Thursday, June 23, 2016

Cousins, Condos, & Criminals

My husband, Hubert, and I planned a nice trip to California. Although it would be a working trip, we anticipated some fun and relaxation. It began with us spending a day with my 5th cousin whom I had never met before. We had a great day visiting with him and his wife at Burney Falls State Park - a beautiful place. We chatted for hours as though we had always known each other.

We then drove to Jamestown where I did three days of book signings. The first two were at the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. That is always enjoyable as friendly families are there to ride the old steam train used in so many movies and TV shows. Since part of my novel, The Seamstress of Jamestown, involved the train first coming to Jamestown, it is a perfect place for interesting historical conversations. The workers there are full of old train lore, so I enjoyed the two day visit immensely.

The next day I signed books in front of the 1859 Historic National Hotel. Several chapters of my story take place there, including the true story of the origin of Flo, the ghost in residence there. I met other striving (or is that starving) authors and three town drunks, who were quite friendly and talkative. 

Then south to San Juan Capistrano to fix up our family condo. We spent a week unpacking boxes, cleaning, moving furniture, posting stuff to sell on Craig's List, hanging pictures, and reorganizing every closet. Tiring but rewarding. 

The trip home was to be uneventful and fast (for two old folks). We drove to Lodi and stayed in our favorite hotel, Motel 6. That is obviously not for the ambiance, but the price. We got in so late that we got the last room - a handicapped room. It was actually large, very clean, and quite nice. We also got the last spot in the parking lot. I made 4 trips to the car carrying in only what we needed for the night. We both brought in our overnight bags. I brought in my immersion mixer, measuring cup and spoon, ingredients for the Dr. Budwig muesli, homemade apple sauce, homemade beet juice, box of pills, my purse, plus all the meats & cheeses so they wouldn't go bad in the cooler in the car whose ice was already melted. It was about 90 degrees. Hubert wanted the car to cool down overnight so he left the windows cracked an inch. (I know, I know, you can see what's coming...)

In the morning, after we drank our beet juice, I made the muesli for Hubert. That was followed by him taking a plethora of pills with the apple sauce. I went to the car and put our green tote bag in the back set. I closed the door. Something was wrong. I stood there and stared into the car.

The cooler was missing. It was one of those that you plug into the outlet and keeps food cold while the car is running. I then looked in the front seat & noticed the contents of the glove compartment strewn on the seat. The truth was clear. I went back to the room and told Hubert we had been robbed. I then went to the office and told the nice young gentleman there. The next few hours were spent with him, a nice police officer, and the manager who came in even though she wasn't scheduled. They spent much more time with us than I could imagine is normal. They showed us the photos taken by their new cameras, and posted them on Facebook and the bulletin board at the police department. We couldn't have had more kindness and concern if we were staying at a Hilton or Marriott. In the end, we lost the cooler, my laptop, and our GPS. I am very grateful they did not see my camera on the floor in front of the passenger seat - photos are a treasure to me. I am a little insulted that they didn't have any interest in taking a box filled with my fascinating novel. 

So, we've learned a few things that most of my readers probably already knew. Don't park near the walkway that goes through to a vacant lot with bushes to hide a criminal.  Don't leave windows open in the crime-infested region of Hwy. 99 in California's central valley. Fingerprints on a dusty surface cannot be lifted. The good news about our innocence is that they didn't have to break a window to get in. The video from the parking lot camera was interesting. A young man on a bicycle scouted the entire parking lot. He left. He came back with a buddy who used a tool to break in. They grabbed the items quickly and walked through the walkway and, hidden by the bushes, were not seen again.
Wiser but poorer.