So here it is; in all the gritty details you haven't heard. It's the blog I've been avoiding...
We started planning our trip at the beginning of the year. While it's nice that we've had many people come to visit us since moving to Texas we know that not everyone can and those that can can't often. We also felt that the boys were old enough now to enjoy and learn and really absorb and remember so it would be the perfect opportunity to take a road trip and see the sights. We wanted to see something truly "Texas" as well as any other natural and man made experiences we could along the way. People. We also wanted to see as many people as we could. So we planned to go to the Alamo, the Carlsbad Caverns, the Grand Canyon, and San Francisco. A tourist destination in every state. We figured out average hotel costs, budgeted for the $2 difference in gas between Texas and California, etc etc... I planned to work extra to cover the costs (for those that don't know; we follow Dave Ramsey's money principals. We have no debt other than our house, we don't own credit cards, we budget every dollar.).
We packed. We got the car thoroughly checked and new tires. We found someone to watch our house/pets. We had all the details figured out. The boys were counting the days to Legoland; a special trip from and with both sets of Ca grandparents.
Day 1: We drive to San Antonio; it's hot and the Alamo is less than exciting for them but Sr enjoyed reading all the history and the boys enjoyed the cannon displays. We stayed at a really cheap hotel for the night and ordered pizza from a local place that was disgusting and took over an hour to arrive. It was truly one of the grossest things ever. We then read the yelp reviews.... lesson learned: Read the yelp reviews first!
Day 2: A 7hr drive ahead. We take our time. We don't leave super early. We plan to get to our destination by dinner time which would still leave time for us to swim or see the bats at the caverns, etc... We take a stop in Pecos, Tx for some BK and playtime. We have under 2 hours to go.... about an hour in to our "home stretch of the day" the car starts to sputter. I ask Sr if that was the car or the road. He says the car...it starts to slow on its own. He can't keep it above 50. He sees a "historical marker" turnout and decides to pull over. We call AAA. The call center can't find our location. We use our "smart phone" to give the exact address (who knew the freeway had address numbers!!). We wait for that call/txt saying your tow is on the way... it never comes. After numerous calls where I'm told someone will call me back with a time (I called them every 15mins for over an hour) we finally were escalated to a supervisor when our original call center person gets our latest call and is appalled that we have no further information. We've been on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere Texas in 100 degree weather.... So far everyone has peed and we even had a desert poop! The boys are playing with their new hot wheels but becoming bored. We are trying to save the battery life for everything so the movie player is off... Our cell and internet connection is spotty. We are all hot and bored. Finally, after a plethora of calls and a very angry voice we are told that a tow truck is being dispactched from Sheffield, Tx and will arrive in 3hrs. It's the closest tow truck that can safely carry 5 passengers. The tow will cost extra since we've asked to be taken to our already reserved hotel room which is in New Mexico and we are stuck minutes from the state line. We even tried to call different tow truck companies ourselves to no avail. We wait. and wait. and wait. The sun starts to set and thunderstorm clouds are rolling in. I spray the kids in bug spray and they get out of the car and explore. We are a good distance from the freeway and there's a large puddle of water so ants and the like are out. Sr shows them how to "skip rocks on a puddle". They throw rocks in to the puddle more than skip but they had fun searching for the perfect flat rock for daddy. It gets dark. There's thunder and lightning. Everyone gets back in the car. Boredom sets in. We finally turn on a movie. Everyone is hungry. We have chips and goldfish and water...At the 2 1/2 hr mark I call for an update via AAA... no one has one. At the 3hr mark I call again. They give an ETA that has already passed... lovely. We wait. Every time a vehicle approaches we turn on the brights; it's dark and we are trying to ensure the tow doesn't drive by... He does. I honk obsessively. He's able to turn around. We get out of the car and loaded in to the truck. He gets the car on board and we are off. He's the nicest guy ever! He talks to the kids about kid shows and activities (he has 3 small kids of his own). It was practically midnight by the time we got to the hotel. Everything was closed (though we were staying 7miles from the caverns and there wasn't much to be open but I'll get to that). We eat more chips and pass out from exhaustion.
