Living in Alaska could be tough at times for our family, where making out-of-state vacation plans was concerned. We weren’t exactly rolling in dough and airfare back then and four seats was expensive. We always had a tight budget to adhere to.
One year, my wife spent countless hours searching for the best motel prices including car rental rates. Sometimes, there was no way of getting around the high cost of plane tickets, although if purchased well ahead of time, prices would be somewhat lower.
Our vacation plans generally entailed spending a week in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as another in Lake Havasu City. Both areas offered sunshine and warm H2O, two entities that we craved.
Joleen said it looked as if we wouldn’t be able to go. After putting up with 7 months of snow, ice, and depressing darkness, I didn’t want to hear such. Begging her to make a concentrated, last ditch effort to find the lowest possible rates on everything, she obliged.
Our accommodations were to be at a Motel 6 next to the Golfland – Sunsplash entertainment center in north Mesa on Hampton Road. The popular water and miniature golf attraction was within walking distance of our room. It was as close to being a Disney World to the kids as we could afford.
A local, economy-car rental firm was to provide us with ground transportation, while air travel was via Alaska Airlines with long stopovers in Seattle and Portland. It was the best Joleen could do and the kids were elated to be going. So was I.
We left Anchorage on a red eye flight, and after all the layovers, arrived at the Phoenix Airport about eight o’clock that night. By the time we picked up our car, found something to eat, and crashed, it was going on midnight. We’d basically been traveling 24 hours straight.
Somewhere around three in the morning there was an argument outside our motel room door. The handle was jiggled as if someone was trying to get in. A few minutes later, something heavy struck the wall making a loud thud. I dialed room service for help yet getting no answer. Thankfully, all racket eventually quieted down after multiple police vehicles left.
The next morning, we jumped in our car and drove to Denny’s for a meal. Joleen had coupons from a travel brochure for Grand Slam breakfast platters. That saved us a few bucks. She also had discount coupons for Waffle House near by. On the way back to the motel we discovered our vehicle A/C didn’t work. Making a phone call to the rental agency, I was told to bring it in and trade for another.
The kids spent the rest of that day at the water park, while Joleen and I hung around keeping tabs on them. There were undesirables lurking about and we wanted to make sure they stayed safe. Even with sunscreen, after a day of being exposed I was burnt to a crisp. Trying to sleep that night was torture. Early the next morning I drove to a pharmacy to purchase some pure aloe vera gel. A lady at the motel desk said that’d help ease the pain.
Pulling out of the pharmacy parking lot back onto the street I noticed a shimmy coming from the front of our vehicle. I chalked it up to a wheel weight falling off and nothing to worry about. We were planning on driving to Prescott the following day which was Sunday, and I’d keep a close eye on things.
Going to Prescott, there was no problem, yet on the return leg a front tire exploded with a bang. Even with heavy traffic I was able to glide off the highway without incident. It was near 100 degrees outside and changing things made me soaked to the bone. Having jeans and a long sleeve shirt on didn’t help.
Looking at the tire, I noticed it was bald in one area. The vibration was evidently caused by our automobile’s frontend being out of alignment. Hot asphalt had scrubbed tire rubber down to steel core. Cautiously limping our way back to Motel 6, we stopped first at the car rental and once again exchanged vehicles.
Come Monday morning, we decided to hang around the pool and chill. There was no one there and all was peaceful and quiet. Joleen and I sat in lounge chairs, with me having plenty of SPF 80 sunscreen on arms, legs, and face. It was as close to white grease as one could get.
Two men suddenly walked by the pool and politely nodded at us. We returned the gesture. They disappeared up a stairway to the upper rooms. Several minutes later, a fellow dressed only in tight skivvies came running down the stairs with the two guys in hot pursuit. One of them had a revolver in hand. The man being chased was much younger, and thankfully for his hide, was able to outdistance both pursuers.
Police quickly arrived and we were interviewed. Evidently it was a case of an unfaithful wife, and angry husband catching her in the act. This much was told to us by the motel groundskeeper. He indicated that it was quite common around there. That’s when I learned another piece of valuable information.
The motel employee was adding lots of chlorine to the swimming pool that day, lecturing us that Monday’s were the worst for water on having high levels of E coli and salmonella.
“Kids pee in here all weekend long!”
We packed up our bags and relocated to Holiday Inn Express across the interstate. Our room was somewhat higher in cost but safety came first. The rest of that trip, including our Lake Havasu City leg was finished without incident.
Should you ask my adult children about their most memorable vacation, undoubtedly they’ll bring up this one taking place 32 years ago. Miranda and Gunnar wanted to know once we returned home, if those two guys ever caught the guy wearing underwear.
“I believe he’s still running.”, I told them. “By now he should be in Jamaica.”