Saturday, July 26, 2014

We did it!

Back in January, Shawn and I started discussing what we should do for our summer holiday this year.

And, like a couple of idiots, we were all, "hey!  You know what we should do?!  We should trap the four of us in the van for 57 billion hours and DRIVE TO CALIFORNIA AND LAS VEGAS AND HOME AGAIN!!!!"

Truth be told, this epic road trip was a great idea in January.  But once the beginning of July rolled around and we were a mere week away from leaving, we started to panic a bit, wondering what the hell we'd gotten ourselves into, and have we not heard of airplanes, and we are going to be alone with these kids for the next 3 weeks, and WHY DIDN'T WE THINK TO MAKE GRANDMA COME WITH US, because surely we are going to need a break!!!!!!!

But, on July 9th, as planned, the four of us piled into the Big Silver Turd (I just named it that) and we were off.

Before I go any further, I will say this about the entire 2 and a half week trip:




Day One had us cruising down the I-5 all the way to Eugene, Oregon.  We liked Oregon.  It's beautiful, very green, has no sales tax (YAY!!) and we didn't even have to pump our own gas!!  Also it had this awesome donut place called Voodoo that served things like bubblegum donuts, bacon donuts, and one rather large chocolate-covered monstrosity called the "cock and balls".  I'll let you imagine what that looked like.  Of course, that's the one AJ wanted - he didn't know the name of it, or even what it was supposed to be - but it was the biggest one, so he wanted it.  I was not about to let my kid chow down on a giant donut shaped like a dude's junk, so he had to settle for a smaller, much less raunchy, plain old chocolate covered donut.

Day Two had us crossing into California and staying the night in Sacramento.  We stopped at Old Country Buffet in Redding, CA, because the kids love it there and on Thursdays they eat for 99 cents - and this momma ate like her life depended on it.  There was no stopping me.  Mac and cheese, pulled pork, omelettes, fried chicken, tacos, rice, pizza, garlic bread, soup, ice cream - I made that buffet my bitch.  I needed to be rolled out of there but I didn't even care.  It's a buffet, man.  Go big or go home!

Finally, on Day Three, we reached our first major destination: West Hollywood, California, where Shawn's Uncles S and K live, along with their little doggies Ginger and Lola!  They opened their home to us for 9 days, and it was so awesome to see them - it's been almost 9 years.  There is so much to say about our time in California.  S and K have lived there a long time and are about the best tour guides you could ever ask for.  We saw all the major sights with them - Grauman's Chinese Theater, Dolby Theater, the Walk of Fame, the Hollywood sign, downtown LA, the Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, Rodeo Drive, and more.  My kids swam in the ocean for the very first time ever at Venice Beach, and it is a moment I will never forget as long as I live.  Their screaming and laughter and sheer joy as the waves came crashing in and out was a highlight of the whole trip for me.  And, to boot, while they were playing in the waves, a bunch of dolphins (a school of dolphins?  Pack of dolphins?  Herd of dolphins??) kept swimming back and forth not far from where they were at all.  It was incredible.  Even K jumped in with them, and he hasn't been swimming in the ocean for like 20 years!  Just amazing.

California, of course, also meant a day at Universal Studios and two days at Disneyland - again, both firsts for our kids.  I have to be honest - while I was looking forward to this part of the holiday, I was also a little nervous.  I'm OK with crowds but I HATE STRANGERS TOUCHING ME, especially sweaty strangers, and I knew damn well that many sweaty strangers would be touching me.  Also, I'm not big on rides.  I hate the fair (as you know) and I am not a fan of waiting in lines.  But, I put on my big-girl panties (extra big, thanks to the Old Country Buffet incident), took a deep breath, and jumped right in.  I created a system in which I walked with my right arm extended behind me as far as it would go to stop people from coming too close to me from behind and stepping on my heels, and it totally worked!!  I also might have loudly called out "personal space!!!!" every once in awhile, you know, just as like a public service reminder.  I like to think it was helpful for everyone!

Universal Studios was great fun - the kids absolutely loved every ride and show, with the exception of Mackenzie on the Jurassic Park Water Ride - she wasn't expecting to be plunged down a 50-foot embankment and subsequently soaked from head to toe when she got off, and she was pretty pissed...but it made for a great photo!  While I enjoyed the rides at Universal, I also spent most of them screaming like a loser and closing my eyes so I wouldn't get sick - I saw about 12 seconds of the Simpson's ride, for example, before I started making an ass of myself screaming "OH MY GOD MAKE THIS STOP THIS IS HORRIBLE I'M TOTALLY GONNA HURL!!!!!!!"  A definite highlight of our day at Universal was when AJ was being kind of a brat to the purple Minion - sticking his tongue out, being silly, etc.  Well, that purple Minion took it at first, but then decided he would have no more of it - so he started to pretend-chase AJ.  AJ screamed, then tripped over his own feet and nearly fell on his ass trying to run away from the purple Minion.  Hey, that's karma, kid.  Don't piss off the Minions!

Next amusement park - DISNEYLAND!  S and K joined us for the first day, and we did all sorts of rides - Indiana Jones (the only one AJ hated, but Kenzie loved it so much she rode it twice), Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, and so on.  It was an awesome day and we were so glad S and K came too!!  We made the kids ride "Its A Small World" at like 11pm, we told them it was Disneyland Law to ride it, so they were super excited, but then of course they were like - what the hell, this ride is dumb.  AJ says, "I don't even get this, you can't even put your arms up and yell WOOOHOOO!"  Touche, buddy.  That's why nobody likes It's a Small World.  (Don't tell anyone that I actually think It's a Small World is kind of cute and sweet.)  Those crazy kids also rode the teacups repeatedly.  Vom-IT!  I rode them once and nearly lost it.  And by "it", I mean "my lunch."

