Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Trip That Didn't Go As Planned

Since school is out for Frankie and me (one of the best perks of teaching!) we decided to go to Corpus Christi, TX to the Gulf Coast beach. The oil spill didn't and hopefully won't come this way so we were good to go. Our plans were to look for books along the way on Tuesday, go to the beach on Wednesday, come home on Thursday.

On the drive up there we stopped at various thrift stores and libraries so Frankie could look for books to resale (his hobby and second job). He found some really good ones! I have been looking for math games or games I can make into math games at thrift stores for my classes. I have found 2 Battleship games and am looking for 8 more for a class set. I think they will be great for the middle schoolers to teach them the coordinate plane at least Quadrant I, the positive x's and y's for those of you not in the math world.

We made it to Corpus Christi, looked for more books, ate supper, and then finally went to our hotel around 7 PM or so. Here is where it started to go downhill.

The hotel itself cannot be blamed for many of our problems, but it was a one star and it was obvious that it was a one star. After being there awhile we went to the beach to walk around at night. Then we headed back to the hotel. We are in the room for awhile watching television when Frankie started to itch. We think he was allergic to the soap they use to wash the sheets. He stuck it out and we went to bed.

We have fallen into this trap where we can't sleep unless there is the constant noise of a fan. This is because in Texas it is HOT for 6 to 8 months out of the year so we always have fans running. We even run them in the winter when it is "cold" just for the noise. The hotel room was comfortable temperature wise but the A/C would run then shut off completely, repeating this cycle to keep the room at a certain temperature, just like it should. But when it shut off it was dead silent. There was no way to just keep the fan blowing like there are on some of those hotel A/C models. This didn't bother me as much as it did Frankie. Once I am asleep, I can usually stay asleep. He, on the other hand, was awake most of the night because of this.

Since this was a cheaper hotel many oil companies use it for their workers; their workers who have to be at work by 4 or 5 in the morning. Having to be there that early they tend to rise much earlier, say 3 AM. Like most people they turn on the television as part of their morning routine. The walls were thin, very thin. Neither one of us could sleep now.

Frankie tried to call the front desk to request that they call next door to ask them to turn down the television but no one was there. Yes, we could have gone over there ourselves, but since we had no idea who was next door we thought it best that someone "in charge" do it for us. That is the only thing the hotel could be griped at, why wasn't there someone on duty? You have a hotel full of people and no one in charge? That seems dangerous to me.

Since the television wasn't going off anytime soon and the A/C was going to continue to cut off, we looked for a white noise machine online and found a pretty good one. But our speakers on the laptop wouldn't go as loud as we needed. I left it on anyways. It helped me but by this time Frankie was itching really badly so it was no help to him. Finally, around 4 AM the workers turned off the television and left to go to work. We got a few hours sleep.

During his no sleep time, Frankie looked online and found another hotel for us to go to for the next night. He called them and told them what was going on and asked how early we could check in. They said 8 AM was fine. This was great news since normally check in is not until 2 or 3 PM. Frankie made me get up at 7 so I could get ready, eat breakfast and then check into the new hotel to get some real sleep.

We loaded the car and got in it, tried to start it and nothing. The car would not start. Seriously? We just sat there a moment trying to process this. It had been a bad night for me and really bad night for Frankie. He works pretty good on no sleep though, I found that out when we went to Rome and he got no sleep for about 28 hours straight. We went into the hotel office and asked if they knew of any tow services. She pulled out a phone book. Upon seeing that Frankie pulled out his iPhone and just started looking on it. He found one and they came and got us. They towed us to some random garage. We were completely at this tow person's mercy since we didn't know the area. He did tell us it was one they used often and had a good reputation.

The new hotel was about half of a mile up the road from the garage which was a total coincidence. The owner of the garage offered us a ride to the hotel. It was really nice of him. At the hotel we checked in and the lady asked if we would be joining them for breakfast. Frankie asked her how much it was and she said she had complimentary coupons we could have. These small things helped turn a bad night and early morning into a more bearable day.

