Kelsie (5), Lani (7), Josh (2 and a half), and me at Disneyland in November 1989
While putting together a scrapbook of a vacation we took when the kids were little, I came across one of my favorite vacation stories. It’s too good not to share!
Back in our early days of home schooling, ARCO asked Joe to go to Long Beach, California on business. Lani was 7 at the time, Kelsie was 5, and Josh was 2 ½. We decided it would be great fun, and educational, too, to make it into a 3-week family road trip. We would first drive to Arizona to visit Joe’s parents, who were doing volunteer work that winter on the Papago Indian Reservation. We’d take about a week getting there, stopping at points of interest along the way. Once on the reservation, we’d spend a week or so exploring the sights and culture of the area. Next, we would drive to California, visiting Sea World and Disneyland, before settling into the Sheraton Hotel in Long Beach for the business leg of the trip. Finally, we would enjoy the sights as we drove up the coast toward home.
We drove thousands of miles in a beat-up old Suburban stocked with cardboard boxes full of toys and workbooks to keep the kids occupied and learning. We also had an ice chest filled with milk and juice so we could eat cold cereal breakfasts in our Motel 6’s each morning, as well as other food items we’d need for putting picnic lunches together along the way. We had a box of dishes and non-perishable food items, too.
We’d taken the advice of Joe’s parents and packed our clothes in paper bags, each labeled with a specific day of the week. That way, as we entered a new motel room each night, all we had to bring in was one sack of clothes for the family and a shared bag of toiletries. This worked really well, until the night we got to Long Beach, ready for the business, ARCO-sponsored part of our trip, that is...
We pulled up at the luxurious Long Beach Sheraton Hotel around 8:30 PM. By that point in our trip, our car was covered with 2 ½ weeks of road dirt. We were exhausted and grimy from a long day at Disneyland, and the kids were all sleeping.
We were greeted at the car by a tuxedo-clad bellhop named Jimmy, who was pushing a luggage cart. Up until this point in our trip, we hadn’t realized that the way we’d packed would be a problem. But when Joe opened the back of the car and started unloading cardboard boxes, paper bags, and cloth bags instead of suitcases, poor Jimmy just didn’t know quite what to do. He struggled until he finally found a way to balance them all on his cart. Then, he quietly pulled me aside and told me about an inexpensive restaurant down the block where we could go for breakfast. And…he shared with me that we didn’t really have to stay in a $125 room...there were $70 rooms available!
Thoroughly embarrassed, Joe refused to get the ice chest out of the car. (We’d get it later if we needed it…) He led us into the lobby to get us checked in. The girls were awake by this time, but Kelsie had wet her pants. And Josh was still sound asleep. Carrying Josh in my arms while also juggling Jessie Bear (his over-sized teddy bear), the kids’ cups, and the treats the bellhop had given the kids, I tried to keep Kelsie from sitting on any of the hotel furniture. (Assuming we’d be in our room soon, and unwilling to set Josh down alone in the lobby of a strange hotel in a strange city to find a restroom, I elected to wait to get Kelsie into dry pants.)
The car had started having mechanical problems toward the beginning of our trip, but Joe and his dad had supposedly fixed it while we were in Arizona. However, while Joe was in the process of checking into the hotel, he was interrupted by the valet. The guy had tried to park our car but couldn’t get it started. Joe had to leave the front desk to help several hotel employees, in their tuxes, push our grime-covered Suburban out of the way to make room for a limo that was arriving.
Meanwhile, Lani and Kelsie had discovered the escalators. For two little girls from the town of Bellingham, this was an exciting find. They rode them up and down, up and down while I watched, still holding a sleeping 2 ½-year old, who was getting heavier by the minute. But, at least Kelsie was on her feet, and the furniture in the hotel lobby was safe.
It was at least another twenty minutes before the Suburban was tucked away in the bowels of the hotel somewhere and we were checked into our plush hotel room, with Kelsie in dry pajamas and Josh (who never woke up) tucked snugly in bed. But the ordeal was finally over!
Or was it?
After all, we had pass Jimmy every day whenever we walked into or out of the hotel!