"Spring is a time to find out where you are, who you are, and move toward where you are going." ~Penelope Trunk
Many of Cameron's friends travel for spring break. Our family typically doesn't take any trips during this timeframe annually. However, this year was different.
Before embarking on our journey, Cam completed 3 days of school, healing from a double ear infection. By Wednesday, he was back to 100% and attended the final power soccer practice of the season. The coach allowed each player to retain their chair guard and borrow the power soccer ball for the off-season. Cam plans to practice in our driveway this summer to acclimate himself to the rules and strategy of moving the ball down the court to the goalie area.
The high school official spring break began on Thursday, March 30. We left our home at 7:30am to travel to the Detroit Metro Airport, approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes from our location. We arrived in plenty of time for our 1pm departure. Traveling with Cam's power wheelchair produces a bit of anxiety. The 450lb chair is driven by an airline luggage representative who brings it to the underbelly of the plane for transport.
Even though we had pre-checked our luggage, we were required to check in prior to security to review Cam's power chair information. The Delta team was quite impressed we had pre-filled our paperwork and laminated it. Shadon assisted us and loved chatting with Cam. She asked if he could be featured in Delta's internal blog! She mentioned they had recently completed a new training program for wheelchair transport.
The plane ride was 4 hours, 22 minutes long and Cam was an absolute champ. This trip was extra special for us all. We were headed to Phoenix, Arizona to see all 4 of Chris's brothers and family in the Scottsdale area. Cam and his mom had never even met some of his siblings. On Thursday evening, we finally made it to our hotel. We were greeted by Chris's mom (Suzanne), his eldest brother, John with John's daughter Layna, and their youngest brother, Ulysses.
The fun began on Friday morning when we met at the hotel breakfast buffet, a literal feast. We ate at Jason's Deli for lunch where Suzanne's sister, Debbie, joined us. Our dinner out was to The Angry Crab Shack and we all enjoyed some type of fish dinner. Bibs were passed out to each of us and no one was hungry when we left.
That evening, back at our hotel, we enjoyed catching up with Cam's Uncle John and Uncle Ulysses. Although Cam knows Uncle John since he's visited us a few times in Michigan, it was the first time he met Ulysses.
Saturday morning was relaxing and we were adjusting to the 3 hour time difference. Early in the afternoon, we ventured to the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park with Uncle John, Layna and Uncle Ulysses. The park has an interesting history.
In 1967, the Fowler McCormick’s donated 100 acres of McCormick Ranch to the City of Scottsdale stipulating that it be used as a park for all to enjoy. At that time the land value was $1 million. Their hope was that the gift would encourage others to give as well as to make Scottsdale a better place to live for succeeding generations.
The original location of the park was to be on 50 acres on the west side of Scottsdale Road. Complaints arose from the town of Paradise Valley so, to avoid difficulty, it was agreed to move across the street, wholly within, Scottsdale city limits. The land size of the park was cut from 50 to 30 acres.
In 1971 Guy Stillman chartered the Scottsdale Railroad & Mechanical Society as part of the agreement with the city of Scottsdale to establish a Railroad Park on the donated land. The original purpose of the Society was to provide technical expertise to the McCormick Railroad Park. Later that year, Guy began to move his Paradise & Pacific steam railroad to the park land, donating two narrow gauge 5/12 scale locomotives.
Residents celebrated the grand opening of the city of Scottsdale’s McCormick Railroad Park on Saturday, October 4, 1975 with free train rides, games, music and a Wild West Shootout. The facilities were a “bare minimum” and the one mile of track had been supplied by donations and laid by volunteers. The highlight of the event was a ride on the Paradise & Pacific Railroad. At the time of opening, approximately $1.25 million had been invested in the park and its facilities. Over the last 40 years the park has evolved into one of the most popular attractions in Scottsdale, with approximately 1 million visitors a year.
We all embarked on the Paradise & Pacific Railroad where we sat on top of the train for a tour around the park. We were so excited Cam could ride too since they had wheelchair access. Layna and Jane took a ride on the carousel.
Later that day, Chris's brother, Nate arrived from his Washington flight. Cam and Jane had never met Nate and he is a younger brother to Chris by 2 years. It had been more than 20 years since Cam's dad and his brother had seen each other. We all settled in catching up on the past. Dinner that evening was at our hotel restaurant. Nate's arrival was unknown to Chris's mom, Sue and also to Chris's grandma, Mary. The surprise was unbelievable. Between the joyful screams and tears, everyone settled in for our meal. That evening, we gathered in our spot to chat some more, getting to know Cam's Uncle Nate.
Sunday morning brought the next surprise, Chris's brother, Zac. Zac is 8 years younger than Chris and they also hadn't seen each other for 20+ years. Once again, John orchestrated the surprise for their mom. At the hotel breakfast, Sue couldn't believe her eyes and the tears and hugs followed. As we got to know Zac, it became apparent that all of the brothers had common traits.
After the morning meal, we went to the gravesite of Sue's brother, Doug. Chris and his brothers all looked up to their Uncle Doug and he passed away unexpectedly in 2005 and John was the only one of the nephews in attendance at his funeral. Chris's grandma Mary lives just a few miles away. We were able to witness the surprise one last time when Zac and his grandmother saw each other after many years. The early afternoon was spent looking at old photographs and listening to the brothers relive memories. That evening we ate the biggest Chinese buffet we had ever seen. Afterward, we ventured over to the mountains to catch the last bit of the sunset. It was the end of a memorable and the beginning of more memories.
Cam is a great travel companion since he meticulously checks and remembers every aspect of the journey. We also refer to him as a safety supervisor. While on the Arizona freeway in our rental van, he was acutely aware of the higher rate of speed and the additional number of lanes.
"Dad, I think I need all of the seatbelts available in this vehicle. We are going fast!"