Trip Report – San Diego Phlegm Family Chaos Jam

Trip Report – San Diego Phlegm Family Chaos Jam
February 4, 2008 Jon Armstrong

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Our recent road trip to San Diego was something we had talked on and off about for quite awhile. As with most decisions in our house, once we pull the trigger, it’s usually a really rapid deployment from the decision to move forward. We decided on the trip on a Friday morning and the following Monday, we were on the road. I booked cheap, dog friendly/dog-centric motels and we packed a lot of distraction for Leta and the dogs.

I’m not sure what I expected from the trip, except to see sun and feel warmer in California than I do in Utah. Who goes on a trip with an almost 4 year-old and two dogs, one of which is still not completely housebroken? In my mind, I pictured thousands of families making trips just like this all the time. Certainly, they survived and so would we. We had only one grown up thing scheduled, the rest was just gravy and whatever we felt like doing. We figured that with Leta, we’d only get a few hours at whatever attraction or activity we decided to do. We didn’t care. We just wanted so see the sun and if it wasn’t too cold, take the dogs to a beach or two. Maybe take a couple hundred pictures.

After a rough holiday season including the loss of an uncle, a medical procedure for a family member (I’m not going to go further out of respect for their privacy) over the holidays, I figured we were due for some slightly more relaxing times. We always talk about travel, but rarely do it. This seemed a great opportunity.

With hearts full of hope….

Day One – Monday
(after each of these subheads, you need to insert an orchestral sting from either The Shining or Law and Order.)

We awaken to a massive amount of new snow and it continues through our departure time. The snow is so deep that the four wheel drive truck, purchased specifically for weather like this, can’t get in the driveway until I clear it. I also needed to walk the dogs because they are about to be in a car for six hours minimum. We have to make Mesquite, Nevada, which wouldn’t normally be a problem. I had hoped to make it by dinner. The snow removal and subsequent delay causes friction and bad energy in the house with a couple of slammed doors. I’m becoming my father. Right before major trips, he’d lose his temper more frequently and get worked up trying to get out the door. That was with six kids. I just have the one and the two dogs, so I don’t think that my foul mood is either justified or helping start the trip right. More on this later.

We finally hit the road mid-afternoon. The storm cleared a little bit, but the roads were still a mess. We stopped in Nephi, Utah for a bio break (all parties) and later in St. George, Utah for dinner and another bio break.

We roll into Mesquite at about 7:30pm local time. Because we are now in Nevada, we’ve gained an hour and Leta gets a free pass on bedtime. We are all tired, but in good spirits and happy to be in weather that is above 20°F. The dogs seem to have no problem traveling together. All is right with the world. I walk the dogs and remember our travels with Chuck when he was a puppy. He took to house training much quicker than Coco has. Must stay on top of puppy’s pee breaks. So far, no incidents.

Day Two – Tuesday
We took our time waking up and barely made the freebie continental breakfast at the motel by 9:30 am local time. Fantastic. Everybody was rested. The adults showered and we hit the road around 11 AM, about what I figured given the circus we are traveling in. I stopped at a store for water and since my throat was so tight and my breathing so difficult, an asthma inhaler. I think our pet-approved motel rooms housed cats. I’m violently allergic to cats. I took a breath from the inhaler and it was like the world opened up. I convinced myself that was the extent of the problem and drove on.

I tried to leave the bad energy behind as we head west into the sun. We stopped for gas and lunch in Primm, Nevada. As I was gassing up, I caught a chill. Heather offered to drive, which was great. I could feel myself coming down with something and it wasn’t good.

At Victorville, California, I took over driving duties and drive us in to San Diego. Our first major meltdown occurred outside of San Bernadino as we make our way on the I-15, the hills caused Leta’s ears to clog and no amount of telling her what to do or giving her gum would stop the screaming. She finally passed out for an hour while we battled gridlock due to an accident.

We heard about Heath Ledger’s death and listened to the radio for news. Very sad and shocking.

