Two friends of mine go on vacation frequently and take their children. They go on great trips, Auburn football games, and to amusement parks. If they go to an area...they look at all of the fun and entertaining options that they have to choose from...and they actually make a choice and go. They get a great deal on their flights, hotel rooms and activities. They also seem to come back full of wonderful memories and they seem to look forward to their next adventure.
My family is SO not like this.
We just returned from a journey from Montgomery to Austin, Texas in a minivan. The minivan is actually confirmation to me that God loves me, because I originally reserved a full size car. My new friend, Erin, at Enterprise upgraded me because she either had an abundance of minivans on the lot, or because she is just a wonderful and merciful soul placed in my path to keep me out of prison. I prefer to believe that it is the latter.
The three of us - Big Dave, Brian and I started out at the ungodly hour of 5:00 a.m. last Thursday morning. Big Dave is a morning person. Brian and I are SO not. We got on our way...and Brian slept for several hours. This was wonderful because we didn't have to consider his opinion when we stopped every hour for a pit stop and to refill our coffee. This madness went on for the first five hours of the trip. At that point, we noticed a direct correlation in the amount of fluids being consumed and the number of stops we were making. I never said we were bright.
Oh, and my friend asked me this morning where we made our first stop. They normally stopped at the Alabama-Mississippi line when making a trek to San Antonio. Us? The Mitylene exit in Montgomery (10 miles from the house)...and every McDonald's between here and Mississippi pretty much.
We eventually got into a rhythm...and ended up stopping less frequently as the day went on. This was a good thing as our original time trajectory had us arriving in about double the time it should have taken. Apparently we were saving that bit of "specialness" for the trip home.
Brian's willingness to sleep meant that Big Dave and I were free to listen to talk radio and actually converse like grownups. We stopped where it suited us because there were two of us...and one of him. He had the entire back of the minivan to frolic about in and trash out. He slept. We rode. It rocked. I read two of the books I checked out of the library and kept up with o ur progress on the GPS. I wondered to myself why we didn't road trip more often. Yeah, I honestly did that.
We got to Austin in approximately twelve hours. Even with all of the stops.
After unloading at the hotel where we scored a room at a bargain price including free breakfast (because it was an Embassy Suites...but whatever) and parking (which saved us $13 a day)...we went to visit my sister and her (then) fiance at their home for dinner. After coaxing Big Dave back into the van (intense begging on my part...and I said I'd drive) and the GPS version of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, we got there.
Needless to say, Big Dave drove back to the hotel.
The next morning, we got everyone up so that we were able to take full advantage of the free breakfast that was a REAL breakfast (thank you, Embassy Suites...you TOTALLY rock)...we started our day early. Manicure/pedicure appointments were at 10:00. That meant that we had all of the bridesmaids and girls in the family being "beautified" simultaneously.
The chair with its awesome massage back and the warm water of the whirlpool bath for my feet made me feel so wonderful after a day in the car doing nothing but feeling worn out nonetheless. I chose a lovely shade called "Bubble Bath" for my nails because I was copying the bride-to-be. The lady painting my nails was conversing in some language I didn't recognize but I'm fairly sure that she was whining about my cuticles. I truly didn't care.
After a remarkable lunch...we went back to attempt to do flower arrangements for the tables. The fact that nobody was particularly gifted in this area mattered not. We just plowed through the roses and greenery to create eighteen masterpieces. I was really proud of that effort by the way.
The evening was spent at the Rehearsal Dinner...where we went to Threadgills...party of 60. The food was good...and the company was even better.
The next morning was breakfast...and then the ceremonial trip to the local Emergency Medical Care Facility. Yes, Tara had something on her arm that looked like it required medical care. Since I am a wuss and did not have other people on our contract with Enterprise, I drove Linda, Eric and the kids to have it checked out. A ridiculous amount of money and two prescriptions later, we were back on the road again toward the hotel. Turned out it was a bite of some kind that we believe was a spider. If she starts shooting webs out of her wrists or climbing walls, we'll worry. Somehow, I think we're safe.
The afternoon was spent eating a great lunch at a restaurant called Perlo's. I really should have ordered a libation, because shortly after that...we went shopping at what the locals call "SOCO" or the South Congress area. Jill ended up with a peacoat, sweater and boots within a one hour time frame. Thankfully, we had to leave to get dressed for the wedding or it could have gotten truly ugly.
The wedding was a wonderful affair that completely suited the bride and groom. I won't elaborate on that right now because I want to do it justice later...if that's even possible.
After the wedding, and the after-party after the wedding, we went home, packed, and said our goodbyes.
At 5:00 a.m. we were up again and trying to check out of the hotel, get the van packed, and locate a liquid substance resembling coffee. We succeeded in all three of these endeavors. By 5:30 we were in the parking lot of a convenience store in downtown Austin screaming at each other about who knows what. All I know is that it was A) too early for that junk and B) pretty much reflective of the remainder of the day.
We settled in, and the kids slept for several hours. If only "several" could have been replaced with "the majority of" instead. Alas, NO.
We stopped more times than is imaginable...and ended up taking back roads in rural Texas compliments of the GPS. It wasn't bad...but it did stretch out the trip an extra hour or so because you can't blow through Podunk, Texas going anything but the speed limit. Thankfully, we didn't have a face to face encounter with Johnny Law, but we did see a whole host of people out there who were going to be supporting the local economy by paying for speeding tickets. We like Texas, but not THAT much.
Somewhere in Louisiana we stopped at a gas station and Jill made the mistake of searching for some gummy worms and vacating her seat. She refused to get back into the van until Brian moved, and he insisted that he wasn't moving. I was at the point where I honestly had given up hope that we'd ever get back to Alabama anyway, so I just let them wait each other out. Finally, he wore her down and she hopped in the back of the van. I won't even try to relay the dialogue...but the gist of it was that she was not very happy with this turn of events.
How's that for tactful?
Anyway, we eventually made it through Louisiana, survived lunch at Longhorn Steak House, and then got through Mississippi too. I began to think that maybe...just maybe...we'd eventually get home.
Jill's boyfriend met us on the outskirts of Tuscaloosa so we could get her out of the van and keep moving. I could not have been happier to see him.
The last two hours were incredibly slow...but Big Dave kept driving. And driving. And driving.
And then...suddenly...after fifteen or sixteen (I honestly lost count) hours on the road...we were home. I didn't kiss the ground...but I did consider it.
I remembered that the reason we don't go on road trips is because we've always felt that we needed to take the kids with us. Some families can pull this off. We (apparently) cannot. I did a trip with the two of them in 2006...in Europe...and swore "never again." It took a family wedding to get us motivated to go for the sequel. It will take something equally important to get me back in the minivan again.
I'm just glad that we were in the minivan...and that I am not in prison.