Saturday, July 7, 2012

California Dreaming Road Trip - Day 1 & Day 2, The Kindness of Strangers

I guess I should really start this post about a week before the trip because that's when all the organizing and staging for the trip take place.  Actually most of my road trips start a full year in advance as I begin to research locations and homes to rent.  This vacation we decided to fly out to California and then rent a vehicle. 5 tickets can be costly so I used Priceline.  I was pleased to get each ticket for $218.00 roundtrip flying out of Milwaukee and into San Francisco.  I was able to get the road trip vehicle for the week through my travel points on my credit card.  I went looking for houses on my two favorite websites, and and found the perfect location on vacation rental by owners.  I begin what I call staging for our road trip the week before.  Travelling with children is always complicated but travelling with a child with medical needs is a little more complicated.  If you forget underwear or a sweatshirt it is easy enough to go to Walmart and buy more but when you forget an inhaler, pulse ox or injectable supplement...not so easy to find a replacement.  I usually find an area in each room where I can begin staging things I use with Sam day to day.  Then I have one area in the kitchen that I designate the health emergency area where I always keep anything that we use in a respiratory emergency for Sam which includes a copy of his Children's Hospital pulmonary report that explains Sam's pulmonary issues, his nebulizer, medications and inhalers.  We rarely run into respiratory issues in the summer with Sam unless they are related to illness, extreme heat or ozone so the nebulizer won't be needed but an inhaler form of his medications is always carried with us.

I was zipping along in my staging and pulled out all the suitcases and travel bags on Thursday since we were flying out on Friday.  As I bent to open the suitcases I suddenly had a very sharp pain in my left side.  I panicked that I had just thrown out my back since it had seized up at the same time.  The pain was intense enough to send me to my hands and knees on the floor.  As I'm trying to assess what is happening my mind is reeling "please let this not be my back".  I have two ruptured discs in my lower back and when my back goes out it can be days before I am moving again.  When I was able to stand up I began walking and pressing on the muscles in my back to release them...something learned after dealing with back issues since my 20's.  The muscles released and I realized this wasn't a back issue but something else.  My sister had just gone through a kidney stone issue and considering the area of the pain and the contracting on my left side I thought that might be a possibility.  I began to drink water and walk hoping this was going to help it work it's way out.  I woke up Danielle and made her aware that I was having an issue and I may need her help.  Danielle immediately asked if it was my back and I told her "No, this pain is different".  She said "Good" and then said "You know what I mean". I agreed with her that a back issue would probably end our travel plans. I decided to have it checked out so I knew what I was dealing with.  So the day before the big trip when I should be packing I'm in the ER getting an IV, CT scan and pain meds. Yeah, not how I expected the trip to start but the stone passed and there didn't seem to be any more in the track.  Now I just had to pack while my left side continued to hurt but not contract and my back felt like it wanted to seize up at any moment.

Pain was not going to keep me from having a great road trip, annoy me, but not stop me. We loaded up the van, picked everyone up and headed to the airport.  It felt great to get checked in and get rid of all the suitcases but we still needed to get through security and to our gate. I had called Delta in advance to get an idea of how they would handle security with Sam since he has hardware in his hip and thigh and what I could check in at the gate regarding his wheelchair and walker.  As we approached security I took a deep breath, said a little prayer and put on my happy/calm face to reassure Sam this was going to be a breeze. Removing Sam's shoes and taking his Ipad away even temporarily is never a happy moment. We got to security and they asked about his ability to stand or walk.  I showed them his medical information and they wanted to see if he could stand in the scanning tube with his hands over his head.  I went through the scan first to show Sam and then coaxed him into the tube.  Sam does not like to stand unassisted so he didn't remain still enough for the scan.  They then let him get back into his wheelchair and asked us to come into the security area. The head of security was very kind, talked to Sam and explained that they would do a wheelchair pat down, no touching of Sam but thoroughly checking out his equipment. After 911 I am more than willing to cooperate with whatever security measures are needed and I assured the head of security that we would comply with any request. He thanked me for my understanding and I thanked him for keeping us safe.

