Monday, October 26, 2009

National Lampoon's Beach Vacation 2009

We'd been looking forward to a trip to the beach for quite a while. John took off a week from work, and we couldn't wait to see the kids on the beach. My mom graciously rented a five bedroom house in Cape San Blas, FL which is just a ways past Mexico Beach heading east on hwy 98 from Panama City. We planned to leave sunday morning, John's birthday, after I got home from work and drive all day, for an assumed nine hour drive. Or so said

The Thursday prior to our departure, the kids started getting sick. It started with fever and lethargy, which turned into snotty noses and coughs by sunday morning. We decided that since the fevers had subsided, we'd continue on with our plans for our much needed vacation.

We left the house around 11 a.m. and made pretty good time as far as I could tell from the passenger seat. I dozed off and on since I'd worked twelve hours the night before. I woke from a decent nap when my mom called to check on our progress. She informed me that the last few turns on the Mapquest directions were completely wrong. Our plan was to call her at a specific turn onto hwy 30A (I think) and she'd meet us at the next turn, before the directions went to crap. This was also the point where she'd lost cell phone reception. (She was currently calling me from Port St. Joe where the nearest grocery store, a Piggly Wiggly, was located.)

After I got off the phone with her, John asked me how far we were from Gulf Shores. I assumed he meant 'how far is the beach house from Gulf Shores.' I told him that the place we were staying was no where near Gulf Shores. It was in fact about an hour east of Panama City, FL. If you aren't familiar with beach routes through Alabama, google it. He then informed me that we were on I-65 south about thirty minutes past Montgomery. My jaw dropped and I might have swallowed a swarm of bees before I could close it.
"You're joking right?" I asked
"No, I'm not."
"We're supposed to be on 231 south heading for Panama City!"

I'm almost certain I had explained the approximate location of our destination to him more than once. But, apparently he didn't hear me. Regardless, the printed mapquest directions were sitting just to his right the entire time. And since our atlas was in my car at home, I called my mom and she told us a shortcut through Greenville to Luverne to Troy where we could pick up 231. First crisis averted, we carried on.

At some point, Bronwen's post nasal drip exceeded her gastric capacity and one good coughing fit had her puking up Cheerios and soy milk. We stopped and, since I'm the mom and nurse, I had the pleasure of cleaning up the mess. (Although later John had the priviledge of getting the puke out of all the little nooks and crannies the child restraint buckles have.) Second crisis contained.

In Troy, we stopped at the WalMart to buy an atlas. We took this opportunity to let the kids stretch their legs and use the restroom as well. After settling the kids back in the van with their snacks, we hit the road, once again thanking the powers that be for TVs in vehicles. God bless the parent who thought that up.

When we got to Dothan, mapquest failed us again by giving us five different names for one street and we unknowingly missed our turn. John and I were both marvelling at the fact that there were two exact clusters of the same restaurants in one small town.

"We just saw these four places a little while ago. How weird is that?"
"And look, that Hooters has a silver truck out front just like the other one!"

Had we looked at the new atlas, we'd have noticed that there was a street that did a big circle all the way around the town. We got the turn on the second try and crisis three corrected with only about thirty minutes wasted.

Bronwen threw up again somwhere between Dothan and Panama City and we repeated the clean up routine.

We made it through Panama City without incident. I'm still constantly amazed that mapquest thinks it's easier to turn four times when, if you continue on 231, it runs right into hwy 98. After a long stretch of darkness, deer, and pine trees we made it to Port St. Joe. I called my mom to give her the heads up that we were getting close. She said we had another half hour or so. Great.
"Call me when you turn onto 30A and I'll meet you at the restaurant after the turn onto 30E (actually called Cliff-something-or-other) and that's the turn into the subdivisions. It's too hard to explain, and mapquest is competely off with their directions from there on." she said. I tried to respond but my phone cut out.

It was about 9p.m. when we got to the turn where I was supposed to call my mom. And of course, my phone had lost it's connection. John and I decided we could make it to the part where the subdivisions were, and maybe figure it out ourselves. WRONG. We tried every gated community, but the code we were given for entry didn't unlock any of them. We went back to the restaurant hoping that my mom would realize we'd lost reception and come to meet us.

We waited there a few minutes. We couldn't call her from a pay phone because there wasn't one. We drove back to the subdivisions to look for a road we might have missed. On our way down the street, we saw my stepdad and followed him in.

The road we missed was more like a firebreak in the forest. It was sand/dirt and there were strategic dips, bumps, and occasional large mounds of dirt you had to maneuver around. At 10:30 we got out of the van and the wind was blowing fiercely. John and I dragged the kids in, and he and my stepdad, Brian, unloaded the van. I don't remember most of that evening, just a blur really, and crisis four... done.

We all slept fitfully. The kids were all sick and we were starting to get the stuffy head/cough thing too. Between three kids, John and I were up about every two or three hours the first two nights.

