Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Now, the part that inspired me to start this blog.
The vacation was over, well… almost over. We still had to come home, by road!! So, we planned our return trip carefully. We once again booked a hotel in Oklahoma City, but not the Marriott, although why we booked a different hotel, I will never understand--temporary insanity perhaps?
Anyways, we started off bright and early once again. It was a beautiful sunny day. We had the snack-size cereal boxes, goldfish, bread, and plenty to drink. We left Glendale around 6.00 am and drove North on I-17. After we crossed Flagstaff, we got onto I-40 East and set forth. We had breakfast on the go and stopped for an early lunch at the Arizona-New Mexico border.
We entered Texas around 5.30 in the evening and stopped for dinner at Vega once again, the same place we had lunch on the way to Arizona. Once again, we did the usual gas, food and pit stop combination to save time and set off.
The sun was setting behind us and the stars stepped out of hiding. There were so many stars in the sky! It was beautiful. We still had a few hours to reach Oklahoma City and the kids were getting tired. They picked out a movie they wanted to watch and started to wind down. As we drove quietly in the dark, I noticed some lights in the distance. The lights were golden and rhythmic and seemed to be dancing to a distant tune. I pointed this out to hubby, who took a quick look and came back with, “looks like a laser show. There must be a lake somewhere in the distance.” When we lived in Sydney, Australia, we had watched a fantastic laser show over the waters of Darling Harbor. I accepted his explanation then, but something still bothered me. The lights seemed to be in one place, to our distant right, but as I said, something nagged me.
My younger son looked up when the movie was over and said, “Mom, look, its lightning.” I assured him it wasn’t, that it was just a laser show. He seemed satisfied with my answer for about five minutes and once again in a very small voice, said, “Mom its freaking me out, it is lightning.” I knew by now that it was indeed lightning and that we were driving into a major storm. I tried to calm him down and told him to try to sleep and that mom and daddy would protect him. He settled down and went to sleep. Now, ordinarily lightning does not bother me. In fact, I like looking at it light up the night sky. But this time I was scared. The lightning was not like anything I had seen before. It was a bright golden color and just seemed to set the whole sky on fire. I saw numerous sky to ground strikes as we neared the storm! The winds were stronger and seemed to push our van around like some kind of toy. If you live anywhere in the US, you know that OK is known for the twisters that occur there from time to time. In fact, the whole midwest is privy to some very deadly tornados. Of course, that's the first thing that popped into my mind when I saw the lightning and heard thunder. The only other vehicles on the road were some huge trucks. We were desperate to get to some shelter and quickly. The few rest areas that we passed looked deserted in the night and we drove on hoping to get to our hotel soon.
We entered Oklahoma City with a sigh of relief. Although we had been chasing the storm and seemed to be getting closer to it every minute, we managed to stay behind it and reached our hotel safe and sound. The ground was soggy and wet from the storm and as we parked and dragged two weary and tired children and entered the hotel, I wondered…”what were we thinking when we started this trip?”
Well, the hotel didn’t at all look like the picture we had seen of it on the internet. The kids had already started to whine and say they didn’t like it here and can we please just go. I wasn’t too pleased either, but hubby convinced us it was just for the night and all we needed was some sleep. With some reluctance, we agreed and got the keys to our room (after a long wait!) It was 11.30 in the night and we desperately needed a bed. Well, we took the key and went looking for our room. After some searching, we finally found it and entered the dimly lit two room suite. There was an empty soda can on the coffee table and the TV was on! “Hmm… the staff probably forgot to turn off the TV and pick up the soda can after cleaning up,” I thought. Hubby walked into the bedroom and stood staring at the bed. When I went up to him, he very calmly said, “there’s someone sleeping here!” Needless to say at this point, we hastily made our exit. I was terrified at the thought of the person sleeping there waking up and finding four strangers staring at him or her. We ran down to the reception area, returned the key and left. I tried to ask for our money back, but was told that we had to contact the website through which we booked the hotel. So, we just left. The receptionist seemed very calm about the whole other person in the room thing!! Maybe she thought we could share!!!
We were out on the street at midnight with two kids and no place to go. We thought we would try our luck with the Marriott again and so I called them. They very kindly put us up for the night in a very clean and wonderful room with two queen beds and clean bathroom and no one sleeping in either of the beds! Oh! What a relief!
We turned on the TV and guess what, the next day, the day we were supposed to leave Oklahoma and return home, was going to be one of the stormiest days of the year.Numerous tornados were predicted and people were being asked to stay indoors as far as possible. Golf ball sized hail and soft ball sized hail was expected in some areas. The storm’s path was our route exactly! The storm was predicted to be traveling at about 35 miles an hour and with us driving at about 65 miles an hour, we were destined to catch up with the storm at the Missouri-Illinois border. After a quick discussion, we decided to stay put for another day. We called the hotel desk and once again they very graciously let us book the room for the next day too. Thankfully, we sank into bed at about 2.00 am. Only after we returned home did we hear that several tornados had touched down along our very route! Many tornado related deaths were reported in Tennessee, Missouri and southern Illinois. I think we made the wisest decision of our lives by deciding to stay back an extra day!! We have been known to do some whacky things and I'm glad we didn't try to drive through the storm.
The next day was beautiful and sunny in OK City, but the rest of the Midwest reeled under the raging storm. We tried to make the most of our extra day. We slept in, had a good breakfast and decided to visit the Cowboy museum there. It was just about 4-5 miles from where we were. The museum was great and the kids especially loved the gun exhibit (boys-of course). We got a glimpse of the wild west and how life was in those times. The museum had one room full of huge paintings of the Grand Canyon, the Yellowstone National park and many other wonders. We looked around for a couple of hours and went to get lunch. The rest of the day we just spent relaxing in the hotel room and went to bed early. The next day, we checked out early and started to drive back home. Thankfully, the journey was quite uneventful and we made it back home in good time. The kids were happy to be back in their room with their own beds and their TV and games! Anyone would think they didn’t have TV for centuries!
All’s well that ends well and yada yada yada….yup I sure was glad to be back home…my very own comfort zone with the old familiar smell.