During our check in and security process there was a very distinguished young man who was casually watching our progression to get to our gate.  He had a cane and used a wheelchair to get to his gate. He happened to be on the same flight.  As Sam and I waited to pre-board in order to give Sam enough time to get into the plane and get situated this young man approached me and asked me about the hardware Sam had in his hip. I explained to him that Sam has Perthes and he had hip surgery and now has hardware in his thigh and hip. He told me that he also had hardware in his thigh from a motorcycle accident. He then told me that Sam "touched his heart" and that "he was the man". I smiled and told him that Sam is a really great guy and he is really looking forward to our vacation in California. We then got called to board and as the attendant was helping wheel Sam to the plane the young man tapped me on the shoulder and said "Here, this is for the little man and I hope I am not offending you by giving you this. I would give him more if I had it."...and he handed me $20.00.  I said "Thank You" but I was at a loss for words...didn't expect this random act of kindness.  When we got on board I realized he was seated ahead of us.  I pulled out our trip notebook and wrote a Thank You and had Sam sign, Love Sam.  I also gave him our blog address in case he was interested in following Sam's journey.

And if you are checking out the blog...I want you to know that your gesture was kind, compassionate and touched my heart too!!! You have reassured my belief in the kindness of strangers!

Our flight to Minneapolis was a little over an hour and then we boarded our flight to San Francisco which was going to be 3 1/2 hours.  Before we left I had loaded a few of Sam's favorite movies on the Ipad so I knew he would enjoy watching them.  I packed his gluten free snacks and a pack of nitrate free turkey sticks.  Along with the promise of a little diet soda...Sam was the perfect traveler.  I was hoping he would fall asleep on the way to California so I could take a nap too but he didn't fall asleep until we began to descend into San Francisco.  I knew waking him up at 11:50 p.m. and having him walk off the plane may be an issue so I waited until everyone else was off and then I woke him and told him we needed to get off.  Just as I thought he yelled at me and told me "NO, go to sleep".  I told him he could sleep when we got the car and drove to the house. He reluctantly got up and I assured the stewardess that I could get him off it would just take a little talking through. She smiled and said "I'll leave it up to you". Sam yelled and hit at the seats as if they were the problem but I knew he was tired and his hip was sore and stiff and I just calmly continued to encourage him off the plane and let him know his wheelchair was waiting for him.  When he saw his wheelchair he gave the stewardess a high five said "Thank You" and happily jumped into his wheelchair and we were off. We picked up our luggage found the car place and jumped into our SUV to begin the adventure to our house.  After finally getting our GPS to wake up it told us that we would arrive at our destination at 3:30 a.m.  Dave decided to drive and as we exited the parking garage he repeated over and over "I am a good driver", and we hoped he was reassuring us and not talking himself into it.  Thankfully there was little traffic, one of the perks for travelling at night. We had heard the road to our house was a little curvy....yeah it was curvy alright and at 3:30 a.m. it was a white knuckle experience for Dave. His favorite expression to me was "How do you find these places in the middle of no where??". It's just something I'm good at!!

The kids fell asleep shortly after we left the airport and didn't wake up until about 15 minutes before we got to the house. Our house had a gate and when the pass code we entered opened the gate we knew we were at the right place. The driveway continued to curve and go up and the headlights didn't really give us a true idea of what the house or surrounding area looked like.  As we came to the garage the girls saw an abandoned scary plow truck and then this is what greeted us.

