Alphabet Vacation

 

A – is for Anita.  Anita is the manager at the Hampton Inn in Prattville, Alabama.  Anita and I had a few conversations on this trip because the Hampton Inn placed holds for over $400 on my checking account for the majority of the trip because they charged me for one room three times at three different rates.  Anita insisted on blaming Amanda for the mess up, but I reminded her that as the manager she is ultimately responsible.  (PS I got the room free of charge using my charm and exceptional people skills … ok maybe I yelled… a little…twice).

 

B – is for Beach.  This is why we went.  Teagan’s B word is #basic which she uses to describe the several groups of Spring Break teenage girls lining up taking photos on the beach, daily.  In their bikinis.  Some parents should really think twice about the bikinis their daughters wear, jus sayin’.

 

C – is for Catching good waves.  Teagan was trying really hard to boogie board and caught a few waves but then got flipped over by some boy who jumped in her way “btw…not cute!”

 

D – is for Dizzy Whizz and Deez Butts BBQ.  These are billboards you see in Louisville, KY.  They are really easy to see when you are travelling at a blistering 3 mph.  Dizzy Whizz is an Old Louisville tradition that is home of the Whizz Burger since 1947.  Deez Butts is actually a food truck that serves butts, chicken and brisket by the pound.

whizzburger<——- Whizzburger

 

E – is for Elephant, the mascot of the University of Alabama.  Next to the dreaded Hampton Inn in Prattville there is a store called Bama Fever Tiger Pride.  Some family members chose dreadful shirts and hats with “A’s” and elephants and I got the coolest shirt ever which has the silhouette of the War Eagle filled in with tiger stripes.  #Auburn.  E is also for Elmo, the little red jeep renegade that isn’t quite large enough for a 12 hour trip.

 

F – is for Friends who do things together, U is for you and me, N is for anywhere and anytime at all down here in the deep blue sea.  Sorry … but once the SpongeBob song got stuck in our heads that’s all we could think of for F. But then we remembered F is also for Fire – the coffee pot in our condo caught on fire one morning.  Good thing I travel with a firefighter.

 

G – is for Grumpy Gill.  Every trip has a Grumpy Gill jar where you are allowed to write down a complaint that is read at the end of the trip.  There was only one written this trip.  It was written on the Hampton Inn stationary – by Dawson, not me.

 

H – is for Henna tattoo.  Teagan got a beautiful mandala henna tattoo.

 

I – is for Icy water.  The ocean and pool were about 70 degrees on a good day.  The kids swam in both, the parents did not.  But the temperature outside was nice enough that you could go sit at the beach without needing a shade umbrella.

 

J – is for Jellyfish.  There were a lot of jellyfish including one that washed up on shore which one lady insisted was a Portuguese man o war – pretty sure it wasn’t but she had an audience and sounded really smart so I just smiled and waved.

jellyfish-marine-sanctuary-140617

K – is for Kitchen.  There was supposed to be a “fully equipped” kitchen in our condo, however there was one small 6 inch skillet, no spatulas and one small saucepan, and a cookie sheet from 1959.  It’s hard to cook bacon – well anything – in a 6 inch skillet.

 

L – is for Long Walks on the beach.  We took several because of where our condo was located it was easier to walk most places than drive.

 

M – is for Mouse.  Specifically the Alabama Beach Mouse which is a federally endangered species that lives along the Alabama coast in the sand dunes.  We found a sign about this at the Gulf Shores Fishing Pier – which freaked out at least one kid who insisted every 5 minutes there was a mouse in the sand.

 

N – is for No Alcohol.  When I stopped at the condo office to get the keys I had to sign a No Alcohol on the beach policy.  It was a new thing this year specifically for Spring Break.  Dawson has a cool picture of two people getting arrested by beach patrol for having alcohol on the beach.

 

O – is for the Orange Beach store.  I had seen people wearing these really cool shirts with an orange that said beach in the middle.  So we drove to the Orange Beach store.   And they had the really cool shirts and they were really proud of them as the prices were a bit much for tees.  I didn’t buy one.

