D. E. Larsen, DVM
Here it is, Thursday afternoon, four o’clock, and we have just sent the last animal home. There are no more appointments for the rest of the afternoon and nothing scheduled for Friday.
“Okay, let’s switch the phone to the answering service,” I said to Judy. “I think this is a gift I have been waiting for. Tell them we will be gone until Monday morning.”
“What kind of plans do you have?” Dixie asked.
“No plans, but unless Sandy objects, I think we will go to Seattle to the King Tut exhibit,” I said. “Sandy doesn’t like to do things on the spur of the moment, but if we don’t take advantage of this break, we will never get to go.”
“I think a three-day weekend is great,” Judy said.
Sandy was less than enthusiastic.
“We can’t just pack up these kids and run to Seattle,” Sandy said. “We don’t have reservations or anything.”
“This is our only chance to go,” I said. “This is probably the only chance the kids will have to see this exhibit in their lifetime.”
“Derek is too young to remember anything about it,” Sandy said.
“He will remember the stories about it,” I said. “Get to packing. We are leaving as soon as possible. We need to get there before everything is closed.”
And so it was. We loaded in the car and headed for Seattle, almost five hours from Sweet Home.
As we got close to Seattle, I figured we better be looking for a motel room. We pulled into the Best Western by the SeaTac Airport.
“You came to Seattle without a reservation,” the motel clerk said as he looked over my shoulder at the carload of kids. “This city is booked solid because of the King Tut exhibit.”
“That’s what we came for,” I said. “Maybe we should be looking out around Enumclaw.”
“Let me make a call,” the clerk said. “I know a place that can probably put you in a room downtown. It is in the Olympic Hotel, which is mostly closed down and being renovated, but I know they have a few rooms on the upper floors. The night clerk down there is a friend of mine.
The clerk went to the back and made a call. He talked for longer than I would expect for a simple reservation. My guess is he was twisting the friend’s arm a little.
“Okay, he has a room on the upper floor for you,” the clerk said. “It will be a little rustic, but it should accommodate your family.”
I returned to the car with the clerk’s name and directions to the hotel.
“That took a long time for a simple room,” Sandy said with a questioning look. “We do have a room, don’t we?”
“Yes, we have the last hotel room in the entire city, I think,” I said with a smile. “It is on the top floor of the Olympic Hotel.”
“That sounds a little rich. Are you sure we can afford it?” Sandy asked.
“The hotel is mostly closed,” I said. “It is being renovated. We got the room because the clerk here is a friend of the night clerk. I think we get a special rate, and in fact, this is maybe an under-the-table deal.”
The directions took us right to the front of the hotel with only a couple of turns. We pulled up to the curb, and a guy was right there to greet us.
“You must be the family the Ed called about,” the guy said. “If you take your things out, I will park your car. It is a twenty-dollar fee to park, but that will be for all day tomorrow. The King Tut thing will probably take you most of the day tomorrow, so that will work well for you.”
I handed the guy thirty dollars, and he drove off with a smile on his face with our car. I turned and looked at the front door of the hotel. The lobby looked in shambles.
We were gathering our bags when Ed’s friend came out the door.
“You must be Doctor Larsen,” Ed’s friend said. “I am George. I have your room ready, but you will have to excuse the mess. If you can carry a couple of the small bags, just follow me with this big suitcase.”
And follow George we did. Amy and Dee clutched Sandy as we made our way through a cluttered lobby.
“We have to use the service elevator,” George said. “It will sound a little different, but it is fine. It only goes to the thirtieth floor, and your room is on the thirty-second floor, so we will have some stairs. And there is a lot of construction going on, so you need to keep the kids close as we squeeze through a couple of places.”
When the elevator started, there was a lot of grinding and clanking. Even Brenda was hanging onto Sandy. At the top, when the door opened, it looked like the hallway of a haunted house. Sheets were hanging everywhere to cover the work that was going on.
We made our way to the stairs, and George turned his flashlight on. The only thing that was missing was the cobwebs. I took a deep breath when we got to the top and entered the hallway. It was pretty clear.
George opened the door to our room. “You guys are lucky. This is probably the last room in Seattle. When the renovation is completed, this will be a penthouse, and it will be an expensive room. Tonight I will give it to you for fifty dollars. You will need to get up early if you are going to get through the King Tut this tomorrow. You can pack your bags and leave them in the lobby until you pick up your car.”
“It sort of sounds like you are giving us a special deal,” I said.
“You made an impression on Ed,” George said. “He thought you were brave or stupid to come up here in the middle of the night with a carful of little kids and no reservations. This is a little rustic, but you should be comfortable here for the night.”
George left, and I stretched, sat down in the oversized padded chair, and kicked my shoes off.
