This is not the first trip I had taken up the I-15 through Vegas and into Utah, I first took the trip starting Labor Day weekend 1991. A lot has not changed in twenty years, a lot has. Obviously Las Vegas skyline has changed dramatically in its hotel room count, so too had that of Beaver, Utah.
One of my closest friends from college, Chuck Smith, had been accepted to the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University in Chicago. I had known Chuck since our first day on campus when we met at an orientation meeting, had lunch then went to check where our mailboxes were. Chuck's mailbox was 823 and I was 824. Upon learning this I looked at Chuck and said, "You know what this means? We'll be sitting next to each other at graduation." And indeed we were, in about 100 degree heat in May 1984.
By the time August 1991 came seven years later Chuck had married Michelle and they have twin one year old boys, Chad and Tim. All of whom needed to move to Chicago so Chuck could begin his studies at Northwestern.
Sensing adventure, the ability to help and some wanderlust I volunteered to help Chuck and Michelle drive cross-country, with one provision, "I won't change any diapers."
So it was set, Chuck, Michelle and the twins would ride in their Ford Aerostar, I would drive the small Mazda four door whose model I can no longer recall. Before cell phones and any internet I was somewhat advanced in the communication department with pager that had voice mail. It proved helpful the afternoon before our trip when I was at my brother's apartment in Los Angeles where I was to be picked up the next morning so we could start our trip (Chuck and Michelle living in Van Nuys and me in Long Beach it made the most sense).
The message was along the lines of, "Denny we have a bit of a problem. Michelle is at the hospital with her had badly cut up. Call me later." And he left the number of a friend's house. Evidently Michelle was doing last minute clean up of their home they were going to rent while in Chicago and using a borrowed ShopVac. The top had been broken so the high speed fan that generates the suction was partly exposed. Michelle reached behind her to move the vacuum and her hand....well let's say when I saw her the next morning she had loads of stitches and her hand was bandaged in such a way as it appeared she was flipping you the bird constantly.
It was evident that Chuck would be changing every diaper from two one year old boys for our journey. An ominous beginning. But begin we did.
It was Saturday of Labor Day weekend, I was cruising along behind the Ford van listening to college football games until we lost radio signals somewhere near Mesquite, Nevada. We stopped for gas, diaper change, and a snack late that afternoon somewhere in or near St. George, Utah and it was decided would push on and find a room for the night a bit further up the I-15.
Around 7-7:30 Chuck pulled off the highway in a small town. As we met up at the gas station right off the exit he said the kids were spent, everyone was hungry and we would drive through the town and find a place for the night. Right in back of the station was a good sized Comfort Inn or Best Western, keeping an eye on the budget we decided to drive through the town and see if there was anything. We drove past probably four or five small motels and hotels and everyone had "No Vacancy" signs lit up in the twilight. We pulled up next to each other in a parking lot and decided costs be damned let's go to the big hotel at the other side of town.
When we pulled in we all went in the lobby, Chuck looking like he had been on the road for several hundred miles with twin babies, Michelle leaning her elbow on her hip with her hugely bandaged hand flipping everyone off, and me eyeing the lobby for a spot to get a beer.
As we waited for the hotel desk clerk to help the couple in front of us we heard, "Sorry but we are booked up, the entire town is." As the couple left we looked at each other with "Uh-oh..." expressions. Yes, we were told the largest hotel in town was booked as was every other room as it was Labor Day weekend in Beaver, Utah. "What is so big in Beaver, Utah on Labor Day weekend?"
"It is an annual Alcoholic's Anonymous convention." In Beaver Utah. On Labor Day Weekend.
Despite our pleas, showing the twins, showing Michelle flipping him off with her bandaged hand, the clerk said he was totally booked.
We regrouped in the parking lot and decided to make a pass through town, if we did not see anything we would get on the highway and press on to the next town and keep pressing until we found a room.
Driving around a bend as I followed the Ford Van we passed the first motel on our left. In the growing darkness a sudden bright red light caught my eye, whipping my head around I saw big, beautiful letters shine "VACANCY!" I flashed my brights, honked and whipped a u-turn without carrying if Chuck saw me turn. My turn was just in time as the car I cut off followed me into the parking lot of the "Sleepy Lagoon" motel looking for a room.
They had one room, two queen beds. We got it. The last room in Beaver, Utah.
Yesterday Leslie and I made a pit stop in Beaver and as we were leaving the Shell station I asked her to drive into Beaver so I could see the old motel that saved us that warm summer night twenty years ago. (Remember that she was driving as my license and wallet were en route to Utah from Long Beach where I had left it.)
Alas the Sleepy Lagoon no longer takes conventioneers for the annual AA convention, if they still have it. Instead it appears it lodgers are dope fiends and kids looking for a place to party. The place is abandoned and he sleepy lagoon is an algae covered pond that must produce a prodigious amount of mosquitoes.
Au revoir Sleepy Lagoon Motel, au revoir.