Flying anywhere was too expensive, so I opted to drive. To save on gas and mileage on my car, I rented a little economy car. And boy was it "economical!" Each door had to be locked by hand and the windows also rolled down by hand. The kids were baffled the first time I asked them to roll the window down manually. I really regretted not having cruise control somewhere around Wendover.
I chose to go to the Bay Area in California (near S.F) to visit my emotional life preserver (my sis, Bek) and her family, who I adore. The Bay Area is a hard place for me to be because it holds so many memories, but it is one of those things I am not willing to give up and avoid forever. I lived out there for two summers before J and I started dating and we both lived out there the summer before we got married. It was also there that we officially got engaged and took our engagement photos. While J was at basic training after our first year of marriage, I spent another six months living out there (with Bek) and a few summers after that, we moved there again together with our little Junior while J managed a sales team. I knew the drive would be hard both kid-wise and emotionally but I wasn't really as prepared as I thought I would be. We have made that drive so many times together that random memories I didn't even know I had kept popping out. This was where we got pulled over that time, that was the hotel we stayed at our first time driving out there. This is the McDonald's where we would always stop and let Junior stretch his legs, that was the stretch of road where we had that one conversation about the Donner party and the ethical dilemma of eating another human if you were starving, etc. etc. etc. I wore my sunglasses and got teary quite a bit and counted on the kids being too absorbed in their portable DVD players to notice. They were. We stayed at Circus Circus in Reno the first night, which was probably a bad idea given that it was somewhere we stayed often on our back and forths as well as it being harder to navigate on my own with three kids. But it was cheap and I was cocky about my own abilities and wanted to save a little money. Plus, the boys had been so good with Sis the last hour of the trip between the endless rounds of "you are my sunshine", peekaboo and taking turns shoving chocolate in her mouth to keep her quiet that I thought they deserved to have some fun playing games on the kid's Midway. It turns out that I'm an idiot and I have been properly taken down a peg and I will never do that again. Here is why, enjoy:
-We arrive fueled by chocolate and adrenaline at the check in. The nice valet guy suggests I can "leave the little ones in the car while I go check in." I recall that this is Reno and assume that he is part of some kid stealing/selling ring and opt to take them in with me. (What can I say, I am paranoid when it comes to their safety!) I unbuckle all three kids, who are covered in banana and cheeto dust and haul them inside. We check in to find they have lost our reservation and take fifteen minutes to find it while my kids swing on the line ropes and Sis grabs everything she can reach on the desk. I am too weary to protest. That should teach them to lose my reservation again!
-We get back in the car and head over to the parking garage in a separate building. We park and Junior announces that he has to go to the bathroom immediately. I inquire whether it is #1 or #2 and he assures me he only has to pee. I consider rushing all three kids in to find our room and a bathroom or leave and go to a gas station. Junior's urgency determines that he is instructed to go in front of the car while I picture getting busted like Seinfeld (anyone??).
-15 minutes later, I have pulled what we need for the night out of various bags in the trunk. Junior has one rolling suitcase, I have the other and am pushing Sis in the stroller. High, cold winds are whistling through the parking garage and we rush from our parking spot at the far side of the garage to the elevators. I reach for the key in my pocket to double check our room number and find it is missing. I haul all three kids back up to the car to find it on the ground next to my door. We go back to the elevators. We are on level three and our room is on floor six. I hit six, which takes us not to the hotel but to level six of the parking garage. I can't see any other elevators or any visible way to get to the tower where our room is located and inadvertently teach the kids a new bad word.
- I finally figure out that we need to go to the bottom level and walk through a maze of slot machines to a set of stairs. I ask a passing housekeeper if I am going the right direction. She points up the stairs. No elevator? I carry all the bags up the steps and then the stroller with the baby in it to get to a new set of elevators which do take us to the sixth floor. We arrive in our room, change bums and clothes and head back out to play the "fun games."
