Chronicling our escape from hellish weather here during the first week of February has amounted to a bunch of notes sitting upon the proverbial back burner for the last couple of weeks. I'm sure I'll forget something here or there, but for now, here begins a recap of our two days in Los Angeles followed by seven days on board Norwegian Star (with 20 friends) as we cruised the Mexican Rivera. I've decided to divide this mile-long post into more digestible and hopefully more interesting bits. Here's the first:
Thursday Afternoon, 3 February, 3PM Mountain
So, this morning after checking e-mail and packing up the laptop, I loaded the car with Billie and Georgia's gear and took them to their "spa vacation" out in BFE. They were very quiet on the drive out. I suspect with the cacophony of suitcases and laundry baskets whirling around the house during the last several days they couldn't help but know that we were leaving and they wouldn't be going with us.
Their somber demeanor made me worrisome for the drive even if it made the trip a little safer because they were lying down in the back seat instead of pacing back and forth, standing on the armrests and sticking their heads out of the windows. My mind always races with each of these seemingly never-ending treks to the "country." Will Georgia behave? Will Billie be a nervous wreck the whole time we're gone? Will she eat? Will the staff remember to feed them separately? I tried clearing my mind for the uneventful thirty minute drive once we left Midtown. Finally approaching the last intersection before turning into Berryhill...
..."DAMMIT!," I cursed.
I realized that I'd been racing through these mental lists for days and in doing so left Billie's prescription eye drops at home. After breakfast every morning she gets "a tablet"* (vitamin), her "drops" and a cookie. Because I had at least an hour's loose ends to tie up before leaving the house, I stuck them back in the refrigerator (where they must be kept) and made a mental note to grab them before I got in the car. FAIL.
Inside the facility I explained to the receptionist what I'd done and asked if she could call our regular vet, ask for the dosage amount and prepare a new prescription for Billie's stay. I didn't have another hour to waste on a trip home for the medicine, a trip back to drop it off and another trip home to get ready for our flight. As the kennel attendant and I were putting the dogs' beds in the pen and getting them settled, the receptionist came back to tell me that, "yes," they could provide the medicine. However, it seemed that it would cost just under three times what I paid at Park Avenue Animal Hospital only two days ago!
I wondered, if Adequan is Adequan, what makes it so special at Berryhill that it's almost $100 when I usually pay $36? Oh, yes. I remembered. I'm at Berryhill. A Sally Beaumont enterprise. There's more to that story but we're not going there now. "Whatever," I said. I agreed pay a king's ransom for the treatment. Her eye is healing from yet a second inexplicable** injury in six months, and I don't want to delay that.
"Let's do it."
Now, at 30,000 ft. (an hour out of LAX), I'm beginning to relax in spite of Billie's last plea. Putting her "hand" through the gap between the gate and the wall of their double-wide pen, she reached out as if to say, "don't leave me here." I thought, maybe she'll relax, as I hope to, on this fine Chinese New Year day. In just a few minutes we'll get off of this 737, pick up our bags, make our way to Hertz #1 Gold Canopy Service and hop into our Camaro. I hope.
I'd say Hertz has been running at about a 10% success rate when placing me in the car I've reserved over the last 10 or so years. For two different trips: "No, a Mercury Grand Marquis does not equal a Lincoln Town Car." And, no, a Toyota Sienna (seriously?) doesn't = a Pontiac G6. They did, however, give us the Chrysler Crossfire we reserved for a trip to Atlanta a few years ago. Maybe we'd have the same luck this time. Besides, I simply won't drive -- let alone pay $15/day to park -- a Kia Sephia. I'd rather take a cab to find an authentic Chinese dinner tonight.
At any rate, Long Beach and The Queen Mary, here we come!
After waiting for an eternity (close to forty minutes) for our bags to come off of the carousel we hopped on a bus to Hertz where I found my name on the #1 Gold list: [dminmem] 433. So, in space 433 we should find our Camaro. Confused by the signs we wandered through four lanes of shiny, parked cars looking for space 433. When we finally figured out where it was my thought was, "holy crap." But in this case it was a good thing.
