It is the fourth day and we have decided to go to Huntington Beach and see the ocean before heading to Universal Studios to have fun until it closes and then leave California. My family has been up early every morning of the trip, and even though we are having a lot of fun closing down Disneyland every night it is wearing us out. We wearily wake on this last day of our trip to visit a theme park and a beach.
My wife has an assignment to fulfill in her college course and the Hotel does not offer free Wi-Fi. It is the Hilton! Gods even Super 8 offers free WI-FI. I paid for it the second day we were there because I had two assignments due in my college course. I thought it was $9.95 a day. It was, only this pricing was per device. I found this out when I picked up my Motorola XOOM for an excursion on the toilet. When I turned it on it found the signal alright, but that damn screen came up to pay for usage per day. After finishing the paperwork of my current task, I called down to the lobby and asked if the pricing was setup per device.
The answer was, “yes”, to which I replied, “You gotta be kiddin’?”
Devices we have in our Hotel that require WI-FI: (2) XOOM’s, (2) laptop computers, and (my son’s Ipod). That adds up to $50 a day. NOPE!! We spend all of 5-6 hours sleeping and maybe 1 hour of prep time per day at the Hotel. That one hour of prep does not leave much time for the use of it anyway. On the fourth day, we travel to a nearby Starbucks to use their WI-FI for my wife to be able to submit her assignment. We do not go in. We could have, but we chose to stay in the comfortably air-conditioned van instead (away from potential idiots). I would feel the same if I had homework to finish. After a while, she finishes her work and we are off to the beach, which is about 11 miles from our location. Alright! This is closer than I thought it was.
It takes longer than 10 minutes to get to the beach, because there is no freeway that leads to it. The route takes us through many stoplights, until it ends at a paid parking lot about 35 minutes later. We could park and pay $2 if we want to walk half a mile to the beach. We do not. Therefore, we park in the parking lot that is right on the beach for $15. I don’t care if we are there for all of 30 minutes. It is worth it!
We park, tell the kids to go change and check out the beach, and then my wife and I follow shortly after they have walked down onto the sand. I think to myself that it would be nice to feel the sand between my toes so I decide to walk down barefoot. I roll my pant legs and walk with my wife to the beach. We walk across the black top and cross over the concrete path that winds like a snake as far as the eye can see in either direction. There are a few skaters, joggers and bicyclists traveling in both directions as we pass. As my feet touch the sand I wiggle my toes so the grains go between them and the feeling calms me inside. The light tan sand looks like tiny rolling hills in every direction from the constant steps of people and animals walking over its surface. There are white flecks poking out here and there and as I look harder, I see that they are small shells. As we continue to walk towards the ocean that we can see but not yet hear, I notice a long pier stretching out over the water to our right. The sand is hot and it is just below the point at which I might increase my pace to get to the water to cool my feet, but I remain silent and forget the heat with the views entering my head. There are people flying kites as the cool wind from the sea provides the perfect breeze for their use. Many others are sitting under large colorful umbrellas with their shafts stuck into the sand at different angles to shade the sun. Some are lying directly in the sun on large towels as their skin bakes to a golden brown. I notice one guy who has baked for too long in the sun and has gone from golden to dark brown. He almost looks burnt, as the discolored brown appears darker on certain portions of his body.
