Turns out it’s hard to keep up this blog while actually doing things. I suppose that the doing things part is the whole point, but it is still a little frustrating. It’s especially so when we are driving through nowhere (one of these days I’m going to write a post about defining the middle of nowhere; turns out, there’s nowhere, and then there’s nowhere) but there’s no power or no Internet connection–which, in the middle of nowhere, actually happens quite a bit.

Anyway, here I am, typing and missing the pretty beautiful scenery on the way from L.A. to visit our friends in Glendale, who we haven’t seen in two years. (And we still aren’t going to see Cathy, who is going to be in the East Coast the one time in the world we’re actually in California 😦 — sigh. But anyway…)

[insert 6 hour break]

O.k. Here we are, back on the road again, this time heading south to Carlsbad, CA, so that we can visit Legoland. If I had realized how far it was from L.A., I might not have offered this up as part of the trip. Yet it was offered, and here we are, experiencing a small taste of traffic (‘small,’ I’m sure, given that we’re actually moving), on the I-5, heading south. How, you wonder, did we get here? So kind of you to ask. Let me share.

So there we were yesterday afternoon, headed from Vegas to Hoover Dam and not looking forward to the drive back to Kingman, AZ, lovely as it may be, just in order to hang around for 7+ hours to catch a train at 11:46 (or so) p.m. (As it turns out, Hertz does not have a rental car drop off in Needles, CA, which would have been much more convenient.) And then I called to speak to Julie, Amtrak’s lovely automated lady, to check the train status. Good thing I did: the train was running two hours late. As we contemplated spending a large (and potentially larger, given Amtrak’s track record) [ha! I just wrote track record without even realizing it] portion of our evening with all of our bags in the Kingman, AZ train station, only to have to work our way through a packed train to find four seats as close as possible together in our one coach part of the trip, it occurred to us that we could actually just drive to Vegas. People do it all the time. (At least they do in movies, which is pretty much our entire knowledge of anything westerly related, but still…) In fact, if we did drive, we might actually be able to make it to L.A. before our train was even scheduled to depart, much less actually going to, given the delay.

(This wasn’t part of our original plan because we had intended to do the Skywalk over the Grand Canyon on our way from Vegas to Kingman, as the turn-off is on the way. What we didn’t know then was that the ‘turn-off’ also required another, oh, hour and a half before we’d actually get to the Skywalk. And that if we went to the Skywalk, we wouldn’t get to see the main part of the Grand Canyon. And that it costs $86. All if these realizations led to another itinerary change two days before, but that story is for another day. That said, because we were no longer constricted by the Skywalk details, we weren’t really tied into the Kingman train. Yes, it all comes back to Kingman. Or not, as the case ended up being.)

So driving to L.A. it was.

One of the things that has struck us over and over again on the trip is how amazing it is to have an iPhone. (Or any smartphone, I’m sure, but Apple is our poison.) It wasn’t just that we were able to figure out that not going to Kingman was an option, but we were able to pull up a list of hotels within striking distance of Union Station (where we had to exchange rental cars), read the reviews, and make a reservation for the night, all while tracking our progress in Google maps. When we needed a pit stop (or to find the nearest In ‘N Out burger), we just put the necessary details into AroundMe. And, using a combination of the two, when an oasis of light appeared in the darkness, we could identify not only what it was (Baker, Barstow, Victorville), but what amenities it might provide. It wasn’t just handy — after making a last minute decision to drive five hours through the desert, knowing where we could get gas was essential.

After an initial psych-out of the lights of Victorville (and what exactly is Victorville, anyway — I’d heard of all the other towns on the way; never V-ville, though), we came up over the hill and then saw the lights spread out below us. I took a billion pictures, not one of which did it justice. Heading into downtown was cool (wasn’t that the building in Die Hard?), and we were still close enough to midnight that the area wasn’t entirely ‘sketch,’ as some of the reviews said. The one hang-up was a crazy line at check-in thanks to a group who had shown up right before us whose reservation had been entirely screwed up. I felt bad for them, but not enough so to not enjoy the feeling of crawling into the bed and pulling the covers over me, a full hour (and counting — the train ended up being at least five hours late) before we would have ended up even getting on the train. It was worth Will’s frustration at not being able to go in coach — something “I’ve never gotten to do in my life” — to be in that hotel bed.

I have to say: I was quite impressed with how well the kids took the change in plans. They like to know exactly what we’re doing and when we’re going to get there. As Will told one of the gentleman in the check-out line at our Vegas hotel, however: “we’re a traveling family.” And as any traveling family knows, you’ve got to go where the road takes you.

As I think I mentioned earlier, the road is now taking us to Carlsbad, and, should all go well, to Legoland tomorrow. Since we’ll be traveling again tomorrow evening — this time up to Anaheim — I might even be able to post about what we did on the day we did it. One never knows.

So, as they say in California (or, at least, in Debbie Boone’s family): hasta mañana.

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