Tuesday, June 06, 2006

what i did on my summer vacation

well, i had intended to tell the story of my road trip to Arizona. unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, i remained so swamped with work that there simply wasn't time before my trip home. instead, it looks like i get to tell the story of my trip home, which is even more entertaining.

Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
TraV being the best boyfriend ever, or perhaps just hedging his hero points for some future act of dopey manness, flew out to Phoenix to make the 989 mile road trip home with me.he did this even knowing that Elise threw up the first 200 miles of the trip out and Head did this incredibly pathetic smoke alarm mew every four seconds for the first 250 miles each day. (now that is a keeper!)

we tried to set out early but with checking out, loading a month's stuff in the car, loading the cats in the car, it was a generous ten o'clock before we hit the highway. the first couple hours went as about expected. Elise dry heaved and Head mewed as pathetically as could be anticipated–and then some. i drove us out of town and up past Flagstaff while TraV napped. we stopped for lunch and TraV took over driving while we grooved to excellent tunes on Star 97.5. once we hit the end of their transmitter range, the trip slowly slipped downward.

the Jackrabbit- classic kitch
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
although we did enjoy The Jackrabbit, an old standby from Route 66, the desert was wide, the cats unhappy, and the AC inconsistent. the day took a sharp downward turn when Head escaped at a filling station where there were about 15 Harleys revving and cruising. he shot pretty quickly toward the wide expanses but luckily TraV and a stranger were able to corner him. TraV tried to grab him and Head shot over his shoulder to be caught midair by the stranger. it was a miracle of reflexes. after that, i was a bit of a stress mess for too long, and we had a bit of a squabble.

things started to perk up again when we hit the 'Museum of the Americas International Petrified Forest – Dinosaur Park'. from their 'informational fact sheet' and map, i quote: " This facility of the dream of those who created it." alas, we did not get to enjoy the 3 mile loop of painted desert with dinosaur casts in 'lifelike' poses as we lost the light.

snack time
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
there was no way we were going to be make it to the halfway point (Santa Fe) that night or even the second best (Albuquerque) before dinner. as we passed through Gallup, we started trying to decide whether to stop for food in Grants and continue on thereafter or to stop in Grants/Acoma for the night. though the process of finding a hotel on the fly is much easier since the advent of the cell phone, the reputable hotels (with restaurants) were full up and the Holiday Inn Express overpriced with only one room and no dinner option. that left us with choices of the Sands Motel (vintage 66) which only had a smoking room or Albuquerque. somewhere in here, i remembered there was a casino with an attached hotel just past Grants. i found a phone number on an ad in the AAA Guide Book and called. they only had a suite left but it was just a touch more than the room at the Holiday Inn Express. because it was part of a casino, we figured it was worth the difference for knowing there would be good availability of drinks, dinner and possibly a little entertainment to relax us after the long day. we settled on the casino in Acoma though TraV repeatedly insisted he didn't want to be in a coma. of course, this took forever for us to sort out so we ended up missing the exit and involved more bickering. (what can i say? we were tired, stressed out and hungry, driving in the middle of ghost town USA.)

the casino/hotel is Big Sky Hotel, though after our stay TraV decided it should be renamed. (more on that later.) we were checked in by a somewhat surly clod and first tried to settle the cats in. of course, they were not allowed and so this led to more stress. the suite seemed nice enough though the jacuzzi was a premade liner with a paucity of jets and the lamps were missing light bulbs. in addition, it apparently was high school graduation week and our room was directly over an incredibly loud party on the main floor. still, it was this or 1 1/2 more hours on the road.

after a long search of the room and 'Guide to Amenities', we proved to ourselved there was no menu or option for room service. not a huge deal as we were looking forward to a beer or three (TraV's words) to relax after all our misadventures and bickering. we figured we would just eat in the bar. so we set off downstairs to discover there was no bar. we had happened upon what is probably the only dry casino in the west. this bothered us much more than would seem reasonable given how little we typically drink, but we had really be counting on the winddown ritual of a drink. ah well. we could make the best of it with dinner in the main restaurant and possibly a little blackjack for TraV.

we found the main restaurant and waited to be seated in the haze of cigarette smoke at the entryway.

and waited.

and waited.

and waited.

finally, after about 10 minutes of being ignored, a lady finally came over and asked if we wanted the buffet. she had menus in her hand and so TraV asked whether it would be possible to order something to take up to our room. she sighed exaggeratedly and said, 'If you wanted that, why didn't you order room service?'

we explained that we had found no evidence of room service in our room at which point she cut us off to say, 'The menu is IN the drawer.' TraV pointed out that he had looked in ALL the drawers twice which she disputed. to avoid this dragging out, TraV asked if we could take a menu to our room to review so we could place an order.

