Saturday, July 12, 2008

Jurassic Building Code Violations

Today was going to be the real test of whether or not this whole “drive across America” was a good vacation idea. We had a 5 ½ hour drive, and during this we’d get to see how the children reacted to being cooped up in the car for that long.

Of course, if they went berserk we still had about 600 hours of driving ahead of us until we got to our destination, so the only difference would be that we’d know just how screwed we really were.

In order to get them tired out before we left, we went swimming one last time in the really boss hotel pool. The best part about swimming at 8 in the morning on a weekday is that most people have respectable jobs, so we had it all to ourselves. The only part that kind of creeped out Wifey is that the bay windows of the pool are in front of the restaurant, so everybody coming and going for breakfast saw us cavorting in the pool.

Despite this we managed to have a rip-roaring good time. In the tradition of great swimming pool pranks, I “accidentally” pulled Wifey’s one-piece suit down around her waist. That was a really good larf, until she figured out how to throw the Toypedo through the water just right and hit me in the nuts.

Thankfully the girl is a strong enough swimmer to fish me out of the water.

Anyhow, we started on our long odyssey to reach the last stop where I had to do a little work. And by “little” I mean “just enough to qualify putting the hotel on an expense account.” But I’d come up with a coup d’etat: a stop at Dinosaur National Monument. My kids, like all normal children, love dinosaurs.

(If you have a child between the ages of 2 and 10 that does not love dinosaurs, I regret to inform you that they are potentially a serial killer or lawyer. You’d really be doing the world a favor having them institutionalized.)

So we set off on the way, happy as could be. If you know the area, you are aware that the road waves up and down mountains as it goes from an elevation of 6000 feet to 8500 feet, and that there are several stretches where there are 10 to 12 switchbacks going almost vertically.

It was in just one of these places that Wifey gasped in horror and said “that truck is on fire!”

“Cool!” I began scanning the mirror for it. “Get the camera and I’ll slow down so you can take a picture of it!”

“Daddy, that truck is smoking!” Yelled the girl.

I still didn’t see it. “Where, honey?”

“RAM IT!” Yelled the boy. This is the moment I realized that perhaps the truck might be in front of us.

“We’re going to die!” yelled Wifey.

“Our father, who art in heaven…” began the girl.

“RAM IT!” the boy repeated.

I looked up to see a fireball with a bumper hurtling towards me. Now is the time in most blogs where the writer will tell you some sort of lie, like he swerved to narrowly avoid a crash, or that he jumped over to the truck and saved thousands of lives by applying a manual break.

I soiled myself.

Not just a little bit, either. It was like being on Antelope Island all over again. And I didn’t hardly dodge or anything, I just kept driving towards flaming doom like a lemming.

Fortunately, I’ve always been lucky, and before it crashed into us the truck swerved past and came to a stop. I’d have pulled over and helped, but quite frankly, I didn’t realize we’d survived until another ten minutes had passed. I had my eyes closed.

“You want to steer any time soon?” Wifey grunted at me.

“After I change my pants.”

The rest of the drive went pretty smoothly, until we’d gotten to Dinosaur National Monument.

If you’ve never been, let me tell you what’s there: several loop drives that are so boring that cars habitually careen into the river when the driver falls asleep, and the coolest visitor center in the entire National Parks Service. It’s full of dinosaur skeletons and replica models and fascinating exhibits about what has been found in the area.

I’d been hyping it to my children for months.

When we got to the visitor center, there was a handwritten sign on it that said: “Klosinged for re-pair.”

There was a much larger red-and-black sign that read CONDEMNED.

Turns out the visitor center has been closed for two-and-a-half years because it’s so dilapidated that there’s a good chance a girder will fall down and kill you before you get halfway to the T-Rex skeleton.

But don’t worry, there’s a temporary visitor center set up with several dinosaur-themed exhibits on folding tables, like a Barney video and several working Dino-Bots from the Transformers of the mid-80’s.

Let me tell you, my children were not pleased with me when we got back into the car. Combine that with the near-death experience and so far we were not having a good day.

It would not improve.

For lunch the children insisted on Burger King, where the toy in the kid’s meal is Pokemon cards. These things are like crack for the 5-12 set, and my children can’t get enough of them. So we stopped and had Burger King to try to win back some of their love.

The ironic part is that none of us like the food there.

Several hours later, as we cruised along, the boy let us know he had to go potty. As you can imagine, out in BFE between two tiny towns there isn’t a lot in the way of roadside service, but I burned rubber and made it to a rest stop within five minutes.

“Come on, let’s go!” I yelled as I opened the door.

“Too late,” he said. “I already went.”

Sure enough, he was soaked. It was a nightmare. “What were you thinking?” I asked him.

“I was thinking about the truck that almost killed us,” he said. “Just like you were.”

What could I say to that?

Finally, we made it to our destination, and discovered that everyone in town had decided to stay at the same Holiday Inn as us. Okay, no problems: a ten-minute wait in line is nothing for people who have experienced grocery shopping in Europe.

I’ve stayed at this hotel before, and I swear in the past it didn’t have a swimming pool the size of a postage stamp. Yet either my memory is faulty, or they cemented in part of the pool and made it smaller.

I’m gonna guess it’s the second.

For dinner we treated ourselves to Outback Steak House, with the children accusing us of not loving them since we didn’t go to Burger King again. Forget the war on drugs; there needs to be a war on Pokemon.

So today was really more unsuccessful than anything else. And Wifey is particularly upset about all the urine-soaked clothing.

Tomorrow: Somebody needs a hug.

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