I had gone out of my way to convince Mister Baker that getting away for the day of our son’s third birthday was a good idea, that amidst all the chaos and confusion we owed it to the child we have in common to honor this momentous occasion as fully as possible, and that we ourselves deserved a break from the trenches we’ve found ourselves in as of late.

So we settled on Salvation Mountain, which is to say that I made the suggestion and he agreed.

Admittedly, it was ambitious. It’s a lot of driving for one day, especially for people not necessarily prone to venture too far with any regularity. We tend to stick pretty close to home. And there were rumors of tumultuous weather which would come to fruition after we came home, not fifteen minutes after we walked through the door. Which is to say, we took a gamble and it paid off in the splendid experience we shared making a special memory in honor of Roux Huckleberry’s third journey around the sun.

The birthday boy, that sweet golden being of light, was an absolute dreamboat of a travel companion – marveling out the window at the changing landscape, chilling to the music, participating in conversation, being generally amicable and pleasant. He even napped a bit on the way back, a rather rare practice these days.

So we left just after nine in the morning, stopping for birthday treats from our favorite local donut shop on our way out. There wasn’t any traffic, and we arrived at our destination just after 11:30. The drive itself was scenic and kind of incredible in that we began just a few hundred feet above sea level, given that we live at the harbor, and ended below sea level, with over 4,000 feet of elevation separating the two locations. A lot of ground was covered in those 150 minutes, and it was the perfect reminder of the expansiveness and diversity of the California landscape.

Neither of us had ever been out to Salvation Mountain before, though both of us were familiar with the living art installation pioneered in the middle of nowhere by a single man on a mission. The middle of nowhere truly is the middle of nowhere, like you’re driving up to where it’s supposed to be thinking this can’t possibly be right? when all of the sudden it appears….out of nowhere!

Even Roux was thrilled to explore the monument, a combination of the long journey in his carseat and the vibrancy of the place itself. It’s bright and busy and truly the work of a mad genius. It’s kind of surreal. Roux loved the yellow brick road, the stairs leading to the top of the structure, I think he ascended at least half a dozen times.

While we probably spent only half the time out of the car actually at Salvation Mountain than we did sitting in the car on our way to get there, it was a super fun way to be together as a family. It took us out of our routine, which has been pretty unpleasant recently, and in so doing allowed us to just enjoy each other and the day.

As we headed home, we stopped at Alpine Beer Company Pub for a late lunch. As it turns out, it was place Mister Baker had wanted to go for a while and it just so happened to be on the way. How serendipitous.

Sitting at the table across from Mister Baker, my heart skipped a beat thinking about how I had always wanted to see Salvation Mountain with him, that it was always something I had hoped to share with him. A trademark of Southern California, the corner of this country from whence I came, yet a place I had never been myself, a new place for us to make ours. Getting to make it ours with our remarkable son in tow made the whole thing even more special to me, because when I’d originally imagined the two of us visiting Salvation Mountain, I never once thought we’d have a child together. And yet, we do. And he’s three! And he’s the most spirited, charming, precious little person.

Sometimes the things we imagine for ourselves are the right things. And sometimes, they’re almost the right things. And sometimes, the things life has prepared for us are far greater than what we could have imagined on our own. The detours often lead to a better destination.

The bumps that have plagued our road these last few months have undoubtedly altered our course, but I’m willing to believe where we’re headed now is better than where we were headed previously.

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