Its hard to imagine its only been a month since my last blog and our new adventure to California. I could say that its been lifetimes spent arranging and re-arranging our lives in just a few short weeks. Our intention leaving Oregon and going to California early was to procure a new means to travel. I had spent the better part of my free time the previous two weeks researching the best vw bus on the market. Yes, you read that right, a Vw Bus!! This has actually been the dream car of mine since i was a young lassie watching those crazy surfers pull up on the beaches of California and throwing open the doors to another universe.With help from my dad who was making this possible and also trying to find us a good vehichle, we had found a few potential vw camper buses in the Portland area but nothing seemed 'right'. I finally found on the craigslist for the San Francisco Bay area, a perfect vessel for our travels. We made contact with the owner and all found that this was a good fit. So the next thing we new we were renting a car and heading to Stanta Cruz, CA.
Her name is Genie.
Alex and Chelsea the owners of this lovely bus invited us to stay with them for a few days in there magical world among the redwoods. This gave us an opportunity to get to know life in a Vw Bus and see if she was the right fit for us. We rode into California a little sleep deprived but excited ( we drove straight through Oregon and California all night taking advantage of sleeping children and a quiet ride). We needed to return the car we rented that same day we got in and as i was getting our children acclimated to a new space clayton transferred our belongings into our new home a.k.a Genie. Before clayton and alex ran to drop the car off he asked me if i wanted to check the car to make sure i got everything...well i assumed that it was all good and refrained from looking and off they went to bring the car to the San Jose airport. You know what they say of assuming....shortly after claytons return i realized that i had left the ipad in the rental. This is the reason i have not written a blog in a month alongside the fact that i have not had a moment to breathe or think beyond what could be done in the next moment. Any way this is where the story starts to go off in many directions and i am going to attempt to outline the series of unfortunate events and the angels and faith that pursued us after crossing the border into California. After we realized the ipad was missing we immediately called the folks over at Budget to let them know we had left it in the car and could they go retrieve it so we could come back and pick it up. They let us know they were very busy but that they were going to call upstairs to see if anyone could go look in the car. After waiting a little while we called them back and no one was really sure if the car had been looked at but they had seen that a lost ipad had come through and was put into either the vault or locked in a managers office and could we call back tomorrow to speak with the manager. At this we were freaking out but hopeful that the lost ipad was ours. Meanwhile we got to know Alex and Chelsea a little and even while we were a little stressed it did not keep us from enjoying good company!! Chelsea is my doppelganger and is one of the coolest ladies i have ever met. And Alex put a 93' Subaru legacy engine in a 1974 VW Bus and rebuilt most of it. (need i say more?!?! "Amazing"). I wont say more except that i had been hoping to find while on this trip people who we connect with and i found this and more with these lovely people. Over the weekend we relaxed and took the kids to the creek in the woods and drove Genie around town. There was really no question about whether we wanted to take Genie home with us and drive her on our trip it was love at first sight. However, I think I could sense that Alex was a little sad to sell her and I thought that not being so enthusiastic would prove sympathetic. In between the good times we were also trying to recover our lost ipad. When we called to speak with a manager on Saturday morning she told us the car was going to be put on hold so that no one could drive it, she wasn't sure if someone had gone to look in it and she had no lost ipad in her possession but that more than likely it was in the vault of the manager who takes care of lost and found. Who of course is not in until Monday. On Monday we called the manager and she told us that she has no ipad, and that the car was rented and she doesnt even know how they could have put the car on hold. However there was still hope she was trying to reach the couple who rented the car and find out if they could find the ipad in the car(which was under the passenger seat hidden oh so well by me the paranoid lady who didn't want her ipad stolen so she hid it so well no one could find it.)Success! While we were saying good bye to our new friends and leaving with Genie to go visit family in Concord, CA we received the call that the couple found our ipad and would drop it off when they brought the car back Friday night. Okay, good. Only a few more days of just patiently waiting until we could just put all this incompetence behind us.Maybe. We had a lovely visit with claytons cousin Danny, his wife Mellisa, and beautiful baby Gabriel (nothing cures stress like holding a sweet baby, nothing). And then further got to visit with his Aunt who some call Kathy, i call her Katrina knowing she prefers this name. We enjoyed a lovely day at Muir Beach but looking back i think my spirits were a little low and were manifesting strange people to enter my space to teach me a lesson (one that i am still not certain of but i am hoping i understand it all right.) There was a lady who had started to play with the kids saying she was a preschool teacher and enjoyed children who liked to be wild. At first i was pleased by the compliment but then started to become mildly alarmed when she started to tell me about how she had lost her job and was now basically homeless drifting up the coast towards Humboldt County. She was not observing that we wanted her to pass by and eventually i thought it best to leave. She never posed a real immediate threat and i am sure she was fine but i was beginning to sense a psychic vampire and wanted to leave fast. We decided to get diner locally and went to a place which was nice but filled with the elite muggles who's only reality is the dissatisfaction of their own lives. You may think i am being harsh but we had a few encounters there to understand that we were not welcome on principle. I do mostly feel sorry for people like this because their life is filled with pain and they are only trying to fill emptiness with emptiness but i know that to much empathy does not really help any one and i would rather be a reflection of true happiness. However after my observations on the beach i feel that the universe was certainly showing me both ends of the spectrum and it upset my own balance deeply. Pride is one of my biggest faults and these were some good lessons of humility...so were the ones to follow.