This is not a Camaro.
Instead of finding a Camaro in our space, there sat a bright yellow Corvette Z-06 convertible. I was in shock and giddy with anticipation. Driving this machine for a couple of days would've been AWESOME. But, and there's always a "but," my imagination was immediately snapped back into reality. I knew we wouldn't get my steamer trunk-sized rollerboard in the trunk, let alone the rest of our bags. Believe me, we tried and quickly realized it was a futile exercise. I walked inside and spoke with a very sweet young lady to whom I said, "Bless you for giving us a Corvette. But our luggage won't fit in it."
Do you see that giant bag in the trunk? This was only the beginning.
"But we don't have any Camaros," she replied. "They were all recalled." After explaining that they had reached their mileage limits and were pulled from the livery, she said, "I think we have a Mustang convertible." She reworked our documents and handed me the keys to a shiny red Mustang convertible. Between the trunk and the backseat we were able to pack all of our gear and were on our way to I-405, South.
According to our previously printed map and directions, we should've expected a 20 minute drive under normal circumstances. Yet, after our delays at Hertz we hit the expressway sometime between 3:45 and 4 PM. YAY! Rush hour(s). Now, mind you, I understand that delays on Los Angeles freeways are inevitable and are fairly regular at any time of day, but God help us. Our trip on the 405 ended up being more than twice the time - :45.
I know. Quit whining - you're barely a day into vacation, dminmem.
Honestly, though, I didn't whine. Cameron and I just used that time to exhale. After all, traveling is never easy, but it can still be fun. By the time we hit 710, though, I was just about desperate to get to our hotel in Long Beach. I had to pee. And, if I hadn't been distracted with enthusiasm for having glimpsed the unmistakable bright red and black stacks of The Queen Mary as I crested a hill, I would have gotten to a toilet much more quickly. As it stood, though, I left the freeway one exit too soon, immediately did a U-turn and found the entrance back onto the freeway closed for construction. YIKES! Zig-zagging with a sense of which direction we should be traveling put us at the ship/hotel about an hour after we started the trek. I let out a sigh relief on so many levels but was about to come unglued - we were at The Queen Mary!
How incredible it was to drive up to this.
Walking through that piece of history conjured up feelings of gratitude for the vision that made its useful preservation possible. I think it's magnificent. Make no mistake -- it's not like staying at a Westin -- which is where many of our cruise mates were staying. But I hadn't tried booking a room there until after NCL's block was filled. The cruise line offered to request an additional room for us to which I said, "thanks, please do." I was instructed to call back next week. This started before Thanksgiving and dragged on for five weeks until they finally got a room for us at this ridiculous rate: $168 per person, per night. We declined. I remember saying something like "are you kidding? We can stay at The Roosevelt and rent a car for $700." With that, I logged onto kayak.com and found a much better rate at the Westin in addition to some lousy reviews. Many guests complained about the cost vs. value and mentioned being nitpicked to death with additional charges like parking and internet service. Seconds before clicking "book" at The Roosevelt, which offered free wireless, I thought "I'll scroll a little further" and there was Her Majesty!
Stoic Stowaway. My handsome man.
It's fascinating for me to imagine the enthusiastic travelers on board for the ship's maiden voyage in 1936. Throughout the floating museum/hotel there are displays of china, menus and various artifacts from the ship's heyday. The Art Deco oceanliner is a shining example of the design style.
* I would like to thank my long-time friend, Greg, for introducing "tablet," in this context, into my lexicon some 26 years ago. I think I was asking for an Excedrin: "Do you need a tablet?"
** Inexplicable? Not really. Georgia plays too rough. And, I suspect that Billie's eye maladies are a result of her trying to put Georgia in her place. It's been a way of life for more than three years.