That word can conjure up different images for different people. For some it makes their imaginations surge with words like “adventure” and “discovery”. For some it conjures up images of careful, tedious packing, for 9 people. Not just clothes. That is the easy part. It is all the extras that you are convinced you might possibly need and can’t live without.
Recently we embarked on an adventure to attend my niece’s wedding. The moment we got wind of the impending wedding, I knew I was going to have to make a quilt for her and her husband. Of course, being a quilter, any excuse will do in order to plan a quilt and go fabric shopping.
A good friend of mine who has her own quilting business, helped me pick the pattern and fabric and then the “wedding quilt” took priority in my life until it was completed, well ahead of schedule. I looked it over, and loved the batiks, the way the pattern worked together, the quilting came out beautifully, and decided that my niece should get a lamp for her new home and I would keep the quilt.
Just kidding. Actually, I was pleased as punch to wrap it with pretty wedding paper and a special prayer to the new couple and move on to the process of packing.
It is a process. At least for me it is. There are currently nine people in our family, from ages 6 months up to…. um, adult ages. Plus, we were staying over the weekend in a hotel. That meant we needed dress up clothes for the wedding, and for church the next day. Also, I had to be sure I had everything we would possibly need as there was no access to washer and dryer.
The first step for me was to make lists. Yes, that was plural. I made a list for each person in the family, and what needed to be packed for them. The older children helped the younger children. We have these fantastic LLBean bags with our names embroidered on them, except for the baby who hasn’t gotten his yet from the clever grandparent who started this tradition. Not that I am hinting, by the way.
We set up all the kids’ bags in a central place, and they start putting items from the list in, after I check to make sure they aren’t packing inapropriately. You know, things like, a nice warm fleecy sweatshirt in July in a hot and humid state, instead of a short sleeved t-shirt. Or, the grungy, holy, gardening pants instead of something more acceptable for public viewing.
All the hang up type clothes get ironed and laid out so they will hopefully be somewhat wrinkle free. Church shoes are wrapped in plastic bags and put in the bags. As we pack, we cross the items off the list, so if anything needs to be added later, we know, for whom, and how many.
That is the easy part. The hard part is all the “miscellaneous” items, for which I have a separate and very long list. That list includes everything from toothpaste, to books to diapers to jewelry. All those little amenities that make up our hygiene and comfort.
On yet another list I have food items to take. With our size family eating out for each meal is out of the question. We knew our rooms had microwaves and small refrigerators, and that was a boon to not blowing our budget on meals. Knowing the trip would be around 12 or 13 hours, I made a boatload of sandwiches. We brought two coolers with us packed with yogurt, sandwiches, baby carrots, and snack items.
Another dimension to the whole process of getting ready to go was that my husband had to drive 2 hours north to pick up his mom who would be riding with us out to the wedding. He was able to go from work and get back at a very reasonable hour. It wasn’t really any trouble, and we were glad to be able to do it.
I had yet one more list. My “last minute list”. There are always things that can’t be put in the van until the last minute. For example, the food that goes in the cooler. If it was winter it wouldn’t matter of course, but in July, it goes on the last minute list.
We had planned to leave by 6 A.M., but didn’t get out the door until around 7 a.m. Close enough for us.
Now to a more seasoned traveler this probably all seems very mundane and boring. The advantage to traveling with children is that everything is so interesting to them. And that interest, excitement, and curiosity of the world can be contagious.
The bulk of the trip was spent in a cycle of driving, stopping for a feeding/eating/letting the kids run stop, then hitting the road again for a few hours. I have to say the children did really well at not fussing with each other, and chatting nicely with Grandma, or each other or playing games.
A few things of interest did catch our eye. One thing were this funny purple boxes that hung from the trees when we were in PA., I think. There were spaced out about every ¼ of a mile or so. They looked like gift bags, but made of wood or something, and painted a bright purple. I tried to snap a picture of one while we were zipping down the freeway, but it was basically just a blurred shot. We still haven’t figured out what they were.
Also, we saw a truck towing something we are still figuring out. It was shaped like a wing, but very long, proportioned similar to the wedge attachment on a vacuum cleaner. It was huge. I would guess it was about twice the length of a regular 18 wheeler. It looked like a wing to a plane, but it didn’t look like any wing I have ever seen.
