Kaylonnie Surviving the Cold in Nauvoo
Danny retired from Caltrans after 35 years working for the State of California in September, 2004. Prior to his retirement, I began saving money for "the retirement trip." I asked him where he wanted to go, and he said he wanted to go to the church history site at Nauvoo, Illinois. Nauvoo was where members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) were driven from in the dead of winter to begin their trek west to the great Salt Lake Valley. This was supposed to be sort of a second honeymoon for us, this little retirement trip. The closer his retirement came, however, the more we realized what a great experience the trip to Nauvoo would be for our youngest daughter, who was in high school. We decided to take her with us, and we saved a little longer.
In October, 2005, the three of us departed by airplane to St. Louis, Missouri, where we did a little sightseeing, rented a car, and drove to Nauvoo, Illinois. We had a great time in St. Louis, saw the giant arch, as well as the outside of the St. Louis Temple. The trip from St. Louis to Nauvoo, however, I was beginning to wish I could put a sock in my teenage daughter's mouth. It was nonstop talking from St. Louis to Nauvoo. Unfortunately, I lost my clip-on sunglasses somewhere and couldn't find any to fit my glasses until long after my light-sensitive eyes had given me a major headache--and the kid's nonstop mouth wasn't helping.
We were supposed to check in at the Nauvoo Motel by a certain time, and it became apparent that we were not going to make that deadline. We stopped somewhere and called the motel to make sure they would hold our room. The owners of the Nauvoo Motel also own the more pricey Nauvoo Hotel, which is where we were to pick up our keys. The Nauvoo Hotel has quite a fancy buffet dinner in the evening, and the owners are busy there after a certain hour. They were very sweet and told us they would put our keys in the mailbox, and we could pick them up there. (You've got to love small towns!)
As we drove around the last curve in the road before Nauvoo, the Nauvoo Temple was in sight. It was absolutely gorgeous! It was all lit up, and the most beautiful sunset I've ever seen simply enveloped the temple! None of the pictures we have, nor none of the postcards we bought due justice to that beautiful site, so I have not included a picture here. Danny and I had the opportunity to attend the temple later in the week.
We drove into the parking lot of the Nauvoo Hotel to pick up our keys, and got out of the car. I suddenly realized that for the first time in at least 12 hours, my lovely teenage daughter was silent. I said, "What's wrong?" (I mean, when the kid shuts up, there has to be something wrong, right?) Almost in a whisper she said, "Mom, do you realize we could be walking where Joseph Smith walked?!" That one moment in that parking lot was well worth making our second honeymoon a kid trip! We took a couple of minutes in the parking lot and talked about many other early church members who walked the streets of Nauvoo, as well as Kaylonnie's fourth great-grandmother, Ingeborg Mortensen Jensen, who passed through Nauvoo on her way to the Salt Lake Valley from Denmark--a handcart pioneer.
We spent several days in Nauvoo, and we also made a trip to Carthage to see where the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, and Quincy, Illinois where the pioneers found brief refuge from their enemies. Thank you, Quincy!
There were many special spiritual moments. I think I'll never forget, walking the trail of tears--the street the saints walked down on their way to the river when they had to exit Nauvoo. The three of us walked the trail of tears one evening on down to the Mississippi River. We stopped at each marker and read the personal stories of some of those pioneers. I would read until I would begin crying, and Kaylonnie would take over. Then when she began crying, I would pick it up again. Danny stood almost motionless as he would listen to us read those markers. It had been very warm in Nauvoo until that evening. The next morning we couldn't help going back to the Mississippi River on our way out of town. It was so cold I thought our feet would freeze solid on the ground! As we stood looking across the Mississippi River, we talked about the fact that it was much warmer that morning than it was for those first evacuees from Nauvoo. We had much warmer clothing, and dry shoes. I'm crying as I write this remembering the experience.
Our trip was not yet complete, however. We realized that we had taken our other children to Salt Lake City, but we had never taken Kaylonnie. Since she saw where it all began, she needed to see where the trek ended. A couple of years later, we made that trip too.
Danny and I have since had several little trips on our own, but I'm so grateful that the Spirit guided us to take Kaylonnie with us on that trip to Nauvoo! My oldest daughter saw Nauvoo when she was in college in Missouri. Someday I hope our other two children will have that opportunity.
Danny and I in front of the St. Louis Temple
Kaylonnie, Danny, and Laurie at Seventy's Hall
Danny and Kaylonnie at Seventy's Hall
Danny and Kaylonnie - Quincy, Illinois