Newspaper Headlines from Here to There: Journal Entry of the Whitaker’s Journey. Join Their Pacific Coast Road Trip.
A journaled entry of the Whitaker’s first day on their Pacific Coast Road Trip gives us a peek into their day. Let’s join them as they start out with “7 suitcases, 4 backpacks, 1 roll-away, 1 over-stuffed-mom-travel purse, and 1 dog carrier/ with dog + four kiddos.” as they roll out of bed and roll onto the highway taking them to their plane ride West. Count the hours they stay awake and try not to let your eyelids droop with fatigue as their family finds and flounders its way west. It is Rebecca’s first time to be traveling with their family dog, but not the first time to travel solo with the kids. Her husband (a.k.a The Hunni) joins them at the end of the day–although they almost don’t connect in San Francisco. The rental car dilemma require some phone yelling, and the streets of San Francisco give the Whitaker family a roller coaster ride–not only physically, but emotionally. Now don’t hit that snooze button on your alarm, it is 3:00 a.m. IN THE MORNING and there is a family to mobilize.
November 15, 2016, Tuesday
3:30 a.m. in the morning Eastern Time: My alarm went off.
3:40 a.m. I got up. I had to. There was no one else to prod me out of bed, or get the kiddos up, or get the last of the hand luggage in the van,
or make coffee, or lock up the house, or remember to turn up the A.C. and turn off the computer. It was a day, I had been looking forward to, planned for, and now it was here–FAMILY TRIP ON THE PACIFIC COAST!!
3:42 a.m. I found one of Little Man’s Converse tennis shoes. One. Had I packed the other one? I decided to take it along.
3:45 a.m. Kiddos are up and moving.
4:03 a.m. The Hunni calls, but I am under the hood of the 15 passenger van we now own, trying to connect the battery as The Bus tends to go dead and needs a cardio shock to raise it from the dead. We travel with a car defibrillator, but it is easier to just unhook the battery every time we stop.
4:04 a.m. The Hunni calls again. I know he is worried that I am not up, but I am still under the hood of The Bus trying to get the battery connected.
4:12 a.m. I call The Hunni as I am heading out. He tells me that the home phone is off the hook. Well . . . .it is going to be off the hook for 18 days as we are PACIFIC COAST BOUND!
4:25 a.m. My Dad calls. We are picking him up to have him drop us off at the airport. I told him we were still 15 minutes away.
4:41 a.m. I pick up my Dad on the side of the road, where he kindly waited to save us five more minutes. Thanks Dad
5:00 a.m. Arrive at the West Palm Beach airport and do curbside check-in. I am balancing trying to get 7 suitcases, 4 backpacks, 1 roll-away, 1 travel purse, and 1 dog carrier + four kiddos and one dog accounted for. My Dad had a cash tip for the baggage handler. I had totally forgotten to tip him. Thanks again Dad. This was our first time traveling with Banjo our Shih-tzu, and learned we had to check in again indoors with the dog carrier.
5:03 a.m. Banjo (who is totally not happy about being in his dog carrier) gets dropped. His dog carrier falls off the roll-away he is being carried on top of. HE IS NOT HAPPY.
5:10 a.m. Check in Banjo at the ticket counter.
5:23 a.m. We arrive at Security. Now my Hunni is a pilot, so I totally get the whole security thing, but traveling with 4 kiddos + 1 dog, 4 backpacks, 1 travel purse, 1 roll-away, and 1 dog carrier WEARING KNEE-HIGH BOOTS is quite a production. And Eloise had packed scissors, so her backpack got hand-checked. The scissors were small enough so they were allowed on the plane. The good news is Banjo didn’t bolt when he was taken out of his carrier as I walked him through the metal detector. And with a little shoving we got him back into his carrier without zipping his fur in the zipper.
5:35 a.m. We have arrived at our gate, but I smell coffee, so I keep the kiddos in line while I grab a coffee.
5:37 a.m. Record time! I am holding my coffee! We did it. We got up. We got in The Bus. We got to the airport. We got our luggage checked. We got through Security. We got to our gate on time. I GOT COFFEE! Thanks LORD! It is going to be a looooooong day as we won’t arrive in San Francisco until 2:30 p.m. Pacific Time (or 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time). That means by the time we land, we will have been awake 15 1/2 hours, and by the time we pick up The Hunni (7:00 p.m.), we will have been awake 20 hours. And by the time we reach our Host Family, we probably will have been awake 22+ hours. “Oh LORD,” I prayed, “help me to stay patient with the kiddos and not ruin their vacation because I “lose it.”