Also seen was a huge string of old, classic cars just north of Columbus, OH. They were all in mint condition, and must have been going to a car show in the area. They were beautiful, I have to say, and I don’t even care about vehicles for the most part.
Between NY and PA, we went past a horse farm, and there was a lady out excercising her horse but running it around the track, hooked up to a sulky. The kids had never seen one before, so that was the topic of interest for many miles.
Without question, however, the most interesting part of the trip for us adults was near the end. Dale had used MapQuest for directions to get us to the hotel, and so far they had been right on in time, directions, and we were under an hour away from our destination when things took and interesting turn. Literally.
We were following the directions to a “t”. But as we got off the main road, it looked like we were on a cow path, albeit paved. It twisted and winded and it was basically a one lane, no shoulder, suck it in type of road. It looked like we were in the middle of nowhere. We were looking at it, and looking at each other and wondering where in the world MapQuest sent us. Dale was just saying he wouldn’t be surprised if we had to stop and open up an electric fence to get through when we went around a bend, cleared the woods, and down the road looked like a white fence going across the road.
Thankfully, that was just an illusion and the road snaked around that fenced in area. But this trek through nowhere went on and on and on… finally we stopped at a local farm and asked about how to get to the town where the hotel was. Come to find out, believe or not, we were on the right track, and though some of the steps MapQuest said we were to take weren’t exactly accurate, we did find our way to the Days Inn. The part of the trip we thought would be “soon over” took almost 2 extra hours. Whew!
We got to the hotel and checked in, amazed and relieved, and slightly confused, as to how we managed to get there, but just glad to have a place to get out and stay out of the van for a while.
We pulled into the parking lot and realized we where on the opposite side of the building from the office. Oh sure. Of course. After everything we had just gone through, this was not a surprise, really. The big sign that you can see from miles away marking the spot where the hotel was, was planted firmly at the back door, instead of the front parking lot. There was an itty bitty sign marking the entrance a little after the great big sign. Sure, that makes perfect sense to a weary traveler.
After the wonderful air conditioning of the van, the hot and humid air of southern Ohio nearly knocked us out. I forgot. It’s July in Ohio. Ugh. After our cool summer in NY, I didn’t think about what real summer weather was like. Usually we get the hot and humid weather, but this year seems to be a cooler, and very pleasant summer in our neighborhood, for which I am grateful.
We rented two rooms. Boys in one, girls in another. Dale got us gals into a room and I flipped on the AC… nothing. Oh nononononononono! I was not a happy camper. Dale, being the gentleman and sweetheart, immediately switched rooms with us. As soon as I got in our new room I put the AC on high. Dale must have thought I was just mechanically challenged because he threw the switch to turn on the AC that I couldn’t get to turn on with a look of “see, all you have to do is this”. Well, it didn’t work any better for him. He fiddled with it for a few minutes, and decided to finish getting all our stuff out of the van before going to the front desk.
Meanwhile, two of Dale’s brothers had shown up, and we were all standing around talking and Ron, the one who is mechanical, went in to take a look at the AC. In about two seconds he had it going. I asked him what he did and he said “I just turned it on.” Harumph. So did we, but it didn’t do any good. Dale was thankful and had the room cooled down in short order.
We had asked for a cot. It wasn’t in Dale’s room, or ours. Hmmm. We decided we would deal with that later. Everyone was tired and hungry and the guys were thinking we could all go out to eat and fellowship for a while. Somewhere in that mix, my mother in law realized the cot was in her room. Ah, no problem. Dale wheeled it down to our room. I took one look at the cot and realized, there was no way, no how that cot was going to fit in our room. I had the portacrib to set up, our luggage, etc. But even without all our stuff, the cot wouldn’t have fit. There simple was not enough floor space to accommodate the width of the cot. I was a little cranky at this point.
Speaking of beds, I figured out that hotels have a unspoken rule of thumb. The hardness of the bed is inversely related to the softness of the pillows.
