Thursday, July 26, 2007

Vacation 2007

As I mentioned earlier I was on vacation last week. Friday morning my son went to his last day of the UK Soccer Camp. When they finished up around 11 AM we hustled him home, into the shower, then cleaned and dressed we loaded the entire family into the van and headed for the airport in Las Vegas.

Normally the drive to Las Vegas takes around 4 hours if you drive the speed limit, and your vehicle doesn’t overheat on the Baker grade. I usually allow 5 hours for unforeseen circumstances. However, things didn’t work out that well on Saturday and we used up our unforeseen circumstances time before we left home.

After a lunch at the In-n-Out in Barstow we were cruising right along on Interstate 15 north. The van was running well. But I still had to click the air conditioner off about half way up the Baker grade when the engine started heating up a bit. Since it was about 114 degrees outside the 10 minute drive up the top half of the hill got a little warm inside the car.

Then as we were climbing the last hill before the long downhill run to Primm at the Nevada state line when suddenly all the traffic in both lanes slowed down to 10 miles per hour. We crept along at 10 mph for almost 40 minutes. This slow speed coupled with the hot weather required us to click off the air conditioner – again. As we are creeping along the interstate highway after several minutes I noticed that there was no traffic at all on the other side of the highway.

Eventually we came around a corner and over a hill and we could see flashing lights at the top of the hill on the other side of the highway. As we neared the spot we discovered that a large vehicle, my dear wife thinks it was a truck, had flipped and burned blocking the other side of the highway. Almost immediately after passing this tragedy the traffic on our side of the highway sped back up to around 70 mph. That’s right folks, 4 miles at 10 mph just so every single idiot on the road in front of us could rubber neck the accident. God I hate it when they let Los Angeles drivers leave the city and get out on the road with the rest of us.

So we arrived at the Airport about 40 minutes late. So we only had 1 hour and 20 minutes to get to our plane instead of 2 hours. Fortunately for us, our plane was delayed 30 minutes. So we took our safari trek through the Las Vegas airport. If you have never been in the Las Vegas airport you should try it some day. The check in counters are not in any way located anywhere near the parking or passenger drop off area. It almost seems that they deliberately want you to have to carry your suitcases past a large number of shops and gambling areas to be able to check in. Eventually we got to the counter and after checking our bags, counting our kids, we headed for security.

Working our way through the airport security system was a novel experience. After getting in line we were eventually split off from the rest of the travelers and after weaving our way around several turns of velvet ropes we found ourselves in what could best be described as a sci-fi experience. The wide open area with the velvet ropes winding through them suddenly turned into a glass walled tunnel that continued to wind around until we approached an inspection station. There we had to put our shoes and metal possessions in a box that disappeared around a blind corner on a conveyor belt. Then we had to step into a phone booth sized box that had several nozzles sticking out in it. I had a really hard time not blurting out things like:

Is this teleporter? I would like to go to Denver now please.
Wow, a sonic shower. Do I have to disrobe first?
Is this where you tell me that Soylent Green is people?
Wait! I wasn’t scheduled for disintegration today!

Instead I kept my big mouth shut and just stood there while the little puffs of air shot out of the nozzles. As I stepped out of the booth I picked up my stuff and was putting my shoes back on when my son stepped into the booth. Suddenly I was really glad we made him shower before we left home. I would hate to see what his odor after 3 hours of soccer in 110 degrees then the four hour car ride would do to their sniffer machine.

Fortunately we all made it through security without needing a cavity search. And thanks to the 30 minute flight delay we only had to wait at the gate for about half an hour for our plane to leave.

The flight was uneventful. My dear wife who is a nervous flyer managed to get through it without a breakdown. My father met us at the airport and drove us to Cheyenne. This part of the trip was kind of long. The drive from Denver International to Cheyenne takes between 90 minutes and 2 hours on the interstate. However Dad doesn’t like driving the interstate. He prefers driving the state highway through all the little towns. This route takes between two and a half and three hours. Sometimes up to three and a half hours if he stops at the A&W restaurant to eat.

