Stories and thoughts about family and life

Traveling is not for the Faint of Heart

on May 9, 2012

I enjoy traveling a great deal.  It doesn’t really matter to me if we’re driving, flying, or going by boat.  I love the experience of it all–seeing places, meeting people, having fun.  We took my parents on an Alaskan cruise a couple of years ago, and since my dad doesn’t fly, I opted to make the drive with them from Arkansas to Seattle (me living in Little Rock, and them in northwestern Arkansas).  It took us four days, and it was pretty big fun.  Then a seven day Alaskan cruise with four ports and the drive home which was about five days.    My dad swore that was their last big trip like that–it’s just too hard on them.  I had a little trouble understanding that, but I got a good taste of it recently.

First, let me say, that I try to find some humor in everything–it’s what gets me through most stressful situations.  Our weekend traveling to Branson had a fair amount of stress in it, so hopefully the humor will shine through and you’ll enjoy my little story. .  .

Lucas had a band event in Branson (about 4 hours north of here) a couple of weekends ago.  I originally wasn’t supposed to be going, because I had a prior commitment, but that was cancelled a few days earlier and I was able to make plans to attend.  The band teacher had suggested that we needed to allow Lucas the experience of riding the bus and staying in the room with his classmate, instead of keeping him with us.  So, I reluctantly put my baby on a bus that Friday morning and drove the rest of the family to Branson.  My husband’s parents (who are in their 70s) were traveling with us, and we were in their vehicle, which makes my mother-in-law more comfortable than my SUV.  Brennan, the 9-year-old, was with us, so it was a fairly full van of generations.

My mother-in-law has challenges hearing well and now, thanks to an illness my father-in-law suffered about a year ago, so does he.  As I was driving, he was in the back seat with my husband, and about 50 miles into the trip, the fun began.  Mother-in-law would like her sunglasses.  Father-in-law doesn’t hear her request, and I have no idea where they are.  As I’m driving, I’m repeating everything she says.  He can’t hear me.  Now I’m leaning back toward the back seat and increasing my volume:  “She would like her sunglasses!” I practically shout at him.    Then, “he doesn’t know where they are!” I’m shouting now at her, leaned toward her seat.  This continues for several miles, with her suggesting possible locations for the sunglasses, potential bags they didn’t pack, and him ruling out each one in turn.    We stop in the next town for a pit stop, and he plows through their luggage, looking for the offending glasses.  No luck.    They spend much of the next 50 miles or so going back and forth in this fashion, contemplating all the places they could have left her sunglasses.  I finally offer to stop in the next town with a Wal-Mart and just buy her another pair, and then my father-in-law finds them, in a grocery sack where he had thrown several last-minute things they thought they might need (thank goodness!).

We arrived in Branson and my husband navigated me to the hotel using the “maps” app on my iphone (I love Steve Jobs sometimes!), as we had forgotten the Tom-Tom.  We arrived without incident and actually drove pretty much right to the location without any issue.  My husband and father-in-law went to check us in, only to find out there had been a hiccup for the band, and they didn’t have rooms for them when they arrived.  A quick move on the Band Director’s part, and they were able to secure rooms across town.  I wasn’t very pleased at the prospect of now not even being at the same hotel as my child.  My in-laws were very patient with my neurosis as I pleaded with the desk clerk to refund the room deposit and let us move across town.    An hour later, we’re checking in at the “new” hotel, and found ourselves actually arriving at the same time as the band bus.  I was able to sneak in a hug from Lucas and have him proudly display to me that he had only spent a couple of dollars of the money I gave him, and he had the rest tucked away in the wallet I gave him.  He bounded off with his band group, and checked into his room.  I was so happy and so sad at the same time–here is my little boy growing up much faster than I am ready to watch, and being so mature about the whole thing.

The afternoon was consumed with me taking my in-laws shopping while my husband entertained the 9 year old in the pool.  I’m not sure which one of us got the better end of that deal, as the 9 year old was desperate to be in the pool, despite terrifying amounts of chlorine you could smell just in the hallway.  At any rate, off the in-laws and I went, to find my father-in-law some new sandals.  I took them to the Merrill store, as I love my Merrill sandals, and felt confident he could find something for his tastes.  After about 20 minutes of trying on several sandal styles, the salesperson finally found some shoes to fit and make my father-in-law happy.  We made it back to the hotel just in time to grab Louis and Brennan (the 9 year old) and head out for dinner.    Dinner was actually a delightful surprise and was a buffet much better than we were anticipating, and we drove around Branson for about 45 minutes waiting for the show to start.

I’ve learned several things this year about outings with the kids, and I think next year I’ll be a much more prepared parent.  Number one on that list is that no one ever tells you everything about the trip, and you should be prepared for that.  On this trip, it was about having to pay full price for show tickets where the kids were performing, even though it was physically impossible for us to stay for the entire show, as Louis’ sister was coming down from Springfield to meet us and there was no way Brennan was going to sit through a 45 minute band performance and then a 2 or 3 hour acrobat presentation.  The tickets were nearly $40 per person, and my sweet in-laws offered to pick up the tab, seeing that we were in serious sticker shock at the thought of shelling out over $100 to see our child play for 45 minutes.  Lucky for us, Louis sweet-talked the girl at the front desk into only charging us a few dollars a piece since we promised to be out of the theater before the real “show,” and we managed to all get in for less than $40.    The show was fantastic, and the kids did a great job.  Lucas was beaming at their achievements, and we couldn’t have been more proud.  We were stopped (as were other parents) by several show patrons on our way out and asked a myriad of questions about the kids–was this really a first year band? but they’re so good! and on and on.

The remainder of Friday evening was fairly uneventful, as we visited with everyone, let the kids swim a little more, and eventually turned in.  Saturday brought Lucas’s group going to Silver Dollar City ( a theme park in Branson), and us trying to kill a few hours Saturday morning to be able to pick him up and take him home with us Saturday.  He wasn’t nearly as impressed with riding the bus as we had originally thought.  Now, finding something to amuse both 70-somethings and a 9 year old which doesn’t require a lot of walking, but is engaging enough not to induce a nap is quite a challenge.  Oh, add to that the fact that we were trying to mind our money and the challenge difficulty rises about 5 degrees.  After driving around for about 30 minutes, we finally stopped at one of those ticket booths and found a nice person who was willing to help us work something out.  We ended up touring a new wildlife exhibit in Branson, which consisted of alligators, bull sharks, lizards, fish, turtles, and all kinds of “critters,” many of whom you could feed.  Brennan was in heaven, and the people who owned the place were kind enough to locate chairs for the in-laws to take frequent breaks.

When we got back on the road right after lunch, we started again with the conversations back and forth with the in-laws.  Mother-in-law wants to get home.  Everything aches and she’s tired of being in the car.  Father-in-law is enjoying playing with the kids, and every time she has a complaint or a need, we are all repeating back and forth what she says.  Even the kids get into the act, trying to add their own interpretation to what they think my mother-in-law would like.  That’s a four-hour ride they’re not likely to forget any time too soon, and I’m sure they’re probably going to think twice about traveling with us again for a while.  Still, we had a nice weekend overall, and they were able to see their grandson perform and do something he loves.    It gives me a greater appreciation for not putting things off, and for doing the things which move me while I still can.


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