Katrina offered to watch the kids for us Friday so that we would be able to go out with Daniel and Mellisa( baby Gabriel was enjoying time at Mellisa's moms house) this was our first date in a while and it was a lovely time! They took us to Pyramid brew pub and then to a cute little late night Ice Cream Parlor. The next morning we woke up at katrina's intending to make our rendezvous with budget to pick up the ipad that was supposed to have been arranged by the manager for us to pick it up. On the way down clayton decided to call Budget to alert them that we were on our way...and they had no idea what he was talking about. We were by this time so out of patience with them that clatyon actually got angry! (crazy, i know). He told them we were on our way and our ipad better be found! We both were upset but felt that things would get straightened out. This was until clayton pulled over onto the side of the highway because the engine stopped running. We all new that there would be things that could happen to a lady bus as old as Genie of course there were bound to be issues. But here we were not even a week after purchasing her and she has broken down and both alex and chelsea were out of town. Okay dont panic middle of the day on the highway with three kids it is all going to be O.K. Fortunately we have AAA! We called them and their eta was about an hour. Plenty of time to figure out what went wrong and figure out how to fix it. We discovered that a gear on the timing belt broke off and shot through the timing belt cover. Not so good. We called the nearest subaru repair shop and found that might have the right parts and had Genie towed there. While on the highway waiting for the tow the nicest police officer (no, really) offered to drive the boys and I to the nearest denny's and clayton stayed with Genie. Around the same time that AAA showed up for clayton Katrina came and picked us up from Denny's. So we all were able to return to Katrina's with some deep sadness and frustration. I would like to enter here a very strong sense of gratitude that if this was going to happen at least there was family to be there for us and if i could have asked for any one to be there for us i could not have asked for a woman with more Faith than Clayton's aunt (who also happens to be his godmother) Katrina. The entire time that we stayed with her she never wavered in the fact that all would be well no matter what. So to make an already very long story a little shorter i am going to just try to sum up the rest of this for you.Monday morning came around and the manager from budget called straight away and said "i am so sorry we have your ipad please come get it" so Katrina very nicely let us borrow her car and we drove to the airport only for Clayton to find that it was not in fact our ipad. Not only that but it was white, not black. At this point they called the District Manager to come in and investigate. Finally some one who might discover what the Hell is going on.Onto our other major concern Genie was not looked at until Tuesday and we had already decided after talking to Alex when he got back into town Monday night that we would just buy the parts and he would help Clayton fix her. Two days were spent trying to fix Genie and we were still staying at Katrina's apartment. She was invited to go stay with a friend in the mountains and thought we could use her apartment and her car while we were trying to figure out our lives!! May the God she finds comfort in Bless her she really saved us.It was such a comfort to stay in her place which is like an exhibit of her faith with iconography every where reminding you that we are all at the mercy of something greater than ourselves. Its hard to be drawn into apathy with images of angels surrounding you and random quotes of gratitude placed every where! Meanwhile my mother and her husband were due to arrive in half moon bay and i was very anxious to see them i missed them terribly and knowing that i was going to see them soon was wonderful. While Clayton was working on Genie i decided to go see them upon their arrival. Until i was delayed by the giant screw in the tire of Katrina's car and spent most of the day with the boys waiting at the auto repair shop so they could patch the tire. I did make it to my mom and doug but i am afraid by the time i got to see them i may have been close to a nervous wreck not helped by the fact that i drove straight through San Francisco at rush hour to see them. But it was worth it and i drove back with happy children and a sense that things are still going to be ok. When i got to Claytons cousins house (this is where the guys were working on the car! <3 family) i found that the timing belt was fixed and Genie was running!!! But. There was a small problem with the transmission and it would be fixed tomorrow. Breathing deeply here. We stayed another night at katrinas and clayton left the next day to meet Alex again and finally fix Genie. And it worked, Clayton came home late afternoon and Genie was fine! So the next day we cleaned up Katrinas house packed our stuff piled into Genie and pulled out of the parking spot. Only to discover that she would not shift. OKAY. I witnessed a miracle of patience in my husband when he grabbed the steering wheel for dear life and just took a deep breathe. I will say that this is one of the reasons i Love him. He does not react to things like I do and has taught me that there is no reason to spend energy on something you can not change. So we pushed Genie back into her spot and called alex. While the boys are also patient they were expecting to go some where so while we were trying to think of what to do next we took them to the playground around