After breakfast we crashed and slept until 3 PM. The garage called around noon and said they did a diagnostic on the starter and alternator and couldn't find anything. They would look again after lunch. When we woke up we called the garage and they still hadn't found the problem. They said they would have to wait to look until tomorrow because they were so busy. I can understand that, we just showed up and couldn't expect them to stop everything they were doing for others to help us just because we wanted them to! Even though we REALLY wanted them to.

Rental car it was. The hotel we were now staying at had a shuttle to the airport where the car rental places where. There were many things that fell into place despite our inconveniences. We both know God takes care of his children and felt his hand helping us out during all of this.

Our first, yes first, rental car was a PT Cruiser. It was all right, but not something we would buy for ourselves.

With our new found freedom we went exploring. We went to the beach (not quite what we wanted but we did squeeze it in on Wednesday), looked for more thrift stores, and ate supper. I didn't think it was possible but we were back in bed asleep no later than midnight. It was an exhausting day!

Thursday morning we called and they said they were still trying to figure out the problem. We had to check out of the hotel by noon and had the car until 5 PM, so we basically just drove around killing time. We were hoping that the car would be ready by around 5 PM so we could just drop of the rental and go home. It was not ready so we returned the PT Cruiser and got a Kia Soul.

We both really liked the Soul. We are thinking of trading in our Pontiac Vibe for one. The Vibe has over 80,000 miles on it and the wear and tear of that many miles is beginning to show. Obviously.

We stopped at MacDonald's and used their free wi-fi to find a hotel for the night. We actually ended up at the same hotel we had the night before so it was good. Once all of that was settled we took another cruise around the area going to Aransas Pass, Port Aransas, Rockport, and other small towns along the coast. Got some great pictures. You can see all of them here, but below are three of my favorites.

Palm in setting sun

Rockport Marina

Seagull footprints

There had been a bad storm the night before both at home and in Corpus. I managed to sleep through it, but I was worried about our animals back home. We asked a friend to check on them and they were fine. Also, we had not left out enough food for an extra day for the dogs so we asked this friend if he would buy a small bag of dog food and just throw it over the fence. Our dogs are not friendly to strangers so this was the only thing we could think of. He called when he got to the house and I could hear the dogs barking like they were ready to rip someone's head off but as soon as our friend threw the food it got silent. Silly dogs!

With that worry gone we finished out Thursday and no matter what we were going home Friday. If we had to rent a car for the weekend we would, then just make the three hour trip back on Monday. This was not what we wanted but at least we had that option. We tried to stay positive during all this and reminded ourselves that in the big scheme of things this was nothing. We knew we would survive.

Friday around 11 AM the garage called and said the car was fixed and ready! Hooray! They said there was some electrical short in the dashboard that was causing a fuse to blow every time the engine was turned on. Sure....whatever you say. We got our car back and drove to the airport to return the rental. Forgot to put gas in the tank before returning it, they said that was okay they could fill it up for a total of $35 which was $7 a gallon! We said we would be right back. Got that taken care of and started driving home, we were maybe 3 miles from the airport going 70 miles per hour when the engine just stopped. I was driving and thought the cruise control had somehow shut off. I pulled over and took the key out then tried to start it. Nothing. Again.

We had to take a few minutes to calm down the rage. Had to clear the red from our vision. Had to take some deep breaths. Frankie had to go kick a wildflower. He said he kicked it hard too!

Calmed down, Frankie called the garage back and told them what happened and they sent a tow truck out. Amazingly enough, it was the exact same guy from the first tow. We got the car to the garage and walked down the street to a restaurant to eat lunch. We sat there for about an hour. Just sat. It was nice. We then walked back to the garage, praying the car would be fixed. It was!

He said that the original problem was that some wire was being squished by the motor casing causing a short. The last time we had any work done that would require the motor casing to be taken off was a year ago. This was going to cause some problem to happen eventually and we were surprised it didn't happen sooner.

We drove home with no incidences and even stopped at a few more libraries and thrift stores on the way. So the trip was definitely not what we had planned and I wouldn't want to do it again that way, but we tried to keep things in perspective and remember all that we did have. That is what saves us every time from things becoming a complete disaster!

But I got to tell you, it is good to be home!