 

P – is for Pancakes.  Before we left we read that Bill’s By the Beach served an awesome brunch including Nutella pancakes.  Teagan was super excited about the Nutella pancakes.  We found out on Monday that Bill’s by the Beach only serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday.  I made Nutella pancakes when we got home.

 

Q – is for Quote of the Day.  One of the quotes I wrote down from dinner was, “Do you think she knows that’s a beach cover and not a dress?”  My guess is that she did not know that it was a beach cover since she was wearing it with wedge heels and jewelry.

 

R – is for the Random girl who yelled “Hi Dawson!” on the beach one day.  There was a group of girls from his school vacationing close by but he didn’t think she was one of them.  And the girls he knew from school were staying several miles down the beach.

 

S – is for Salt Life.  I wanted a Salt Life sticker.  Here’s the Urban Dictionary explanation of why I don’t have one:  Originally a sticker on the back of cars used to denote a surfer, bodyboarder, or general beach bum whose life centered around the ocean or beach.  Unfortunately the trend spread to senior citizens, wanna be hipsters, soccer moms, and other persons wishing to inform the world that yes, they too have visited the beach at some point in life and they have the sticker to prove it

salt life

T – is for Tattoo.  Dawson was determined to get a tattoo on vacation.  He did not get a tattoo however as the tattoo shop recommended by the lady that did Teagan’s henna tattoo was super busy and never called back.  All he wants is roman numerals:   III-XX-MMXV …. It can’t be that hard.

 

U – is for Unsupervised Children.  While eating lunch out on the deck of Sea n Suds we were treated to a group of ladies who apparently forgot they had small children.  While waiting for their food the ladies all drank cocktails and chatted while the kids were getting up walking around and playing monkey in the middle with a stuffed animal.  Then after lunch the kids started running around the deck mostly out of sight of the moms.  The oldest was maybe 7 or 8 and her arm was in a cast – shocker! 

 

V – is for Volleyball.  My kids play soccer on the beach but others play volleyball.  Teagan reminded me of the creepy old guy watching a group of girls play volleyball on the beach – which again leads me to remind parents to think twice about your daughter’s bikini.

 

W – is for People Watching.  My family tends to people watch a little too much on vacation.  It’s just so easy at the beach! Oh yeah and Whataburger… the only place that serves a side of toast with everything.

 

X – is for X-ray.  Luckily Princess didn’t require X-rays or stitches and they were able to glue her wound shut.  She got a few nights of extra love by the kennel staff and some needed break time from her brothers.

 

Y – is for Yellowfin which is a type of tuna.  At Tacky Jacks I got smoked tuna dip and Dave surprised me by eating it with me since he normally doesn’t eat seafood.  I have no idea if it was Yellowfin tuna or not but I needed a Y and T was already taken.

Z – is for Zzzz.  There wasn’t a lot of sleep on this trip because the mattress we had at the condo was made with bricks.  Uneven bricks – because when you would lie down in the bed your feet were higher than your head.  Luckily there were extra pillows in Dawson’s room so I stole several and made my own “pillow top.”

 

Scratchy blankets and getting sick on orange juice

I always say I love to travel.  I have a fuzzy memory of what was likely my first vacation.  I was about 4 or 5 years old and we took a train to Florida.  It may have even been to Walt Disney World, but I don’t remember anything about it except:  I got sick on orange juice on the train and the blanket I had was scratchy.  I think that explains a lot about me – I was destined to write about the calamities of travel.

I thought long and hard about how to document the latest travel adventure and I even tried writing a few times while still on vacation.  I’m going to start on day one, but in reverse order:

1:45 AM Prattville, AL

We are all exhausted and finally tucked in our cozy beds at the Hampton Inn so you would think all you would hear is “zzzzz” – however what you heard was Dave laughing hysterically.  Like uncontrollable hysterical laughter which triggered all of us to start laughing.  When he could finally talk and explain what had got him started laughing it was an earlier conversation about a fart – not even a recent fart or even a fart that occurred on this trip.  I vaguely remember Teagan saying something about “smells like regret and shame,” before I fell asleep.