The bed was so hard, that one of my daughter’s said she thought she might sleep on the floor, if she could find the space. It was like sleeping on a plank. Ironically, the pillows were very soft. A little too soft. Your head sunk down through them to the mattress like there was nothing there. How could such fluffy looking pillows do so little? The result was a spinal chord mishaped, kinked, and very stiff.
Tired, hungry, and now was wondering where to put the one body that had no where to sleep. Thankfully, Grandma came to the rescue and offered the extra bed in her room. So, the twins took turns each night sleeping over “at Grandma’s” and the other stayed with me to help with the baby and Jerusha. I felt like giving the lady at the front desk a piece of my mind, but decided it wasn’t worth it.
We went to a Golden Corral for supper. I had never been to one before. It is cafeteria style eating. There were several stations: salad, grilled, veggies, meat, fruit, and dessert. I was in sore need of something other than an sandwich, and protiened up. There was fish which was seasoned with cajun spices. The fish was a bit overdone, but the spices were excellent. I also loved the steamed broccoli with melted cheese over it. My family isn’t big on broccoli, so silly as it seems, I skipped dessert and filled up with the broccoli and melted cheese dish. There was also grilled pork, which was again, a little dry, but the sauce was very good.
Back to the hotel for some sleep, I hoped. I was afraid Isaac would be all out of whack from the travelling. While Dale and the boys were still in our room I grabbed a shower, then we all prayed together and everyone went to their own beds. What is it about hotel water that makes you feel like you don’t get quite all the way clean when you bathe with it? Maybe I am a water snob, but there is something about the way the water feels that makes me refuse to drink it. Good thing we were well stocked with bottled water.
Isaac and I snuggled for a while until he got sleepy. I put him in the portacrib then fell asleep until he woke me about an hour and a half later. I snuggled up with him on my bed, and he slept well until around 8a.m. or so.
I noticed that the bathroom looked like something Picasso built. The tub kind of dipped in the middle, like a shallow trough. I wondered if it was safe to stand in there, but my desire to scrub off road grime overcame any fear. The shower head was mounted low. I’m not a tall person, and it was up to about my shoulders. Dale is 6’2”, and I have to admit to getting a little chuckle at his expense as I envisioned him trying to wash his hair. The curtain rod curved out in the middle. The whole effect was a little bizarre, and I wondered if there was something stronger than “root” in my root beer at the resturaunt.
Saturday morning was pretty relaxed. We just hung out together watching Animal Planet, and doing whatever. The wedding wasn’t until 4, so it was nice to have time to kill for change, instead trying to keep up with a crazy, busy schedule.
Part II: Hasty Exits
During our “time to kill” block of time, the kids watch Animal Planet and Dale and I got to talk and relax. I usually think Animal Planet is pretty good. I think they put out the series on the Meerkats that we have enjoyed. However, this time, there was a little incident that made me mad.
It was a show on rescuing abused pets. This one house they entered was abandoned, and the conditions were filthy. Dog feces everywhere, ripped up carpet from cats, furniture destroyed. There was barely anything in the house. They found no food or water for the kittens that were left behind to die.
That is troublesome, to be sure. What caught my attention is that while they were walking through the house searching for any other animals, there was an area in what would have been a living room, with nothing but animal feces, a torn apart couch, and in the corner, a bunch of toys for kids. Young kids. Just then, the SPCA officer was saying “this is appalling. You just feel so bad for these kittens that were left here, living in these conditions.”
What about the children that were there? Were are they? How about how shocking it is for kids to have live in such a dirty, filthy enviornment? Not one mention of the fact that children must have been there, and certainly not any expression of concern.
I hastily pointed that fact out to my children. They were suddenly very shocked as well and asked why the officials weren’t concerned for the children that lived there? I was glad to see common compassion wasn’t totally dead. As soon as I saw those toys on the screen, I wanted to scream.. “forget the stupid kittens, where are the CHILDREN?????”
My mother in law had called my sister in law earlier in the day to see if they needed us over at the church early for anything. They said “no”, so as we noticed the kids were getting a little nudgey, we decided to make a trip to the store to restock some supplies.
When we got back my mother in law informed that my sis in law had called and wanted her over at the church ASAP. Okayyyyy…. She couldn’t have let us know a couple hours ago? So, thankfully, Dale’s brother’s were about ready to leave so they were able to get Grandma to have her picture taken.
