The Road to Hell and Vacations

The Plans of Mice and Men

The road to hell

They say the road to Hell — and sometimes vacations — is paved with good intentions. Unfortunately, that’s the story of our recent getaway.

Our vacation was supposed to be a respite from pandemic, politics, and wildfires. It was supposed to be fun. Relaxing. But it turned out to be a vacation hellscape.

Finally, after almost six months of sheltering-in-place, Handsome Hubby and I took off for Sea Ranch, CA, — one of our favorite places on the planet.

We were returning to our favorite rental property, an architectural gem overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We’d stayed there twice before and had a blast.

Sea Ranch is tiny. Population: 1,305. It doesn’t have many restaurants and the nearest market isn’t well-stocked, even in non-pandemic times. So, we loaded the car with enough groceries to last the entire week.

The Road to Hell

CDs (yes, CDs) blasting we made our way north up the Pacific Coast Highway. Despite the occasional detours to avoid wildfire hot spots and road construction, we arrived in record time.

Right away we knew something was wrong. The once glorious house had apparently fallen on pandemic hard times or at least, disuse. It smelled musty and moldy. We quickly opened the windows to air it out.

Then, we got busy unloading the car. We trundled in the groceries, clothes, yoga mats and weights, raincoats, light jackets, warmer jackets, sneakers, sandals, our Heaven knows what else and everything else as well.

We unpacked the ice chest and piled all the fruit and vegetables on the counter. Then, we collapsed on the couch, content to enjoy the beautiful ocean view from inside the house’s floor-to-ceiling windows.

We had brought along leftovers from home. So, dinner was quick and easy.

Afterward, we were ready for a little TV time, but we couldn’t locate the operating instructions for the three remote controls. Now HH is a certified techno-nerd, but he could not figure out these blasted controls. First, he tried a rational approach, working each control one-by-one with patience and care. No luck. Then, he started muttering to himself and clicking buttons in random patterns. The TV eventually flickered on, but all we got was an HGTV show about extravagant swimming pools with death-defying slides and fake rock formations in the shape of scary skulls! We gave up and read.

At 10:27, we went to bed — separate bedrooms because, if you recall, HH snores like a buzzsaw set on high forest decimation. My bedding reeked of fabric softener. I’m allergic to the stuff and started itching like a crazy woman. But I was exhausted and tried to power through it.

At 2 a.m., I took an antihistamine.

Then, at 4, I stumbled to the couch.

Day 2: Paradise or Roll the Dice?

By 6:30, I surrendered to the obvious. I just wasn’t going to get any sleep. I got up, took a cold shower, and walked into the kitchen.

My eyes were barely open, but I could see well enough to discern little black “speckles” everywhere. Mouse droppings! On the microwave. In the toaster. Around the coffee pot. And worst of all, covering all the fruit and vegetables we had placed on the counter.

At 6:32, I marched into HH’s room and declared I was not happy.

My kind husband jumped up and immediately went into cleaning-disinfecting attack mode! Those kitchen surfaces gleamed like brand new. Gone were the droppings. But gone also were all our gorgeous groceries.

At 9:01 we called the realtor.

At 10, an exterminator arrived with five mousetraps.

And at 10:17, the realtor showed up with a hypoallergenic laundry detergent — and for good measure, new pillows. And even before her car had pulled out of the driveway, I had stripped the bed, poured the detergent into the washer, and started the machine up. Load after load I washed — sheets, mattress pad, and the duvet cover — not once but twice.

Meanwhile, with fresh (make that paranoid) eyes, I scrutinized the closet, and to my dismay, discovered spiderwebs, NOT cobwebs, SPIDERWEBS with beaucoup dead bugs.

Once again, HH — brandishing a vacuum hose like Sir Lancelot with a mighty spear — came to my rescue. And while I laundered, he cleaned the closet, and for good measure, a few other spidery walls as well.

By dinnertime, we were exhausted and ordered dinner from a local restaurant. Afterward, we watched another episode of the extravagant pool series while bemoaning our own pool-less existence.

Nightime. Sweet Dreams?

