When Summer Plans Change! Out Of The Frying Pan & Into The Fire

We had our 2017 Summer all planned out.  What were the Wagoners going to do?  Where were the Wagoners going to go?  The answer is the original plan was to go nowheredo nothing, and enjoy some tinto de verano on the terrace.  So what changed?

tinto de verano from our terrace in Almunecar Spain

A couple of things happened:

  1. The first was we had a death in the family.  My dad passed away late July, and I needed to help my stepmother go through his personal effects, and figure out what to keep, what to donate, and what to throw away;
  2. There was an irresistible pull from Heidi’s side of the family.  Namely a baby sister (Karen), a nephew (Carson), and an incredibly cute niece (Ellie).  On the cute scale, she’s about a 9.95.  When she smiles and crinkles her little nose, the cute factor goes up to 11!  (I don’t want to forget my bro-in-law (Eric), but to be honest, his cute factor is well south of 6 — and that’s being kind!)

Original Plans

The original plans for our summer were to just take things easy.  Not go anywhere or do anything.  In mid-August, there is a local fireworks show that is absolutely amazing, and we had not seen that for a couple of years.  It also gives us a chance to see a bunch of our friends as we all congregate in the same area to watch the show.  Here is the full scoop on our original plans.

USA Time

After some rapid plotting and planning, Heidi got us some reasonable fares, and we worked out the hotel/rental car thing, and before we knew it, we were at the Málaga airport waiting to depart for the ole U. S. of A.  So what originally was a solo trip for me turned out to be a family trip to the U.S.

In order for us to get to the west coast, it took us about 18 hours with drive time to/from airports.  The first leg of the journey to JFK was 8.5 hours in a relatively comfortable plane.  The flight from JFK to Vegas was about 5.5 hours, and it was on a much smaller plane, with much smaller seats.  Ugh!  As seasoned travelers, we knew it would be a bit brutal, but that’s just the way of things.

We Arrived & It Was Hot!

We arrived late in Vegas in the wee hours of the morning, and it was HOT!  Yes we left the humid 90’s, to come to the dry 103’º at midnight weather!   We arrived very late so got a couple of hotel rooms for one night.  The plan was for Heidi and the kids to head to St. George Utah, the next morning, while I would fly to Reno and then drive to Sacramento where my father lived.  We were expecting that Heidi’s mom (Bev) would meet up with us the next morning and take Heidi and the kids to Utah, but on our way to pick up our luggage, guess who came early?  Grandma Bev!  So Bev wound up driving us to the hotel, and we were able to catch up a bit before getting some well-deserved rest.

The next morning we had a very leisurely visit to Walmart, and at a McDonald’s breakfast!  Heidi picked up some travel snacks for the car, and some TSA approved airline snacks for me.  We also bought Krispy Kreme donuts (maple!!) and once everyone was up and ready, it was time to part ways.  Bev, Heidi, and the Kids hopped in the car, and were off to Utah.  I hung around the hotel a couple of hours before I caught the shuttle back to airport.

A Rough Week

I won’t go into detail, but the 4 days I spent in Sacramento were very difficult.  More difficult than I thought they would be.  But I was able to reconnect with some old friends, and my stepmother (Carol) and I made a huge amount of progress in going through my dad’s stuff.

After my time in Sac, I drove back Reno, and was able to spend quality time with friends and family, which was extremely helpful.  A huge shoutout to:

  • Uncle Albert & Aunt Gina – Thanks for gift, and organizing the meal.  That was a seriously delicious barbeque!
  • Dwayne – My best friend growing up in Reno, he has this Genius level ability at cracking jokes.  He had me laughing so hard, and it was just what I needed.  It’s not a family friendly tale, but just thinking of his “Single Air Quotes” joke makes me laugh.  Thanks Dude!  That’s just what I needed!

Throughout the week, I would talk to Heidi or the kids, and they would ask me how I was doing.  And they would also point out that they had been doing fun things with family, eating some sort of yummy food, or grocery item that we hadn’t had in ages.

Utah 2017 karina taria kids1

I was looking forward to reuniting with the family and joining in on all of the fun.

Jumping at the indoor Trampoline in St. George Utah

All The Wagoners Together

I had an uneventful (and short!) flight from Reno to Vegas, and took a shuttle from the airport to St. George.  It was dark out, so I wasn’t able to see much.  Not that there’s much to see on the 2-hour drive.  It went quickly though, and soon enough I was in St. George, and reunited with the wife and kids.

Heidi and the Kids had already spent a week around Ellie, so she was used to them, but it took her a few days to warm up to me.  Karen and Eric have a big house, and we were able to just hang out, and enjoy the family time.  It was super hot in St. George, and really dry.  Just a quick walk in the sun, and it felt like my skin was on fire!  Like all things, you get used to it after awhile, but dang!

Karen and Eric had planned on doing some camping with their friends, and the Wagoners were going to just hang out at their house, but they went above and beyond, pulled some strings, and everyone was able to go camping.

Camping And Then Some!

