Ten years ago Matt and I said something resembling ‘sure I’ll stick it out for a year, evaluate if I’m still in this, and then most likely renew the commitment for another year’ when we got hitched in a traditional Celtic ceremony in front of our family and friends. Ten freaking years! I’m not going to go into all the hoo-ha surrounding that day, I’ve written about it before. Suffice to say we obviously decided to re-up this year.
But let me back up for a second. Back in year two of our marriage I was already looking forward to year ten and announced that it would be the year we went all out at Walt Disney World. I’ve been to Disney (World) quite a few times but Matt has never been. In my experiences I’ve stayed at places both in and off the park grounds and I have to say there is no experience like staying right inside the gates.
I don’t mean Magic Kingdom though, I’m talking Epcot. I’ve been fortunate enough to have opportunities to stay in fancy-pants places in both parks. Epcot is more on the adult side and since we don’t have kids I’m all about going back there. Specifically to the Boardwalk Hotel. Great service, ten minute walk into Epcot, comfortable rooms, night life, restaurants and shuttles to the other parks. Oh and shuttles to and from the airport too. Nothing beats it in my book.
Many things have taken place in our lives since I started imagining us going and staying at Disney over our Tin Anniversary. (Tin? Seriously? Can’t we change this to something cooler, Hallmark?) But all of those things led us to coastal California across the street from the rolling waves of the Pacific instead of a swanky hotel in the biggest amusement park in the world.
And I wouldn’t trade last weekend for anything. The whole thing was so very…us.
We’d both packed Wednesday night, I pulled the rest of our stuff together and shut down electronics in the house, then Matt got out a little early on Thursday. He recently bought a new (used) car – a VW Jetta Wagon – and we were looking forward to making the journey in the comfort of leatherette seats with a way-back for the luggage. Riding in style; riding like adults.
We planned to leave at 3:00 and by 3:19 we were hitting the freeway on our way to some much needed beach time. Neither of us has seen the ocean since last November when we made our trip back to Boston for Thanksgiving. I, for one, missed it to the point of a need. It’s my re-charger; my energy re-vitalizes in its very presence.
On the ride out we chatted until we turned off The 10 and got on 85 heading toward Gila Bend, where we’d pick up The 8 which would take us into San Diego (my favorite city in the world). In Gila Bend both of our jaws dropped and remained on the floor mats until we crossed into California. We spent a couple hundred miles driving through this:
We live in Phoenix. When we first met our friends here we caught onto the joke that when storms approach the city they part as if Moses himself was standing at the edge of town in order to divert them directly around us. So we rarely get to see the kick ass monsoonal storms that are rampant in most all other parts of Arizona. Let’s just say we got our fill of rain, wind, lightning, dust and debris on the way out of town. It was so cool to watch.
With clear skies predicted all weekend we crossed into Cali and made our way up the coast to Carlsbad. I’ve only been to coastal Cali a few times in my life but it’s safe to admit I consider it home. Even though Boston will always have my heart, SoCal is my soul. The smell and heavy blanket of salty air seemed to hug me as we coasted up The 5.
We found our exit with no problem. We headed west toward the edge of the cliff that plunges down into the Pacific. We were one block away from the beach just west of Carldbad Blvd. and there was our hotel – the Ocean Palms Resort. More like a two story motel (but fancy underneath all that sand) I saw their neon sign calling us home. And then I saw the neon lights in the side view mirror.
“Do you know why I pulled you over?”
“You’ve got a tail light out, did you know that?”
I was sitting in the passenger seat literally looking at the back side of our motel. But of course we got pulled over ten feet from the parking lot. That’s so us. Because with the tinted windows obviously we’re shady.
Getting back to the Cop’s question, there were a laundry list of responses we both wanted to use from ‘ya motha’s got a tail light out’, to ‘does it look like I’m back there to keep an eye on the thing?’ After seven hours in the car, our bed just steps away, and the sound of the rolling waves calling our names, what Matt did say was:
Of course the cop responds:
“Is this a new car?”
Again, what Matt wanted to say was ‘Gee, what gave it away, that paper plate back there?’ As opposed to what he did say “Yes, it is.”
The cop went off to do his laugh-at-the-scared-tourists dance back in his cruiser with Matt’s license in hand. We just looked at each other and laughed.
“Okay everything checks out here, I’m gonna let you go with a warning. Get that tail light fixed.”
“Is there an AutoZone in town?”
Not ‘no I’m sorry there isn’t’, just a gruff little two letter answer as if he was mad that Matt didn’t have an outstanding warrant or 500 parking tickets so this guy would finally have something to keep him busy for a night. ‘No.’ and we were off to the parking space ten feet away.