One thing I have learned from this trip is to never, ever book a hotel based on the pictures you see on the internet. Often the picture is of the reception area!
The star rating given by the travel websites do indeed make sense and it is safe to book a hotel that has more stars than less.
It is safest to stick to popular hotel chains or to go by other peoples experiences. Ask around before you book a hotel.
We were lucky in that the website through which we booked the hotel gave us a full refund for the cancellation. A big thank you to them!

I wish I had taken pictures of the awesome lightning strikes, but at that point, all I could think of was for my family to get to safety.Also at the Cowboy museum in OK city, photography was prohibited near most of the exhibits, so no pictures of that either. But my son is trying to draw a picture of the storm that we experienced and I will try to update the post with that once he is done.

Gangadhar, Tracy, Jimmy, Kartik..Thanks so much for adding me to your blogroll!

Coming up....

Useful Tips for Roadtrips with kids!


At 11:54 PM, Blogger Gangadhar said...

you explained the journey in such a way that I participated in it too..So..everytime i come over here..i can expect a beautiful travelling which i lack now a days...

At 7:09 AM, Blogger travel plaza said...

Thanks so much for your kind words, Gangadhar. Your words of encouragement inspire me to write more...

At 10:53 AM, Blogger Gangadhar said...

you're most welcome,TP..

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Travelin' Tracy said...

I've had a creepy hotel experience too. I was going back to college, driving cross country from Virginia to Utah. We decided to stop in Independence, Missouri and since we were so tired we picked a hotel that was close to the interstate.

In the middle of the night we were stirred awake by a coupling yelling in the parking lot, right outside our room (I knew we shouldn't have picked a hotel with doors connecting to the outside). I peeked out the window to see a man beating a women with the car door. It was very traumatic. Of course we had to call the front desk and the police.

I demanded my money back. They refunded our stay and gave us two nights free stay at any of their hotels...but it took a lot of anger on my part to get the money refunded!

At 4:42 PM, Blogger travel plaza said...


That's a pretty scary experience. I'm glad you got through it okay and got a refund.It must have been really traumatic. Sometimes we never know what we're getting ourselves into!

Thanks for stopping by:)

At 4:44 PM, Blogger travel plaza said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:54 AM, Blogger couch potato said...

That's nature for you. The sound and the fury (I'm quoting Michaelangelo and William Faukner, of course) of the earth is glorious at a distance but never close up.
I stayed at the Marriot at Fairfields, NJ and found it fairly well appointed. I'm glad you could get out of the roach motel and into the Marriot again.
Your writing is great and I hope you don't ever feel the need or pressure to stop.

At 7:39 AM, Blogger travel plaza said...

Couch potato,

Thanks so much for your encouragement. I do hope to continue writing. You said it so well....indeed the sound and fury of nature is glorious only from a distance...still it was a great experience.
What doesn't hurt one only makes one stronger,right??

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Dav said...

I love your blog! (and that's not only because I'm originally from Arizona). I'll keep up with it. I'm linked to you now. :)

At 11:11 AM, Blogger travel plaza said...

Thanks so much for your kind words Dav! I'm thrilled that you like my blog:-)


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