Wednesday, March 27, 2019

California Spring Break Days 4-5: Car Wrecks, Legos, and Sandy Beaches

I had jury duty today. I was not selected, though my not being selected still took over 6 hours to complete. But it was an overall positive experience-the Fort Worth Municipal Courts are well run- though I did wish for my laptop since they had free WiFi and I could have done so much backed up blogging! But I'm home now, the kids are in bed, and the bulldog is snoring (and James is icing; extensive gum grafting surgery is no joke), so back to the West Coast we go!

As alluded to in the last vacation post, our "off day" wasn't quite as "off" as it was supposed to be. Or maybe it was exactly as off as it was supposed to be, just not how I intended.

We woke up in our cheap 1 star motel just outside Anaheim/Disneyland and pretty quickly packed up and headed to the free breakfast buffet. The food was classic breakfast buffet material and the kids found it delightful while James sniffed disdainfully over his sad bowl of plain oatmeal, the only item he deemed acceptable to eat. We were on the road about 9 and aiming for the coast! On the advice of many, we planned to head to Laguna Beach and then continue stopping at places of interest along the coast on our way to Carlsbad and the Legoland Hotel. Landon was desperate to get there right at 3 (the earliest check-in possible) so we could explore and swim in the pool I'd shown him online and we told him that should be no problem.

Except it was. Because precisely 1.5 miles from Laguna Beach, just past Crystal Cove, we were sitting peacefully at a red light, just waiting for it to change, when we heard the screaming of tires and felt the jolt of impact. Honestly, for the first few seconds, I couldn't even figure out what had just happened. We'd been sitting at the red light all alone for at least a minute, looking forward to some sand and then bam. A Lexus SUV had hit us on the side and then continued forward and into the short highway wall before bouncing off that and coming to a stop right in front of us.

We quickly ascertained that everyone in our car was fine. The driver of the other car was getting out of his car and seemed to be okay too. Our car was not fine- it was scratched and dented along the back corner and along the side and the rear right tire was turned perpendicular to where it should be. We realized James still had the car in drive, but the car wasn't moving forward and was definitely not drivable. He turned it off and unsure of what to do- there should really be an adulting class on these things- I called 911 to report the accident.

police car Uber!

It took a while to get transferred to the right precinct. As it turns out, we got hit in a tiny sliver of unincorporated land juuuuuuust between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach and the department who patrolled it was way far away and it took an hour for a policeman to arrive. The kids had to stay seated with their seat belts buckled because we couldn't move the car (luckily we were already in the far right lane and had gotten pushed as far over to the small shoulder as we could have moved anyway by the car who hit us) and there was a wall beside us. The policeman finally arrived and he was very nice, but it took a while to talk to everyone and get next steps. He called for a tow truck. 45 minutes later one arrived. Our day was draining away and we were still in the car, 1.5 miles from our destination, staring at a concrete wall. The rental company would not come get the car, so James had to ride with the tow truck ALL the way back to LAX, 90 minutes away. We couldn't all fit in the tow truck, so the friendly police man offered to drop us off at Laguna Beach just ahead. And so he did, and in just a few minutes, it was me, 3 kids, and the contents of my purse, in a gas station parking lot across the street from the beach.

There are worse places to be. There are better ways to be there! Like with your spouse, towels, sandals, swim suits, snacks, and other supplies that are all carefully packed in the back of your mildly crunched in car... but there are certainly worse places!

It was lunchtime, so though we felt bad for our spouse/dad trapped in the tow truck, we immediately headed to The Cliff, a restaurant a blog commenter mentioned on my packing post, secured a table right on the edge of the patio looking over the water, and took a nice deep breath. I can't remember what I had, but I know it was delicious, and, knowing I had a long afternoon ahead of me, I had iced tea instead of the wine I wanted, but it was an absolutely lovely meal with an even better view and we all felt much better when it was over.

We walked back to the beach where we found a playground, sand, many children, and a nice shady tree for me to sit under and read.

