Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

It seemed simple in theory. Sitting behind this desk, Googling up directions costs nothing, requires no real effort and, if done at the right time of night, is pretty quiet.

It takes almost no time to say, "We're going to Naples, Florida." No packing required, no seat belts needed.

Driving 2,100 miles, however, is a whole different world. It's a world at 75 mph with frequent stops for the unhealthiest foods and foulest bathrooms. A world populated by tractor trailers, state troopers and creepy rest area attendants.

And it's a loud world.

But it's a world we explored for 10 days and it was (mostly) good.

We stopped first in Greensboro, GA, to visit with my grandparents, eat a delicious steak dinner and sleep in comfort for free. I always enjoy my grandparents' house and their company. We visited a nice park so the kids could run off some pent up energy and then laid around all night sipping wine, playing games and reading.

And listening to stories. I could listen to my grandparents tell stories about growing up all day long.

The very next day we packed up the kids and headed toward the tip of the dangle. It was a long, long drive. This is the first time we've driven to Naples and it was every bit of 10 hours. It felt like we would never make it to Tampa and, once we did, that we'd never make it the final two hours to my mom's house.

We did make it, though, and there was a houseful waiting on us when we arrived. My mom, stepdad, brother, sister and her family were all there to greet the weary travelers.

For the next six days we visited the beaches of Naples, swam in the pool, played endless games of Wii bowling and spent hours talking. It was the perfect way to spend a week. Our first excursion to the Gulf was to visit Vanderbilt Beach, which was much nicer than I remembered. The next time, though, we ventured downtown and found the city pier which extends out from a white sand beach butting up against homes in a quaint tropical neighborhood. We were smitten and visited it again the next day despite the half-hour drive from my mom's house.

We ate seafood and ice cream at Tin City and explored the paradise of Naples a bit.

It was great for my kids to get to visit their grandmother in her own home for the first time. They certainly made themselves at home, taking over her living room, video games and television, and declaring them for their own.

The following Saturday we learned that you can drive all. day. long. in Florida and at the end of that day you'll still be in Florida. It took us another 10 hours to make it to Panama City Beach where SAM had taken an impromptu vacation and met us for the weekend. We stayed in the townhouse of the fabulous Robin's parents (thanks again!), had dinner at Billy's Oyster Bar, swam in the pool, had the perfect Father's Day on the beach with lunch at Schooners.

After a couple of days of that, we loaded up once again for the drive back to Memphis. There was a time in my youth, before kids - long before - when I could make that drive in eight hours. This day it would take 10. A miserable 10 hours.

We made it home. We had a great time, all of us. The kids, hopefully, have memories of beautiful beaches, long days at the pool, visits with grandparents and great-grandparents and quality time with their mom and dad, and not just of the interminable drives.

I look forward to our next trip, whenever and wherever that might be.