Check-in was a breeze, the room was like a hotel room should be – bed, light, clock, tv, bathroom – and it even had a full kitchenette. Cool.
The rifling through of drawers revealed a bottle opener. After our first experience with people in California being the aforementioned cop, we both needed a drink. We’d seen a liquor store on the way in and decided to walk. We certainly weren’t taking the chance of running into Robo-Cop on the road again. The store was closed but down Carlsbad Blvd there was a 7-11 so we figured it was worth a shot.
In Arizona you can buy liquor of some variety just about everywhere. Only place I haven’t seen it yet is my hairdresser but I’m sure they’re working on getting their license as I type. Gas stations, supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies, drive through ends of the strip malls…the wine flows like water here. But we had no clue what to expect in California.
Turns out there is wine sold at 7-11 in Carlsbad. And guess where our new favorite police officer in town hangs out? You guessed it, the only place open after they roll up the streets at ten o’clock, 7-11. But unfortunately it turns out there’s at least one person who didn’t major in math in town and that person was running the register.
Okay, try this on and see if you get the right answer:
Bottles of wine are marked $7.99. Sign reads 2 for $12. Bottles ring up at $7.99. What would you do to get the total to reach $12 for two bottles?
I’m assuming you thought to yourself ‘Use your register training to take a discount of $1.99 per bottle’ right? Well our cashier, after phoning her manager to tell her about the sign and ask for advice on how to proceed, said things like ‘yes but my manager said to take off $2 and we have taxes here.’
Yup. We have taxes in my country too. We also have simple math. $7.99 minus $1.99 equals $6.00. 6x2=12. The tax comes after the discount. And we’re fully willing and able to pay it.
She took off $2 and repeated the tax line. I even tried to explain that she should only take $1.98 off for the second bottle when one of her homies in line behind us chimed in ‘Cashier’s name knows what she’s doing.’
I’m sorry 13 year old, are you the manager of this joint? No? Well then shut your pie hole because Cashier’s name has no clue what she’s doing and we’re trying to help her with subtraction. After we leave just take down the 2 for $12 sign and this won’t be an issue again but for now we’re only paying what we should pay.
Matt reiterates that it should be $3.98 off in total, not just $2. She says she doesn’t want to argue and takes off two more full dollars. I’ll put $0.02 into the take-a-penny tray next time I’m in a 7-11 to pay karma back for the windfall.
With a road-weary toast for a great weekend and the Weather Channel on in the background, day one came to a close.
I Think I’ll Go for a Walk Outside Now the Summer Sun’s Calling My Name…
Beach. Our priority was putting on bathing suits and going to the beach. For the entire weekend pretty much. And it turned out the access to the water’s edge was about ten feet from the front of our motel. Score! And the salt and pepper sand was only 87 stairs below us. Yeah, we’ll talk about the 87 stairs back up another time.
Friday morning we got caffeinated, got our sunscreen applied and got out of the hotel room.
Our beach chairs were in the trunk so we figured why not go and get the taillight taken care of first. AutoZone was in O-side so Matt hit the brake and I checked for which side was out. Thing was, neither side was out. What? After a couple minutes I realized the bulbs were just pushed too far into the compartment inside the trunk. So yeah thanks for the Thursday night heart attack there mister police officer man. Matt pushed them into place and we saved ourselves an hour of extra beach time! Score!
We then went and watched this most of the morning:
After a nap, we had dinner at the Fish House Vera Cruz. If you ever find yourself in Carlsbad don’t listen to the Yelp reviews. We had great service & delicious, fresh food. The wine selection was nice too. Though prices were a little high on everything. But hell, it was our anniversary dinner and we were livin’ large! And eatin’ at senior citizen hour, woo hoo! The meal was lovely and the conversation about our crazy ten years of trips was even better.
Back in the room we changed and then went back to the beach to take in the other thing that draws people from all over the world to the California coast.
On Saturday we did a repeat of our beach excursion and then our seemingly quiet little hotel next to paradise all of a sudden exploded with the activity and bustle of what looked like attendees from a wedding somewhere in town. Of course when I got one look at the guy parked just below our section of balcony all I could think was that he must be a hired assassin.
Either that or just a guest at a wedding in town from somewhere that starts with the word New – New England, New Jersey, New York – the jury’s still out.
He stood beside a pearl colored Land Rover type SUV in a full navy suit, crisp blue shirt, and coordinating purple tie tucked smartly under his perfectly fitted collar. With salt above his ears and pepper everywhere else he somewhat resembled Paulie from The Sopranos. You know my writer’s wheels were turning.
He lit a cigarette and smoked it cupped inside his palm. He was using the trick we all use to ensure the butt doesn’t extinguish in the crappy weather back in the northeast. Definitely east coast. Still not sure if he’s an assassin or not. Much too slicked back to be a spy. When he looked down at a piece of paper, the guy walked around to the passenger side.