And then the best thing happened! LEO, from the Better Together blog of yore, messaged me that she lived nearby and asked if I needed anything! I didn't, besides a husband and a car, but I told her I'd love to meet her! And then I did!!

LEO first sent me an email in January of 2008, somehow 11 years ago, telling me she loved my blog and also that we might be the same person. It was one of the first "fan" emails I ever received and it meant the world to me. I wrote back something equally enthusiastic. We stayed email, then facebook, then blog buddies, but -- and this seems crazy -- we had never actually met! But now we have! And she brought along her kid #2 who immediately became best friends with Claire and she and I got to talk for well over an hour.

My kids had organized a 15+ kid tag game around the playground and were sharing snacks with strangers and having a GLORIOUS time while I mostly just got to chat with my new friend and occasionally talk to James while he was still stuck filling out insurance and accident paper work and paying $800 for our tow at the rental car agency. James finally got to join us at the beach at 4:30- over SIX hours after the accident first happened, starving and a little frustrated by California traffic, but overall taking the whole incident in stride. He's better at frustration than I am. But I am good at hanging out on a beach for 5 hours with kids and new friends, so we played to our strengths and made the best of it.


Not the day we had planned by any means, but the guy who hit us had insurance and we were all physically okay so it could have been much worse. And the kids got to ride in the back of a police car "where the bad guys go" which was quite the thrill. We all packed into our new car, waved goodbye to LEO and daughter and beautiful Laguna Beach for being there for us when we needed them, and continued down the coast to San Clemente where we stopped for dinner and a sunset.

Dinner was at Pierside and it was SO GOOD. They had a happy hour special for a bunch of their tapas type plates and we ordered all of them. The waiter looked skeptical, but there wasn't a crumb left behind and we were all happy and full. We walked down the pier for the sunset and then continued on to Carlsbad for an understanding but increasingly stressed out Landon who was missing SO MUCH Legoland Hotel time.

Our hotel! Viewed in daylight the next day

I have to be honest. I had little to no expectations about Legoland. We were here for Landon. He saw a flyer for it in a Lego set he got when he was about 4 and has talked about going ever since. I only hoped we weren't too late (I mean, he's almost 12 and rarely plays Legos anymore) and that it wouldn't be too much of a disappointment to his long-held dreams and expectations.

And you guys, it was GREAT.

I am SO SO glad we splurged on the hotel. It was honestly 50% of the magic and fun. It's so colorfully and cleverly designed- so incredibly LEGO-Y. It's really more themed out than any of the Disney hotels we've been in.

You check in at a front desk with thousands of Lego mini figures behind it. There's a literal pool of Legos in the middle and the kids immediately jumped in and started building while I checked in.

We'd sprung for a Ninjago themed suite and again, if you can, DO IT. It was totally worth it. It was SO THEMED! Legos everywhere. Ninjago EVERYWHERE. A bunk bed with pull-out trundle for the kids with their own TV, bin of legos, lego baseboard built into the wall, and little nightlights they could each control. Then there was a nice sized bathroom, and then our king-sized bed, some comfortable side chairs, a desk, fridge, microwave, and good sized closet and shelves that were perfect for a line of 5 pairs of shoes. It was genuinely comfortable for our family of 5 and that is worth quite a lot even without the pretty awesome Lego creations all over the place.

There was a treasure hunt given to each kid when we checked in. Answering the clues gave them a code to type into our in-room safe where they found three special Lego sets, one for each of them, which was quite a thrill.

And then, even though it was the LAST thing James and I wanted to do (I mean, our day had involved a car wreck only 11 or 100 hours earlier), we took the kids down to the pool so Landon could experience the Lego buildable floats he'd seen on the website the year before.

And it was awesome. We stayed until close and then tucked the kids into their little bunk bed Ninjago nook.