We all slept in on Saturday. That afternoon we mostly just hung out with Dad and visited most of the day. My dear wife and I did slip out with the oldest daughter to do a little shopping for a while. Chaos was looking for school clothes and wanted to check out the mall. She didn’t find much. While we were gone my Dad took the twins to the lake swimming. So the twins started their vacation with a sunburn. Opps.

On Sunday, my Dad, dear wife and the twins loaded into Dad’s Buick and headed up to our cabin in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Chaos and I borrowed Dad’s van and headed over the hill to Laramie for her volleyball camp which started on Monday. On the way to Laramie we stopped at a camp ground along the way to meet with some friends from the area. After finding them, we spent a while hiking in the area to give Chaos a chance to acclimate to the significantly higher altitude in Laramie.

Most of the rest of our week was spent with Chaos attending the volleyball camp while I hung around watching and learning from the coaches at the camp. My dear wife and twins spent the week at our cabin in Silver City SD. According to my dear wife the twins pretty much lived in the creek (which is pronounced “crik”) most the week. They did get out and toured the hills for a while. They saw the Crazy Horse Monument, Mount Rushmore, and several other sights in the Black Hills.

Both halves of our family vacation had some transportation difficulties. Since we had flown in we were counting on using Dad’s two cars for transportation. My third day in Laramie I strolled out to the van, got in, put the key in the ignition and turned it. Nothing! I mean absolutely nothing. No clicking, no churning starter, zip, zero, nothing. I sat there for a moment trying not to curse in front of my daughter. Then I checked the lights, radio, etc. Nope, none of it was turned on. So I did the logical thing. I turned the key back and forth about a dozen times. When the logical thing to do didn’t work I tried the illogical. I turned the key back and forth a couple more times.

Finally I got out of the van, opened the hood and checked the battery. Yep, the cables were tight, there was fluid in the battery. I crawled underneath and made sure the starter was still there. I had a starter stolen out of a vehicle while in college I figured that it couldn’t hurt to check. When all this didn’t change the non-starting status of the van I called the friends we were staying with and asked them to run over and give Chaos a lift to her camp so she wouldn’t be late.

My friends bailed us out. They ran home and lent us their van for the day. After I dropped Chaos off at the camp I went back to the house and rummaged around the garage until I found my friend’s battery charger. I hooked the charger up to Dad’s van then went back to the volleyball camp.

Later that day I got my first phone call from my dear wife since we had parted company four days earlier. I hadn’t worried too much about not hearing from her. I knew that there was no cell service and no land line phone at the cabin. My dear wife told me that they had been having their own car trouble that week. The car they were driving had stopped running 6 miles outside of Custer SD. Dad was sure it was the fuel pump, since it had been giving him problems lately. I ignored my immediate reaction to be angry at my Dad for taking my wife and twins off into the hills with a car that he knew was breaking down.

My dear wife related how my Dad hadn’t wanted to let her use her AAA card and insisted on using his Amoco Motor Club card. So instead of a AAA tow truck coming from Custer to tow them into town they had to wait until a truck drove over from Newcastle WY to tow them the last 6 miles into Custer. (Newcastle is 38 miles from Custer)

Ultimately the other half of my family had to rent a car for the week while Dad’s was sitting in Custer being ignored by the mechanic. When it came time to go back to Cheyenne they finally got a little testy with the mechanic and he gave them a loaner from his used car lot to take back to Cheyenne for a week or so until he got Dad’s car fixed. Then Dad will have to drive back up to Custer to pick up his car.

The whole thing sounded pretty fishy to me. But Dad is convinced that the mechanic, who is the son of a guy Dad used to work with, is reliable and will not screw him over. So I just butted out and let Dad deal with this in his own way.