Day 3: The hotel does breakfast. We go down to the lobby. It's cereal, muffins, milk and OJ. No one cares because we didn't really have dinner and anything is better than chips. It's Sunday. No mechanics are open so nothing we can do with the car situation. We discover that there's a general store, a cafe, the hotel and a gas station with no liquor store or attendant. That's it. There's literally nothing else within walking distance. NOTHING. We check out the general store which has tons and tons of souvenirs but hardly any snacks of substance or desire. We swim at the hotel pool. We are the only ones in the pool; probably because everyone else went to the caverns or in to town. Our car was the only one in the parking lot. Sr took the opportunity to work on learning to swim without floaties. We dry off and walk to the cafe for lunch. The menu has a lot of variety so we will be ok eating here again for dinner and probably the next day while the car is fixed. Then we enjoy the rest of the day at the hotel's "water park". They have a huge splash pad with a boat and 2 large water slides. The boys are in heaven! Sr and I had fun, too. We grab some food options from the general store (frozen mac n cheese, etc...) and end the day.
Day 4: We should have been checking out and heading to AZ but we booked an extra day because we knew we wouldn't get the car back by checkout. We wake up early and call AAA for a tow truck. It's 7am. The tow truck will arrive by 9:35... I call to find out why it's going to take so long and they have no explanation. I call a tow truck company on my own and he says he'll be there in 40mins or less... and he is. Sr goes with him to town to a mechanic. After sitting there all morning Sr is home around noon with the car. The mechanic couldn't find anything wrong. It wasn't sputtering. It gained speed. No sensors or lights indicating a problem. I ask Sr to get something for lunch as the cafe (remember it's the only food place) is closed for the day due to a death in the family. He grabs sandwiches from subway on his way back from Carlsbad. The car ran fine on his way in... We decide to drive the 7miles to the caves. It's why we are there after all. We start the slight twist and turn inclines that mountain roads provide and about mile marker 5 the car starts sputtering. Sr can't gain speed to get up the inclines... we Uturn and he drops us off at the hotel and cautiously drives to town. The check engine light finally turns on. Not enough oxygen to spark the fuel. The mechanic spends the next 3-4hrs checking everything. At 5:30 he says it's the fuel pump and he needs to call around for the part. At 5:50 he gives the devastating news: he can only find the part in Memphis, TN. It will be shipped tomorrow and arrive Wed morning.... Sr calls enterprise; the only car rental place in town and they come pick him up as advertised. He makes the call to rent a car and we drive to Ca and leave it there. I can rent a car to come back in a few weeks for my car after we finish our trip. It's going to be costly but at least we will finish our trip....UNTIL enterprise says we can't rent a car because we don't have a "major credit card"... Yuri steps outside to call me and let me know what's going on at 6:02pm. I ask him to let me talk to the manager. He can't...the person helping him locked the doors. He's locked out. He's stranded. Literally. This is the point where I lost it. After being stuck in a hotel room with no where to go, nothing to do, kids bouncing off the walls, no real food and no way of getting food for dinner (remember the restaurant is closed and we've picked through the general store already). I break down into uncontrollable tears. The boys are giving me their stuffed animals and asking if I'm ok and I can't stop crying. I call my mom and I cry more.... With nothing else to do I get the boys dressed and we head to the pool. I have no idea what Sr is doing, where he is, nothing... An hour passes and he comes back to the hotel with the car. He walked back to the mechanic and the mechanic talked him through how to drive the car with the dying fuel pump. He went to WalMart and got chicken nuggets and frozen meals. He survived and I'm so proud of how he manned up while I fell apart (it was definitely not my finest hour!!!). The boys and I finished playing in the pool and went upstairs had something to eat and went to bed.
