One of our family vacations that we were able to plan ahead and actually take was to California. I say that, because many times we planned vacations and because of being self employed the business would get shoved in front of family. For that I’m regretful but being in business afforded us opportunities that perhaps we wouldn’t have had otherwise.
The year was 1986 I think. It started out in Los Angeles doing some of the same stuff most people do when they go there. A tour of Universal Studios and other Hollywood stuff, then we went to see the RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach as well as the Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes’ mammoth plane made from plywood.
When we first headed out I was having severe back and leg pain. I had just had surgery not long before for a ruptured disk in my neck, so it seemed that the craziness of my childhood was catching up with me.
We had a rented minivan, so here we were, all seven of us jam packed into it running around Southern California. We then headed out to Hesperia, Ca. to see my Aunt Maxine and Uncle Gene for a couple of days. They showed us around that area. I kept eating pain pills and making the most of the vacation.
Next on the agenda was to go back to LA, spend the night and board a train to travel along the coastline up to San Francisco. There we had a motorhome reserved and planned to do the SF tourist stuff before heading over to Yosemite for a few days, then flying back home.
On a Sunday afternoon, trying to make our way to a hotel close to the LA Train Station from Hesperia, we had a blowout on the minivan. In typical California Highway Patrol fashion an officer was there within minutes to be sure we were safe. I was able to get far enough off the road onto the media to be safe but the officer remained with us. We called to get the rental company to come change the tire. (I’m sorry to say I looked in the manual and couldn’t find the spare tire or jack). Besides we were paying good money and I wanted service and my leg hurt.
He inquired as to where we were from. I said Texas, proudly. When he ask where we were headed, for some stupid reason, instead of saying the train station, I said LAX. I’m not sure why I said that other than I thought he might magically escort us to the airport. I think it was the pain pills talking. Perhaps , I reasoned that as nice and helpful as he was, maybe he would load us all seven up, along with all our suit cases in his patrol car and drive us completely across LA so we wouldn’t miss our flight. I know it was the pills talking because it was very rational thinking on my part.
The cop then looked at me and said something I don’t think I’ll ever forgot. “Only an idiot Texan would come to California and decide to drive all the way across Los Angeles on a Sunday evening when you could have just taken a flight out of this airport right here”, pointing to the Ontario Airport – to which we were sitting directly in front of.
My lie was already out and it wasn’t like I wanted to recant and start over admitting we were actually going to the train station and not the airport. So I blurted out “that’s what I get for leaving all the travel arraignments up to my wife”. Then I realized Madeline was sitting there with her window open listening to the whole conversation from start to finish. I could tell she wasn’t happy. When she finally got me out of earshot of the policeman she started in on me: “why did you tell him……………..” It was unexplainable by me.
The cop, knowing that he had me on the ropes, in very California sarcastic style he decided to toss one insult after another my way. I couldn’t say anything for fear that I’d just dig myself in deeper.
That’s when I took to keeping my distance from him. When he’d head to my side of the car, I’d ease the other way. If I was in the front, and he’d head that way, I’d head to the back, as if trying to find something I had lost.
Luckily the guy the rental company sent out showed up about the same time as a relief cop showed up. It was shift change time. I was happy to see the insulter go on his merry way.
It was during that time waiting and dodging the cop that I made a promise to myself. I would never ever tell another lie, no matter how harmless it my seem.
With the tire changed we continued on to our hotel, where I dropped Madeline and the boys and then I took the car on to LAX for a drop off. (See I hadn’t actually lied after all). I knew there wouldn’t be time the next morning. Finally getting back by taxi, it was time to fall in bed.
We boarded the train the next morning early. It was probably the prettiest sites I could have ever imagined as we made the train trip north along the coastline. I’m not sure I ever even look out all day. My leg hurt that bad.
When we made it to San Francisco late that day, we talked about the need to pull the plug on the motorhome trip to Yosemite, instead just renting another minivan and settling for staying in the San Francisco area for the duration.
We checked into our rooms (we always had to get 2 rooms) and went to sleep. The next morning I told Madeline I would just stay behind and try to get my leg feeling better. The wheels were churning in my head.
They stayed out all day long seeing San Francisco. By the time they returned to the hotel to read my note, I was already back in Texas and stretched out on my own bed in Dripping Springs.
She wasn’t very happy with me. But I knew if I told her what my plan was she would insist on the whole family cutting things short and heading home. I didn’t think that was fair and she was very capable of handling things without me.
They finished the trip by staying a few more days and brought home many good memories.
For some reason, almost 35 years later, she still bristles if the subject of that trip comes up.