First is Worst (we hope)

Our ingenious plan to pack almost nothing the night before our trip worked like a charm. We left at 5:25 p.m. a week ago Saturday instead of our target two o’clock. Before you ask, we can’t teach anyone how to do this. It just flows out of us naturally.

At a mere six hours, we still could make Amarillo before midnight (see above paragraph to rate the wisdom of that statement.)

Ben’s fourth birthday party was our first order of business that day. Twenty kids, and presumably at least one parent each, had RSVP’d “yes.” Come the big day, all of those showed up, minus the twins but with a pleasant surprise who didn’t reply. So, 19 in all. A good crowd for a pre-schooler’s birthday bash.

Our chosen venue (read, the one we could afford with our big vacation coming up) was the McDonald’s with the largest Playplace. By 11:05 a.m., Ben sat at the head of the table brooding while all his friends literally filled the tunnels and slides.

Kind of like oversize hamsters on crack. The picture proves this.


Aforementioned hamsters (click for bigness).
Ben Broods on his Fourth Birthday
The birthday boy stares off into the distance.

We think Ben was overwhelmed by the number of people. I know I was. In the end he perked up for cake and presents, and decided to play about five minutes before folks started leaving.


Ben in better spirits (again with the clicking).

Sweet Lord, the number of presents. We’ll be adding another wing to the house soon or having a garage sale. I think you all know by the party’s location which we’ll choose. We got out of there at 1:30.


The happy family stops for a photo op (cropped). Click to make my forehead even bigger.

We packed in a frenzy that somehow lasted longer than an NFL football game (despite our no-huddle offense), and let Ben bring the travel toys that his wise aunt had given him. On the road at 5:25 p.m.

I stop at six to replace our air filter that just that morning the Kwik Kar guys told me was past due. Upon discovering it was secured by more than just a clamp or two, I borrow a screwdriver from the AutoZone guys who had just sold me the filter. I chuckle at their name change from AutoShack that was supposed to dramatically improve their image. Exactly which of their shoppers did they think would care? (If nothing else, it freed someone else to establish AutoShack.com and load it with pop-up ads promising a free Spam scan.)

First Day Play
Ben plays while I wait in line for the air filter (see sign in background).

After I curse the first screwdriver for not reaching, I go back inside and buy one that would scare Dirk Diggler. Thirty-three minutes after stopping, we are back on the road with a new air filter and a $5 screwdriver.

At 7:30, Ben’s already blown through all his travel toys. He breaks his brand new, first-ever Transformer (sorry, Sir J), holds it aloft proudly and proclaims, “I’m the figure-out boy.”

At 8:10, we pull out of a Sonic onto a rough road. Ben says, “Daddy, you make mommy’s head shake.”

I reply, “I tend to do that to women, Ben.”

Shannon actually laughs — a courtesy she has learned keeps me happy.

At a gas stop after dark, we’re welcomed by a Biblical swarm of black beetles. We each report that our respective restrooms were crawling with the little buggers. I sustain so many mosquito bites fishing more of Ben’s toys out of the van that I practically beg Shannon to pump the gas. She does.


Shannon’s beetle pic. (cropped. click to enlarge)

Fast-forward to 1:15 a.m. We arrive at Motel 6 in Amarillo, where I made our reservation about five days in advance (see budget paragraph). The he-she behind the counter looks at me and says, “I’m sorry, but we don’t have a reservation for you.”

“Well, I reserved it for Motel 6 West in Amarillo,” I shoot back.

“This is Motel 6 Central.”

I tuck my tail and scurry back to the minivan. Motel 6 West, a few exits on down I-40, expectantly welcomes me and hands me our card keys.

I scope out the room while Shannon and Ben wait in Homer. One bed. I reserved a room with two double beds. I storm out to Homer and inform Shannon. She’s in dire need of the facilities and says she can’t wait for me to swap rooms. I hand her a card key.

Shannon’s gift renders the room’s next occupants eligible for the Hair Loss Club for Men. “That’s their punishment for giving us the wrong room,” she declares. Misplaced, perhaps, but it made her feel better.

The next room is on the second floor instead of the first. We catch the outdoor elevator, which sports a framed document proudly announcing its next inspection was due November 2006. On the way to our room, the walkway of rusty metal and cracked concrete shakes so much we wonder whether we’re in Amarillo or Anaheim.

Welcome to Motel 666.

All in all, our vacation has lots of room for improvement.

Next up: Find out why Ben says, “Why are we just going around and around again? I thought we were going to the cabin.”


