As much as I love to travel, I usually don’t consider family trips a vacation. This was a little of both.
On the Fourth of July, we left an hour later than I hoped and found ourselves clumped with the rest of the usual I-95 South traffic. I could have walked faster at times, but it finally dissolved after Fredericksburg. From there it was smooth sailing, despite law enforcement and radar guns seemingly behind every tree, we picked up Nicholas at Elon after only 5½ hours on the road.
Despite my initial concerns, the old reliable Odyssey did just fine, even though the kids could watch DVDs only if I played the sound through the loud speakers. That meant I heard the audio to six-plus movies on the way down and five on the way back. (Side note: How “Silver Linings Playbook” did not win best adapted screenplay is beyond me.)
We stopped for dinner outside Charlotte, N.C., and encountered our first major delay when Kate had to send back her steak twice because it wasn’t cooked enough. (I swear I heard the thing moo the second time.) Fortunately, the prepubescent Cracker Barrel trainee with a retro mullet was extremely polite and pleasant, even though I spent the entire dinner praying, “Please, dear God, don't let mullets come back.”
Our plans were to drive until late evening, and then find a hotel somewhere between South Carolina and Florida. I didn’t make a reservation because I didn’t know how far we’d go initially, not realizing that — on the Fourth of July, duh — we would not be able to find anything from Columbia to Jacksonville.
After 28 phone calls and seven stops among the cluster of hotels along I-95, I decided to go all the way to Orlando, even if that meant getting there at 4 a.m. Of course, by this time, Jill was already sound asleep, so that meant we’d show up and surprise her.
And that’s what we did. Bleary eyed and butt lagged, we made it.
After a day recovering from the drive, we spent one day at Universal and the second at Disney before flying to St. Thomas, which has to be one of the best acquisitions the U.S. government has ever made. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there; the kids shopped, went snorkeling with Jill, and did some night kayaking. Nicholas infamously won a bottle of rum when he placed first in the karaoke contest. Jill read a book in one day. I walked around and took pictures.
It was great — and memorable.
Vacations are an opportunity for families to come up with lines that you always associate with that particular moment in time. Because of our social media savvy set, many of the kids’ came with hashtags:
• #salty (Nicholas’ description of Emma)
• #youknowyoureatouristwhen (self-explanatory)
• And the most memorable: #weareTHATfamily.
The last one is our familial moniker for embarrassment. Nicholas came up with it after we delayed the start of the snorkeling expedition by 15 minutes and received cold dead-eye stares from others on the boat. Sadly, it was not the last time we used it during the trip.
Nicholas and Emma, the list makers among the foursome, wrote down some of their favorite lines. Here they are, slightly edited by dad, of course.
Proof that #weareTHATfamily:
• We think seeing iguanas is the coolest thing.
• When you ask how late the pool is open and are surprised when they say 24 hours.
• We got to Universal an hour before it opened just so we could stand in line with other winners of the #weareTHATfamily awards.
• The kids pushed Kate around in a wheelchair at the theme park after she hurt her ankle, then realized they could use it to their advantage to move up in line for the rides.
• One of us celebrated “a little too much” after winning karaoke night.
• That same one ran through the airport to retrieve a bag that was left on the plane, only after shaking down his younger brother to make sure it was not a repeat of the “Moo-Moo” incident.
• Two family members get a little too close to sea life at the same time while chasing a football. One wrestled with rocks and the other high-fived a sea urchin.
• We clogged the kids’ toilet and narrowly avoided a complete flood of our hotel room.
• We have parents who wine (Emma’s spelling) that they missed bottomless mimosas at breakfast, only to get them from the subsequently well-tipped waitress. Mom later amends “wine” to “cleverly bitching.”
• Dad initially can’t remember where he put the van keys when returning to Florida; mom develops a list of contingency plans within seconds. (Keys fortunately were found.)
My random Disney World observations:
• I saw the word “Bar” in the Magic Kingdom and was excited, but then I realized the word “Toppings” was in front of it.
• Some folks call it the “Happiest Place on Earth”; a more accurate tagline would be “Humidest Place on Earth.” Of course, “Humidest” is not a word.
• A job no actor wants: Working in costume as Goofy or Pluto in 104-degree heat.
• At one point I hugged Jill. If we had been anywhere but Disney, she could have participated in a wet T-shirt contest.
Other memorable lines and observations:
• Emma, always the precise one, amending WTF to WTAF. In this case, “A” stands for “Actual.”
• Me at 4 a.m. as we pulled into the parking lot of Jill’s hotel after 17 hours on the road: “To heck with the Bloody and the Mary, I’ll just take the vodka.”
• Nicholas: “K1s — isn't that something about dogs? No, wait, that's K-9s.”
• Jill on Emma’s Harry Potter obsession while at Universal: “She's not walking around in her robe. I think there's merit in that.”
• Jill watching parents deal with small kids at Disney World: “I would rather ignore my children when they were teenagers than have to deal with them like that when they were 5 or 6.”
• Kate after Ben says he wishes he could drink in St. Thomas: “Ben you don’t look old enough. Grow some boobs and you’ll be fine.”
• Jill after I tell her I can’t find the van keys: “Of all the times, this has to happen now?”
Fortunately, KAOS was still vacationing in St. Thomas. I’m sure he’ll be home soon.