“It is sort of stuffy in here,” I said. “We should open a couple of windows.
Sandy surveyed the room. There were two double beds and one single, which was adequate, but the windows were a foot off the floor.
“You can’t open those windows,” Sandy said. “We will lose Derek out of one of those in a flash.”
I opened a window and leaned out to look at the traffic some thirty floors below. The girls leaned out to look also.
“You hang onto those girls,” Sandy instructed.
We finally got the kids into bed and put Derek in bed with Sandy and me. Sandy was guarding the window which I had left cracked. I am not sure how much sleep she got that night.
We were up early and had our bags packed. Making our way down the stairs to the service elevator was a challenge. The hallway was just as scary for the girls as it had been the night before.
“You guys are up early,” the morning clerk said. “George said you would be checking your bags with me.”
We checked our bags, stepped out the door, and hailed a taxi.
“Do you think we should find a restaurant to get breakfast for these kids?” I asked Sandy.
“Where are you guys headed?” the cabbie asked.
“We are going to the King Tut exhibit, but we were trying to decide on breakfast or not,” I said.
“I think you had better go to the exhibit first,” the cabbie said. “That place is pretty busy, and if you are late, you won’t get tickets for today.”
So he dropped us at the front gate of the Seattle Center.
“You just walk straight through there, and you will come to a line for tickets,” the cabbie said.
I paid the cab fare, and we headed for the ticket line.
Halfway through the center grounds, we came to the line. We started walking down the line. We followed the line as it ran all the way to the far gate, out the gate, and down the sidewalk. Finally, we came to the end of the line.
“It doesn’t look like we are going to get breakfast,” Sandy said as a few people lined up behind us.
“You stand in line, and I will take the kids, and we will get something to eat,” I said. “I noticed several places that were selling food.”
“That sounds good, just bring me a donut or something,” Sandy said.
There were a dozen people behind us now. A man came by with a placard that he placed behind the last person in line.
“What does that say?” I asked the guy as he walked past.
“That is the end of the line,” he said. “No more tickets for today. You guys made it by the skin of your teeth.”
“Good thing we didn’t go to breakfast,” I said.
So Sandy stood in line, and I entertained the kids. The line finally started to move, but pretty slow. After about two hours in line, Sandy finally got a set of tickets for the exhibit.
“I have tickets for entry into the hall right there,” Sandy said, pointing to the large building that housed the exhibit. “The problem is that our entry time is four-thirty this afternoon.”
I looked at my pocket watch. It was ten-thirty.
“I guess we entertain ourselves on the lawn,” I said. “There is a food court where we can get lunch.”
There were all sorts of activities going on in the center. We spent some time with the kids watching a finger puppet show in a little booth. Halfway through the show, Derek and Dee were peeking behind the stage curtain, much to the chagrin of the puppeteer.
It finally came time for our turn to enter the great hall. What a mass of people. Every half hour, they allowed fifty people to enter the hall. There was no set time to exit. It was a mass of people, shoulder to shoulder, moving from one glass case to another.
I put Derek on my shoulders. Sandy had a firm grip on Amy and Dee’s hands, and Brenda stayed in touch with me. If we were separated, a kid could be lost for some time.
We saw what there was to see. I was a bit disappointed that there was not more. I guess I didn’t really know what to expect. Once we had viewed all the cases, we made our exit, taking a deep breath of fresh air as we walked to the line of cabs.
We retrieved our car and headed north to Bellingham. We entered the freeway right in the middle of the city.
“This is amazing,” I said. “Five thirty, and there is no traffic on the freeway.”
Then we turned the corner and came to bumper-to-bumper traffic that lasted thirty miles to the north. We drove to Mount Vernon and rented a room in a Best Western with a swimming pool. It was quite a change over the previous night’s accommodations. The kids had a great time in the pool, and Sandy was able to catch up on her sleep.
The following day we spent in Bellingham trying to find some information on my long-lost grandfather, Sam Larsen. Most of the time, we were in the library. The kids were tiring, and we had a long trip ahead of us to get home. City hall was open, and we were parked at the front door when we decided to abandon the search and head for home.
Many years later, I would learn that a second cousin worked in that office. Would she have been there that day? Or would someone have been aware of her family history? I will never know. It was unfortunate that we did not find my grandfather’s family on that trip. My father and some of his first cousins would still have been alive.
It was late when we finally got home, but we had a day to rest before the clinic backlog hit us.
As we were finally getting into bed that night, Sandy made a statement that was to define our travels for the years to come.
“We are not going anywhere again on the spur of the moment,” Sandy said. “We will have reservations before we go anywhere!
Photo by Lemmy on Pexels.