hear that he could just buy stringers instead of having to create them by hand, and found out if there was hardware store open on Easter Sunday. And then we went to Lowe’s to pick up the materials.

We brought boards and stringers back, measured carefully, and used Dennis’ radial arm saw to cut the treads and risers to size for one set of the stairs – Rose had a short set of stairs leading up from the front of her house and a ramp leading up from the back, both of which needed to be replaced. We planned to do all the measuring and cutting before tearing anything up, just in case we ran out of time. And then we’d only work one set at a time, tearing down one side and building it back up again before we started tearing down the other side. So we measured and cut and got everything ready for the stairs at the front of the house. But when Justin went to measure the width needed for the stairs replacing the rotted ramp at the back of the house, he wasn’t able to get an accurate measure without tearing up the ramp.

I think this was the point when Dennis decided that he needed to get involved. Justin asked for a crowbar and the next thing I knew, both men were outside with different implements of destruction and that whole ramp was in pieces. So much for our carefully structured plan!

Oh, and if you’re curious, yes, I did offer to help with the distruction of the ramp, but was informed that there was the possibility of black widow spiders hanging out under there and I immediately rescinded my offer and went back inside.

After removing the ramp, along with the skirt around the porch, it became clear that some of the supports holding up Rose’s porch had not been set into the foundation well and some were rotting. Dennis declared that he was going to have sand and concrete delivered and he was going to shore up the supports and fill in the area that was bare dirt between where the bottom of the new steps would end and where the ramp had extended out to, as well as under the storage space under the porch. That, however, would be a project for another day. So Justin and I cut the rest of the treads and risers that would go in to replace the ramp, stored them all securely in a place where, hopefully, Dennis won’t use them to frame in his concrete, and that was all we could do.

We ate a delicious dinner together and then went down to cool off in the community pool before heading to bed for the night. All in all, it felt like a nice, productive day. And I managed to get all the way through it without getting sunburnt.

Here’s a picture of Justin’s Grandpa Dennis. This guy is still leading people on hikes through the desert and told us that he plans to die on the trail and the people who he’s with on that day are just supposed to leave him out there. Justin told him to make sure it’s a bunch of city people because that’s the only way it’s going to be really funny.

The photo I took of Rose, I promised to her would be for my sake only, and I didn’t get any others of her this trip, unfortunately.

And that’s the end of Part Two.