6:00 a.m. The plane pulls out on time. We got seats all together on the next-to-last row. Banjo is O.K. He tried to get out once when I unzipped his carrier to pet him, but he settled down. No water for him yet. No food either. I am worried he will mess on the plane. I probably will give him water in Atlanta, and food in Milwaukee. I don’t know what to do about dogs going potty in an airport.
7:00 a.m. The sun has risen. I brought muffins and settled in with my coffee. It was too early for Southwest peanuts. Little Man is settling down with his stuffed animal “Buddy” and his blanket. I’m glad I made him take his quilt in his backpack.
7:02 a.m. Time to Copy the Cannon. Last year I started a Facebook page where we try to write out about 4 Bible verses each day
7:45 a.m. We arrive in Atlanta. We don’t get off the plane, but stretch our legs by “moving about the cabin.”
8:30 a.m. We are on our way again. Everyone stayed awake the first flight, but I can feel the “sleepies” coming on.
9:45 a.m. Central Time (10:45 Florida time): Land in Milwaukee. I didn’t get any sleep. It feels like winter here as all the people are in dark coats and dark boots. One lady is wearing a bright yellow floral, wool coat. She looks like a spring daffodil in the middle of gray November concrete sidewalks.
10:15 a.m. Central Time (11:15 Florida Time): We decide to release Banjo in The Family bathroom, and see if he will pee on a pad. He kind-of does and he drinks some water. The kiddos play with him quietly out of his dog carrier in the corner of the airport behind some chairs. Thankfully, he doesn’t run away or bark.
10:30 a.m. Central Time (11:30 Florida time) I thought muffins would be a great breakfast, but the store bought muffins I brought along are just too sweet for such an early morning. They are a bit crumbly as well, so we ended up throwing them away after a few bites of each. Homemade would be much better.
I am worried and a bit nervous and uptight about traveling solo with 7 suitcases, 4 backpacks, 1 overstuffed mom bag, one wheeled carry-on, one doggie in a bag and 4 kiddos. I am going to have to rent a car from Hertz (with complications) and then do a solo tour of San Francisco before picking up The Hunni at 7:00 back at the airport. The Hertz thing has me worried. As we are renting on Hertz points, we have a free rental, however, we want to pick up the car in San Fran and return it in Seattle. Hertz told us that we could ONLY rent a car for a one-way rental. The problem is that 7 suitcases (plus The Hunni’s), 4 kiddos, 4 backpacks, , 2 adults, 1 overstuffed mom bag, 1 roll-away, and 1 doggie in a bag won’t fit in one car. So we rented 2 cars. The 2 car rental was almost a deal breaker for The Hunni. He did not want to spend Family Time in two cars. He almost called off our Pacific Coast Road Trip. I convinced him to keep the Pacific Coast Road Trip, but now I had to convince Hertz to rent us a mini-van. I prayed for calm. I prayed Hertz would rent us one mini-van on points instead of two cars. And I worried that before the day was over, I would lose my patience, and the kiddos would suffer because of it.
Somewhere along the line I remembered to change my clock to Central Time, and we boarded our flight to San Francisco and I fell asleep.
3:10 p.m. Pacific Coast time (6:10 Florida time): We did it! We got a one way rental from Hertz. It wasn’t easy. I had to talk to the lady at the desk who said she couldn’t do it, so she called someone in Scheduling, whom I spoke with, who transferred me to someone in Hertz Points whom I spoke with, who transferred me to her manager, who granted me a “points one-way rental with a paid upgrade.” Then I got the “upgrade” price. OUCH! I called The Hunni. He couldn’t hear me very well, but he yelled, “Do it!” I hope he knows what he just agreed to pay. Then the nice lady at the counter asked me if I wanted insurance. Now, I am pretty sure, that if we put the bill on our Visa card, we automatically get insurance. But “pretty sure” is not 100% sure, so I called The Hunni again. Now he really couldn’t hear me (this is a phenomenon that seems to happen to us on vacations) and the conversation went like this. . .
Me: Do we need to purchase insurance, or is it covered by Visa if we put it on the card?
Hunni: mphfl muflle tee. What?
Me: INSURANCE. Do we need insurance, Yes or No?
Hunni: No, mphle tee hump.
Me: “NO” AS WE DON’T NEED INSURANCE?
Hunni: Yes, muffph ly hurraph.
Me: YES WE DON’T NEED INSURANCE OR NO WE DON’T NEED INSURANCE OR YES WE NEED INSURANCE.
Hunni: Yes, I mean NO. Just muphly mphuh tallee.
Me: INSURANCE, YES OR NO?
Me: I THINK YOU SAID “NO”. I AM NOT GETTING INSURANCE. NO INSURANCE. NO! NO! NO! NO INSURANCE!
