So, aside from the Chicken Fiasco, our vacation had been pretty much everything we had hoped for. Beautiful weather. All the nieces and nephew were able to be there, Mandy from San Diego, Josh from Long Beach, and Mel. Uncle Eddy had even stopped by while he was in town giving a presentation to one of the local schools, and shared with us his fascinating story about being a Forward Observer in WWII in the European theatre. Gosh, ask me how much I wish I’d have gotten THAT on video. What a treasure!
Christmas day was one of the best days ever. I’d picked fresh oranges and avacados every day and made guacamole until it was coming out my ears. Matt and his mom and sis had already gotten to go up to Porterville once and do some gambling, with plans to go again. Sis and I had gotten to go do a little shoe shopping with little Adelia. Mom and I thought maybe we’d do some yard-saling early Friday morning if there were any to be had. Life was good.
On the 5th day of our visit, we were just sitting down to a noontime meal at Hodels when Dani noticed that the chandeliers were swaying. Sure enough they were swinging back and forth like a pendulum in a grandfather clock – we were having an earthquake. Thankfully it was only a gentle swaying 6.0 earthquake that only lasted about 30 seconds and no big deal, really. When we got home from lunch there was a message on the telephone answering machine that Uncle Eddy’s house was thrashed. He lived over by Paso Robles, which was near the epicenter on this one. But he was thankfully okay. — Add an earthquake to the vacation!
A day later icy cold, record-breaking rainfall, with accompanying strong winds, pooled up on the roadways a foot deep in some places. In fact, we nearly lost control of our car on the freeway driving between Matt’s folk’s house and his sister’s. We were following a few car lengths behind a semi-tractor truck and trailer on the 99 when it suddenly slammed on his breaks and swerved to avoid a huge lake in the road. We were barreling down on his bumper when the splash of water kicked up in our face and effectively blinded us. Unable to see where we were going, we hit the same lake-size puddle and hydroplaned, making our own reckless swerve with traffic all around. Hair raising. Nail biting experience.
When the dust water settled, we all peeled our fingernails out of the dashboard and thanked God that our guardian angels were working overtime that day. We were delayed not once, not twice, but three times on that little stretch of freeway because of major accidents caused by the terrible weather, and it was only a couple of miles between Airport Drive and California Avenue, where we had to get off. — Add a near car accident to the vacation!
On another evening we were elbowed out of the house by what sounded like a COPS episode outside. There was a helicopter hovering right over our heads with a spotlight aimed at the vacant lot behind us. The chopper was circling around and around and there were voices on a loud speaker. On the ground were officers on foot, and walking shoulder-to-shoulder, shining flashlights and combing the open lot, obviously looking for something or someone. We huddled in Matt’s folk’s backyard to watch the show. The event carried on for about half an hour as the cops canvassed back yards and the vacant lot. We were so spellbound by the commotion in front of us that no one noticed grandpa coming up from behind.
We’d left him sitting in his chair in the house when the whole commotion started. Somehow he got himself up out of his recliner onto his feet on his own, steadied himself on his cane, and reached and took down the shotgun from its perch in the rafters. Then he shuffled his way out there with us to see what the ruckus was all about. A feeble old retired highway patrolman, limping on bad knees, riddled with arthritis, deaf in one ear, shaking with Parkinson’s, a cane in one hand and a shotgun in the other appearing on THAT scene. Holy smokes!
As soon as he caught up to the group of us, AND we noticed he was packing, all nearly fainted. Grandma and husband both yelled at him simultaneously in scream-whispers to “get back in the house with that dang thing. GAWD, DO YOU WANNA GET US ALL KILLED?” To which Grandpa half-grunted and sort of half-chuckled at their dramatic reactions, trying with meager speed and duck-feet to get himself turned around and shuffling back to the house, seemed very accustomed to being yelled at.
We got grandpa and ourselves safely back over the threshold and crowded back into the living room, half expecting to hear officers holler out at any second, “Hands up!” I guess we must have all been too distracted by our thoughts to notice as grandpa tried to put that shotgun back up in the rafters again, me standing right beside him and everyone else sitting, when “BOOM!!!” the son-of-a-gun went off in a deafening cloud of gun smoke and particles. We all hit the deck simultaneously, our faces flushed and our ears ringing as shrapnel detonated from the stucco wall just under the ceiling and to the left of the doorway, leaving a clean hole going all the way through. Tarnation!
Matt’s dad seemed unfazed, still determining to get that gun on the nails where it went, grunting and swearing. Matt to the rescue jumped up to take over. Pop was of course embarrassed, and Matt was seriously perturbed. Meanwhile the rest of us, taking inventory of our situation, slowly started stirring back to life. One-by-one picking ourselves up off the carpet and checking ourselves for damage, nervous to make a sound for any minute there’d be cops at the door.