We pulled into San Diego, the sun streaming into the car making me feel good, despite still having the chills and shaking a little bit. I stepped out of the van and immediately knew I needed to rest up and that I’d be going to bed very early. We checked in and unloaded. The rooms (Leta gets her own and it means we get to watch TV and/or open our laptops without disturbing her sleep) were like a college house populated by single men who had cleaned up for a party. The couch was scary (Leta was the only one brave enough to venture onto the couch) and Heather refused to sit on any of the furniture except the bed. Heather picked up dinner and I half napped, half conversed with Leta as a major fever hit me. I was in my coat, fully clothed, sweating and shaking from the chills. After Heather returned with dinner, which most of us ate squatting on the floor like refugees because of Heather’s fear of the furniture and her fear of what Leta might contract with any further furniture contact.

I slept for a few hours, sweating and trying to not hurl.

Heather took the dogs to the beach and the chaos of that experience, compounded with the awful rooms we had booked, along with my illness, compelled her to hint very strongly that we needed to move. I found a more expensive, but better pet-friendly place in Coronado and tried to book us there for the rest of our time in San Diego. They said to call back in the morning when their reservation staff was in. On top of my fever, I had to worry that we’d be stuck in our hellhole room.

We decide to stay the night due to my illness. I take NyQuil and pass out.

Day Three – Wednesday
I woke up feeling worlds better, but coughing a lot and had limited energy. I booked us in the new place and we hit the beach with the pups. Leta was excited to see the ocean and wanted to make a sand castle. We did a quick morning beach walk and the dogs were in heaven. Leta didn’t really want to get on the sand, so we stay on the walkway and talk about seeing dolphins and otters. She replies, “Daddy, I love penguins and monkeys.”

I told her we’ll see monkeys another day and we loaded up and headed to Sea World where she might (but did not) see penguins.

We boarded the dogs ($5! ) and headed in for brunch. It wasn’t that crowded and the sun made a good effort to break free, if only for an hour or so. We saw the sea lion/otter show and checked out the seals and dolphins. Without crowds, it was really quick and easy to get around and see stuff. I got to hold Leta while the dolphins were being fed and she loved it. When the dolphins would come up, she’d scream and pull away, but she kept wanting to see the dolphins. Heather gave me a break and tried to hold her, but Leta preferred the way I was holding her. Either that or she thought that I had magical dolphin mind control powers. Which I do, but I haven’t really shared with the family yet. We stayed for the Shamu show (Leta couldn’t have cared less) and left after that. Leta was obviously out of it and starting to look and act like she might be coming down with something.

We headed to Coronado and check in. Sweet resort. Expensive. Sweet. Rooms were very tastefully done and Heather said ,”We are moving in and never leaving.”

We looked at room service and decided to order in after the day of re-packing, Sea World and unloading. Quote of the trip from Leta when the table was wheeled in: “This is lovely!”

She was right, it was lovely. This was the last enjoyable meal as a family on the trip.

Day Four – Thursday
Leta was sick. She wasn’t down for the count sick, but sick. I needed mucous drugs and cold meds. I was worse than I was on Tuesday. Heather took the dogs to the beach and got everybody meds. She tried to publish, but the family illness was conspiring against her. After taking the meds I begin to feel much better. Leta was looking up, but still not 100%. A calm day was in order. No zoo, no nothing.

At night we headed to a party in San Diego and Heather forgot to eat much or drink much water, pretty much the whole day. The party was lovely and it was great to meet others who publish online. We thought we left our camera bag at the party, but realized after turning around and then stopping that neither of us remembered even putting it in the car. It was a late night and Heather drove us back to the hotel. When we arrived at the hotel, the camera bag was sitting on our bed.

I woke up about an hour after falling asleep and Heather was vomiting. She had a fever. She was getting sick as well. I figured if it’s hangover sick, we’ll have another chill day in the morning and maybe head out to do something in the afternoon. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Day Five – Friday
Heather was up most of the night vomiting and slept horribly. I started to feel a little better. Leta was not doing well. I was on dog duty and try to keep Leta happy and let Heather sleep. I was hoping that mid-afternoon, we’d be up for a beach trip or some sight-seeing. Didn’t happen. I resigned myself to the fact that our last full day in the sun would be another quiet one.