The girls gave me that funny "What have you gotten us into now?" look. Um yeah...I've seen that look before on road trips, (remember I took them on an island with no running water and power for a week)...I'm used to it. I personally found it peaceful and reassuring (at least that's what I told them)...they found it strange to find a tiled, framed religious picture on the outside of the garage. I assured them the place was going to be great.  They put their seat belts back on and were ready for escape mode if needed....silly girls. I located the key and began to open the first door which is when the girls saw a mouse run across the floor...okey dokey, strike 2.  Again I reassured them everything will be fine, we are in the country and critters come with the territory in most cases.  I was really hoping that when I turned on the lights things would improve and the girls would change their first opinions.  Thankfully as we turned on the lights and they began to explore they were pleased with as much as they could see. I knew that when we woke up in the morning the views and outdoor living space would take away any doubts they would have. The girls found their perfect spot in the apartment next to the main house which included a small and kind of scary room full of movies, sort of a secret closet or room between the two bedrooms. The apartment also had a full bathroom and the main part of the house had a master bedroom and bath, another full bath, a sitting room, mud room (know as Melvin's room), kitchen, front room and storage area. Sam quickly settled into the upstairs bed and drifted off to sleep. Honestly crawling into that bed after a long day of travel was like slipping into a cloud. I immediately noticed the beautiful linens, comfortable bed, warmer and wonderfully soft pillows. I slept like a baby...well a baby that got slapped in the face a few times as Sam turned over and was awaken as he talked in his sleep and then there was that awkward moment when you wake up and find your child's face 2 inches from yours breathing lovely morning breath which was enhanced by no teeth brushing for 24 hours. Yep...that was special!!

I woke up and decided to check out the place in the daylight and I was very happy with the beautiful outdoor living space, spectacular views, pool and hot tub.  This was going to be a great place to stay!! Here is everyone enjoying the pool and lounge area.

At night I knew we would enjoy the fire pit area off the side of the pool. I could picture me eating smores right there!

This picture is taken by the pool looking up at the house. It had wonderful outdoor living spaces with a sitting and breakfast area on the first deck, and yes that tree goes right up through the deck, kinda cool! There is a large family style table on the second deck, the hot tub and sitting area on the third deck and the pool and fire pit on the bottom deck area. To see more pictures of the inside of this beautiful property go to this link.

On the first day Sam struggled with negotiating the different levels.  We tried the walker but he figured out that a modified bear crawl would work for him the best and he happily joined us on each of the levels.

The girls could no longer complain, they were loving the pool.

And the views around us were amazing.  We were on 20 private acres of foothill property.  Yeah it was a curvy, white knuckled drive but so worth it now that we were settled in.

 The area around the pool was calm and beautiful with colorful flower beds.  We had wonderful lounge chairs, music, a pool and privacy which was a good thing since Sam tended to change into his swimsuit or clothes at the pool.  We all decided it was kinda cruel to make him bear crawl up and down the different levels just to change.  That would be how all the talk of Sam joining a nudist colony began, which just caused us all to imagine and laugh more.

Sam had his pool...and he was happy!!! He floated and he was named the pool bully because if you chose to float he was happy to come and push you off.

All the yelling at the seats in the airplane and tiredness seemed to disappear as Sam enjoyed his vacation!

Sam dove and dove and dove to his hearts content!! I brought along a bunch of different dive toys and Sam was thrilled to find them all.  Swimming and especially diving under is a great activity to stretch out his hip.

With his goggles on....Sam could swim all day.

He didn't seem to mind that the pool was not heated. It was a refreshing dip!

And Sam spent most of his time underwater!

We went grocery shopping and was surprised when our bill came up over $400.00.  Again, the kindness of strangers took over.  The gentleman who was ringing up our bill asked us if we had a Safeway card and I said "No" and he said "No problem we'll get you one started".  After he applied the Safeway card which he knew we would probably only use a couple of times our bill was closer to $200.00.  He didn't need to do that after all we were just tourists but he did and we appreciated it.  I made our infamous road trip pasta salad and Uncle Dave made some fantastic steak tacos for dinner.  Sam and I went to bed early because we were tired from all the fresh air and still catching up on the missed sleep from the day before.  Dave, Danielle and Brooke stayed up to watch TV but Brooke soon found herself alone as the two of them fell asleep. The mouse made another appearance and was promptly named "Melvin the mouse" and the girls came to appreciate his space in this world.  All in all our first day in California was peaceful and relaxing. Stayed tuned for Day 3 & 4, Monterey and the unfortunate parrot episode and Pismo Beach!

1 comment:

  1. I finally got a chance to read catch up a bit...