Comments

First is Worst (we hope) — 12 Comments

  1. Great post….. some day, I’ll tell you a similar story about a hotel down south that was a bit less than I anticipated (there were already inhabitants in the room when I opened the door).

  2. After being away for a week, you somehow managed to crap a whole seven days worth of corny and cheeky into a single post. I hope you managed to leave some to ooze out in the rest of your posts this week. I was chuckling and rolling my eyes throughout.

    I have that same sense of desperation when it comes to the boys and their toys. No new wing for us, though we are planning a full basement reno this summer. When the small stuff gets broken or itty, bitty parts get irretrievably separated, I quietly start throwing things out, ensuring that not even my wife is aware of it. Their living room toy box is still overflowing onto the floor… never mind their rooms. (Which aren’t as bad, but somebody has to play Moses to hold the flood back.)

    Did you name any of the bigger beetles John or Ringo or Paul? Because that’s the sort of thing I’d expect from you. Sort of like timing yourself down to exactly 33 minutes. Not half an hour, no. 33 minutes.

  3. Dave I’ve totally had that happen in Stark, FL not far from the “Radiator Shack.” Couldn’t make that up if I tried.

    Mark – remind me when your b-day is so I can buy you lots of super glue for all Ben’s other “Figure-Out” toys.

  4. I forgot to mention that the only advertisement for the Radiator Shack was a series of red Solo cups strategically placed in the chain link fence along the gentleman’s front lawn spelling out “Radiator Shack” along Highway 301. I only wish I had a pic to share. And yes we did utilize his services.

  5. And when I said ‘crap’, I meant ‘cram’. But it’s sort of funnier the way it came out. Especially since the rest of my first paragraph contains ‘cheeky’ and ‘ooze’.

  6. Great story telling in this one, Mark. I was right there with you in that nasty bathroom…and I have to admit that it felt a little awkward (personal space issues and all).

    I’m a fan of the cheap hotel route. I mean…it the hotel is the destination, sure, splurge a bit. Bit if it’s just a way station enroute to your destination, I say how little can I spend and still get clean sheets? And besides…if it’s good enough for Tom Bodett…it’s good enough for me.

    And as Simon mentioned…I’m really looking forward to the rest of the trip. I’m hoping you can maintain this level of story telling wit. But, there is a chance that this one rocked so hard just because you spent the last week in the car working out how to tell it properly ;)

  7. Dave – I’m a little ashamed as a southerner, but I’ve had that happen, too (as a kid). Curt got you in his comment.

    Simon – Funny you mentioned the timing. Shannon was the clock watcher on that one. Also, round numbers aren’t as funny.

    I laughed at your use of “crap.” Looking at my keyboard, though, I don’t see that the “p” is anywhere near the “m.” But, I know things are different up in Canada.

    Josh – Yeah, the two-part epoxy is great, but it doesn’t dry fast enough for some jobs. I love “Radiator Shack.”

    MG – Sometimes life just hands me lemons faster than I can write the lemonade. That first (and in part, second) day of our trip provided an abundance.

    I slapped this post together after falling asleep on the recliner watching a History special on Star Trek. Started at about midnight and, with photo prep time included, finished at about 2:30. Power naps are amazing rejuvenators, but ask me how I feel at 3 p.m. today.

    I attempted the humorous approach because it was ripe for the picking, and after reading Scott Adams’ tips on writing humor earlier that day, I figured this was a good time to try some of them (for the rock dwellers, he writes Dilbert). I found that I already used some of his suggestions, but this was a good guide to make me consciously incorporate some of the key elements.

    Seems to have worked.

  8. Fun post. You’re the only family I know who would use McDonalds as a family photo background and still look dignified. I mean that as a compliment, despite how it may have read.
    (Mark, don’t rip on your forehead. It’s a great forehead.)

  9. Every thought of renting out that forehead? At least it doesn’t go back to the crown of your head like mine does now days.

    Really looking forward to the round and round the cabin. Working nights tonight so I will keep an eye out.

  10. Linda – I appreciate the vote of confidence in the forward section of my considerable melon.

    BK – I never thought of that. Good suggestion.

    Baldy.

  11. Good stuff Markus. Family trips usually have the best memories…both good and bad. Somehow, it seems that even the bad end up being good. Forget I just wrote that…it’s late.

    At least the beetle invasion wasn’t in the hotel restroom, because that would have been particularly scary.

    I can stay anywhere that doesn’t smell too much like smoke or have roaches. I HATE roaches. I see a roach in a motel….that’s their last chance of seeing me there again, and I’ve even left that night and moved to another hotel before.

    I can’t wait to hear and see more about the trip…

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