'No. You can't have one of our menus. If you want a menu for room service and can't find yours, you will have to talk to the desk. Otherwise, you can look at this menu and order from me and then wait and take your order up.' this was apparently her idea of a compromise. somehow, this didn't strike us as much of a solution, especially given that this was outcome of us giving ourselves a little 'treat' so we headed to the front desk, where i explained our experience and provided my own set of choices to the front desk man who had checked us in: either give us a menu and a light bulb NOW or give us our money back and we will push on through to Albuquerque. after a few moments of sullen silence, he forked over the menu and promised a maintenance man would be up soon.

back in the room, we reviewed the menu and i went to comfort the cats (who were freaking out) while TraV placed our order. first try: 'Room service. Can I help you?' raucous noise–giggling and music– in the background. 'Yes, I would like to place an order.' 'Please hold.'

and hold

and hold

and hold.

TraV finally hung up and redialled. this time there was no answer at all after~30 rings. he tried again and after 15 rings, they finally answered. same girl.

'Room service.'
'Yes. I was trying to place an order but got stuck on hold.'
'What do you want?'
TraV starts to give the order but gets cut off.

'We aren't serving those things today. Today we are only serving a limited menu.' she rattled off the 12 choices and then impatiently repeated them at the same speed while TraV tried to sort things out. TraV gave up and put her on speakerphone and had her repeat it again to us both. i still have no idea what the list was but heard something i recognized and so ordered that. TraV sent me to take a bath while he waited for the total. ten minutes passed and i was starting to wonder what was up. TraV popped his head in–'I'm still on hold waiting for the total.' another ten minutes and he finally gave up and hung up.

by this time, we just wanted to get to sleep as fast as possible so we could check out as soon as possible. the food was only ten minutes later than initially promised and was tasty for what it was but we were exhausted and getting depressed. on top of it all, we had forgotten to order beverages in the midst of it all so TraV went to the soda machine on our floor, and then to the one on the second floor, and then to the ground floor before finding a machine that would allow him to buy a beverage.

after a lackluster showing for our dinner, we collapsed about 1 am with the alarm set for 8am. we slept well enough, in spite of the giggling and screaming and thumping music and checked out of the Big Suck Helltel post-haste in the morning.

adfsback on the road, we made fairly decent time through Albuquerque, Santa Fe and heading up to Las Vegas–Las Vegas, New Mexico that is, home of the man who killed Billy the Kid. the only notable event occurred when TraV ran over a suicidal chipmunk that attacked the car (twice). we comforted ourselves that perhaps this sacrifice to the goddess of road trips would aid us in securing a less eventful trip. we stopped in Vegas for lunch, and after great searching found an open restaurant and nearby shady spot for the car. the Plaza Hotel–housing the restaurant and saloon–was historic (incredibly old) with excellent photos and history to share.

from there, it is a long no-man's-land to the Colorado border. all the alleged 'towns' are ghost remnants from the Gold rush with none of 'Modern Services' or 'Restaurants' that are so loudly touted on navigation signs. this would not normally be a problem as i am often irked by urban sprawl and enjoy gazing at wide expanses, but this leg of the trip was in keeping with everything else.

i had taken back over driving when we left Vegas and TraV was drifting in and out of a covert nap when suddenly all hell broke loose on the dashboard. the thermostat gauge had been intermittently flatllining since my road trip to Phoenix and was now doing so with increasing frequency. however, the new thing was a sudden and foreboding flashing of the 'Check Engine' light that continued a while and then went to a non-flashing state about the time i hit a place we could pull off. things looked quite unassuming under the hood, so we started by checking the oil (somewhat low–this relates to an ongoing mystery leak the mechanics have mever been able to pinpoint) and coolant (also maybe somewhat low). we topped them off and then headed along the road to find a service station to pick up replacement supplies. having no other ideas and knowing there would be no luck finding a mechanic on a Sunday in the middle of a holiday weekend, we decided to get back on the road.

TraV took over driving. now, Esther (the car) and i have been through a lot together but we had never experienced a flashing 'Check Engine' light so i pulled out the manual. this is what the manual had to say:

"When the 'Check Engine' light is flashing, severe catalytic converter damage and power loss may follow."

being sensible, TraV started contigency planning out loud for if Esther did in fact experience severe catalytic converter failure, which led to more bickering because i wasn't ready to think about abandoning my car, however temporarily, in New Mexico and was too upset to clearly explain this to him. (poor TraV–between my PTSD and excessive recent travel–it is remarkable that he tolerates me at all!) eventually we were able to untangle things and find a happy medium for coping with this new issue. in the meantime, the heat gauge red-lined, which i had not seen before but which TraV had seen and unsuccessfully tried to convey to me when the original check engine light flare-up occurred. we stopped, again, to pop the hood and stare at the engine as it continued its mild-mannered idling. finally, we decided the gauge or its wiring was the issue and the engine was probably not going to implode–and what could we do anyway, if it were to try? we decided to ignore all the lights and instead go by the engine performance and hope for the best. i kept a close eye on the cats just in case need arose for emergency extraction though...

thankfully, other than arriving much later than we would have liked, the rest of the trip passed uneventfully. the car did not explode, no cats went free range and we appear to still really like each other in spite of all the disasters... maybe the chipmunk sacrifice helped after all...

1 comment:

Dave & Nancy Estes Park said...

Nothing like a long hot car ride with two upset cats and a car that won't cooperate to test a relationship! Glad you guys are still talking. Can't wait to meet you TraV