- Getting to the "fun games" requires a shuttle ride to the next building. We wait in the shuttle area. After a few minutes, a boy sticks his head in and tells me that the shuttles are not working. I go look for another option. Ten minutes later I am back having learned that the kid was messing with me. Consider finding him and beating him to death, but opt to get on the shuttle instead.
- We arrive at the Midway and the sunken game area is only visibly accessible by stairs and escalator. I carry Sis down in her stroller rather than look for a service elevator and attempt to find an ATM. There is no ATM on that floor and I have to carry Sis back up the stairs to look for one. I find one and also find that it is broken. We wander into the casino area where I ask for directions to a working one. The man points across the room, but tells me my kids cannot accompany me to it. He points to a spot on the floor behind the pillar the ATM is located next to and tells me they may stand there. I cannot see them there. I protest that this is unreasonable and he smiles sympathetically. I am pretty sure he is in league with the valet and wants to steal/sell my kids. He tells me that I need to leave them with my parents or my husband, or whoever I am with (just me, buddy...) We finally compromise on him waiting with them, mostly in my line of sight, while I withdraw money.
- ATM requires an $8.99 transaction fee. At this point I have no choice but to pay it even though I admit it made me choke a little. My kids have been freakishly patient so far, but I don't want to push it. Without thinking, I push the credit card withdrawal option rather than the PIN/Debit option. Instead of cash, I am printed out a receipt. Casino man informs me that for that option, I need to take the receipt down to the main casino and trade it in at the cashiers. My children learn two new cuss words...
- I happen to find an elevator and hit the button for what I think is the main floor. The doors open on what is clearly the basement laundry room. The next button up is our floor. At the cashier's desk, the girl reflects that the ATM's should state that the credit option will require this step as she finger prints me and makes me sign things. I may have signed away my first born. I have no idea because I was too busy biting my tongue. Fifteen minutes later, she hands me my twenty. We head up to the kids section and blow it in about ten minutes, but we are one stuffed tree frog, one stuffed pond frog and one stuffed cow richer. We head back to the room (past the restaurant we ate in when we brought Junior there as an 18 month old - ouch!)
- Baths, jammies and kids in bed by the restful hour of 11:00 p.m. I hide out in the bathroom and let myself be overwhelmed by the events of the evening and the stress of the day's travel with three kids on my own. Britny gets the brunt of that particular break down. It has been awhile since I called her in tears. It is my first stay in a hotel without J since we were married and it is noticeable and cold and lonely and all my insecurities came out to play that night. I reflected how much of the drama of the evening would have been cut down to mere annoyances if there had been a second set of hands (and legs) to run and scout things out or wait with kids. I have not yet learned to love being single, but it was the kind of night where I feel free and justified in hating it. I fall go to bed alternately missing J and mentally cussing him out for putting me in a situation where I have to do things like this alone. It was good to finally get to sleep but we all woke up way too early to Sis shouting "maamaa" at me from her crib at the foot of my bed. Being so stinking cute works in her favor far more than she knows. It has to be said that she and the boys were great travellers. Bathroom breaks were hard to navigate, but they all kept each other good company in the back seat.
We packed up and made it back to the car with a lot less trouble than when we arrived. As I pulled out of my spot, I notice that Junior was mistaken the night before. The bathroom emergency in the parking garage had resulted in both a #1 and a #2 and this is evident as I pull away from our spot. Even Seinfeld didn't go that far... I ask Junior about it and he defensively says "You told me to." He is clearly embarrassed and I play it off for him. Maybe Circus Circus deserves it for putting so many stairs and escalators in their building instead of elevators. They can consider that our protest.
Day two of travelling was a lot less eventful, and a lot less long! We stopped in the Sacramento area to visit my sister in law and her family and see their new house. The boys loved seeing cousins and being out of the car and understandably did not want to leave.
After that, it was only a skip and a jump to Aunt Bek's house by the bay.....I have never been so glad to arrive somewhere!