As the moments passed and we realized at last that none of us was hurt (thank God) – except, oops, the house, and the cops didn’t seem to be coming to take us away, the opposite of fright began to bubble up out of us, in the form of smiles at first, then chuckles, and finally all-out, teeth-bearing, jack-jawed laughter.
“Did you ssssss ssssss sssssseee…? Did you ssssss sssss ssssseee…?” was all anyone could get out before the squealing attack hit them again. Wiping the tears and pointing fingers at each other, and holding our bellies, our mouths locked wide open like possums eating sweet potatoes, only the sounds of paralyzed squeals able to eke out. When we finally were able to catch our breath and mutter four intelligent words together, we decided that this was just about as exciting a vacation as any we could ever remember. One for the record books for sure.
Uh-hem! …Then Matt made sure the shotgun was in fact and for sure unloaded and secured on its perch. Merciful heavens! — Add a police incident and Shotguns on Sunday to the vacation!
In the last few days of the Bakersfield part of our trip that same rainstorm that almost cost us our lives on the freeway also caused the electricity to go off for about an hour while we were over at Sis’ house. The electricity came back on, but not without leaving its calling card behind. We didn’t notice it for about 24 hours, but when we went to turn in that evening found that Aunt Jessie’s house was — as grandpa would put it – “colder’n a well digger’s butt in the Yukon!” The power outage had done something to the furnace because it wasn’t kicking on any more. Matt’s mom called the power company and they came out and inspected, but they said we needed a repairman. We couldn’t get one of those for a day or two. So the last night of our stay we had no heat.
No problem, we thought, we’re from Wyoming. We’re used to this cold stuff. Yeah, well… we took our shivering yellow bellies over to the niece’s house to play pool and have pedicures, and stayed at her warm house until we thought it was rude to stay any longer. Finally submitting to the inevitable, Matt, the girls and I piled in the truck and ventured home.
This shouldn’t seem like a big deal to a people used to subzero temps, but there must be something to humidity that puts an exclamation mark on cold. We could see our breath in the air as we entered the darkened house. It could have only been about 30 degrees inside, and it really felt like 10 degrees. We had to seriously talk ourselves into getting ready for bed.
Biting the bullet and just doing it, we shucked our duds like assassins destroying evidence and thrashed into our jammies as if our clothes and those sleeping garments were one long piece of apparel, then dashed shivering into bed before hypothermia set in — where we found a nice surprise. God bless Matt’s mom. She had gone over while we were away and put electric blankets on all our beds and turned them all the way up to 10 on the dial.
Ahhhh, warm! In just a few minutes, actually a little too warm. I wonder if I can explain the strange sensation. The electric blankets were sooooo hot, so hot that our bodies were scorching — about to burst into flame, while our heads were gathering frost. I scrunched my body way down in the covers until only the extreme top of my head was exposed. Within moments I was so hot under those blankets that I almost felt ill. I was certain we’d all wake in the morning with tans and ten pounds thinner.
All I could think about most of the night was how to turn the thermostat down on that blanket without freezing to death getting to it. I didn’t dare lift the covers to look for the controller, because by the time I found it I’d be so frostbitten I’d need it back on “spontaneous combustion” just to get warm again. All night long was like one continuous hot flash. It felt like having the flu. The only good thing to arise out of the melt down was that the rain kept the chickens quiet. Praise the Lord!
The next morning Matthew turned on the oven in the kitchen and opened the door so the rest of us could be coaxed one-by-one out of our warm beds and down the hall to the hot shower. (Yes, I know this is dangerous. Please, no cards or letters). — Add a power outtage, storm, and heater problems to the vacation!
The last day of our visit was as it always is, bittersweet. My husband’s folks are just the coolest people, so much fun, funny, bounding with energy, and utterly entertaining … always a hoot and a half to be around. There is always an appealing amount of drama going on with someone, which makes it hard to detach from.
We had a sense of accomplishment for having gotten a few chores done for them around the place. Matt and his mom had made several expeditions to the Indian Casino (her favorite thing to do, and their favorite thing to do together). We’d squeezed in a holiday with a huge family dinner and get-together. The soaks in the hot tub at Danetta’s house were wonderful, and it was great hanging out with her and Darrel. The weather, well, it would be six more months before we’d have anything even half as nice back home, but for all that, there’s still just always something that feels like a ball and chain to keep us there. In our heart of hearts we didn’t want to go.
On the other hand, every day had been like night of the living dead. We were in a miasma from lack of sleep. The thought of one night without “Chanticleer and his Hoodlum Serenaders” was really kind of alluring. So, we endured the sad goodbyes and pulled ourselves away from the hugs and kisses, and began jamming ourselves into the Ford Mustang (a.k.a. sardine can) rental car, bursting at the seams with our excess luggage, that promised to take us on to the next phase of our fantabulous vacation.
