Friday, November 23, 2012
Thanksgiving Family Road Trip
I should have heeded the warning. Tuesday night at ten thirty I took the dog for a walk, the last walk before she headed to the pet place while we flew off to Florida for Thanksgiving. The minute we stepped outside into the light fog, I should have known. I hope this doesn't get worse and clears up in the morning before our flight.
When I woke up in the morning, the first thing I did was look outside. The fog was everywhere. I could barely see the house across the street. According to the morning new on WGN, no flights had been cancelled or delayed yet, but by the time we got to the airport, our flight was delayed two hours, then three hours, then about 9:45 they cancelled it. I got in line at the ticket counter while dialing Southwest on my phone. Finally, I got through on the phone. We tried to get a flight to anywhere near Florida but there was nothing available that would get us there until late Thursday night.
Bethany and the kids were sitting on the floor nowhere near our gate. When I got back there and told them we weren't going to Florida, Nate showed his pouty face and Abby started crying. "Mimi," she said over and over again, in reference to her beloved Grandmother we were going to stay with in Florida. A voice in my head said "Why don't you just drive?"
"How about a road trip?" I asked everyone. After a brief discussion, we decided to go for it. I felt like I was back in college, where we would just get into a car and go, without any planning, without over thinking it. I've done tons of road trips before. I've driven to Colorado by myself twice without stopping. Heck, we took the kids to Colorado two years ago (that one was rough, Abby was still pretty young). This was going to be an adventure.
We picked up our luggage at baggage claim, Nate and I walked to the remote lot to pick up the car and we were on our. The disappointing thing was walking outside of the terminal and seeing the sun as the skies had cleared up. Unfortunately, they still weren't letting planes land at Midway, so it didn't matter.
We headed out, the first big chuck of miles on I-65 rolling through Hobart and Merriville. The navigation on Bethany's iPhone said four hundred twenty six more miles on I-65 before our next turn. The kids both fell asleep in the back seat (they were up really early in the morning so that is not surprising). This might end up being a totally disaster, but at the same point, we will always be able to tell the story about how after our flight got cancelled and Abby and Nate were crying for their Mimi (well, Abby was. Nate is a bit more rational now and understands that these things happen) so we drove there instead. So we've got that going for us.
Much of this was written while we were driving, so forgive the occasional typo. It was hard to type while the car was moving. No, no I wasn't driving and typing, we took turns.
We stopped outside Lexington, Kentucky for dinner. We figured the kids would like having breakfast for dinner. We said, "Hey, how about some Mickey Mouse pancakes for dinner?" They both liked the idea, so we stopped at a Waffle House. Now, I've eaten at quite a few Waffle Houses in my time. Just ask my co-workers who I made eat there with me four straight days when we were in Atlanta (yes, that means you Andy and Craig). I love me the hash browns at the Waffle House especially scattered and smother. And hey, who has four eyes and three teeth? The night staff at the Waffle House (there are a lot of Waffle House jokes out there). But do you know what the Waffle House doesn't have? Mickey Mouse pancakes or any other pancakes for that matter. Stupid 'Truth in advertising.' The kids survived on chocolate chip and strawberry waffles and we survived the Waffle House. Now I know not to go there for pancakes. Fortunately, the kids got over it quickly once we reminded them we were going to see Mimi.
By this time, my father-in-law had figured out we were on our way. Bethany had talked to her mother a little earlier and told her we were headed to my sister's house for the night since the dog was at the kennel. Big Sven didn't buy that story at all. He send us an email with directions and a guess of where we were (he was within about 50 miles). He gave us a couple of warnings about the mountains near Chattanooga, and where to watch for deer at night. We told him to keep the secret and he said he would. For those of you who don't know, my wife's family is generally pretty terrible at keeping secrets. We were a little nervous he'd spill the beans.
Okay the road trip continues. Right now we are about 9 miles from the Kentucky/Tennessee border going about five miles an hour. It appears there was an accident and all lanes are blocked. We are moving but slowly. While we are stuck here we are going to play the license plate game.