1:01 AM Prattville, AL

Finally arrived at the Hampton Inn – the one that I chose ahead of time so that we would avoid not being able to find a hotel due to a convention, or sporting event, or that fact that it’s Spring Break and thousands of people are travelling.  The sliding doors are locked, not a good sign.  Ring the bell.  Someone lets me in.  The first sign that there was a problem should have been the stacks of paper lining the welcome desk.  Amanda (she had a name tag) looked nervous, second sign of a looming problem.  Good news – she did see our reservation.  Bad news – she had one computer tied up running some report and the other was doing a virus scan.  There was a lot of scurrying between computers, a lot of lamenting because she was new and by herself and unsure what to do with the computer.  I have since figured out what the problem was, she had already counted us as a “no show” and the computer had cancelled our room.  She did call someone to help her and somehow she got us our room back (fast forward:  she did not – she just booked and charged us for another room).  Another gentleman came in he smelled like alcohol or maybe he just recently sprayed AXE cologne, not sure. He looked familiar-ish.  As she was waiting for the computer to perform some miracle to get me my room she helped him on the other computer and in 2 minutes he had a room.  He recognized our car from travelling (Elmo stands out a bit), he was from Indiana too and we both commented on the terrible traffic in Kentucky.  I think I went to high school with him, his name was unique and I went to high school with someone with that name.  He went out got his kids and suitcases and went to his room.  I’m still standing at the desk.  I looked him up on Facebook while I waited, still not sure if it’s the guy I went to high school with.  Back to Amanda and the check-in debacle.  Before the maybe my high school alum came in I had swiped my credit card.  She then explained it didn’t go though and she had to run it again.  NEVER let anyone at a hotel convince you to do this.  She ran it again and explained the rate was wrong; $25 higher than the room I booked but she was leaving a post it note for the manager to change the rate in the morning before we checked out.  Great …. At this point I’m about to scoot two of the breakfast area chairs together to make a bed, can I please have a room key?  I was nice.  Don’t laugh …. I was.  Frankly I was too exhausted to be anything but nice.  Although my son insists you can see the complete level of irritation by my facial expression.  And it’s not my fault that Amanda was a nervous wreck before I walked in the door, I’m guessing she had done several other things wrong that night – I mean there was a ream of paper in 4 or 5 alternating stacks with post it notes everywhere all over the front desk.  Yay!  Keys to room #208… Success and it only took 34 minutes.

Midnight-ish, Clanton, AL

Stopped to get gas….. Again.  $20 fill ups – yay!  12.7 gallon gas tank – not so yay!  We pulled into a Chevron, because it was the easiest access off the interstate.  There was a guy in a tan colored SUV sort of blocking the front door.  The BMW guy next to us seemed to be having some issues and started to walk toward the door; about that time Dave swiped his credit card to get gas.  The guy in the tan colored SUV in some form of a security guard uniform stopped the BMW guy from going inside and told him the pumps are down and the store is closed.  So … maybe block the entrance to the gas station and stop people before they swipe their card.  Helpful Hank did direct us to the Love’s truck stop on the other side of the overpass where we met up with BMW guy again.  But because Dave’s card was still “open” on the other gas pump when he tried to get gas at this pump it locked his card.  Yay, we can’t fix that until Monday.  We took a trip back to the Chevron to make sure that the pump wasn’t still “open” – Helpful Hank was gone though.  I mean who else would stop to get gas after midnight in middle of nowhere Alabama?

Unknown Time – Nashville, TN

Traffic was ok, but you still have to pay attention to the signs because in Nashville you can take 5 different interstates in 5 different directions and you really have to pay attention to stay on I65 southbound.

Unknown Time – Bowling Green, KY

We gained an hour as we crossed into Central Standard Time.  Oddly it doesn’t seem like it helped us!  We hit stop and go traffic all the way to Bowling Green, after Bowling Green the highway split into two divided lanes and we got behind someone who thought 50 mph was a great speed.