Arrived at the church and prepared to enjoy the wedding. My niece is a beautiful young lady, inside and out, and made a gorgeous bride. Unfortunately, during the short service, and huge thunderstorm broke out. I say “unfortunately”, but really, I think it was a gift from God. My niece loves thunderstorms. What she didn’t bargain for was the tornado warning.
I had to take Isaac out during the ceremony, and there was a gentleman stationed out there to open the doors for the married couple and he was watching the skies like a hawk.
The thunderstorm passed, and a deluge ensued. No, not of people leaving the church for the reception, but of rain. It came down fast and heavy and left impressive lakes everywhere. I felt sorry for the ladies in open toed shoes, and wondered if Chevy makes a pantoon attachment for their vans.
The reception was at a welcome center. On the same street was a long wall mural of images of the history of the area. It was an impressive site and I wish now I had taken the time to just walk down that street so I could see more of it.
They had some historical items on display, some of which were quilts. I spied those immediately. Dale never even noticed them until I said something.
Typical of such events, the music was loud. Too loud from where we sat. It was getting late, and we had church on Sunday so we decided to make a hasty exit and leave shortly after we ate. I wasn’t crazy about the music, but I loved the center pieces. There was a diamond shaped cylinder, fill about ¾ with water. It had some black decorative beads at the bottom, some crystal looking pieces, an orchid, and a candle floating at the top. I should point out that the colors were white, hot pink, and black. I wonder if my niece had to pull any strings to get her camoflauge loveing brothers to wear pink vests under their black tuxes. I have to say, they all looked handsome. I have good looking kin!
By the time we left the reception, the rains had stopped, and floods abated some. We got back to the hotel, and I kept noticing that places like Pizza Hut, or a grocery store looked to be closed. Lights off, no cars in the parking lot. It was late, but not that late, and wondered if Ohio had some sort of retail curfew on Saturday nights.
Partway back to the hotel a certain child of mine began to whimper that they had to go potty. Really bad. At that point it would have taken more time to pull over and find the potty than to just get back to the hotel. Unfortunately, “just one more minute” was one minute too long, and resulted in me cleaning the seat while everyone else went up to their rooms.
Yes, I said up. We had second floor rooms. Oh joy… a grandma with arthritis, a baby, and alllllll the parenphenalia that goes along with 10 people.
I was just going up the stairs when Dale met me at the door to my room.
“I’m going down to the front desk right now….” What for? Then I looked around. Oh great. The power was out. Some rooms had the ability to run one light. Ours didn’t. No power meant no air conditioning too. I slumped into a chair. I was looking forward to some A/C and a nice shower, and some reading time in bed.
After a great deal of phone gymnastics and wheeling and dealing to get a refund, we packed up and left hastily like a bunch of refugees to an Ameristay about 20 minutes away.
We were able to get three rooms, and on the first floor. I noticed right away the rooms looked better. There were the little touches that mean a little better quality- I hoped. For example, the seal the housekeeping staff puts on the toilet to let you know it has been cleaned. The towels were folded and hung to make little pockets to put the wash clothes in. The shower curtian was fanned and pulled back into a holder on the other side of the tub in an attractive display. And most importantly… the AC worked! Oh, and running a close second was the coffee was Maxwell House instead of some weird off brand that even the front desk said they didn’t like.
The lesson I learned is that you don’t get rooms in a Days Inn run by someone who doesn't have a good enough handle on the English language to understand "customer satisfaction" and keeps repeating "You check all rooms, pick one you like" when we say we want check out and would like a refund for the two nights we won't be staying there. The irony is that originally, we were going to make reservations at this very hotel, but we called to ask a few questions they said they didn’t have a continental breakfast. They do, and from what we hear, it is better than the last one.
My recommendation to anyone traveling in the Wheelersburg, OH area. DON”T stay at the Days Inn. Go to the Ameristay up by Portsmouth. It is enough of a notch better to make the effort. It isn’t a 5 star hotel, understand, but it is better than the Days Inn.
We did the whole unpacking deal. Again. By this time I was so ready to go home. We had even toyed with the idea of driving partway, stopping for some sleep, then driving the rest of the way home. In the end, going to the Ameristay was what we decided to do.
