Monday, March 06, 2006

Trouble in Dayton

I don't understand why it is we seem to have trouble with accommodations when we head east of the mountains but we do. About a year ago, when we took Kaley to the State Solo/Ensemble competition, we were unable to find a room in Ellensburg, the site of the event. So we made reservations 25 miles away in CLe Elum only to be turned away from a supposedly pet friendly place and sent to the railroad tracks because we had a dog. I wrote about it on here at the time.

This past weekend, Kaley had a full schedule at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She had a tour, interview, class visits on Friday and most importantly, three auditions for every scholarship they offer on Saturday. Most prospective students had one or two auditions at most but Kaley had a voice presentation with two opera pieces, a theater performance with monologues and musical theater, and a grand finale of piano playing Mozart and Debussey. Of course, this is all without music or written materials--just Kaley alone on stage with her talents.

Two weeks ago, we attempted to make reservations for two nights in Walla Walla. Nothing--nothing was available in Walla Walla--not at the Best Western, Holiday Inn Express, La Quinta, Howard Johnson, etc. Every brand name roadside place you can imagine was filled without explanation in a small city in the middle of nowhere in Eastern Washington two weeks in advance. We even tried the most expensive place in town, the Marcus Whitman Hotel, with no luck. Visions of the Cle Elum railroad tracks danced in my mind.

Walla Walla, like Helena, Montana is a Victorian town so we started going through the Bed & Breakfast list. Yes, we struck gold or I should say purple. The Purple House B&B had two bedrooms available for two nights with a shared bath. It was a bit pricey and not in Walla Walla but it was the only thing available closer than 50 miles. Twenty-eight miles away in Dayton stands the Purple House Victorian. I am a little queasy about B&B's and I refuse to share bathrooms down the hall with strangers. Also, the breakfast time is a little too intimate for me, this cool and aloof Seattleite. But with the three of us sharing the bathroom with nobody else, I thought it would be just fine. Unlike a hotel room, Kaley would have her own room and we could ignore everybody at breakfast.


It is a long drive to Dayton from Mukilteo--about 300 miles. This time we kenneled the dog so this wasn't an issue though I worried for a week about driving over Snoqualmie Pass. The pass was fine--32 degrees with slush in places but no restrictions. We arrived exhausted at the Purple House at 10 PM on Thursday night. We were gaciously welcomed by a nice woman named Christine with an obvious German accent into a spotless Victorian parlor. "This is good; this is ok," I thought. Our rooms upstairs were absolutely delightful with attractive wallpaper and expensive bedding. The bathroom was large and modern. Christine brought us ice water with lemon served in a crystal pitcher and asked us when we would like breakfast.

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The Purple House

The next morning after the three of us taking our bathroom turns, we went down to the dining room for a lovely breakfast. Three adorable mop dogs curled up at our feet under the white linened table. Kaley said she slept like a rock and loved the room and the bed. "Whew!", I thought, "tomorrow is like a marathon for an athlete and she needs to be rested. Yes! Good choice, this place."

As we finished our quiche, French toast, bacon, kiwi and raspberries, Christine turned to Kaley and suggested, "Kaley, since you are the young lady, I was thinking you could sleep on the couch tonight in the sitting room." I froze; you do not know my daughter, Christine. I could feel my face flushing and wondered what was coming next. "I haven't made this mistake in 16 years but I have guests coming tonight instead of tomorrow as I thought and I need to put them in the room Kaley slept in. But since she is a young girl, I can make her comfortable on the couch. And since this is my mistake, I will not charge you for the price of a full room."

Kaley responded with her gorgeous smile and replied with Seattle politeness that she supposed that might be ok. Ah, she is such a good actress. I proclaimed as nicely as possible, "I am not sure about this. She has three grueling auditions tomorrow and she needs a good night's sleep." My too nice husband acted like this was perfectly fine.

At that moment we had to leave to drive the 28 miles to arrive in time for the tour and Kaley's interview. Upstairs, Kaley let loose, "I am so pissed! What's the matter with her? I'm not sleeping on a couch out in an open room with no walls and a big gonging clock. Is she crazy? We had reservations. I have auditions tomorrow. This is age discrimination!" Oh, I taught my children well. I was angry because I was thinking five people, two strangers, one bathroom 28 miles away on the morning of auditions when Kaley dresses formally with hair and make up to the nines. We left our stuff scattered in the bathroom and in the room Kaley had slept in and rushed out the door explaining we were not sure what time we'd return in the evening.

In the car, my sweet husband offered to sleep on the couch. Kaley was somewhat calmer with this plan because the bed was comfortable, she doesn't mind sleeping with me, and the room was very quiet. But this did not solve the five people, two strangers, one bathroom problem. We had no other options with nothing else available. As we passed llamas and vineyards and wineries on the way to Walla Walla, I was beginning to steam. "She has three rooms in that place! How hard is it to count to three? This is her business; prominent B&B's in this area, the Napa Valley of Washington, cannot and should not make mistakes like this. Word could get around. How in the world are five of us going to be able to share that bathroom in the morning when Kaley needs to be all dressed up? How dare she treat my daughter like that? To think she would have her sleep unprotected in an open living room with strangers around. I mean it is one thing when you are at Grandma's house and she announces the cousins are coming--this is no big deal because it is family. We can share a bathroom with family but strangers?? This is completely unacceptable. What are we going to do?"

Driving past a Wal-Mart, my husband stated we'd need to stop there so he could find some cheap pajamas made by starving kids in the third world. He only sleeps in his underwear. "Are you kidding?" I shrieked, "I refuse to shop at that..that...place under any circumstances. Besides I think it would serve Christine right to have a fifty-three year old very very hairy naked bald man sleeping on the couch scaring the other guests. No offense. I am used to you. But, it would serve her right."