In need of a good night's sleep, James and I were delighted to hear the theme park didn't open until 10. Our hotel stay got us early access at 9:30, but that was still a leisurely amount of time to get up, pack up, and head to the complimentary hotel breakfast. A hotel breakfast that was AMAZING. A smoothie bar! Tons of fruit! A salad bar for weirdos like James who want a good leafy green salad at 8 a.m. So many teas! All the bacon and eggs and ham and waffles and pancakes and toast and bagels and breads and oatmeal and omelettes and huevos rancheros and whatever else I don't even remember you can eat! And we ate MUCH.

We headed in to the park, which is directly connected to the hotel, a few minutes before our early access time. I'd bought tickets online using the Lego Movie "one kid free per adult ticket" special which saved us many dollars and also provided tickets to the separate Aquarium, which was surprisingly great!

The park is definitely geared for the 5-10 year old set. Cora could ride every ride no problem and Landon was definitely too old for a few, though he spent the whole day enthusiastically pretending otherwise.

The park is beautifully landscaped and Lego creations are everywhere and a part of everything. Little things, big things, clever thoughtful things... we enjoyed it so much.

There was a Mini Land where much of the world is recreated in Legos down to precise detail. It was a favorite of James and mine- we could have wandered for hours, but the kids, while generally admiring of the detail, pushed us through.

Claire loves the Lego Friends TV show and was delighted to find her friends in their own area of the park. Cora was too, and seemed to express this by grabbing the boobs of the one in this picture.

We enjoyed perfect weather and only occasional interruptions from the insurance company regarding the wreck we'd had the day before that no longer seemed part of real life. There was a driving school where each kid got to drive their own Lego car, something they enjoyed VERY MUCH, and a boat they could drive by themselves (except for Cora, who took over steering for me in the boat we shared) around in a circle lake.

The food was also quite good, and far more reasonably priced than Disney. James and I had Ramen bowls that were very tasty and the kids' meals had fresh fruit, milk, a side, and an entree for about $9. $9 was a single hot dog at California Adventure Park a few days before (but a DELICIOUS hot dog, reminded Landon).

It was a really fun day. We'd all prefer more big rides (we went on maybe 3-4 roller coasters? Only one of which I'd consider a "thrill" type ride), but for the complete lack of crowds and relative ease of the day, it was exactly a perfect thing to sandwich between the crazy Disney days and the lazy beach days ahead. The kids enjoyed the minifigure trading you could do with any employee and loved pointing out the clever Lego creations tucked all around the park (in addition to the giant ones often standing right in front of you).

We left the park around 3, feeling like we'd soaked up enough of the Lego magic. There was more to do, and certainly things we could have done again, but we felt good about it and were ready to head to the last leg of our adventure.

And so we headed south again, now to our rental home on Mission Beach in San Diego. We forced ourselves to stop at the grocery store on the way in (sooo hard to do, but we wanted simple food eaten at home and knew we would NOT want to go out again to get it) and pulled up to our temporary house 30 minutes before sunset. We dumped our things inside, kicked off our shoes, and raced out to the sand located just over the tiny fence surrounding our patio.

It was chilly and beautiful and the last 30 minutes felt like a cleansing for the soul. The kids dug holes in the sand. James and I held hands and strolled along the surf, glad to be somewhere without lines or hours or schedules of any kind.

We soaked up the last ray of sun and headed back to our "new house" as Cora always calls anywhere we stay on vacation, made our dinner of simple pasta and so many veggies, sent the kids on to their showers and tucked them in their beds. It was a 3 bedroom house, just like ours at home, so everyone could spread out and be comfortable and SLEEP IN.

And so began the last segment of our California Adventure and it was my favorite chapter of all.


  1. All I can think of is how little I would want to be a housekeeper at a Lego-based hotel!!! BUT minus the accident - fun trip!

  2. You guys vacation so well. And you write it up so well. Fun to read, and I'm not even jealous. (Maybe a little bit jealous.) ;)

  3. Thank you for including so much detail! My kids and I have been thinking about a trip to Legoland; looks like the next year would be the time, rather than putting it off and the kids getting too old...

  4. Omg, that was a rough start to your day! They’re building a lego land in NY, opening next spring. This made me excited to bring my Cora!

  5. OMG! Your family is so adorable!!! :)))