And then I hung up, and I still am hoping that I understood him correctly. We found our “mini-van” in the car lot and discovered that we had a beautiful red Tahoe SUV!!!! Clement and I started to load the 7 suitcases, 4 kiddos, 4 backpacks, , 1 adult, 1 overstuffed mom bag, 1 roll-away, and 1 doggie in a bag (plus trying to leave some room for The Hunni’s roll-away and computer bag). It got tense as we disagreed on the best packing strategy, and I got snippy. Clement backed off and did it my way. I could feel the lack of sleep and frayed nerves coming into play, and I had to apologize to Clement once we got the Tahoe loaded.
As we headed out of the Hertz car lot, my seat buzzed and vibrated. Weird! I asked the guy at the check-out gate what it was. He said that every time I got too close to another car or white line, the seat would buzz.
WE WERE OFF! Our Pacific Road Trip had begun! We had about four hours to explore San Francisco in a red Tahoe filled with 7 suitcases, 4 kiddos, 4 backpacks, 1 adult, 1 overstuffed mom bag, 1 roll-away, and 1 doggie no longer in a bag. OFF WE WENT!
First stop. . .Lombard Street–that curvy street. It is crazy and crazy fun to drive in San Francisco in a new red Tahoe with my seat vibrating and trolleys coming and my GPS talking.
It is hard to describe just how steep the streets are!
These photos give you an idea of the steepness of the streets.
Fisherman’s Wharf was our second stop. We piled out of the car and the cold hit us, but we were so excited to be on our road trip that we were all smiles. It was about 4:00ish (7:00 Florida time) and we hadn’t eaten more than peanuts and muffins since early that morning. So. . .
We stopped at a little shack on the pier and ordered up Clam Chowder in a bread boules.
Then inhaled it. The “restaurant” allowed us to hide our Banjo under the table where we feed him left-over clam chowder.
With our stomachs filled and our blood sugar levels back up to normal, we explored the pier.
It was crabbing season, and the boats with their catch were coming in.
The news channel was there recording a segment (we saw some of this segment being recorded.) We dodged out of the way and yanked on Banjo’s leash to keep him from eating live crabs in pots and pieces of crabs on the ground.
I wanted to drive closer to The Golden Gate Bridge, but we were getting cold, the tiredness was beginning to set in, and so we just viewed the lit up bridge from Fisherman’s Wharf.
As we got back into our red Tahoe, I noticed that we were behind the Boudin Bread Company.
I talked Scout, Eloise, and Little Man into coming in and taking a look around, but Clement was just exhausted and warmed himself up in the car–with Banjo.
Things were going well. Tired, but happy, we climbed back into our warm Tahoe. It was just after
6:00 p.m. Pacific Time (9:00 Florida time) We had all been awake about 19 hours when we started the drive back to the San Francisco airport to pick up The Daddi. I had allowed an hour due to traffic. We were on schedule as we started the crazy drive back to the San Francisco airport in a new red Tahoe with my seat vibrating and trolleys coming and my GPS talking and Little Man asking questions. It was crazy and no longer fun. When I get really tired, colors brighten to almost unbearable, regular noises seem super loud, my eyes dry out, my patience level plummets, and my decision making slows down. I could feel all these symptoms coming on as we headed back in rainy, stop-and-go traffic.
We pulled out and started to retrace our route. My GPS was on, but a little slow, so that meant I had to look down at it to anticipate upcoming turns or I would miss them completely. Looking down in stop-and-go traffic is never a good idea, but my only option. I missed a turn and suddenly found myself headed toward the San Francisco Bay-Oakland Bridge bridge heading across the bay! “NO!!” I knew that if I couldn’t get off the bridge it would take me an hour to get across and then another hour to get back, so I stopped on the freeway when I saw one last exit about 500 feet away. Stopping on the freeway is never a good idea. I was in the far left lane and slowly crept over lane by lane, stopping on each lane. People honked. People yelled, but I made the last exit before a two hour delay. My nerves were very raw by now, and I had to find my way around an industrial section with my GPS on delay.
WHEW! We got back on freeway 101 heading south again. As we approached the San Francisco airport The Hunni texted, “Terminal 2, Gate 4. See ya.” Our Host Family also texted (paraphrased), “Our son has pink eye and a double ear infection; we still want to see you and are game to go to Napa Valley, but he is contagious and we don’t want to infect you. What would you like to do?” Now I was not going to let pink eye keep me from seeing a friend I hadn’t seen in 18+ years, but I was driving in San Francisco traffic and couldn’t text her. I was worried that a delay in a text would make Jackie think that we were unsure about being around her son. I didn’t want her to think we were worried about it. We’ve done sick kids many-o-times. Thankfully, The Hunni responded and said as much. Still the seat buzzing and the phone buzzing and the traffic stopping after driving 65 m.p.h. and the rain falling and 20 hours of being awake and a delayed GPS were fraying that rope that kept me linked to sanity.
