Details kill me, and the final hours of prepping for a road trip are nothing but details. It’s brutal. I hate it. So therefore, I make the process much easier on myself by doing things like changing my mind last minute about arrangements for my dog. However, in a flurry of text messages, I was able to secure a last minute dog-sitter to come to the house, and this solved so many problems related to travel and getting back at a certain time to pick up Stax from the vet, not to mention the additional costs of boarding at the vet. I breathed a giant sigh of relief and went to bed Thursday night with that stress off of my mind.
I woke Friday morning to the ripping sounds of the dog pulling apart the fabric of his stuffed duck. This noise carried on long enough to pull me out of the haze of half-sleep to being awake enough to feel like it was important to make sure the ripping noise was in fact the stuffed duck and not one of May Lee’s precious stuffed animals. I rolled over and Stax raised his head to look at me with his giant, pleading eyes and perky, puppy ears while my shredded bra dangled from his mouth. Of course my dog would eat my one good t-shirt bra on the morning that we leave for vacation. Who wants to wear white at the beach anyway? That is the yin and yang of vacation planning: by securing a dog-sitter, I relieved myself of additional expenses and errands, but by failing to secure the dog in his crate that night, I ensured that those savings would now be invested in a new bra and that one of the first places we would visit at the beach would be the local JC Penney. Come to think of it and ironically enough, I bought that now shredded bra at the Panama City Beach JC Penney. The circle of life and what not…
After leaving work at 1 to run errands and pack up the car, I was right on time to pick up May Lee at the first stop for the camp bus. Then, we were off on our beach adventure! Except, it was dinnertime and she was starving, so we hadn’t even made it out of town before we were driving through the Chick-Fil-A for dinner. We stopped several more times for bathrooms, making this 4-hour trip feel like it lasted for all of eternity. When we finally did pull up to the Holiday Inn Express, we were greeted by a line of tween boys in various stages of dress but all wearing uniform baseball hats coming of the sliding double doors. “Baseball team?” I asked the woman checking us in. “Yes,” she said “Half of them just filed outside and the other half are in the pool”. She also informed me that we were getting the Jacuzzi king, since it was the only room left in the hotel, so that seemed to make up for sharing the place with a tween baseball league.
I grabbed a luggage cart and May Lee hopped on for a ride. It is my single-parent travel survival trick. When one has to get all the luggage in while also corralling the child, it is much easier and efficient to make sure the child can ride on the cart. We made our way outside, and I noted that chaperones nursing beers had finally made their way outside. The boys were nowhere in sight, but from the ruckus coming from behind the tall fence of bushes, I assumed that they were doing whatever tween boys on a traveling baseball team do in that general area. One of the chaperones looked at May Lee and said “Fun! Can I ride the cart too?!” May Lee just giggled. The woman then looked at me and said, “Bless you” with knowing and sympathetic eyes. I didn’t know what to make of that comment….was that pity? Was that empathy, because she also had her hands full with a team of young teenage boys and also a beer, which I can only assume was to help cope with the tween baseball team? Whatever the intention was behind it, I simply said “Thank you” because I’m not one to pass up a free blessing.
The next morning, we ate breakfast with the baseball crowd and attempted to navigate our way in and around them as they packed their cars full of gear and children and I packed up my one child that could still easily fit on the luggage rack. These dedicated parents were chasing boys and their siblings while wrestling with no small amount of baseball equipment. I couldn’t help but think that I had the way easier deal this morning, and I had a new found respect for the mom who blessed me last night as I watched her herd 4 boys into her car. Solidarity sister!
May Lee and I were feeling good as we took off down the highway. She was in the back seat exclaiming, “I can’t WAIT to be at the beach! I can’t WAIT to dig in the sand!” I realized that I had forgotten to get gas before we got on the highway, so we stopped about an hour later to get gas and use the restroom. The station was full of other beach-going families, some going to the beach and some returning home. All of them were generating an enormous amount of noise. I quickly shuffled May Lee to the bathroom, hoping we could make a quick exit from this place before my nerves were completely shot. May Lee was doing her half-panicked dance around this unfamiliar toilet and I was trying to coax her on it so we could leave this insane place! She finally acquiesced and went to the bathroom while 2 more families filed in. We exited the stall just as a mom with a child screaming the shrillest cry I’ve ever heard entered the bathroom. We quickly washed hands and were ready to get the heck out of there when I realized that I didn’t have my keys. The image of my keys hanging on the hook inside of the bathroom stall flashed before my eyes as I remembered hanging them there during May Lee’s unfamiliar potty dance.
What is the least creepy way to get your keys back from a now occupied toilet stall while the child next in line for the bathroom continues to scream at levels that threaten to rupture your eardrums? I didn’t know. I didn’t care. I posted up outside that bathroom stall, and when the woman exited I shot inside before anyone else could get in there and grabbed my keys. As I bolted out of the stall, I grabbed May Lee by the arm and essentially flew her like a kite out of the bathroom door and out of that infernal gas station.
We were happily back on the road in minutes and made it all the way through Birmingham without incident. We had planned to stop for lunch outside of Birmingham, but we hit a traffic jam just as we merged onto the highway out of town. I thought we could wait it out easily and stick to our original plan, but that was not to be. We were still in traffic and hour later, and we starving and in desperate need of a bathroom. I got off the highway at the next exit, only to discover that the only thing at this exit was a Home Depot. Good enough. We walked through the aisles of appliances, paint, and freshly cut wood to the bathroom. When we got back outside to the parking lot, we decided that we might as well break open the cooler and each lunch right there. So PB&J with Doritos was had by all, and we enjoyed it immensely.
Once our tummies were satisfied, we made our way back onto the highway and into the traffic jam. After 20 minutes, we decided to take advantage of our slow pace and get some fresh air. We rolled the windows down and said hello to our fellow traffic jam neighbors. We were, after all, surrounded by other cars packed to the gills with all manner of beach paraphernalia. These were our people, might as well say hello. Once the pace picked up a little and we could no longer socialize, we cranked up the tunes and had a little song and dance party. It passed the time and made the whole stuck-in-traffic-for-all-eternity thing a little more bearable.
I would like to say that once we were out of Birmingham that traffic died down, but that was not the case. We were in beach traffic from Birmingham to the coast, and it added 2 hours to our trip. But we did arrive, and we executed our luggage cart routine all over again. There are pieces of our travel routine that we have down to a science, and then there are the details that continue to be the bane of my existence. Either way, I sure enjoy this time with my girl. She is growing up so fast and pretty soon she will actually be able to drive the car on our road trips instead of just pretending to from the back seat while shouting at me to “just turn all ready!”. And really, that’s what this trip is all about, making memories and spending uninterrupted time with my girl. I’m excited about the memories we will make during this trip, so stay tuned!