By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 11/19/2017
Occurred: 5/19/2006
Topics/Keywords: #Zachary #Travel #California #McGrathStateBeach #CruiseAmerica Page Views: 2468
We celebrate Zach's birthday with a trip to California beaches!

We decided to celebrate my grandson Zachary's birthday with a trip. The original plan was to rent a motor home, drive it to California, spend Saturday at Disneyland, Sunday at McGrath State Beach, and return in time for work Monday morning. I did the math about six weeks ago, and started putting aside the money for it, paying in advance where possible. Unfortunately, my plans didn't quite work out.

We needed the motor home because of all the people going:

  • Me
  • Michael (my spouse)
  • Mary (my ex-wife)
  • Zachary (our grandson)
  • Karen (our daughter and Zachary's aunt)
  • John (our son and Zachary's uncle)
  • Amber (our son's dog, a pit bull and Shar Pei mix)
  • Cirrus and Astro (Michael's and my dogs, black lab mixes)

I was especially concerned about bringing the dogs, since Astro and Cirrus don't like to travel. (Every time they gotten into a vehicle, they either moved to a new home, or wound up at a vet's where something was snipped off.) But kennels are expensive and this was one of the ways we were saving enough money to make the trip.

We picked up the motor home from Cruise America without incident Friday after lunch, drove it home and packed it. (We got a special deal on the rental through Costco, saving several hundred dollars off the regular rental price.)

After picking up the motor home and driving it to our house in East Mesa, I had allocated just one half-hour to pack. That seemed reasonable, since presumably everyone would have pre-packed their own things and would only have to carry them aboard. However, it actually wound up taking two-and-a-half hours. This meant that, instead of being able to cross the Valley before rush hour, we would now be right in the middle of it. So, not only did we leave the house2.5 hours late; it took an extra 1.5 hours (total of 2.5) to cross the Valley.

The rule at Cruise America is, when you pick up your motor home, however much gas is in the tank, that's how you return it. They do not send you off with a full tank. In our case, the tank was one quarter full. So we had to fill it immediately. Six weeks ago, when I first started planning this, gas was about $2.50 a gallon here in Arizona; and I planned on getting about 10 miles a gallon for what I calculated was an 800-mile trip. However, in Arizona gas was now running $3.07 a gallon, and the motor home had a fifty-gallon tank. I spent $140.00 on gasoline before we even left Mesa.

We had previously rented a smaller motor home from Cruise America for a ski weekend, and it had a stove, conventional oven, and a microwave oven. So we shopped with that in mind, planning on baking a frozen lasagna for our first dinner. However, this unit did not have a conventional oven, and the frozen lasagna came in an aluminum pan. So we had to leave it home and have the second night's dinner the first night. Karen volunteered to cook frozen beef stroganoff. We stopped, hoping to avoid a Long, Long Trailer-type cooking scene. Nevertheless, one of the awkward cardboard trays slipped from Karen's oven mitts and managed to hit the floor. Consequently the dogs ate really well that night. As for the people who hadn't already been served beef stroganoff, well, we had enough food with us to make suitable, if different, dinners for everyone.

We had made reservations to stop at a KOA in Pomona, about an hour's drive from Disneyland. The directions in the KOA book were not very helpful; we wandered for nearly an hour before we found it. It was now 1:30 am. Our reservation was taped to a bulletin board, with two notes: "Bathroom code available from Site 58" and "WiFi code available from the camp store in the morning."

Given that we had six humans to use the single bathroom in the motor home, we had planned to use the camp bathroom for showers—especially when we discovered that the site we had reserved, which was supposed to be full-hookup, in fact had no sewer connection; so we couldn't all shower in the unit without filling the "grey water" tank. We walked to Site 58, hoping the bathroom code would be posted somewhere on the trailer we found there. It was not, and no lights were on. I couldn't bring myself to disturb them, so that was it for showers that night, except we let Zachary have a quick shower (a shower in the motor home was one of his birthday wishes) and the rest of us did without.

Zachary awoke us around seven. While Mary made breakfast, I worked on my calculations. We had used far more gasoline than I had planned. Instead of getting the ten miles a gallon the Cruise America site suggested, we were getting more like three. Perhaps that was because of the time we'd spent in Phoenix rush hour traffic; perhaps it was because we'd run the generator to power the rooftop air conditioner while we drove through the Mojave desert. In any case, I found we did not have enough money to buy Disneyland tickets for everyone and gasoline for the trip home.

I was mortified. Zach is my very favorite person in the world and I hated to disappoint him.

The camp store opened at eight and we got the WiFi code so we could surf the web and look for alternatives. I checked out Six Flags' Magic Mountain. Our local AAA office had discount tickets to Magic Mountain that we could afford; but you had to buy them there—California AAA offices did not have the same discount; and, without it, Magic Mountain was very nearly expensive as Disneyland.

Meanwhile, Zachary was outside the motor home, helping his Uncle John walk the dogs. He popped his face into the window over the dinette table. "Can't we just spend two days at the beach?" he asked. "I really like the beach!"

Did I mention that Zachary is the most amazing 7-year-old on the planet?

So, now that we had the code, we took showers in the camp bathroom, dumped our sewage tanks and filled the water tank and, after filling the fifty-gallon gas tank (at a wallet-numbing $3.67 a gallon), drove the ninety miles to McGrath State Beach.

McGrath State Beach for Zach's 7th

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 5/20/2006
Topics: #Travel #California #McGrathStateBeach #Zachary Page Views: 128
The pictures from the McGrath State Beach segment of Zach's 7th birthday beach bash.

John and I had been there ten years before. We remembered it as beautiful and nearly deserted. This day it was full (we had prepaid reservations). We were given a site about 400 yards from the beach, between several good climbing trees. (You can see pictures in the Flash presentation above.) In spite of the crowd, there was plenty of room for all; it didn't fell crowded. There were flowers everywhere, and green trees; it looked positively lush to eyes grown accustomed to Arizona's sere desert. But things had changed in the past decade.

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Newport Beach for Zach's 7th

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 5/21/2006
Topics: #Travel #California #McGrathStateBeach #Zachary Page Views: 130
The pictures from the Newport Beach segment of Zach's 7th birthday beach bash.

I'd hoped to sleep in the next morning, but no such luck. It had rained most of the night—I love sleeping in a tent or motor home while it's raining, but the sound had roused me and now John was up and ready to move. He parked the unit by the bathrooms with the intention of our taking showers there. However, the shower stalls wanted quarters. So he pulled to the camp's dump station and drove back and forth between the sewer and the fresh water while each of us bathed.

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