I have a hard time believing that you didn’t just read part one, but if you didn’t here it is.
After ice cream, we drove back to Phoenix. Just like the early settlers, we rolled up our windows to keep out the dust, we cranked up the AC to keep ourselves cool, and we stopped at every big name hotel on 44th street to see if we could find a room and a swimming pool.
We stopped at 5. I hopped out at the first two like Bo and Luke Duke squirting out of the General Lee in their barely buttoned shirts. (WHY was there never a Knight Rider/Dukes of Hazard crossover show where Kitt and General Lee combine forces to say no to drugs? “Say no to drugs, Michaaaaaaeeeeel.”) But as the concierges kept spitting in my face, my mood dipped somewhat. And Jill’s facepalm began resembling the face-hugger from Aliens.
At the last hotel, as I was wiping spit and little flecks of parsley from my eye, the concierge said “Try La Quinta over on Thomas. I think they have a room. A room for jerks!” A long cold stare. “Jerk.”
They did! Since they had the only room in town and it seemed everyone knew they had the only room in town, I expected to pay out the ass for it. But the rate was reasonable, the room was murder-free (or at least professionally cleaned by either The Wolf or Mike), and the pool contained water.
The only drawback was that the room had two full-size beds. Kinda tight for a family of five. But so goddamned what? We had a room for the next three nights that was walking distance from a pool in 90+ degree weather! I would have slept on a warm Arizona sidewalk after the winter we just had.
So we unpacked and unwound at the pool. The kids swam their stupid little asses off. We met a couple of grandmas from Jersey and the kids talked their ears off. I felt bad, but I think the ladies loved it. They never once ignored Ian’s stories or Elsa’s questions or Ben’s demands to see him swim. They taught Elsa how to float while giving me a fresh lesson in patience. It was a wonderful way to put the sun to bed.
While we were socializing, Jill made a trip to Target to get water wings for Ben. When she came back, she brought everything but water wings.
That low-key night, I ran out to get some Jack in the Box burgers because exotic fast food is healthy. Their special sauce is so special. Ian held out for his cheeseburger, but the other two crashed. We watched an awesome science/learnin’ show about how smart crows are compared to stupid dogs. But I’d still rather pet a dog.
I slept on one of the beds with Ian and Elsa next to me. I slept facing the air conditioning unit blowing full on my face. I fell asleep happy.
I woke up with a throbbing headache that I tried like hell to ignore because I think I’m half Shaolin monk and half Jedi Knight. Both of whom still needed to eat. So I took the kids down the hall to get some free breakfast. I was praying that the pancake machine wouldn’t be there. Between throbs in my head, I kept wishing:
let there be a waffle machine let there be a waffle machine let there be a waffle machine let there be a waffle machine let there be a waffle machine let there be a waffle machine
And there were two. I introduced Elsa to them and then we ate the waffles that came out of their insides. Delicious.
With breakfast out of the way, the day was wide open. I triumphed over the headache samurai-style, Jill got the water wings, I took the kids swimming, and then we all went to the Barrio Café, a place that Jill found on her iPhone at Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives—just like the early settlers did when they needed food.
It was a great meal. Maybe a little overpriced for the amount of food we got, but that food was delicious. Their homemade horchata was even better than the horchata that my grandma never made. I didn’t think it was possible, but there you have it.
I was feeling pretty good. We still had a lot of time to unwind there in Arizona. And with the confusion over where to stay cleared up, I was more at ease. Also, the kids were happy, and my belly was full of delicious Mexican food. I felt that we had turned a corner after a really rocky start , and now, for sure, this was about to get unforgettably fantastic! SO of course Jill says this:
“I found another place to stay.”
“You, what? You were still looking??”
“Yeah, I wanted to get out of that room, the beds are too small.”
“But I’m the one who slept with the air conditioner blowing full in my face and with two other people pushing me onto a tiny sliver of mattress. YOU had it good!”
“Yep. Found a better place.”
We packed everything back up even though it was way past the check-out time. Even though we had a really good rate on the room. Even though the kids were clamoring for a return to the pool.
We headed over to Scottsdale and an even better place called 3 Palms. How was it better you ask? Well, the TV was much larger. And the beds were queens.
By the time we got settled, and the kids had a chance to swim, stomachs were grumbling. We headed over to In-and-Out Burger because The Big Lebowski is one of my all-time favorite movies and I really don’t need to explain myself any further. In-and-Out Burger was even better than the reviews by professionals would have you believe. The service was amazing and the food was delicious. AND I was able to check something off of my bucket list. Instead of filling a bucket with that nasty Panda Express business.
Jill waited until the sun was close to setting before suggesting that we find a really high place to watch the sun go down. Slamming through dusty roads, I took our rental car up to Papago park. We headed toward this thing:
We rolled out of the car before I had it in park. There were people at the top of this formation and we intended to be people up there too. We ran in flip flops, turning our toes red with dirt, reminding ourselves that we were a feral tribe of doers, not do-nothing planners! Going on a hike with the right gear for a hike was strictly for those content with whiling away the time thinking and preparing!
Ian was the first one up there. He charged past all kinds of warning signs, signs telling him that there were many active bee colonies in the area, because screw signs! We followed and emerged in a place called Hole in the Rock. I could just image the brave pioneers who gave this red brittle formation such a majestic name.
“Whadya wanna call it.”
“I don’t know, it’s a rock.”
“But it’s got a hoooooole in it!”
Jill was terrified. Ian got as close to the edge as his flip-flops would allow. I joined him.
The people in this hole were so together. I don’t mean together as in “competent.” I mean they were all joined. It was odd. We were all strangers, but for a moment, we were together in a way I’d never experienced. I don’t think I mentioned that part to Jill. Putting it on the blog guarantees that she will never know it, but for a moment there was a familiarity with these people that was just comfortable. And right. Like I knew we were the last good people.
The sun was going down and the world was still warm.
Now, I’m leaving us on a cliff, but this isn’t much of a cliff-hanger. Stay tuned for the rest. Even though stay tuned really doesn’t apply to the Internet. Does it?