So while I had my dear wife on the phone I talked to Dad and told him about the battery in the van. He insisted that the battery was less than a year old and should charge back up just fine. He was also very insistent that I should not try and replace the battery until I got the van back to Cheyenne. So after I had tried charging the battery for several hours and it wouldn’t take a charge I left the charger on for 24 hours. It still wouldn’t take a charge. So the day before we were supposed to leave for Cheyenne my Dad finally fessed up to me that the receipt for the battery was in the van. So I took the receipt and battery down to the local NAPA dealer and got a brand new battery – free. After all the battery had a 6 year warranty and was only 10 months old.

The whole battery situation was rather irritating. If Dad had told me right away that they receipt was in the van I could have saved my friends several days of having to get by without one of their vehicles.

Eventually we all met back together in Cheyenne. My oldest daughter and I were both tired and looking for a day to just relax. My dear wife was ready to go home. She had spent the week at our cabin trying to insulate our youngest children from the influence of my sister’s children. Three of my nieces and nephews along with their boyfriends and just friends were at the cabin also. Apparently my nieces and nephews have all decided to become underage alcoholics. According to my dear wife they would start drinking beer around 11 AM and move onto the harder stuff as it got dark. Their evenings were spent playing drinking games and reading Playboy magazines to each other. (note: these kids range from 19 to 21 years old) My wife tried several times to point out that they were setting a horrible example for their 10 year old cousins. They were unfazed by her objections and just continued on as though my family wasnt there. Unfortunately my one sister who was there at the cabin also didn’t care and in several instances aided them with their drinking by passed the beer to them while they were up on the roof.

So we learned a lot of lessons from this trip. My oldest daughter learned that she needs to be careful how she tries to pancake dig a volleyball so that she doesn’t re-injure her left shoulder. I learned where my Dad hides the receipts in his van. My twins learned that their older cousins are not to be trusted or looked up to or admired in any way. My dear wife and I learned that in the future we will not be taking any vacations where my sisters or their children will be involved in any way shape or form. Also in the future we will be planning our vacations so that we do not have to depend on Dad’s cars for transportation.

All in all it was an ok vacation, except for the part of having to deal with my drunken relatives. I am pretty much in shock at this behavior. I thought most of my generation had learned that we are related on both sides of the family to several generations of alcoholics. Unfortunately my sisters seemed to have forgotten to teach that to their children and they seem bent or resurrecting the family curse.

Finally our trip home was uneventful. Dad dropped us off at the Denver Airport. We got into the enormously long security line which spilled out of the normal security area and wrapped about half way around the baggage claim area. But the line moved right along and we were in it only about 25 minutes. We had one minor event when a large, really large, enormous lady with a cart full of suitcase cut the line in front of us. I would have complained, but watching her trying to steer her cart full suitcases through the winding velvet ropes was very entertaining. Especially the part where she got all the way up to the front of the line and was pulled out of line by security because her bags were to numerous and way to large to be carry-ons.

We landed in Vegas about on time, recovered out bags without incident, got our car out of hock in the parking lot and headed for home at about 11:45 PM. I stopped in Jean NV to top off the gas tank and get something caffeinated to drink. This is when we noticed that the Nevada Landing Casino appeared to be closed. When I asked the clerk at the gas station why the lights were on next door but the parking lots empty she told me that MGM who owns the property is going to tear down the casino and build houses there. I guess selling houses is more profitable than having people walk into your place of business and just handing you money.

We arrived home at 3:30 AM to find the house still standing. Thank you to my in-laws who had stopped by during the day and turned the cooler on high, put some cereal in the cupboard and some milk in the frig. We also found the new Harry Potter book waiting for us. We hadn’t decided who was going to get to read it first up until this point. But since everyone else was tired and going to bed and I needed a couple hours to decaffeinate before I could go to sleep I got to read it first. So I did.

1 comment:

Pete said...

I'm glad you made it back safely. I also used Vegas when I flew out to my niece's wedding. It's amazing the contrast when you cross into NV on I-15. You go from 4 lanes to a new 6 lane road.

I do recall that it was quite a hike to the ticket counter.