Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Quest for Slurpees

The kids didn’t wake up once the night before.  We actually had to put them in the car the next day while they were still sleeping.  Amy and I on the other hand were up early.  Maybe it was our proximity to the shore; the light of day cruelly illuminated the tent long before the sun actually offered any warmth. 
“Turn off the light!” Amy said sleepily.  She must have thought we were still in a hotel.
“There’s no light, babe.  That’s the sun.”
(Incredulously)  “Really?  It’s still soooooo cold.”

It was.  But the dog had to pee.  I had forgotten how often little puppies have to pee.  Amy always says the trick to potty training them is to just take them out constantly.  Just finished playing?  Time to pee.  Finished eating?  Time to pee.  Finished drinking water?  Time to pee.  Finished peeing?  Time to poop.  It is a labor intensive but effective approach.  Our Great Dane was house trained with only one indoor accident his whole life and 8 Ball has thus far had only a handful of problems which I attribute mostly to us moving around so much.  Abigail had no interest in going potty that early.  I ended up carrying her out to the car with the kids.

As I stooped bleary eyed through the narrow opening in the front of the teepee I found a thin layer of frost covering the deck, picnic table, and car.  Though the sun was still hidden far behind the mountains to the east of us its cold light already filled the campground nearly as much as it did in midafternoon the day before.  By the time I finished loading the Pilot my fingers were numb, but the kids, dogs, and Amy were toasty warm inside the car.

Our first stop was MacKerricher State Park where we saw some intimidating waves batter the shoreline.  The sand was scooped out and pushed backward because of the power of the waves and the undertow.  There were a number of signs attesting to the dangers of swimming in northern California coastal waters, but the five foot high waves of white foam were enough to convince me. 
Glass Beach was actually on the other side of the State Park so we drove through town and had breakfast at Denny’s on the way.  I’ve already mentioned how much all the kids liked IHOP so I was curious how Denny’s would go over.  I learned that as long as there is plentiful breakfast meat Sullivan will be happy.  My wife already captured this short exchange in a Facebook post but I feel compelled to preserve it here as well:
Amy: Sullivan, do you want any pancakes with your bacon and eggs?
Sully: No thanks.
Amy: Do you want any sides with it?
Sully: No, just sausages.
Sullivan actually thinks you should be able to get a side of sausages anywhere.  Even Taco Bell.

Glass Beach was about two blocks from the Denny’s.  We parked and walked down to the beach on a dirt trail.  From a distance the shore looks like gravel but when you get up close you can see the tiny pieces of glass mixed in with the coarse sand like hidden gems.  Every piece was worn smooth and round by the waves, like colorful pebbles.  You could walk over the beach just as comfortably as if it was sand.  Ava collected all the different colors she could find and even found a piece of petrified wood.  Then she collected a few pieces for her siblings as well.  The large amounts of green and amber colored glass reminded me of the glass used for beer bottles leading me and Amy to speculate about how the beach came to be.  I checked Wikipedia later and found out the abundance of glass is the result of people dumping trash in Fort Bragg just north of the beach years ago.  All of the other refuse broke down or was cleaned up after the dump was closed.  Everything but the pieces of glass. 

Sullivan wanted to climb up on some of the rocks.  He really enjoys climbing things.  Juniper, on the other hand, is more into jumping off of things.  I climbed up one of the larger, flatter rocks with Sullivan, showing him the tiny holes salt water and animals had created in the enormous rock.  I watched the waves pound distant rocks and began to wonder about the white thing at the base of the biggest rock.  After watching long enough to see it move I realized it was a seal.

Even though it was pretty far off each of the kids was very excited to see it.  I was proud of them that they realized how special it is to see an animal like that in the wild.  We walked back up to the car and after much pleading from Juniper, Amy and I agreed to undertake a search that proved to be epic…The quest for Slurpees.

Amy has many fond memories of drinking Coke and Cherry flavored Slurpees mixed together.  They were a significant part of her childhood as well as mine.  What kid wouldn’t like the smooth, velvety ice so sweet and thick that the red straw they give you has to have a spoon on the end?  And the bubble shaped lids seemed to be designed by someone who understood how cool it was to be able to fill your cup past overflowing with this delicious substance.  I’m not sure when Juniper had previously encountered one of these but somehow she decided it was her life mission to get one today, so, being a supportive family unit we all decided to do whatever we could to help.

Both Amy and I recalled which convenience chain always carried Slurpees: 7-11.  The issue was finding one on our route.  We were still traveling through some pretty remote parts of the Pacific Coast Highway so the towns we passed through weren’t exactly teeming with chains.  After being denied at two different gas stations I spotted the machine with the little red and blue clad polar bear through a window and shouted so loudly that Amy almost crashed.  She pulled in to the oddly deserted gas station and we quickly realized why it was empty.

The place was closed.  The sign made me realize they were actually called Icees but Amy insisted there had to have been some kind of name change.  It didn’t matter.  All five of us had the same thing in mind and the failed effort only emboldened our future ones.

After many more miles we finally found a large gas station that had a Slurpee machine.  I filled up the tank while Amy took the kids inside to get one.  Even after all this time on the road I still get a little overwhelmed when it's me that has all 3 of them inside a gas station.  It’s like they’ve stumbled into Willie Wonka’s factory or something.  They are just absolutely giddy.  When I am able to remind myself not to hurry them it’s actually kind of enjoyable to watch them pick out a candy item, weighing the pros and cons of trying something new or sticking with an old favorite.

When they emerged from the gas station Sullivan and Juniper were carrying Icee/Slurpee cups.  Apparently the machine had actually run out of Slurpee halfway through dispensing.  The kids didn’t seem to be disappointed in the slightest.  I think for Juniper it was the principle of the thing.

We turned off the Pacific Coast Highway and made our way southeast toward the straighter, wider US 101.  We had no idea at the time but that remote, infrequently used road cut right through the heart of Mendocino County wine country.

Once we left the sound of the coast and the towering trees behind the land flattened out into vast rolling hills covered with acres and acres of grapes.
We visited three different wineries.  At the first one I took a nap in the car with the kids while Amy went inside.  She was encouraged that the dry reds were actually dry in this region instead of sickeningly sweet like the ones in much colder Ohio and PA.  At the second winery I waited outside too and watched an employee make adjustments to this enormous metal tub that I’m assuming had something to do with fermenting.  When Amy came out she introduced me to this old hippie she met inside that was touring the US with his aging Beagle and his 1964 VW Beetle.  The car was yellow and in fairly good condition.  It had a sticker on the side window that said Fukenbroken with the two dots over the U.

My wife really wants to have a bug someday so we talked about VWs and traveling and he expressed his kind hippie concern about us being San Francisco bound since, “Everyone is on meth in central California.”

At the third winery Juniper had to pee so we accompanied Amy inside.  They had a nice grassy area between the parking lot and the tasting room where Sullivan and Juniper played with the dogs and me while Ava learned about wine inside with her mom.  We drove past, no kidding, like 12 other wineries but Amy said she was satisfied with the bottle she had picked out at the second place.  We honestly didn’t have room in the car for a lot more than that anyway.

We drove on without stopping much from there and after crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge we were at our hotel in time for the girls to enjoy some swimming at the pool with their old dad while Sullivan and Mama and the furry friends relaxed in the room.  Sullivan loves to swim too but he tends to run out of energy at the end of the day whereas the girls would be willing to go swimming at 2 in the morning if they were awake and you offered.

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