Friday, June 26, 2015

Our Traveling Circus: Coming to a Town Near You

It’s summer again, which can only mean one thing…road trip season is upon us. Of course, the “season” isn’t firmly dictated by a date on the calendar, but oftentimes by a state of mental being. Road trip season can strike at any time, usually occurring whenever Mike is deployed and I need to get the heck out of dodge before someone suffers bodily harm. Most recently, we road tripped to the East Coast for a whirlwind at Christmas and successfully completed about 3000 miles in a span of two weeks. 

Imagine, if you will, my family going anywhere. Four small kids and (often) one adult just going to IHOP for dinner on a Tuesday night is usually enough to get me a comment or two about my “bravery” for even leaving the house. And this is not to say the kids are horribly behaved - truly, they’re usually not - but I am so obviously outnumbered that, should anything NOT go strictly according to the plan, things can get hairy quickly.  

Now picture that posse on a road trip for a few thousand miles in the winter. Our holiday 2014 venture had the excitement of a van breakdown in the middle of Indiana (screw you and your stupid law, Murphy!!!!!!)…just a mere two days after a complete vehicle service, replaced filters, oil change, etc, etc. I always plan preemptively to avoid horrific things like, say, breaking down in the middle of Indiana, on a 1400-mile drive across half of America, with my four kids, in January.

But it happened anyway. Cruising along at 75 miles per hour (ok, probably 85 MPH) on Interstate 70, the van suddenly felt sluggish. I was about 10 miles from the designated stopping point for the evening and mouthed some silent hopes that may have passed for actual prayer. As I coasted down the exit ramp, I realized the van had almost no power. By flooring the gas, the van eventually reached about 20 miles per hour and, after verrrrryyyyyy sloooooowly creeping through town, crossing a couple of multi-lane, high-speed roads, the van limped into the parking lot of the Holiday Inn in Richmond, IN. Though Murphy had tried his best (that bastard!), we made it to the hotel parking lot, where the van collapsed completely. Small victories. 

Now imagine, if you will, the scene of a woman with four small kids (who’ve been in the van for 12 straight hours), a broken down van in need of a tow truck in central Indiana, at the tail end of a 3000-mile road trip, walking into the hotel with her posse. I know…scary, right?? And that was the experience of our family on that cold, January day, hundreds of miles from home. Add to that no cell phone service (again…screw you, Murphy and T-mobile!!! Hate you both!!!) and a whole lot of hostility as I thought about all the ways that Murphy and his freakin’ Law have screwed me over the years, and you probably have a pretty accurate image of me/us on that particular day.

In the end (I can say after months of getting over it), the fiasco went as well as or better than one can imagine. The staff at the hotel was wonderful and beyond helpful, the Honda dealership squeezed me in and did everything in their power to not prolong my misery. We got back on the road the very next morning, and almost made it home before the blizzard struck (that I was supposed to miss, had I gotten started at the correct time) in the last 60 miles of the journey home (HEY, MURPHY!….HATE!!!!!! YOU!!!!).

Now fast forward to the Summer 2015 road trip we just completed. The original plan was a beach trip to North Carolina, but we threw in a pitstop in Maryland, because that’s how we roll (when it takes the Army as long as it does to assign you a new place to live…Murphy!!!!!!!). Because of my positive experience at the Holiday Inn and our route being the same, I thought it would be a good stopping point again. Mike was with us this time, so I wanted to give him the much-less-exciting-than-the-actual-event, scenic tour of the breakdown in central America. 

I still couldn’t help but be surprised as we approached the front desk of the hotel and Amadeus (the same attendant from our prior, frightful entrance) saw me, smiled, and said, “How’ve you been? Long time no see!” And I said, “Oh, please, tell me you DON’T actually remember us!” And he said, “Of course I do!” I turned to Mike, who I think sometimes thinks I exaggerate and/or embellish the events that go on in our lives when he’s gone, and said, “See??? I don’t make this stuff up.” Silently, I sighed and realized, we are THAT family…the family who visits ONCE that people don’t forget and probably talk about for weeks or months later. 

In the morning, when we went down to breakfast, Kristi (the delightful front desk manager from the winter incident) saw me, came over and actually hugged me. We caught up on the prior months, compared kid craziness, etc…like old friends. I expressed my disbelief at how people remembered us and wondered how much crazier we must seem than I realize. The cook was walking by during the conversation and stopped to announce, “I remember you, too!” Sometimes, my embarrassment has no end. But, as the hotel staffers put it, they are all fellow parents, as well, and felt immensely sympathetic for me in my plight. They said they only remembered us for those reasons, though I can’t say I am entirely convinced (but I certainly do appreciate that no one said, “Who could forget an unhinged woman on the verge of a complete and total meltdown!!”). 

So, we’re THAT family. I probably shouldn’t be surprised. We get to do one more East Coast road trip in four weeks (the fifth trip across half of America in seven months) and it appears our path will cross Richmond, IN, one last time. For old times sake, and because they know us there, we’re making one more stop at the Holiday Inn. 

Beware, Interstate 70, we’re the traveling circus that just may be pitching our tent in your town.