We have crossed the point where we can see the waves rolling into the shore and their sound is amazingly soft and powerful. My daughter is already wading into the wave’s end that reaches out as far as they can before receding back into the large body of water. My son stands looking out on the ocean close to where the water stops on its journey inwards. We are about 20 feet behind him where the slope of the beach starts to head down towards the water. There is a white wooden Lifeguard hut 30 feet to our left manned by a young man wearing red trunks. He sits staring out like a statue through sunglasses at the crowds inhabiting the beach. After my wife and I take a few pictures, we sit digging our feet into the sand that turns damp a few inches below the surface. The coolness of the sand is comforting and it feels good to be able to sit and not have to walk feverishly to the next location as we were at Disneyland. The breeze is constant and cool. My son removes his shoes rolls up his pant legs and lets the waves roll over his feet as he looks around. My daughter is now jumping into the air as waves cross her path. She is waist deep in the water and having fun. My son tells us that the water is freezing. My wife has to see for herself and verifies the same information after walking to its edge. We don’t know how my daughter can stand it but she is having a great time. In the far off distance, looking out over the sea, I notice large oil drilling platforms that are barely visible through what may be fog, smog or both. There are at least half a dozen scattered throughout the water that I can see. I can see a flock of pelicans about one hundred yards off the shore directly in front of us; some diving out of the air, as they tuck their wings into their bodies to help dive deep into the water and catch prey. Many others are floating close together most likely eating the fish they have caught or already full from their hunt.
We hang out here in the same place taking pictures of seagulls, my children and each other. It is close to 1:45 p.m. when we leave the beach. It is now time to travel to Universal Studios to finish out our vacation in more long lines while waiting for rides. The trip there should be about 40 minutes, but the traffic slows down considerably while going through Los Angeles, and turns it into one hour and fifteen minutes. I will not go over the trip again as I described it in an earlier post. We arrive at Universal Studios and drive past the entrance unknowingly. I make a U-turn down the way after a few blocks and then turn into a parking lot. I figure this is where we need to go, as there are many signs that say “Universal Studios”. It is the wrong place and we turned around again.
While we are exiting this lot, my wife receives a call on her cell phone. It is our friend in Arizona letting her know that the school my six-year-old son attends called her to let her know he was not picked up by transportation to be taken to his bio family visit. It is 3 p.m., which means he has been stranded for 20 minutes. I travel to where we made the first U-turn because I remember parking availability so we can stop and get the mess figured out. First, why the school called an emergency contact instead of the respite providers is beyond any of us. They have had their information since well before we left town. I wrote it down on the school’s own information sheet about such things. People just cannot seem to do their job properly. Secondly, this is the second time the poor child has been left to wait long after school let out because the transportation people cannot route properly to arrive on time to pick him up.
My wife says, “Why don’t they just hang a sign on him that says foster kid?”
Why don’t we make the boy feel even more unimportant by making him feel forgotten? He must already feel this from time to time, because he was taken from his mother. Thanks for the help on self-esteem CPS! My wife calls the respite provider who says she will do what she can to figure out what is going on, but my wife wants to speak with someone as well, so she begins to call our CPS caseworker – No answer. She then calls the caseworker’s supervisor – NO ANSWER! This is going well so far isn’t it? The respite provider calls back with information from the transportation people about not knowing if the visit is going to be cancelled or not. Either way you still have to pick up the child at the same time because everyone else is counting on you to do it. Instead, they let him sit there half an hour after school has let out. The respite mother is at a previous engagement, and we are in California. Hmmmmm….. You might need to get off your butts and go pick him up at least. The school official having to wait after hours was not happy either. What a bunch of inconsiderate people. It is simply unbelievable after a supervisor in transportation has told us that this would not happen again, here we are. By the time my wife has spoken to everyone, and finally my boy is picked up, she has spent an hour that we could have been inside Universal Studios on the phone with us parked in our van behind some business in Universal City. Even on vacation, we cannot escape the problems that are consistent with the child welfare system in Arizona.
Now that we are stressed, we travel back to the correct entrance, park the van, calm down for a bit and then enter the park. This is no easy feat either, because we have one pass for 4 people that must be converted into 4 tickets for entry. We go to the location that it states on the single pass and it is closed. It’s around 4:30 p.m. now and the park closes at 10 p.m. We ask one of the people guarding the exit to the park where we need to go and she refers us to another place. After standing in line for 20 minutes at this place, we are told that we need to go to another area. Wonderful! At least when we get to the other place there is only one group ahead of us and we have our tickets 10 minutes after arriving at its line.