Our first day at the beach was cold enough to keep us in jeans and fleece jackets. We spent most of the day in the house playing. Bronwen is completely obsessed with dogs, and to her joy my mom brought their dog Joe. He's getting older, and has a new seizure disorder, but he tolerated her with only a few grumbles.

Our last full day (wednesday) was great. It was warmer and we all got in the water a bit. We saw a few dolphins and lots of pelicans. Bronwen and Ian had a great time climbing up and down the three flights of stairs. I was thankful the elevator (yes, it had an elevator) was out of order, because surely my kids would have ridden it into its grave had it been operational. My calves on the other hand, were not used to so much exercise.

We planned to leave thursday and stay the night in Auburn,AL with my dad and stepmom. This would break up the long drive and give us an opportunity to see family. The best laid plans of mice and men......

We left around noon on thursday and hit every redlight between our beach house and Troy,AL. I'm not being sarcastic. We hit EVERY one! I think we averaged about 40 mph. Bronwen threw up three times, and she cries when we're driving after dark. Thank goodness we made it to Auburn just before sunset, crisis five... finished.

We enjoyed dinner with my dad, stepmom, stepsister and her husband. The kids were entertaining as usual.

We left Auburn at 10a.m. taking I-85 south to Montgomery and then I-65 north home so we could avoid all the traffic lights on 280. About ten miles from I-65, the check engine light came on and was blinking. I checked the manual and it didn't look good. The light went from blinking to solid and back, and the van started sputtering. John called his mechanic friend at work and we were advised to stop soon and get the van checked. Here we go with crisis six....

We found a Ford dealership fairly easily. The guy assured us he'd get us through as quickly as possible and we set up camp in their lobby. Three sick kids and two grumpy adults. I felt very sorry for the other customers. The only entertainment was a collection of car pamplets, on Highlights magazine, and several copies of a children's bible book. After an hour of waiting, the kids quickly tired of this and started running in circles around the chairs. John and I, fed up with waiting, didn't even try to stop them.

John went back to the van to get drinks for the kids and see what progress was being made on the van. No progress had been made, they said the engine was too hot to look at it. Dagan fell asleep in a chair while Ian and Bronwen continued their four yard dash back and forth from the chairs to the wall.

After two hours, I went to do a progress check. The girl I talked to sent a guy to the shop to get an update. While he was gone, she asked for my name. I assumed she needed to look up our van in the computer system.
"It's under John McNab." I replied.
"No, what's your first name?"
"Aven. Why do you ask?" I was very confused at this point.
"You used to be Aven Jeffers right? I think you lived across from my grandmother in Auburn."
I told her yes, I was from Auburn, and she said "I knew you looked familiar." I could care less at this point, but I smiled and nodded secretly hoping a familiar face would speed things up.

The man came back and told me that they didn't know what was wrong with the van yet and right now everyone was out to lunch. Well, I thought, that's just great. They're taking their lunch break while the five of us are starving and filled with boredom. Typical. I called work to let them know I probably wouldn't make it back to Nashville in time to come to work. Shortly after, our not so helpful attendant told us we needed new spark plugs and the wires were fried as well. Only three were damaged but they only came in kits of six. John told him he knew for a fact they didn't because he works for Ford and they don't HAVE to be sold six at a time. The man said the wires came in a set but the plugs didn't, blah blah blah......

I went back to the van and retrieved a box of food. I set up our mess hall on the one table in the waiting room. I made sandwiches for everyone, except Dagan who can't eat gluten (he had veggies and almonds...his choice).

Two more hours and $443.75 later, we were leaving the hell that is 440 East Blvd. Montgomery AL, and heading home. The irony of this is that we never get four and a half hours straight to spend with our kids. We normally only get a few hours at home as a family and here
we had to spend this "quality" time in Hades. What a waste.

We made good time on the road and made it home by 8p.m. And Bronwen only threw up once. Funny thing is, she only throws up if she has a cold and is in the car. She's never thrown up on trips before, and didn't throw up when we were out of the car.

John and I thought we'd get the kids out, put a movie on, unload the car, eat, and then go to bed. Crisis seven, the TV is broken. I could almost see the steam coming out of John's ears as he mumbled like Yosemite Sam. I quietly suggested we take the TV out of our room and put it in the living room (since we never use it anyway). He did that while I unloaded the van. All the kids were picky eaters after being in the car all day and really didn't eat much. Finally, at 10:30 I called work to see if they needed me to come in, and thankfully they said no. Even though, I could've used the getaway.

Summary: The vacation from hell is proof of Murphy's Law. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. And it did, but no one got hurt and we're all very glad to be home.

Here are a few pics of our better and more peaceful moments :)


Leslie said...

At least you got some good pictures! I can't believe the dealership charged you that much to replace your spark plugs. Insane!

Erin said...

It's hard to believe those pictures go with the description of your trip. That's unbelievable! Glad you all made it back to Nashville in one piece.....and still married!