When I say camping, I know that sounds tame, but they don’t just camp, they also bring TOYS!  The toys were two 4-wheel drive side-by-sides.  These are fantastic vehicles which go up, over, and around pretty much anything you can throw at them, and they’re a blast.  Not only are they so much fun, but they have headsets, and intercoms, so it’s possible to talk with your fellow passengers, and the other vehicles while you’re hauling butt down the trail.  Eric has a really nice toy-hauler that doubles as a camper, so we had all of the comforts of home.

We were also meeting up with another family, the Jones.  The last time we came to Utah, we met Richard and Jen, and they are just great people.  We had a blast with them last time, and this time would be no different.  They also have a toy-hauler/camper, and a sweet side-by-side, so it was fun for everyone!  It also turned out that I slept in the back of their toy-hauler on my own queen-size bed.  Ahhhhh…thanks for the great sleep guys!

Over the weekend, we ate great, saw some amazing views and great trails!  Here are some pics of our fun.

OK…This last one is so cute, it deserves to be on it’s own.  Ellie loves the side-by-side trips, but even she gets tired.  Awww….

Man what a fun weekend!

Chilling Out With Family

The rest of our visit to Utah was soooo relaxing.  We did a lot of shopping.  For clothes, for food, and other random stuff.  We ate a lot of junk, but it was good to savor those fast food delectables that we just can’t get in Spain.  I think anytime we passed by a Jack-in-the-Box, Anya and I had to order some tacos.  Eric cooked up some seriously tasty tri-tips, and even Bev got in the act.  She made some great beef stew that I enjoyed for a couple of days.

st. george utah corn fields

Even though we didn’t do much the last week, other than sneak in a mean game of laser tag, it was relaxing just hanging out with Ellie.  She was used to me, and would even snuggle with me on the couch, as long as I read from her book of choice.

Anya reading to Ellie

I can’t believe how big Carson has gotten.  He’s in the 3rd grade now, and likes to wrestle and play video games.  He and Lars bonded over FIFA, and we even had some Science with Uncle Alan time.  I had two simple experiments about surface tension, that seemed to go over fairly well.  We also had the opportunity to encounter The Great American Solar Eclipse, even though it was a bit overcast.

The Great American Solar Eclipse St. George Utah Wagoners Abroad

Heidi was a serious champ when it came to packing all of our new clothes, shoes, and food.  “Food?”, you ask.  “Yes…food!”, I say.  We bought a bunch of stuff that we either can’t get in Spain, or it’s just prohibitively expensive.  All told, we probably muled back about 40 pounds of sweets, spices, and other delectables.  And Heidi organized and distributed it all amongst our luggage.

Heading Home

With all of the good times experienced, we always have to have a sad part, and that’s the leaving.  Karen, Bev, and Heidi were all misty-eyed, and luckily Ellie didn’t really know what was going on, so she was her normal happy self.  With the last hugs, and blown kisses, the Wagoners mounted our shuttle to take us back to Vegas so we could get back to Almuñécar.

Unfortunately, fate threw us a couple of curveballs.  When we checked into our flight, we found out it was delayed two hours.  And then another two hours.  There was a mechanical issue on the plane, and they were waiting for an “easily installed” part.  Rather than wait, we opted to take the airline up on their offer to feed us and put us up in a hotel.  That turned out to be the right move, because our flight that was originally supposed to depart at 1:30PM, actually departed at 6:00AM the next morning.  That would have been a really crappy way to start our airborne journey home.

So the next day, we started our travels all over again.  This time without issue.  It was a 48 hour journey, but we finally made it to Málaga.

Sidenote about pronunciation:  During our times in the Las Vegas and JFK airports, we heard Málaga pronounced incorrectly pronounced by airline staff.  It was kind of funny, but when you come visit Spain, and you visit Málaga, you’ll want to pronounce it properly.  What we heard in the airports was:

muh-LAH-guh (with the stress on the middle syllable)

It’s supposed to be pronounced:

MAH-lah-gah (with the stress on the first syllable)

It’s a minor thing, and when you see the word in Spain, you’ll note that there is an accent on the first “a” (á), but that gets overlooked.  So remember to pronounce it correctly.

We picked-up our car, and did the hour-long drive home, and we were…home!  Ahhhh.  It was a bit musty, but once we opened the windows and doors, it aired-out quickly.  It was nice finally being home.

Now all that was left was to figure out where to put all of the stuff we brought back.  But that’s another story.  Also Heidi has plans to tell you about the Gma Bev Birthday surprise she and Karen cooked up.  It was a 14-hour day of craziness, flying and fun.  Be on the lookout in the next couple of weeks for that post.

What about you?  What did your Summer 2017 plans entail?  Let us know in the comments.

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About Alan Wagoner

Alan digs on technology and travel and is definitely the comic in the family. He’s traveled all over the globe in search of cultural experiences. He has a fantastic wife and two great children that put up with his “humor”, and luckily they all love travel as well. In Aug 2012, they sold their house and all of their possessions and moved to Spain to soak up the culture. He has written a book titled Live In Spain to help those wanting to obtain a Spanish Resident Visa. He also loves to write about the funnier side of the family’s adventures.

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