6:42 pm – Lebanon Junction, KY

Traffic had started to pick up but then stalled again.  We opted to get off and go to the best truck stop McDonalds ever.  No, that’s not sarcastic, it’s a great McDonalds.  At this point I realized that it was too late to call the pre-determined hotel in Alabama and cancel because it’s after 6pm.  We were still 6 hours away.  The time change didn’t factor into my brain at that time.

6:08 pm – Louisville, just north of the airport

Ring – Ring, hi it’s the kennel (aka all-inclusive puppy dog spa and resort) and Princess has cut her foot and will probably need stitches.  OK.  I knew I checked the health care insurance box for a reason.  They texted me pictures, we decided to bandage her up and wait until the morning to avoid the after hour vet fees.

4:48 pm – Indiana/Kentucky state line

Rush hour in Louisville.  There are no words.  Two lane bumper to bumper traffic, then on the other side of the bridge three lane bumper to bumper traffic.  There was the option of the 264/265 circle around the city but it was backed up too because it’s the way to go around the new Toll bridge.  We were going 2 mph. 

2:48 pm – Plainfield, IN

We’re on the road!  Finally!  Only 2 hours and 18 minutes behind schedule.

2:30 pm – Plainfield, IN

Return from the kennel in Snowbelle and she is completely overheated and leaking antifreeze.  Sigh.  Park her in the garage and deal with it when we get back.

1:15pm – Plainfield, IN

Pack 3 dogs in Snowbelle and pick a child to assist you in taking them to the kennel.  Dawson got the short end of the stick.  At the kennel, I gave him Bam and Pickles and they ran him into a post.  Bam snapped at the girl trying to put his ID tag on.  Not sure why she works at a kennel because she’s not a dog person and turned into a complete bitch and made me put his ID tag on and made Dawson take him back and put him in the kennel and made the other girl that was working do all our paperwork.  He only snaps at mean people he doesn’t like…. OK he just doesn’t like people and snaps at pretty much everyone. Snaps not bites. Pickles escaped briefly but he was contained.  I hesitated, but decided to check the box to agree to pay an extra $10 per dog for insurance in case one of them got injured or sick.

12:30 pm – Plainfield, IN

Elmo’s new roof rack and super expensive luggage cross bars are installed and ready to pack.  Start loading suitcases, and bags and snacks.  All packed up and…. Oh yeah there are three dogs staring at us wondering where they are going to ride.  Crap.

12:00 pm – Plainfield, IN

Officially clocked out and ready to go.  Elmo’s new roof rack was not.  It’s complicated.

10:30 am – Plainfield, IN

Dave went to Westgate Jeep/Chrysler to purchase super expensive Jeep brand luggage rack cross bars that fit Elmo because he’s a Jeep…. And they’re unique.  Of course.

9:30 am – Plainfield, IN

The luggage cross bars that Dave has been struggling with since 8:30 will not fit Elmo.  Begin search to find ones that will fit.  Of course the only thing that fit’s is specially made by Jeep.  Translation $$$$$.

8:00 am – Plainfield, IN

Clock in for 4 hours of work.  Dave purchasing cross bars and roof rack to put on top of Elmo.  And Mickey D’s coffee.  He loves me.

7:30 am – Plainfield, IN

Wake up.  Happy day we’re leaving for vacation!!  Plan for the morning:  Dave is going to purchase and install the cross bars and roof rack needed so we can put luggage on top of Elmo, then take the dogs to the kennel (aka all-inclusive puppy dog resort and spa) in Snowbelle (Dawson renamed her but I don’t remember the name he picked – neither does he).  Pack up and be on the road at 12:30pm and drive 8 hours to Prattville, AL.

 

Here’s to scratchy blankets and getting sick on orange juice.  I love to travel.  I’m almost sure I do.