Day 2 at Disney, we hit it hard.  9am-11pm straight.  By the end of the day I was feeling rather Hulk-Smash'y, like if one more stranger came near me or one more ride attendant was rude or I had to wait one more minute for a ride, I was going to start throwing things - but man, we did a lot!  The Cars ride at California Adventure was well worth the wait - we even rode it twice - the second time as single riders so it was only a 20-minute wait instead of 2 hours.  Shawn got to go on his preferred rides that the kids and I wouldn't touch - California Screamin' and Space Mountain - so he was super excited about that.  You just can't help but act like a kid when you are in Disneyland!

While we may have missed out on the "magical" age of taking the kids to Disneyland (say, 2 and 4), we also missed out on the tantrums, the meltdowns, the need for naps, the constant need for snacks, the strollers, the whining...I could go on.  At (almost) 8 and 10, they understood we had to wait in line.  They knew the characters were just dressed up people, but were still young enough to be excited about them.  They could also ride by themselves, which was great for those of us parents who can't handle the teacups and Merry-Go-Rounds.  It was absolutely worth it to wait til this age to go - especially after watching hot and tired parents trying to wrangle strollers and Baby Bjorns, control screaming toddlers, heat up bottles in the bathroom, explain a 2-hour wait for Elsa and Anna to an impatient and crying 4-year-old...I'd say 8 and 10 are perfect ages!!

Since we were already in Anaheim, the next day we took a small road trip down to Huntington Beach to go for another swim in the ocean.  The waves were crazy.  They were so strong they literally knocked us over and sent us crashing to shore on our bellies.  It was awesome (except perhaps for the sand we found in all sorts of surprise places later on!)  Then we continued down the Pacific Coast Highway to Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, where clearly the people who live there shit money.  I've never seen anything like it.  Yachts docked outside people's homes; yacht and ship dealers everywhere; plastic surgery places literally on every corner that look like fancy condos; and some pretty exclusive car dealerships that had Shawn drooling all over himself and probably needing to change his undies when we got home - McLaren, Ferrari, Porsche, and Bentley, to name a few.  Amazing.  We stopped at Ruby's, a little place overlooking the ocean along the Pacific Coast Highway, for fries and milkshakes at sunset, and it was beautiful.

Then, it was back to S and K's place to recover for a couple days before heading up to - VEGAS, BABY!!

Let me just give you this little piece of advice: as a rule, you probably shouldn't get your information from Bradley Cooper's character in "The Hangover" when you are planning a road trip.  In the movie, he's like, "oh we can get from Vegas to LA in two hours."  So I thought it was going to take two hours.  It actually takes like, 5.  So thanks, Bradley Cooper.  Thanks for nothing.  You might be hot, but you know nothing about geography.

Anyway, despite being a smidgen later than planned, Vegas was a hoot.  We met our friends D and G there, along with their kids, and we had such a fun time.  Wandering the strip, heading to Fremont Street, Circus Circus, the Eiffel Tower, and having some drinks and pool time - they only had one night, so we made the most of it!  Mackenzie actually celebrated her tenth birthday in Vegas (side note, OMG, she is TEN FREAKING YEARS OLD and I HAVE BEEN A MOTHER FOR A DECADE, HOW DID THAT HAPPEN!?) and we spent the evening at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, Kenzie had her eyes made up at Sephora, we had Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity, and enjoyed watching the Bellagio fountains going off to "Billie Jean".  Lucky girl, turning 10 in Vegas!

Side note...cute (?) conversation in Vegas...
AJ: "You can walk around with your beer here??"
Me: "Yup!"
AJ: "But you do that at home too."
Me: "What??  I do not!!"
Mackenzie: "Oh, no, AJ, that's different.  She always hides it in something, so nobody knows it's beer.  So then it's OK."

After 3 days of 44-degree (celsius) heat in Las Vegas, it was time to start the journey home.  Day one was as far as Boise, Idaho; Day two had us arriving in Seattle; and last night we rolled in to Kamloops at about 8pm, with 5,559 kilometers added to our van.

Through it all, I learned that my kids are amazing.  Ah-may-zing.  They didn't complain at all in the car.  They tended to get a little stupid and hyper as we would approach each destination, but overall, they were awesome.  They waited in lines like a couple of champs.  They walked what I'm sure would total hundreds of kilometers, in some pretty majorly intense heat.  Their entire eating and sleeping schedule was flung waaaaaaay far out the window, and it didn't even faze them.  Cheese strings, granola bars and bananas for dinner at 10pm?  OK!  McDonald's for the 3rd day in a row?  Sure!  Bed at midnight?  Yup!  They were rock stars pretty much the entire time and I am so proud of them.

I learned that 9 years is MUCH too long to go without seeing S and K, and we will not let that much time pass again.

I learned that while I love love LOVE the heat - it's DRY heat that I love.  It wasn't too hot in California at all, but the stickiness made it a little less enjoyable to me than the smokin' hot Vegas-type heat.

I learned that if I had to live somewhere that had rush hour traffic, I'd have gone to jail a long time ago.

I learned that on such a long road trip, you will see license plates from every state in the US except for Hawaii, DC, Rhode Island, and Delaware.  I know this because we wrote down every single one we saw on a napkin; a napkin that, by the way, flew out the window at Huntington Beach and had this crazy Canadian running across a 6-lane Pacific Coast Highway like a lunatic, chasing down the napkin in the wind (I finally got it back when it stuck to a tree!)

I learned that sometimes, it's good to let go of some control and anxiety and just let things happen.

I'm happy to be home, back to normal life and not living out of a suitcase.

But man, that really was epic.

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