States we have seen: Ohio, Kentucky, New York, Washington, Indiana, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, California, Florida.
The good thing is no matter what happens, we will be able to tell the story about our road trip to Florida in twenty years and we will all laugh our asses off. My favorite part so far has Abby just randomly shouting "Mommy" every twenty minutes or so. She shouts it again until Bethany responds to her. I think its part "Get me out of this car" and part "Mommy pay attention to me." Usually if Bethany replies with an "Abby," that's all that is necessary. It's pretty dang entertaining.
Hopefully the kids will fall asleep soon, this accident will clear up and we will get on our way and at least make it for Thanksgiving dinner. The worst part of the accident was being behind this black car from Ohio that had the brightest brake lights I have ever seen. There were two circles of dots with an extra semi-circle on the outside and every time the driver had his foot on the brakes it burned that circle pattern in my eyes. Every time I blinked all I could see was two circles of dots on the back of my eye lids. The other good thing is the road is very windy here so every time we get around one corner and think we can see the end of the back, the road bends the other way and we see tail lights going on over the horizon. Awesome!
So the accident finally cleared up and we got to see at least part of the grizzly remains. There was a full size van that looked like it had been rolled over, smashed and burned. From the skid marks it looks like it had to slam on the brakes in the left lane then ran across the middle of the road into oncoming traffic. Traffic was closed across all lanes of the highway in both directions. It took us about an hour and thirty minutes to get through it. It was scary.
I took a turn and drove from about 10:30 until 2 am, then we switched. Bethany took over from there about 50 miles outside of Atlanta, Georgia and took us all the way through to the tip of Florida where we switched again at six a.m., got the kids up for a potty break and got some drinks. Coincidentally, we hear the sound of a rooster when we got out of the car in the McDonald's parking lot. I told Nate that meant it was morning. It turns out the rooster was in the back of a pick up truck, a farmer's truck, Nate told me. He later told me that the farmer probably had a cow in the truck, too.
We also saw a Hostess truck. Part of me wanted to force it off the road to see what was in the back of the truck if anything at all. If you haven't been following the story, Hostess Brands Inc. is going out of business and people are buying up snack cakes everywhere. Don't fret, someone will but up the Twinkie and Hostess Cup Cake brands and recipes and they will be made again. Right now, however, you can't find Twinkies or their incredible chocolate Cup Cakes with the white swirls of frosting anywhere. I looked at every gas station we stopped at and didn't see a single one. No way am I slumming it and eating a zinger. If the truck was full, it could have been worth millions. Alas, our goal was to get to Florida so we moved on.
Finally twenty five hours later, after driving through six states, completely trashing the inside of the van, after only sleeping a few hours totally, we arrived in Florida. The kids were so excited as we got close, both of them grinning from ear to ear. Bethany's brother was waiting for us on the driveway and we parked the car out of site of the front windows. Abby all but ran for the door once she was out of her car seat. We sent to the kids to the door with her brother.
"Look who I found wandering outside," he said as he brought them in the house. She was very surprised and excited to see them.
So we did it. We survived driving to Florida in one shot, without even planning to do it. I did buy a road Atlas on the way, but for the most part we used the navigation on our phones and the directions Bethany's father had sent us. The kids were fantastic and although Nate has often told me we should only every fly to Florida, now we know we could drive there.
Now you are probably wondering how we are getting back to Chicago. We need to be back Sunday night since Nate has school Monday and I have work. To drive back we'd have to leave Saturday night. Fortunately, we don't have to. Big Sven, my father-in-law, is going to drive our car back for us and we are going to take our regularly scheduled flight Sunday afternoon. He'll leave Saturday and make it up to Nashville, then go the rest of the way Sunday and pick us up at the airport. So we get an extra day in Florida and we don't have to drive back. Woo hoo.
Hopefully, there will be no delays on Sunday. Please.
So, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. If you are wondering what I am thankful for, let's just say I am thankful that we made it down here and got to spend Thanksgiving with Bethany's family. We all ate too much and, not surprisingly everyone was asleep early. I'm sure this will be a Thanksgiving we will never forget.
Thanks for reading.