the corner so they could get out some energy and we could regroup. Alex called the folks who built the transmission kit and learned that he never received a piece and the bus should have never been able to shift in the first place!! He was sending the piece over night and we all decided to just have Genie towed to his house. At this point we were supposed to be in Half Moon bay visiting with my family and Katrina was on her way back home hoping to find an empty quiet apartment. We needed to figure something out fast so we decided to rent a car for the rest of the time she was in town and went down to camp so we'd be close enough to visit. After a lot of thought and tears and a frustrated heart we had to contemplate that maybe Genie was not meant to be ours and that it might not be safe to take her to Texas while we'd be traveling through the desert to get there. At this point we were also coming close to being completely broke and it seemed a practical idea to cut our losses and sell her back to Alex and Chelsea. I can not even begin to tell you how sad we were realizing this. Even as i write this i feel a sense of loss, we had already adopted Genie into our family and it was very hard to let her go. If we did not have three small children the same decision would not have been made. And so we went to say good bye again to alex and chelsea hoping even now that any bruising to our friendship will heal because a greater loss would be unimaginable. We know they had no idea that these issues would come up and we wish them well fixing and selling Genie to her rightful owners. Upon driving away from their house i had left my camera on top of the car and it fell off three miles later it was not outwardly damaged but the digital viewing was not working and i have no idea if the pictures i have been taking will actually come out( i thought i'd share this story with you in case you thought things would at least start looking up for us). Okay it really did seem to be going well after that. We got in some great time with my mom and doug during labor day weekend! Santa Cruz beach boardwalk (my old stomping grounds when i lived in California as a child) was amazing to take my children to!! That night we got a great night rest at Alex and Chelsea's house they went out of town to visit her dad for the weekend and offered hospitality again for the night. And the next day we drove down to meet mom and doug for a great day at the Monterey Aquarium and then the beach in Carmel another great place from my childhood! After we said good bye to mom and Doug we went and found a camp site in Big Sur (a miracle in and of itself on labor day weekend). And spent Labor day on pfeiffer beach. By this time we had heard from the DM at Budget that our ipad was stolen from an employee and that they would mail us a check to cover our losses. The following day we had a plan to drop of our current car and pick up another one to take to Texas. We felt that after all we had been through it was a good idea to just make our way to more solid ground so to speak. We were using Budget again not from any fondness for their company but because we were hoping after all the incompetence we met with them they could help lower the cost of our rental. One way rentals ending up being twice to three times the amount of a round trip rental. Clayton spoke with the DM directly about this and after considerable thought he decided to just take care of the whole rental instead of sending us a check for the ipad. This worked out well for us as the rental was twice the amount of an ipad. We spent the entire day stuck in traffic trying to drop off the other rental and were very late to say goodbye to my mom and Doug and were not feeling very uplifted about the next leg of our trip. But life is not just about happiness and contentment we kept pushing on. That night we slept in Big Basin and found a little sanctuary waking up among some very old redwood trees. It took a while to properly pack up the car and get on our way to Texas but we managed about four hours of driving and spent the night right on the west side of the Sierra Nevada. I will save the rest of the story for the next blog.The next portion of our trip is beautiful and we are very grateful to have had five days to ourselves as a family. We saw some really amazing places in the four corners region of our country. We have passed over the continental divide once again and i am writing this to you from a very familiar place called New Braunfels Texas. In the home of my dear mother and father in law!! We are here three weeks early due to some crazy circumstances but it was the right time to get here. We are not the only ones who have misfortune. Clayton's Mom is undergoing surgery next week, and Clayton's grandfather is not doing very well in his very respectable age of 87. If you could all send some good healing~loving energy out to them both Clayton and I would be very grateful!! So for now we are unwinding and trying to take some deep breaths to recover from not only being uprooted for the last 3 1/2 months, but from all the tests the universe put out for us over the last few weeks. I have experienced that humility and gratitude do not come from circumstance that you expect, but when you are at your lowest and the clouds part for a moment and light pours fourth to lighten some of the darker places of your heart. Its very easy to get comfortable in a routine and forget that to grow you need that downpour and sometimes your seeds need to get carried in the wind to be replanted in places you never expect. As always I send my love to you where you are that you learn your own sense of humility, and in turn be grateful. Namaste~Nicole G.