California Paulie turned his back to where we were sitting, a floor above him and outside our room smoking, and started to hitch and adjust the front of his outfit. Gun in the waistline of his suit perhaps? Was he going to come for us? Did he think we knew?! (Knew what I have no idea).
He finished adjusting himself and made his way around the corner of the building out of my line of sight. I watched the top of the stairs for sign of his head. But the next thing I knew he was back at the SUV and right behind him came a woman in a black dress who got in the front seat and two teenage boys that made their way to the back. They pulled away. Obviously a family of people who had been to a wedding.
Or a mother father assassin team. I’m still not convinced otherwise.
Shortly after my self-created excitement was over, we had a repeat of nap-dinner-sunset-beach-walk and ended the day on Saturday even more relaxed than Friday if that’s possible.
We’ve Only Just Begun
Wait, what do you mean we’re checking out in four hours? You can’t possibly be right, it can’t be Sunday yet…
But it was. Sob.
You know how when kids don’t want to leave somewhere they hold onto something for dear life thinking you won’t be stronger than them to drag them away? That’s what I wanted to do. Sadly, sand isn’t very sturdy. Plus the drag of adult responsibilities back home sat looming.
So we checked out and hit the coast road down to San Diego. We had lunch then made our way to The 8. With a wave and a sigh I thanked California for another relaxing weekend and we were heading home.
Matt wanted to wait to buy gas until we got to Yuma because gas in California is about $0.60 more expensive. Recoculous. But as the needle moved lower and lower and I barely felt like a mile ticked by, my concern mounted.
“Maybe I should watch my speed. I’d say 74 is pretty comfortable and will get us there.” Says Matt as he sets the cruise control at 74 mph. The speed limit is 70 mph so I didn’t think anything of it.
The gas light comes on. We pass a mile marker stating only 10 until Yuma.
“Whoa that cop’s definitely after someone he took off like a bat! And…its…me? What the fuck?”
“This is so us.”
Coming and going huh California?
The cop then proceeds to scare the shit out of me by tapping on my window. I roll it down.
“Hello do you know why I pulled you over today?”
What I wanted to say ‘Did the Carlsbad PD call you? The taillight is fixed damn it!’ What Matt said “No sir.”
“It was for your speed, you were doing 86 miles an hour.”
Confusion passes through both of us at this point considering the setting of the cruise control not more than ten minutes prior.
I then turn to Matt and say “Guess you should get the cruise control looked at when we get back.”
Now I don’t want to say that’s what got us out of the ticket. Because it wasn’t. What got us out of the ticket is the fact that we weren’t driving 16 miles an hour over the speed limit. We were doing 4. Either the cop clocked the wrong car and wrongly chased us for it, or yet again a Yuppie mobile with paper license plates and tinted windows is a dead giveaway for drug running or immigrant running or whatever it is they seemed to think we were doing in their fine state.
Later Matt would refer to the officer as Ponch and I would laugh hysterically but at the moment it all went down I kept my mouth shut and put on some lip balm.
Fifteen seconds after going to the cruiser with our paperwork and current address written down he came back with our personal effects to tell us that everything checked out. The cop in Carlsbad at least made it look like he was doing his job and took a few minutes to sit in the car. Unless this guy had a partner running our plates there wasn’t remotely enough time.
“I’m gonna let you go with a warning this time but watch your speed.”
Note to self: When you do become rich and famous and move to California make sure you can get everywhere on foot so live in a town with lots of the stuff you need. Somewhere like Pacific Beach.
Other note to self: When you come across one of those ‘this is your speed’ monitoring devices and see that it is pin accurate to the speed which your husband’s speedometer currently reads you’re doing, laugh hysterically as your husband complains about Ponch riding in to take you down.
We got to Yuma, emptied one tank while filling another, and gratefully began counting the miles until we were at our front door.
The minute that we touched rubber to concrete in Arizona though, we encountered this:
Really? Coming and going huh Arizona? And the funny thing is that while we were away we caught wind of the monsoonal situation back home. Allegedly there was a sky opening experience for three straight days directly over our house. Almost a full inch of rain on Friday alone. Like I said, allegedly. Remember the Moses theory?
When we turned onto The 10 out near Buckeye we saw the whole city was blanketed in some kind of dusty desert fog. It was creepy and unexpected and brought lightning behind the front edge of the ground cloud. Everything we’d just driven through was moving northeast, right toward our house.
Of course it was.
Road trips in the rain? So us. That rain heading straight for yet missing our house altogether? So Phoenix.
And I’ll think fondly of the time we spent with you California…
But I’m glad to be back home.