Years ago, I used to blog a running journal of our family’s vacations as a way to remember all of the crazy little things that happened that are easily forgotten over time. After a week in California, with my wife and five children, I have decided to revive that tradition, at least for this one time, and blog about our adventures in a five part blog post. So without further ado, I present day one of our family vacation to Magic Mountain and Newport Beach.
(As a precursor, we had planned on making the first trek of our journey from Thatcher to Phoenix on Sunday evening. But as things worked out, I was released from the bishopric at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon and was needed for different items with regard to the changeover. Consequently, I informed my family that I wanted to leave the next morning by 5:00 a.m. As the night went on, however, I knew that getting up at 4:15 to get out the door by 5:00 would be a bit much, so I set the alarm for 5:00 with the hopes that we could leave by 6:00.)
4:50 a.m. – The slamming of a bathroom cabinet door jolts me from my sleep. I had wrongfully assumed that everyone would wait for me to awaken them to leave. Such was not the case with my 16-year old daughter (who we shall from here on out refer to as Thing 1). Angrily, she proceeds to get ready to go, demanding to know why I had not gotten up when I said I would, thus depriving her of precious sleep. All at once I had a flashback to a time when I did something similar to my wife during our courtship days. For just one moment, I was afraid. Very afraid!
5:30 a.m. – Beyond my wildest dreams, we manage to pull out of our drive a full half-hour before I had imagined we would. The 1-year-old (Thing 5) is set up and ready to go with Mickey in the portable DVD player and I am beyond grateful that I had time to pull a runner to Wal-Mart to get that ever important caffeine-fueled Diet Dr. Pepper. As we pull onto the highway, I mentally calculate in my head, “1 minute down, 9 hours and 59 minutes to go.)
9:40 a.m. – Can’t express my gratitude enough for Brandon Mull and Walt Disney as the last three hours have passed without incident. Thing 5 is still engrossed in the same Mickey, Donald and Goofy feature despite it being on its third showing and the rest of the car is now fully invest in book 2 of Mr. Mull’s Five Kingdoms series. Life is good. We have made our way all the way across the Phoenix valley and it is now time for breakfast. After leaving the small hamlet of Thatcher to come to the big city, we are overwhelmed at the wide plethora of option culinary options available to us. So overwhelmed that we end of up choosing…McDonald’s…located inside of a Wal-Mart. What the %#&@ is the matter with us.
10:05 a.m. – Back in the car and making good time. At least I think we are making good time. Once we get outside of Phoenix, it is hard to tell how we are doing time wise as the horizon in every direction looks like the surface of the moon as far as the eye can see. Gotta love Arizona!
10:48 a.m. – What is it with people who are unable to maintain a speed that is even remotely close to consistent. A white Toyota pick up for the third time pulls ahead of us in the fast lane and then slows down to the speed of the car that we are quickly overtaking in the slow lane. I’m suddenly feeling we might be too harsh on perpetrators of road rage.
11:35 a.m. – CALIFORNIA!!! YEAH!!!! The Rapier family celebrates by…staring on in horror as Thing 5 pukes repeatedly all over herself and the car seat she is sitting in.
11:48 a.m. – Despite all of my best intentions of never visiting this God-forsaken wasteland again, our family finds the first freeway exit available and arrives in Blight, California. Sorry, that’s Blythe, California. If you’ve been there, I’m willing to bet you can understand how I might get the two mixed up.
11:56 a.m. – After much scrambling, Thing 5 is clean and free from her puke dowsed clothing. There is truly nothing like walking around a scary gas station with your sweet little daughter wearing nothing but a diaper. Ahh, the sweet memories I still look back on with fondness of those leering weirdos following every move the two of us make. Meanwhile, a line of highly agitated looking females has formed outside the women’s restroom where Shannon is still barricaded inside trying desperately to work miracles on the car seat armed with only water and restroom paper towels.
12:05 p.m. – Shannon emerges from the bathroom and, to be quite frank, did an amazing job. The car seat ain’t perfect, but in light of where we started, she did an amazing job. However, the seat is still quite wet so we need to find something to put over it as a covering that Thing 5 can sit on. Shockingly, the Shell station where we are at has no such thing. However, they do sell California t-shirts that in theory should cost $3.35. So Shannon instructs me to get one of those and a water bottle while she re-installs the car seat.
12:07 p.m. – The police are called after I jump over the counter of the gas station and bludgeon the attendant after he tells me that the shirts are 3 for $10 and refuses to sell me just one shirt. Okay, the first part of that only occurred in my mind. But I seriously considered it. As a protest I throw the shirt and the water bottle on the counter and leave.