We twisted our bodies like corkscrews into the small spaces inside that way-too-small-cool-car with about twice more luggage than what we came with. Poor Dani was jammed into the back seat like gauze in one’s gums after a tooth extraction. She had luggage under one arm and another bag sitting in her lap. We squeezed bag #3 into the small crevasse under her legs.
Gracee, being smaller, had more room around her for all the kids’ traveling crap (Game Boy, Walkman, stuffed animals and pillows). Matt, over in the passenger seat, had a bag under his legs, and we had a smaller bag teetering on the console between us. Good grief, where did all this stuff come from? But, it is always like this when we visit his parents.
We wheeled away looking a lot like the Beverly Hillbillies, waving out the windows of a car that had way more panache than the collection of its occupants, literally bursting at the seams with a phenomenal amount of junk. The only thing we were missing was granny and her rocker strapped to the top!
Just a few miles down the road the complaints started as we each began to lose feeling in our extremities. At the halfway point from Bakersfield to L.A., around the top of the grapevine, all of our butts went numb. Matt was complaining of a kink in his back. Dani was sure her feet and legs had been amputated, having no feeling in them anymore. Finally we reached the driveway of the Comfort Inn where the car had to almost give birth to us to get us out. But hallelujah we got there safely without any crazy stories to tell.
We staggered around the parking lot with that pins and needles feeling in our legs, all bent over like old people, unable to straighten our knees. I hobbled to the front desk and checked us in and Matt began piling our burgeoning luggage onto a luggage cart. With our backs finally coaxed straight again and the blood finally circulating to our fingers and toes, I quickly went and parked the car and then joined my family in the elevator. I was surprised we could fit with all our stuff. Someone pushed the button and up we went. Dad slid the key in the door and we all dog piled into the room and laid on the crisp linens for a minute or two before we pulled back the drapes to see the view or unloaded the luggage.
It was Matthew who broke the silence: “Ahhh!!! Do you hear that?” “Hear what?” Dani inquired. “EXACTLY!!!” I think she was oblivious, but I knew what he meant – no bloody chickens! And then he retorted maniacally, “Ha.. ha.. ha.. ha.. ha!!!!” (And the award for best performance in a comedy/drama is…… Eh, you woulda had to’a been there I think!)
Our nephew, who lived nearby our hotel met and taxied us around on a wonderful tour of Long Beach that evening. We drove past the building featured in the movie Ghost Busters – the one with the gargoyles, and he showed us the lighthouse on the waterfront, and we went by the Queen Mary, then he took us to a great little Mexican restaurant for a nice sit down meal. We made our plans for breakfast in the morning and talked about what we wanted to do.
Back in our hotel room feeling fat and sassy, we clad for bed and then drifted off into sweet, restful slumber that lasted all night. Yummy! I honestly remember nothing else until the morning sunshine peeped through the drapery. Slept like a rock. Slept like the dead the next night too. It was glorious!
We only got to spend a few days with our nephew in Long Beach, but we packed those days as full as we could. We saw Universal Studios, walked on the beach, took a stroll down Hollywood Blvd., and then drove ourselves to Ontario for our flight back home.
The flight was great. We only met with some turbulence over the Rockies, but it’s always like that, especially this time of year. Our flight from DIA did get pretty rough though, enough that the flight crew decided not to serve beverages. No biggie! I didn’t want to wear them anyway.
Our plane touched down at NCIA, and Wyoming was just as we had left it – WINDY! My goodness, it was howling. I marvel at how those pilots are able to land planes in that stuff, but they do it every day! Hat’s off to them, even if it was the wind that blew our hats off! Ha!
Home from the airport we unloaded the taxi, thanking the Lord it was the last time we’d have to lug those stupid bags anywhere. Sheesh, you’d think we were the President and First family for all the junk we were packing. And then the not-fun part – putting it all away.
As we were pilfering the fridge for edibles someone noticed, lying there on the kitchen counter, so dutifully awaiting our return, THE SCRIPT! Oh yeah, the script!!! Hmmmm… I don’t know, I guess I half expected it to be gone — at least dangling off a little or laying on the floor in a crumpled heap. We had so madly willed it by telekinesis to come to us in California. It could have at least shown some evidence that it tried to get to us. LOL! Anyway, now, Dani finally had that dad-blasted thing in her hot little fingers and could finally start cramming her lines the night before her first practice.
And so, with that, and some sorting for the first load of laundry, plus a reserved sense of duty to dive into the mountain of mail/bills that welcomed us back, reality settled in. Honey, we’re home!
Vacation mode: OFF!
“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9