When you find your old travel journal

Today while looking for a file folder I found my old travel journal.  This was pre-blogging when you actually wrote stuff down on paper with a pen.  It was fun to look back, but luckily my writing skills have improved over the years.  So here is the first entry – the first ever family vacation to Gulf Shores Alabama.  It’s funny how many things don’t change over the years!  I did add a few comments as I was copying the text – they are in orange italics.

travel journal

Friday June 11th, 2004

Packing everyone was entertaining.  Dave had to fix the “turtle” (as we have so affectionately named the car carrier) with 100 mph tape so Kimmie’s undies don’t get wet.  See that sounds weird but there was an earlier trip where the “waterproof” car carrier got soaked along with the suitcase on top which was Kimmies. We all collectively decided that Mom was going down to stay and retire based on the number of clothes and size of the suitcase she packed.  We finally got going abound 5pm and made it to Bowling Green KY around 9:30.  Unfortunately for us, there was a classic car show in town and the NASCAR Busch race was in Nashville, TN.  The first hotel we went to was booked and the desk clerk told us there was only one hotel with rooms left.  But he gave us the wrong directions to it.   Pre-navigation software.  In frustration and hunger we went to the Econolodge, now known as the Grungeolodge.  But adjacent there was a Denny’s, now known as the Angry Denny’s and we went there for dinner. Pancakes good – Service bad!

Saturday June 12th 2004

After very quick showers at the Grungeolodge (if I recall there were bugs in the shower) we were on the road. I started the day off with a head cold and sore throat (before the trip I had just finished antibiotics for strep throat).  We made up a bigger story about mom’s plans for going to Alabama, that she had met a man on the internet named Hans who she was meeting down there.  Later Hans turned into a sheriff.  The tale grew bigger as the state of Alabama grew longer and longer.  But we finally made it to the Gulf Shores!  As everyone was unpacking mom took me to the “ER.”  It says it’s an Emergency Room but it was more like an Immediate Care.  After an hour and a half I was finally triaged.  After 3 hours I was leaving with a prescription and strep throat diagnosis.  While we were gone everyone else discovered our condo was across the street from Hooters.  Yay for Dave and Dawson.  There is a picture of Dawson when he was about 18 months old with a Hooters girl at the Original Hooters in Clearwater Beach Florida which has been the subject of much conversation over the years.

Sunday June 13th, 2004

Everyone got up early (except me) and went for a walk on the beach.  Kim won the “beach walker marathon” award because she went several miles down the beach.  We made a trip to Wal-Mart and I filled my prescription.  Then we went to the beach.  Teagan was not too crazy about the ocean – this didn’t change until 2012 when we went to Pensacola and now she loves the ocean.  She did enjoy playing in the sand, sort of, and we nicknamed her “Sandy” because she had it everywhere.  Everyone else played beach baseball with Dawson – watch 3rd base it’s a doozy!!  Someone had dug one of those massive holes and if you rounded third base too fast you fell in the hole.  Even mom played – see the video!  There was a video?  I need to find that!!  Later that night Teagan got her toenails painted for the first time!  We went to dinner and I got a drink called an Amaretto Orange Blossom – Yummy!  The place we went to dinner that night was destroyed in Hurricane Ivan and no one can ever remember its name. It’s been replaced by the Hangout.

Monday June 14th, 2004

Rain, rain – GO AWAY!!

It rained all morning long.  So we decided to go shopping at the outlet mall in Foley.  Very dangerous …. Lots of $$$ spent!  Some of the greatest purchases were Dave’s Wasabi Peas and Mom’s olive tamponade and raspberry sticks from Harry & David, our Livestrong bracelets for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, B’s clothes to wear to Hoosier Girls State and my jammie pants.  We shopped until we DROPPED!!  Then we ate Godfather’s Pizza and went back to the condo and watched Pirates of the Caribbean.  Dawsie – it’s funny we called him that back then, now we just tease him with it quotes of the day:  “Mom, do you want me to drown in the ocean without my floaty?”  “The dolphins are being rude!”  and “You can’t take a dolphin for a walk.”