12:08 p.m. – I explain in great detail to my wife the injustice I just suffered. Her response? “Well did you at least get my water bottle?” Grumbling something unintelligible about her stupid water bottle, I start the van and we set off in search of a grocery store or big box store to buy a towel and a water bottle.
12:17 p.m. – The best we can find is a Dollar Tree. Blythe is quickly climbing the chart of Least Favorite Towns I’ve Ever Had To Spend More Than Five Minutes In. The Dollar Tree has no full size towels so I settle for two dish towels, M&Ms for my wife and a cold Diet Dr. Pepper. At this point, I also realized that we had spent so much time in panic mode, we had now reached a point where I needed to use the bathroom. Full-size towels are not the only things the Dollar Tree doesn’t have.
12:21 p.m. – “Where’s my water bottle?” D— IT!!!!!!! I explain that I need to use the bathroom so we will have to make one more stop anyway and I vow to get it there. And in other news, it’s official, Blythe, CA overtakes Lordsburg, NM as my least favorite town ever.
12:25 p.m. – We pull into a Circle K and I leave the van running as I head inside. I can’t describe the relief I feel as I take care of business.
12:30 p.m. – Shannon leaves me with the kids inside the running van as she heads back into the Circle K to get the water bottle I had forgotten for the third time. Any good will I may have built up with my wife during the course of the morning has all been squandered at the expense of some stupid overpriced bottle of Dasani. I’m an idiot!
1:00 p.m. – The Rapier’s successfully fuse cultures as we pull through the drive-through of Taco Bell in Indio, California to purchase burritos and nachos for Things 2 through 5 and then take said bag of burritos and nachos with us into Panda Express where the parents and Thing 1 get something much more closely resembling real food.
1:35 p.m. – We are back on the road and making excellent time. We should easily beat my travel time estimation of 10 hours.
2:00 p.m. – AAAANNNNDDDDD I just cursed myself. For some inexplicable reason, a traffic jam forms near the turn off to Palm Springs. I should point out that the turn off to Palm Springs is not Palm Springs. It is just an intersection in the middle of nowhere. What on earth could possibly cause a traffic jam that would cause us to go at an average speed of…12 MPH?!?!?!?
3:45 p.m. – After almost two hours and about 20 miles, I still have no answer to my question. We haven’t seen an accident, we haven’t seen a wide load blocking multiple lanes of traffic, we haven’t experienced lane closures. We have just experienced mind-numbing slow speeds as we crawl along the interstate. How could all the drivers in California not care that we have a 1-year-old toddler who has limited time in a car before she blows a gasket? GET OUT OF THE FREAKING WAY AND LET US GO!!!!!!
3:46 p.m. – It appears no one heard my desperate plea and we continue on at…12 MPH.
4:20 p.m. – After we pass the exit we would normally take to Disneyland, traffic finally begins to lighten up. Happiest Place on Earth??? Based on what I just saw, I would bet money it won’t be this week.
5:00 p.m. – Traffic Jam #2. Not near as bad and not near as long, but we have a whining toddler in back and we know it can’t be long until that time bomb explodes.
5:38 p.m. – Time bomb goes off. Thing 5 has had enough and begins to wail uncontrollably. Fortunately, according to the navigation on my iPad, we are only 15 minutes away. 15 minutes of crying baby out of 13 hours is definitely more than we could have or should have hoped for.
5:57 p.m. – We arrive at the Grand Vista Hotel in Simi Valley and frankly, this is a mixed bag. We are done driving for the day which is awesome. But on the flip side, the Grand Vista has seen better days. We check in and get on the elevator to go to our rooms. This provided our first exposure to several indistinguishable and yet entirely unpleasant smells we would encounter during our brief stay over at the Grand Vista Hotel.
8:39 p.m. – After most of the family goes swimming and we eat Chipotle for dinner down by the pool, we retire to our adjoining rooms and begin the process of getting everyone to bed. As I am laying on my bed waiting for one of my brood to finish in the bathroom, my 6-year old daughter (Thing 4) wanders in and says, “Your guys room smells better than ours. It smells kind of fruity.” At this point, she inhales deeply and then gets a look of consternation on her face. “Actually, now it smells more like a fart.”
10:00 p.m. – Two important events have occurred, allowing us to turn out the lights and go to bed. We have had family prayer and American Gladiator has come to an end. We say goodnight, shut the adjoining door between rooms and call it a night. Up next, Magic Mountain in the morning.