The continuation of the Big Sur saga ...
Neither of us remembers too much about what she said after that, although we have pieced together a few snippets.
I remember interrupting to remind her that I'd told her that my husband doesn't like mice, that he really doesn't like them, and suggesting that we change the subject. She said she didn't remember that part of our conversation, and we all agreed that we needed to understand the situation, so a bit more conversation was necessary.
We also remember that we were instructed to buy our groceries at the Safeway nearby and get to the house as soon as possible since it would be dark soon and the road (Highway 1) is very curvy. We both smiled and nodded, but our brains had drifted elsewhere.
She also raised the topic of mice a second time, assuring us that if we simply followed her six (or so) suggestions, she was sure they wouldn't get in the house. She even added that traps (both traditional and electronic) were set inside the house in both the living room and kitchen. And Jim remembers that she said, "Don't worry if you hear a zap."
Later in the conversation, she, get this, raised the topic of mice a third time. At that point I remember that I was no longer able to keep a fake smile on my face, and I stopped trying. Given that she'd told me she'd never had a problem with mice when we talked on the phone in December, I was having a lot of trouble believing that now.
But I figured that anger would not be my friend in this moment, so I didn't express my feelings ... at least not verbally.
Finally, we were released from the conversation and made it back to our car. We decided to purchase some groceries and discuss our options during the hour-long drive to the cottage. I assured Jim that I would not try to convince him to (try to) sleep in the place if he had any concerns after we saw it. Our goal was to arrive before the sun set, just because most situations look better in the daylight. We'd assess everything after seeing the place for ourselves.
Inside the grocery store, we were (mentally) distracted. In the end, we settled on breakfast food, salad stuff, peanut butter and crackers ... and a four-pack of mouse traps. We remembered that there weren't many restaurants or stores along Highway 1, but figured a trip back to Carmel wouldn't be the end of the world. For now we needed to get on the road and make a plan.
During the drive we discussed our options. Jim offered to sleep in the car. And I knew there were a few small (and very nice) hotels along Highway 1; I'd just read about one of them in an article entitled, The Most Romantic Hotels in the US. I also knew that those hotels were even more of a splurge than our (non-refundable) cottage. Jim also suggested that he could get a place for himself in Carmel. We settled on the plan to wait until we arrived at the cottage to make any decisions. I had high hopes, still clinging to the fact that our host had assured me (in late 2022) that she'd never had any problems with mice. Unfortunately, the parking lot meeting had undermined her credibility.
We arrived at sunset and the views really were something.
As instructed, I used the land line provided to call our host and let her know we had arrived and made it into the house. (We clearly understood that cell service was spotty at best at a far corner of the property, and there was no Internet service unless we were willing to drive ten miles to a nearby library.) She then went through another list of instructions, guidelines and suggestions, including the tip to keep all of our food in the refrigerator, even dry goods, just to be sure there was nothing that might attract mice, and she let me know that there was an electronic rodent repellant device in the house. (We soon realized that it chirped every 15 seconds or so, which made it difficult to distract ourselves from the topic!) We were instructed to be sure to keep all bedding on the bed at all times to avoid creating a fire hazard given that there was a heater in the teeny tiny bedroom, and we were also asked to avoid use of the wood stove in the the living room. Signs posted all over the cottage itself instructed us to minimize our use of toilet paper, stagger our showers, and call if we had any questions, among other things.
Finally, our host asked if we would be OK, and I let her know that I was sure we would be just fine. I'd found my way back to my friendly voice and was eager to move on and salvage our trip. I did let her know that one or both of us might not stay at the house overnight, so if she called back and we didn't answer the phone, she shouldn't worry.
It's probably worth mentioning that when we arrived, we found two "droppings" on the kitchen floor. One looked like a mouse dropping and the other was bigger. I tried to assure Jim that they were some sort of seeds, but after I pulled out my glasses for a better look, there was no denying that neither was a seed. I'd mentioned this to our host on the phone, and one of the times she called back, she asked me to text pictures. I reminded her there was no cell service, but she said that if I sat on the left arm of the couch I could get a signal. So I dug the droppings out of the trash, photographed them, and texted her a photo.
She called back (was it multiple times?) and offered to let us stay at her house, although I'm sure she must have meant her other Vrbo rental right on the property where she lives 20 minutes east of Carmel (not even close to the water), and she said a bunch of other things I don't remember. I was sure that was not the secluded getaway experience on the ocean we were seeking, so politely declined her invitation.
One time she called back to let me know that she was sure her husband had tracked those droppings in from outside when he'd been at the cottage earlier in the day applying, get this, rodent repellant to the outside of the house. Honestly, every time we talked, things sounded a little bit worse.
In the end, Jim offered to sleep in the car, and I'd have slept with him, but we didn't see any extra bedding and pulling the sheets off the bed seemed like it would be a real pain in the neck, let alone the fact that it was likely to violate some rule included in one of the ten documents we were sent. So I pulled out my computer, found my way to an old email message containing the phone number for the Carmel River Inn where we'd stayed in 2022, called them on the land line, and made a three night reservation. We then headed back to Carmel.
We love the Carmel River Inn tiny houses! They're clean, and perfectly designed for a short term stay. When we walked through the door of our unit, a space had never looked so welcoming.
Jim took a shower, and then, of course, the owner of the cottage both texted and called me. Again! She wanted to know where we were, and I told her. She wanted to know why we hadn't stayed at her house.
I explained that we'd come to Big Sur to have time to ourselves, I let her know that we'd probably picnic at the cottage each day, and I assured her that I'd call her, as instructed, when we left the cottage for the last time; sometime on Friday, a day before our scheduled check-out.
She then asked if we liked whale-watching and said her husband, a photographer, could probably get us on a boat. I thanked her and insisted we were really wanting time to ourselves and again assured her we were fine, and I'd call her when we left the cottage for the last time.
At one point, during one of our phone conversations, I was trying to lighten the mood and let her know that when my son heard our story, he'd probably say, "Your trip was cursed!" That triggered this text exchange a few hours later:
There was no doubt we were in California.
Thankfully, this story has a happy, albeit expensive, ending. I've learned that when we find our way to a great place (like the Carmel River Inn), maybe we should just enjoy it, rather than try to improve upon it.
We've also learned that renting a vacation home for your vacation home is kind of fun. Given that the expense was downright ridiculous, we're not recommending it, but we were able to enjoy it (and laugh about it) while we had it.
And on a final humorous note, check out this framed suggestion I found in the cottage kitchen when we visited the next day:
Had all gone according to plan, we'd have returned with boring stories about the beauty of Big Sur. Luckily, this story is a lot funnier!
This is basically the end of the funniest parts of the story, although there are few tidbits of humor in the conclusion and epilogue.