Day 5: We should have been leaving AZ for Ca. Obviously, we were still stuck in NM. We went in to town (a 20+ min drive) to enterprise where I got very heated with the manager that left my husband stranded. I called enterprise and went up the chain of command to no avail. I didn't want to continue driving my car and possibly cause further damage to other parts but I also didn't want to sit in the hotel bored out of our minds... Nina had called enterprise and arranged a car rental but they wouldn't honor it since she wasn't present, the card wasn't present, etc.... They told her we could use our debit card but we couldn't .... It was a mess. We worked a little magic which I won't divulge on the internet, sorry) but we were able to rent a minivan for the day. The mechanic told us the job would only take a few hours and the part would be in Wed AM so we figured at least with the rental we could head up to the caves and do what we came to do... and we did. We all enjoyed the caves. They were awesome. The caverns also had a nice cafe so we had somewhere to eat! We went back to town and saw "Minions" and had dinner. We then went at dusk and watched the hundreds of thousands of bats leave the caves to hunt! It was incredible. I'm so glad we were able to do what we intended while in NM.
Day 6: We head in to town mid morning after checking out of our hotel. We plan to drive the12hrs straight to San Diego as we had planned to go to Legoland and had a hotel booked already. We call to check on the car. The part didn't come in... the secretary tracked it and it should arrive by 11am TOMORROW!!!!!! This is when Sr lost it. We sat in a gas station McDonald's that had a playground and mulled over all the different options and costs. We are spent; mentally, physically, emotionally, monetarily. After hours at McDonald's we decide that we are going to end our road trip. We've spent double our planned budget. We are exhausted in every way possible. Continuing will further the stresses and drain our savings more... We just can't. We tell the boys we're going home tomorrow... They are very sad. We are sad. We find a new hotel to stay at in town. It has an indoor pool. Sr is pretty sure it's the same place he stayed with his family as a kid when they went on their cross country trip. We swim for awhile and then we go to the only real restaurant we have seen in days... Chile's.
Day 7: Thursday.... we check out of the hotel and reload the rental car. Luckily, the Days Inn had a hot breakfast so we all stuffed ourselves on eggs and pancakes. We call the mechanic. The delivery truck is being unloaded. Yes, the part is on it. It will be fixed in a few hours. We drive around trying to find touristy things to do... We find a park. We play. It's hot!!! I see some colorful things in the distance and ask Sr to investigate. We drive around until we find them. Lifeguard umbrellas. People are swimming in the Pecos River under lifeguard supervision. We decide to let the kids swim. The nice thing about being minivan drivers was we could fold down the middle row and had plenty of room to change everyone in the car! The boys swam for an hour and then a thunderstorm rolled in and the lifeguards got everyone out of the water due to thunder/lightning. The car should be ready soon as it was 3pm so we headed to the mechanic. Across the street, an excavator was demolishing a building. The boys sat at watched it for 30mins. The car was ready. We drove to enterprise; moved the car seats, the luggage, etc back to our car and returned the rental. We went to the bathroom, grabbed some snacks and hit the road. It was late. We had a 10hr drive to get home not including stops. Jr cried about having to sleep in the car... Around midnight we made it to San Antonio. The kids were asleep. We stopped at In N Out (I mean we were so looking forward to it so at least we got it?!)...I drove the rest of the way home.
And here we are... We've spent this week at home going to the pool, hanging out and doing projects around the house... It's been nice having the 5 of us have time just us as we don't get that often since Sr works so much and 1 day off a week is when I worked and the kids were in preschool.... once he goes back to work we will only have 2 more days like that before Jr starts Kindergarten. While we don't have the money to go do anything super exciting (we ended up spending twice our alloted budget in that 1 week and we had a month's worth of vacation still to go...) it's nice to just be. We still have moments where we realize what we were supposed to be doing and who we miss but there's reasons to all of this... we just have to find them.
Know that it was the hardest decision we had to make to come home and that we are still so saddened to not see everyone. Sr will be out in May for Gabe's wedding but otherwise we don't have any plans to visit as we need to recoop our loses before saving for a trip... We love all of you very much.