Naturally, we were late for the tour which they actually held for us. They are so nice at Whitman. Briefly, we stated we had accommodation problems and were 30 miles away. A man with his daughter from Maine were driving back to Seattle after only one night; he explained there was a girl's soccer tournament in Walla Walla and they had been terribly inconvenienced as well. Another man and his daughter from Atlanta were staying 50 miles away in Kennewick. As we left Kaley for her interview, class visits and campus lunch, she instructed us to do all we could to find another place to stay. She did not ever want to see that Christine woman again if she could help it.

Our plans to visit wineries, pottery and glass shops, and antique stores vanished. Thank goodness Walla Walla is smallish without major traffic. We stopped at the Best Western to see if they had cancellations--no. Likewise, the Holiday Inn had no rooms still and they had information from all other places in town--nada. The fancy Marcus Whitman also was filled with soccer girls but they suggested we check again later in the afternoon. Walla Walla is right on the border with Oregon. Pendleton is 41 miles away and by cell phone, I called a couple of places there--nope. There was a room 60 miles away in Richland, WA.

Two motels were listed as 10 miles away right over the border so we decided to check them out. The Outwest Motel with about six units was perched right along the highway. I thought I had seen that place on "Cops" undoubtedly. We kept going because at least the Purple House is quiet. The Morgan Inn was also on the highway with a fairly nice front. It looked bigger with rooms off of the highway, so we drove around the back. "There--there look at that!" I laughed with disbelief. A large yellow sign was nailed to a door to one of the back rooms at the Morgan Inn and it proclaimed "Illegal Drug Lab on Premises. Unfit for Use." Ok, we were resigned to having to stay at the Purple House with five people and one bathroom or we could take the place in Richland. "Let's go eat lunch."

Lunch was quiet. I was feeling very stressed and I was bugged because we could have been having fun. As a Mom, I did not want my stress level to affect my daughter when she had such a big job to do the next day. She is fully aware of the financial strains of two kids in college, and scholarships would be so helpful. But there was nothing more to be done. "Let's go check at the Marcus Whitman again," I said, "They are the biggest place so there is more of a chance of a cancellation. I can't believe soccer teams are staying at that place anyway. At this point, I do not care how much it costs."

The gorgeous Marcus Whitman (they are so nice in Walla Walla) gave us a ray of hope. They had a cancellation of a room with a king bed but we needed a roll away. Once the rooms were cleaned, they would let us know if a roll away materialized. Dave promised he would sleep on the roll away so Kaley could have a bed. Oh, this would be so wonderful; I was afraid to get my hopes up---three people to a bathroom, privacy, and five minutes from campus. The teams might be noisy but at the Marcus Whitman unlike the Super 8, one could complain. I am never sure if I should pray in these situations because maybe tolerating the Purple House would have its benefits. Oh, what the hell? God knows me by now and he knows how selfish I am. It wasn't right what Christine at the Purple House did to us.

We met Kaley and told her all of the stories and that we had done all we could. A phone call about a roll away was the final thing we were waiting for. She loved Whitman and ate lunch with a very cute boy who has a friend who knows Lucas in Missoula. The music building had tons of empty practice rooms and she wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon working on her pieces so we dropped her off---alone. Whoa! Kaley was comfortable. She hates the UW; she hated NYU; she hated UBC; she hated Berkeley. "Wow! She likes it here. Let's go to the pottery place." In the middle of a purchase of a pottery mug to add to my collection, the Marcus Whitman called. They had a roll away.

We called Kaley and she was very happy to stay put so we sped down the highway 30 miles to Dayton--to the Purple House. "What if she wants to charge us for tonight? I mean it is 4 PM and our stuff is all over her upstairs. Sorry I said you were scary and hairy, by the way."

"Nah! She is an older lady who made a dreadful mistake that she has probably agonized about. My bet is she will be extremely relieved. And I know I'm hairy." Dave was right as usual. She greeted us warmly and had gathered our things together for us and she apologized again for the double booking and of course no charge for the last minute departure. I told her the place was beautiful and we were invited back. She had no idea the stress we had been through as a result of her mistake because she had no idea about the soccer tournament. It would have been wrong to make her feel more terrible than she felt.

At the Marcus Whitman, the roll away was actually a comfortable regular bed. In the elevator, we met one of the muscular soccer Moms with a clip board. When she got off, I said to Kaley, "Did you see her? Damn, she looked mean. I think we'll have quiet night." And I was right.

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Marcus Whitman

We visited one of the million wine tasting rooms while Kaley vocalized before her auditions. As Dave tasted a cab, we spilled the entire story to the wine steward. He told us he'd had a guy visit the day before from Maine whose daughter was checking out Whitman, too, and he had trouble finding a place to stay. "Yea, we met him. Nice guy."

Kaley nailed her auditions and felt like she performed better than ever. This is something from a kid who can be self-critical to a fault. Kaley was tired, happy, pleased and relieved. The drive from Walla Walla was gorgeous and I had forgotten to bring the camera. We saw the sunset behind huge volcano, Mt. Adams to the left and huge volcano to the right, Mt. Rainier. Everything was pink, gold, white and spectacular. To celebrate the day, we stopped for dinner at the half way point in Yakima, WA. Yep, Miners Drive-in--the BEST hamburgers and milkshakes outside of Dick's in Seattle.

"Lucas hates us right now," Kaley said as she ate her salad and Dave and I scarfed down hamburgers. "Should we tell him we ate here without him?"

"I don't know. Should we? Yea, we should!" And we all laughed.