The dogs and I headed to the beach, where I tried to absorb as much sun as possible given the wind and cloudy conditions. It was a beautiful day on the beach, even with the windy weather. The dogs loved it. I loved it. I considered making an offer on a number of beach front properties. The thought of never seeing winter again warmed my heart, but was fleeting when I realized the mortgages would likely triple or quadruple our current mortgage. Besides, Leta loves her cousins and grandparents. We’d be fools to take her away from them (and the free babysitting). I returned to the hotel, savoring every bit of sunshine I’ve seen on this trip.

Heather started to look up around 6pm. We ordered room service because the thought of wrangling the dogs and a sick Leta to a dog-friendly restaurant sounded about as fun as having a limb severed. I hoped that Heather would get some food in her and start to feel better. We were due to head home on Saturday and the local media was talking about the storm of the century bearing down on California.

When the food arrived, Heather took one look at it and fell over. Leta did pretty much the same thing. I had dinner, but was wasted. We fall asleep at 8pm, Leta in bed with us. We were all that sick.

Day Six – Saturday
I woke at 12:30am to Heather running into the bathroom. I fall asleep and re-awaken at 3:45am to Heather talking on the phone. Room service brought her a clear sports beverage, which she is able to keep down, but Heather told me that she was delirious. I called the hotel doctor and he said that she needed immediate medical attention. We headed to the local hospital and checked in to their ER. Two liters and a shot of Demerol and anti-nausea meds later and we headed back to the hotel after a stop at the pharmacy where I picked up anti-nausea suppositories. Which Heather told me wouldn’t do anything but make her sleepy. Heather at this point is still very sick and didn’t want to move. I made a command decision to head home, hoping that getting a little closer to home will help everybody feel better.

I loaded up after letting Heather sleep for a couple of hours and we headed out of California as fast as I dared drive. At this point all I could do is think about getting us home. Anyone who has read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas might take note that I felt exactly the way Dr. Gonzo feels at the end. Like I barely made it out alive. The hotel bill was staggering.

We got to Mesquite and everybody promptly went to bed. It wasn’t cold enough for a full coat when I took the dogs out for their last business trip of the night. We were alive.

Day Seven – Sunday
We all felt a little better and Heather managed to keep down some free continental breakfast. She was still shaky, but she rode up front with me for the duration.

Of note on this day is our gas stop in Beaver, Utah. It’s a self service station, but an older guy approaches and asks what octane I want. When I roll down the window to respond, I’m hit with a blast of freezing air and blowing snow. We are a long way from the beach. I tipped the nice man for pumping my gas.

We made it home with little fanfare and without incident, despite driving through snow most of the trip.

Epilogue
It has taken over a week to recover from this trip. We tried to hit the ground running last Monday, but couldn’t sustain the energy and promptly spent the next several days in bed.

Heather has asked that we never speak of this trip again and I have no idea if she’ll write about it. She’s still in bed as I finish this post. I don’t know how she’s managed to post anything given how sick she’s been. I’ve never seen her this bad.

Lessons? Sure. Don’t get a puppy in winter. Don’t travel with said puppy, even though you want to expose puppy to new experiences and dogs and people, puppy will pee everywhere (but not in the car!) and drive you insane. Child did great and despite a couple of hour-long tantrums in the car, was a great traveler despite the illness and malaise of her care givers. Distraction is key.

I keep thinking that the universe is trying to tell us something. We took this trip knowing that it wouldn’t be like other trips without kids and pets. We knew this. We knew that we’d be lucky to get out much or see much, even if we were healthy. We knew that the trip would be challenging. We just didn’t think it would be the ass kick that it was. Families the world over take trips together, including their children and pets in the experience. Who ends up in a hospital? Who ends up with everybody sick? Who ends up fleeing, felon-like and hunched over, driving above the speed limit to escape chaos?

If I wrote this up into a treatment and tried to sell it, no one would buy it. I’M NOT BUYING IT, EITHER AND I LIVED IT.

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