On the road with Annie Nakamura
Part IV of a series
In three previous blogs (October 2011, January 2012, April 2012), I told the tale of Annie Nakamura’s request to be taken on one final road trip and to be buried in one of two locations--either on Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Forest in Washington or at Anza Borrego Desert. Our decision was to “leave a little bit of Annie” in some of her favorite spots. Four fellow travelers—Kawa (aka Ann Kawasaki), Janet, Don, and I began the journey on October 8, 2011. The trip took us north on Interstate 395 on the eastern interior of California to Hurricane Ridge where we buried a portion of Annie in an idyllic spot on Hurricane Ridge. We four then traveled to San Francisco, one of Annie’s favorite places on the planet, where she was buried in the backyard of dear friends—Kei and Dan—in a poppy patch. Janet left us to return to Hawai’i, and the remaining intrepid road warriors began our trip southward to San Diego. We three make stops at three Missions along the way; Bakersfield; Death Valley; Kelso; and Joshua Tree National Park.
Friday, October 21th: We begin our trip to Anza Borrego with yet another meal to commemorate Annie’s love. The restaurant is DZ Akins where the portions are huge, the crowd lively, and the atmosphere bursting with energy—great way to start the day.
Our first stop is in Boulevard in the Inland Empire area of San Diego—an area that has been hit hard with the mortgage bubble blow-up. Annie loved chocolates, and it was a yearly ritual to send her chocolates for Christmas; she in turn would send us Big Island Candy chocolates that her and Kawa’s friend, “Icky” owns in Hilo. We purchase some fine chocolates at the Wisteria Cottage Chocolate shop to enjoy and bury with Annie.
We drive down to Ocotillo where we leave a crane in a 15 foot ocotillo. We stop at the Vallecito Stage Station where volunteers Stephanie and Otis provide us a special tour of the station and the adobe house—Annie is given a seat of honor at the dining room table. Stephanie gives us a tour of the station; we taste a piece of mesquite pod—sweet and flavorful. Small wonder that the natives used it extensively as a food source, pounding it into a fine powder.
Next stop, Borrego Springs where we consume “pasties” that I made the evening before. It is a tolerable 90 degrees, and a small rodeo/Borrego Springs Day is being set up for the weekend. We decide to mosey further up another area to search of a suitable resting place for Annie.
Never a heat-seeking lizard-type, Annie preferred the cooler climes of places like San Francisco, but in her latter years, warmth and sun were what she craved because of the pain. The choice of Anza Borrego, however, was less about finding a “location in the sun,” but another typical Annie desire not to be a burden. Thus, the choices of Hurricane Ridge (her first choice) OR Anza Borrego were a matter of convenience for Don and me. Since we live in San Diego, road tripping to Anza Borrego would be less of a trek than Washington. In death and in life, Annie’s wishes were our command. That Kawa, Don, and I simultaneously came up with the idea of scattering Annie at various locations says something about the person we all loved.
As we traveled up into the mountain range near Borrego Springs, we stopped at a small overlook. There was a monument with the inscription: A View Forever dedicated to a national park ranger. With a stunning view overlooking Borrego Springs with the Salton Sea in the distance and the mountains behind, a mere glance amongst us, and we knew instantly that this was the spot.
At a marker describing the “King of the Hill” (local mountain goats that reside there), we scattered Annie’s ashes to the wind and around the monument. Annie will now be the “Queen of the Hill” overlooking “A View Forever.” A small altar with a crane, the Wisteria Cottage chocolates, dried apricots, and almonds (all of Annie’s favorites) are buried with her. At the 4,000 mile mark of Annie’s road trip, the final promise has been kept. From freezing snow to dry desert heat, Annie is everywhere she wanted to be.
As we drive to Julian, we experience an “Annie moment”—getting lost and driving around in a huge circle. We manage to find Julian and then to drive to the Pala Mission—one of the “unofficial” California missions. Our road trip has become a “Mission tour” as well—how appropriate since we can now claim “Mission Accomplished.”
The trip ends as it began—with a sumptuous meal. We dine at C Level that has a spectacular view of downtown San Diego. With another great meal under our belts--compliments of the “Annie Foundation”--we have completed our mission with great joy and satisfaction.
To be continued.
June 16, 2012