Tuesday June 15th, 2004

RAIN, RAIN – GO AWAY!!

I got caught in a torrential downpour trying to take pictures of the large waves from the storm.  That caused a new “party foul” rule that if you walk by yourself on the beach you have to take a cell phone.  I did get some awesome pictures in black and white, the difference between now and 2004 is that they are on film and I would have to dig through stacks of pictures to find them to post them.  FINALLY the rain went away, largely due to Dora the Explorer singing “rain, rain go away” on the TV all morning.  We all went to the beach and tried body surfing which due to the storm and super waves turned into body slamming.  Even Momma JR body surfed, although it wasn’t on purpose, a wave just overtook her and I while standing at the shore.  The beach was too rough so we went to the pool, then found out later we were all baked like lobsters.  Dave took Dawsie – ha ha ha – and Sara go karting and everyone else went to Sea n’ Suds for dinner.  We did some souvenir shopping but Mom saw her that her legs were swelling from her sunburn so we went back to the condo where we all made fun of Dave for the faces he made while we put the sunburn ointment on his back.  Kim, Jacque, Dave and I went on a drinking excursion to the Gulf Island Grill – Dave tried a martini and it didn’t go over well.  He pooped out after the martini and us girls went to the Pink Pony Pub.  WOW!  What a place – it was like Red’s (in Bargersville) but on the beach.  We drank out of plastic Dixie cups.  There was a pretty cool band playing.  We watched a lady pass out at the bar, then again on the dance floor, and again on a table.  One family brought their 83ish year old grandma with them and she was so cute with her white polyester Capri pants and a little white handbag we all said we wanted to be her when we were 83 – now known as squad goals.  We literally crawled home on the beach – it was only about 1/8 of a mile but it seemed longer at the time!

Wednesday June 16th, 2004

A sunny day!

After tending to a mild hangover … we all ate breakfast.  Jacque is the ultimate “camp chef” because she has fixed everyone bacon, eggs, sausage and biscuits and gravy almost every morning.  Well her and B.  Everyone but Mom, Dave and Jacque went for an afternoon swim.  After the swim Dave, Kim, Sara, Dawson and I went to Fort Morgan.  It was an interesting Civil War fort that hasn’t been used since World War I.  Dave enjoyed the fort but it was really hot and humid.  Driving back to Gulf Shores from Fort Morgan we saw our first ever off shore oil rig.  Jacque and B made hamburgers, French fries and macaroni and cheese for dinner.  Yummy!

Thursday June 17th, 2004

Kim and Sara went to Denny’s for breakfast and everyone else went to Hazel’s breakfast bar.  It was good food – Teagan was grumpy.  At least once on every vacation I have documented that Teagan was grumpy.  Later, after Dave and Teagan’s marathon nap, we went to Lambert’s Café, the home of the “throwed rolls.”  This place has a line, and you stand in line, first come first serve style no matter how many people are in your group.  I was standing in line, while the majority of the family was either sitting on a bench nearby or in the bathroom.  As we were about to be seated the crabby old hag behind me told us that we had “cut” in front of her.  She was a complete bitch but when the hostess came back to take us to our seats I insisted she seat the lady behind us first.  She told the hostess we had cut in front of her in line – I think her husband wanted to die of embarrassment.  We saw them when we sat down but oddly they got up and left abruptly before they were served.  We decided she owed us all a quarter each for a vacation foul.  We stopped for ice cream on the way back.  We took the kids for a “night” swim in the pool, it was really just dusk.  But Dave got itchy in the pool from his sunburn so we left.  Then we all watched 50 First Dates and had popcorn.

Friday June 18th, 2004

Mom, Kim, B and Sara left for home today! L

So let’s do a side by side comparison of 2004 vacation vs family vacations since:

Epic weather event – check.  Andi gets into a confrontation with rude person – check.  Hotel disaster on the way down – check.  Everyone gets horrible sunburn – check.  Group movie watching – check.  Dawson makes a statement about dolphins – check.  Teagan is grumpy at least one day – check.