Bedtime came. “My” room inexplicably still smelled. Just walking into it caused me to commence itching and scratching. HH didn’t smell anything and graciously volunteered to switch rooms.

Faster than you can say “outa here,” I agreed, and at 10:01, collapsed in the non-smelly bedroom

At 10:15, I had just fallen asleep when HH came bounding into the room. Amorous intentions? Alas no.

“You’re not crazy,” he shrieked. “There’s something definitely wrong with that room. I’m itching like there’s no tomorrow!”

My first reaction was not one of sympathy. I was insulted. Of course, I wasn’t crazy! I knew there was something wrong with the room. “Thanks for the validation, HH!” I snorted under my breath.

Then, watching him twist and contort, I did feel a surge of compassion — for me, because I realized I was now stuck sharing a bed with this itching, unhappy man — you know, the one who snores.

And did I mention HH also suffers from Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) which causes him to twitch, twist, and turn ALL NIGHT LONG?

Oh, and did I also forget to mention the bed sagged? So, try as I might, I could not move away from the Karate Kicking Spouse.

By 3:15 a.m., I was desperate. I longed to migrate to the couch, but the thought of scampering mice and snapping mouse traps kept me pinned in place.

Day 3: Will It Get Better?

Morning eventually came. One mouse had indeed met his mousetrap maker. HH removed the carcass.

We debated going home, but looking at the air quality report for Berkeley and the heat warnings, concluded — foolishly — “It’s got to get better.”

We went out for a walk along the cliffs in the clear sky, kissed, held hands, and avoided discussing snoring, Restless Leg Syndrome, animal infestations, and our yearning to watch something besides TV show about swimming pools.

Back at the house, HH finally figured out how to get the TV working. We got some work done. There were no new mouse sightings. We took another walk. We avoided the bedroom from Hell. AND I took a sleeping pill at night.

Day 4: Good Intentions? Oh, Hell!

HH walked into the kitchen aka the site of the mousetraps. All clear.

We laughed, agreeing it clearly wasn’t a great vacation when you had to check for dead mice before breakfast! And we gave ourselves a pat on the back for being resilient middle-aged muddlers for sticking it out and making the best of a bad situation.

BUT then …

I pulled out a skillet out from the cabinet to make eggs and discovered more mouse droppings.


The power went out.

AND we lost the Internet.

We called the realtor. I started the litany of complaints.

She interrupted me. “Are the mouse droppings old or new?”

I tried to stay calm.

HH did not.

We may not have had power, but a light went on for both of us.

This Was Fun?

We had done more cleaning in four days than we did in 14 days at home. We had tossed out more groceries than we normally consume in a week. And we had gotten no rest on our much-needed R&R retreat. Plus, we had spent beaucoup bucks for the “privilege” of staying at this once-upon-a-time “fancy” vacation property.

We called the leasing agent and told her we were leaving. We said she needed to issue a refund. As for the cleaning fee? We firmly suggested she not only refund it but triple it for all the cleaning we did! And as for our plans to return for our anniversary in December? Well, forget about that!

As we packed, I started sorting clothes into “clean” and “dirty” piles. HH looked up and casually “suggested” I launder everything.

“Why?” I asked on immediate high alert.

“Just do,” he said, placing his hand on my shoulder. “Just do. You really don’t want to know what I vacuumed up in that closet. You just don’t want to know.”

So, that was our vacation from Hell. I’m still doing laundry. It’s going to take a while. I’m washing everything three times. No word yet on a refund from the leasing agent.


Photo Credit: 96dpi on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

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4 replies
  1. Robin Edwards
    Robin Edwards says:

    So sorry you went through that. I wish you’d called me and I could have told you how to get into our house. Hope that won’t sour you on Sea Ranch forever.

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      Oh, I never thought of that! Wish I had. Robin to the rescue … It … you … the perfect solution! And, of course, we still love Sea Ranch and you and your own Handsome Hubby!

  2. Mary Rees
    Mary Rees says:

    I’m sorry, Karen. How disappointing! What is the backstory to the state of disrepair? Have the leasing agents and owners not visited the property through all of these shelter-in-place months?


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