We actually got a bit of relieved news the morning we departed. Early on in our plans for this potential warm weather getaway, we thought we had secured a great accommodation at a ridiculous price. It turned out to be too good to be true, and we discovered it was a vacation rental scam. Unfortunately we found this out after we made the payment for the rental. Luckily, we paid through PayPal and used our credit card, so we were pretty certain we would be fully refunded. We found out the morning that we left that would indeed be the case and were definitely relieved to have that situation over with. But it just goes to prove the notion that you should trust your instinct, which we didn't at first.
I wouldn't say things took a complete nose-dive after that bit of welcome news, but there was definitely ups and downs. Timing was a a key component through the entire trip, and I would say we got pretty lucky. Gus was the wild card, and he rode pretty well. Consistent if nothing else. We'd stop when he needed to eat and hit the road shortly after he was finished. It was getting the other two to adhere to his schedule that was a little more of a challenge. Luckily, our van came equipped with a DVD player (a feature I was adamant about excluding from our purchase), which was definitely as saving grace. We didn't tell the girls about it prior to the trip and we were able to make it until hour six of driving on Day 1 before busting it out. I thought we could possibly keep it in our back pocket until at least Day 2, but the card was played at the appropriate time. We also became frequent users of mall play areas/food courts for both caloric expenditure and intake. When we finally crossed the Florida state line, we made a beeline for the first outdoor playground we could find, despite the fact it was only just above 50 degrees and our kids were wearing sandals and t-shirts. Probably the reason they've both had runny-noses the last few days.
I think our first rest-stop of the trip was a microsom for how things unfolded. We stopped at a Burger King about 2.5 hours in for lunch. I try to avoid fast food whenever possible because I'm a pretentious, liberal yuppy, but it had a "playplace" and would give me my first opportunity in about seven years enjoy a Whopper (I used frequent the BK a couple of blocks from my apartment in grad school because I got coupons in the mail. I was still a liberal yuppy at the time, I just lacked any disposable income or spousal support to allow me to be pretentious). The playplace was empty and the order line was short when we arrived, so we thought we timed it perfectly. Jess could nurse Guthrie while Isla and Havi wore themselves out on the maze-like structure of steps, tunnels and slides. I could enjoy my Whopper the way I like it; hold the pickles, hold the tomato, and in relative peace.
Twenty minutes in, we attempted to coax the girls down to eat their BK-equivalent Happy Meals and Havi was reluctant to come down. Through a series of yes-no question and answer, and interpretation by Isla (because 4 year olds can apparently understand 2 year old language better than adults) we found out that Havi had peed through her pull-up and left a small puddle of urine at the top of one of the slides. This forced Jess to go on a reconnaissance mission up through the adult-unfriendly structure (no chance in hell I would have been able to fit) to asses the damage and retrieve Havi. Luckily, the damage was limited and Havi managed to miraculously avoid getting any on her pants, or at least not even to warrant an outfit change. Over the years, I've begun to notice the unfortunate things that will sometimes happen to kids at seemingly fortunate times for parents. Like when you're at the playground and your kids are adamantly opposed to your decision to leave until one of them falls off the monkey bars and runs to you in tears. Check please.
During our road trip, I couldn't help but think about the changing nature of road trips over the years. In college, I drove with some buddies overnight to get to Montana, only to spend most of the next day sleeping. On our honeymoon, Jess and I spent most of our drive through Nebraska with a portable DVD player set-up on the dash of our car so we could watch movies. When I was a teenager, I rode on a mattress in a topper-covered truck bed on a 10+ hour drive to the Black Hills. That would never fly today, especially with small children. Granted Jess made her fair share of crawls over her seat to retrieve a dropped item or get a snack for the girls. But I've also heard stories about moms who would nurse their young children in the car while it was in motion. Of course that was a different time. I'm just glad we have no leather in our vehicle and the girls didn't have access to any crayons which could have been strategically placed so the sun would bake them into the seat - a childhood pastime for my sister and me.
When we finally arrived at our destination, we were overjoyed on a number of levels. We were obviously glad to be able to get out of the vehicle for good, but we were also glad to see a house. The place we are staying at was apparently built within the last year, which means when you dial up the address on Google maps all you see is an empty lot. Given our track record for finding places to rent for this trip that actually exist, this was a little unsettling. We were even more ecstatic when the code they gave us to open the front door worked. Then I was a little worried. The house is new, and nice. A little too nice. Especially for a family with kids under five. When we got there, the last thing I really wanted to do was plop the girls in front of the TV, but that was exactly what I did as I went around the house and moved everything that looked at least remotely breakable out of reach from their dirty, slippery little hands. The only thing I was not able to move was the full wine chiller (expensive, foreign stuff I'm sure), but that is locked and seems sturdy enough. Havi has taken a fascination in it, but so far hasn't attempted to aggressively get after any of its contents. If the next few weeks get out of hand, I may have to treat that like a fire extinguisher in a public place (break glass in case of emergency). Despite our best attempts at kid-proofing, I'm more or less bracing for our refundable damage deposit not being refunded.
Now that we're here we are trying to balance our time relaxing around the house and taking in some of the sights/beaches of the area. Since we're here for a little while, we figure we don't have to do everything right away, and we'll eventually get into some sort of a routine to structure our days. So far, the only real routine I've gotten into is a least one large glass of wine each night, sometimes two. It will be hard not to fall into vacation slothness though with the sun out and a private pool and patio out your backdoor. It beckons you to relax on a lawn chair and enjoy a cold beverage, which I'm doing at this very moment (1:32 EST on a Wednesday, at least it's after lunch). I suppose this is what retired life is all about, minus the kids who wake up too early in the morning (and one who wakes up multiple times at night). We did sit down for dinner last night at about 4:53.
You will have to excuse any typos or grammatical errors, and likely some brevity in any posts over the next few weeks. I'm not too good with the computer. I'm actually typing this on a tablet which will likely give me carpal tunnel by the end of the trip. That was just my best "retired person-esque" justification. No offense to any of you who might be retired. I just can't see how people can actually type on these things. I may revert to longhand writing and just post a picture of what I write. That probably wouldn't work either though, my penmanship is essentially illegible (one of my good friends actually used to chide me for my half-assed pencil erasing effort).
Well, the sun is out, and the temp is almost 70, so I should probably hop in the pool to cool off. I think it's time for water aerobics.
We violated a number of these rules. Especially #6.
My method of keeping Havi's hands out of the toilet at a rest stop bathroom - pose with the caution sign. Luckily yellow is her favorite color, so the enthusiasm is sincere.