I pulled into Terminal 2, Gate 4 with one little tiny thread of rope that was keeping me up. Now I could hand over that load called, “Solo Care of the Family” to The Hunni. I had made it. We got here. We looked for The Daddi, but did not see him. Then Cop #1 started yelling at me. I’m used to the routine having picked up my Hunni at the airport many times. It always takes a moment to see him, and then we are home free. Still no Hunni, and now Cop #1 started flashing his light into my car and yelling more. My blood pressure was going up. “Where IS HE?”, I thought as my scan of the crowd intensified. My phone was buzzing as texts here flying between our Host Family and The Hunni in a group chat. Now Cop #1 called over Cop #2. Both Cop #1 (still flashing his light into my eyes) and Cop #2 were yelling. I scanned again. Then Cop #2 started writing a ticket. He yelled, “I’m starting to write the ticket and it is 150 dollars.” I scanned again. I saw Cop #2 start to tear off the ticket when I pulled forward. My seat buzzed. My phone buzzed. My head buzzed.
I pulled forward just enough to keep from being handed the ticket and scanned again. “WHERE IS HE?” I frantically thought! Cop 3# now approached me and threatened a ticket. I started to cry. She was kind enough to tell me to take the turn around and approach the terminal again.
I pulled out, and yelled at Scout, “Text Daddi”. She grabbed the phone and in her haste, unplugged it from the charger. My phone was dead, and immediately shut off. Now I need 6% battery to power up, and since my phone was completely dead we couldn’t power up. I was now without a GPS and without the ability to contact The Hunni to tell him what was going on. During those franic momets of trying to reconnect the phone to the charger while driving, I missed the U-turn that would have lead me back to the terminal and sanity.
That last little line that was holding me up snappped. I was crying. Lost. The rain was falling. I was exhausted and lost and had to figure out what to do while cars were zooming by me.
I took the first exit and did several U-turns and crossed one bridge 3 times. I saw the lights of the traffic signal cameras go off three times as I made illegal U-turns. I kept crying and tried to think. I ended up in a hotel parking lot. An industrial parking lot. Drivers honked at me and the rain continued.
Scout got the phone re-connected and charging, but we still didn’t have the 6% battery power we needed. I worried that The Hunni was worried. I worried that I would wreck the rental car. I worried that we might not have insurance. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to ever get back to the airport without GPS. And I worried that I would rear-end someone as visibility was poor with a layer of tears on my eyes and a layer of raindrops on the windshield. Scout took over and started to direct me. “Mom, we’ve been on this bridge three times now, we need to get off. Exit left. You can move over a lane. And etc. . .” She had a vague sense of where we needed to go, and slowly we made our way through parking lots and exits and side streets and highways back to the terminal.
Forty-five stressful minutes later we were pulling into the terminal again. We had enough power to text The Daddi. “Oh, please, oh please, oh please, oh please be there!” I prayed/cried. We pulled in right beside Cop #1 and Cop#2 and there was The Hunni (he had been one level above me at Terminal 2, Gate 4.) I didn’t care if we got a $150 ticket, I was NOT moving again. I had been awake about 20+ hours now, and crumpled into The Hunni’s arms as he took over the load of “Care of the Family.” I couldn’t stop crying and my stomach was a mess, but now I could just fall apart and The Family would still be okay.
“Hunni,” I said, “I can’t possibly be social. I don’t know how I am going to make it visiting with an old friend. I think I am just going to fall apart right here. I don’t want to ruin this moment that has been 18+ years in coming.” The Hunni just listened, and then the kiddos started telling him about their day. I just sat in the passenger seat crying and ever so slowly, I realized that we had made it. Mistakes and all, we had made it. I hadn’t yelled at the kiddos and ruined their first day of vacation. I had fallen apart, but we still had made it. I just closed my eyes for a bit and listened to the sounds of my family. “Thanks, LORD. Thanks SO much.” I sighed exhausted. “And one more thing LORD. I just need a little more energy to finish this day. Just 6% battery to power up again.”
We arrived around 9:00ish, and “somehow” the hour drive to Rob and Jackie’s house had revived me. When we walked in, I knew that even if I did fall apart on Jackie it would be okay.
We visited until midnight, and then crawled into a VERY COZY bed. The blankets were warm (I had been cold since landing in San Fran), The Hunni was warm, and the welcome from Rob and Jackie had been warm.
Tomorrow we needed to pull out by 8:00 a.m., which meant a 6:30 alarm, but I didn’t care. We were here. Together. Surrounded by the love of family and Rob and Jackie.
24 hours ago, we had started on this Pacific Coast Road Trip. 24 crazy hours.