Greetings From the Beach….. It’s always fun to share a few little vacation bits, especially since it always seems like our vacations are more like adventures and not just your average vacation. In all reality I’m sure they aren’t really any different than other peoples vacations, but some things that have happened on past vacations make me wonder if there isn’t really a dark cloud looming over us during trips. This trip I finally found the one family that has a darker cloud than ours. I’ll get to that one later….. First let me start by saying that I used to be a planner. USED TO BE. I got tired of Dave’s relentless teasing after our first few trips together. I would have hotels booked (even just ones we might stop at overnight while driving) phone numbers to all sorts of things we might need, a folder filled with maps and reservation numbers and an itinerary. I blame my mother — I love her — but I blame her. Where do you think I learned all these things? She’s a planner – except when she is now forced to travel with us and “fly by the seat of our pants.” Now I just get in the car and go – my folder replaced by an IPhone (thank GOD for IPhones and travel apps). One thing Dave hated about “the folder” was that I would plan where we would stop when we driving. His argument was what if he didn’t feel like driving that far or what if he felt like going 40 miles further. That was the first part of my “plan” I gave up. We now just drive until he feels like stopping and then we find a hotel. This concept has actually failed more times than it has been successful. There have been hotels with bug issues, once in Chattanooga the hotel had an armed security guard (we kept driving) and my personal favorite which has happened the last several trips … no vacancy due to a youth sporting event in the area. This will come in to play shortly… So we left Indiana – an exciting 12 hour drive ahead of us. Things were going fairly smoothly. We made it through Louisville without backed up or stopped traffic (I think that’s a first). Every black Dodge Charger Dawson saw he named “Dom” — we saw Fast & Furious 6 before we left. One “Dom” passed us like we were standing still and most people know Dave’s average speed is 80 (+) so I’m not sure how fast he may have been going — and no it wasn’t a police charger. We went through an odd assortment of radio stations – Dawson changing his mind from 80’s to Pop to Rock – basically anything but Country. When he was sleeping Dave got to hear his new favorite song by Blake Shelton, “Boy’s ‘Round Here,” (Red-red-red-red-red-redneck). Teagan finished her 400 page doodle book before we got to Tennessee. We got stuck in traffic in Nashville — it doesn’t matter what time you go through Nashville you always get stuck in traffic. I’m guessing that’s why it’s the capital of Country Music, you can write an entire country song while sitting in traffic. Just south of Nashville we decided we were hungry and wanted to stop. I checked I-Exit and advised what was coming up at the exits just south of Nashville. There were several exits with multiple options from fast food to sit down dinners – chicken, burgers, tacos… you name it. Dave wanted barbecue. He had seen several signs for Memphis while sitting for hours (ok maybe 30 minutes) in bumper to bumper traffic and decided he wanted to get some good Memphis BBQ. Problem number 1…. we weren’t actually that close to Memphis, it’s 3 hours from Nashville. Problem number 2…. my I-Exit app doesn’t always have info on the Mom & Pop places along the road, mostly just chain restaurants. So we were passing exit after exit filled with Micky D’s, Taco Bell’s, Burger Kings and Cracker Barrel’s. Then I glanced over at an “at this exit” sign and saw what I thought said “Backyard Barbeque.” We shot over 3 lanes of traffic and cut off 2 “Dom’s” and semi to get to the exit only to find out it was “Backyard Burgers.” Oops. So still travelling and now in a very sparsely populated part of Tennessee our dinner option was now reduced to an Arby’s at a Loves Truck Stop. “Look at the bright side honey you can get an ArbyQ.” I need to work on my comedic timing as that was not well received. After stopping at Arby’s the very next exit had a small sign advertising “Bob’s BBQ.” No I can’t make this stuff up. Back in the car and over the Alabama State Line, bellies full of yummy truck stop Arby’s — it was getting late and time to stop. Again pulling out my handy-dandy IPhone and checking the IExit app I started naming off exits to stop. I was happy to stop in and around Huntsville, but Dave thought we could go ahead and get closer to Birmingham. So we kept driving. We found an exit north of Birmingham with about six hotels. We started at the Comfort Suites. The parking lot looked full but you never know. Nope no vacancy…. and a family pulled in as we were leaving in a minivan plastered with “my kid plays for ______ softball” stickers on the back. Not a good sign. There was a place called Full Moon BBQ next door – I have found no less than 10 BBQ spots since the great Arby’s incident. Travelling down the line of hotels we were met with more softball bedazzled minivans and finally at the Holiday Inn I walked inside to a “WELCOME CLASS OF ’84” sign. Really …. class of ’84??? Its 2013 — who celebrates a 29 year class reunion?? Maybe the Fighting Fultondale Wildcats of 1984 just sucked at math. But those crazy Wildcats booked their hotel ahead of time. The front desk lady told me there was another Holiday Inn, 15 min south at exit 255. Ahhhh good ole exit 255. Home of the Drury Inn I fell in love with 2 years ago after the LaQuinta failed to honor their advertised rate. Yep the Drury was full, and the Best Western. I never did see the damn Holiday Inn she told me about. And we were told by the guy at the Comfort Suites that he had called the LaQuinta for another weary traveler about 15 minutes ago and they had rooms available. Two years ago I vowed never to stay at a LaQuinta but they were the only thing available for a 20 mile radius. Travel tip: there’s a reason they are the only hotel available. All they had available was a smoking room. It’s OK we’ll take it. I didn’t even argue the price because at this point we were desperate. The elevator was frightening like it hadn’t been inspected since the Wildcats had graduated. The whole hotel was run down. We slept with the window open — the lovely sound of the nearby interstate to sleep by — because the beds smelled like ashtrays. Dawson sprayed 1/2 his bottle of cologne on his pillow to try to make it smell better. Teagan and I put coconut scented lotion under our noses to try to disarm the smoke and cologne. We woke up early, brushed our teeth and put the disgusting LaQuinta in the past. And I will again declare, never to stay at a LaQuinta ever again!! Now on our final route to the beach, less than 5 hours away!! Nothing really exciting happening because if you’ve ever driven through the great state of Alabama there is absolutely nothing south of Montgomery except pine forests. Pine forests and BBQ shacks at old Shell gas stations that don’t even sell gas anymore. Dave saw every sign for BBQ…. Bob’s, Hog Rock, Moe’s, Kendall’s… you name it. And at first he liked my phone’s SIRI because she reminded him when he needed to turn. But when he zigged in stead of zagged and she started yelling at him to turn here, turn there, no go back he suddenly didn’t like SIRI anymore. I think he missed the map folder. But we made it. Mostly in one piece. As we were rounding the corner at the beach there is this little ramshackle yellow building called “The Reef” with several signs posted and as we passed it Teagan said “Look Dad!! Hawaiian BBQ!” I love that little girl. Anyway more to come later…… Beach Blanket Blog-o part II…… and the explanation of the family who has worse travel luck than we do!