Jerusha had fallen asleep on the short trip up to our new digs. She was one tired little girl! She pretty much slept through me getting her pj’s on and brushing her teeth. Isaac went down quickly too, and slept through until almost quarter to 9. We had planned on leaving around 9 for Sunday School.
We had planned on being out the door Sunday morning early enough to make Sunday School at my sis in law’s church. Benjamin had set the alarm clock in the boys room, and I was pretty sure I would be up for an early morning feeding so we all hit the rack hard. I slept like a rock. Sure enough, Isaac was up around 5:30 then promptly slept like a rock until almost 8 A.M. Isaac, Jerusha and Elizabeth were still sound asleep. Dale had mentioned about meeting for the continental breakfast around 8 and I knew we weren’t going to make it. I envisioned him and the boys up, dressed, and twiddling their thumbs waiting for us womenfolk to get our act together.
However, when I called his room I got a very groggy and throaty sounding: “Hello?”
“Oh, did I wake you?” I asked, equally groggy and throaty.
“Yeah… apparently Benjamin set the alarm but forgot to turn it on.”
“Well, my ‘alarm’ went off around 5:30, but I fell back asleep with him,” I admitted.
We agreed to just do what we could and hung up. I was still the only one awake in my room so I made some coffee and did some writing. Eventually there was some movement from Elizabeth and she got up and got dressed and then Jerusha was awake, and then I woke Isaac up and got him ready. We met up with all the guys down at the lobby where the continental breakfast was.
We heard that the Days Inn was still without power. I was glad we made the switch, though it made for a long and tiring night. We had AC, the coffee in the rooms were Maxwell House, which was good to the last drop indeed after the weirdo brand the Days Inn sported and the clerk at the counter said she wouldn’t even drink it. The whole place seemed cleaner, and a step nicer than the Days Inn. Had the power not gone out, we would have just stayed put, but the power outage was the proverbial last straw.
We stayed at my sister in law’s church through the afternoon so we could have ample room to fellowship. We had pizza, some veggies, and chips. The kids got to play in the gymnasium and burn off a lot of pent up energy.
Sunday was another late night as we visited for a while, and then tried to get as much packed so we could leave early in the morning. We didn’t leave as early as we planned, but it was early enough. I had been up quite a bit in the night. The AC in our room would run, kick out, then never kick back in. It wasn’t very long before it got too warm and stuffy in the room. I would get up and fiddle with it until it started running again, then go back to sleep for a little bit. By 5 a.m., whatever the problem was seemed to mend itself and it just plain stayed on until we were all freezing. I slept for a while, then woke up cold. It was past time to get up, so I did so, turned off the AC and started getting ready for our departure.
I have to say that if you are ever in the Wheelersburg, OH area, and you are looking for a hotel, don’t stay at the Days Inn there. Drive a few miles and go to the Ameristay, if that is the budget you are working with. The Ameristay, was better, hands down, in my opinion.
The trip home was unremarkable, except for the fact that it was a perfectly gorgeous traveling day. The humidity took a break, and made it much more pleasant. The sky was clear, and made for a very enjoyable trip home.
The trip home was lengthened a bit because we detoured north to drop my mother in law off and take a pit stop at her house. She graciously fixed a quick supper of spaghetti and corn. It was delicious. There is nothing like home cooking. It hit the spot after a lot of sandwiches and some resturaunt food. We ate pretty quickly and made a hasty exit, and drove the last leg home, glad it would be just under two hours.
Home! Oh it was SO good to sleep in our own bed! And to get a shower with our own water and finally feel really clean!
Today begins the unpacking and conquering a mountain of laundry phase of the trip. Other than that, we are taking it easy. We were able to sleep in and get some extra rest. Poor Dale had to go to work, but assures me he is fine, though a bit tired. At least we can all get to sleep earlier tonight!
Oh, and for supper, we are having BBQ chicken, mashed potatoes, homemade dinner rolls, salad with lettuce from our garden and some green beans. No sandwiches. No pizza. No premade food. A good old fashioned home cooked meal.
Here are some pics:
We were glad to have Dale's mom join us for the trip.
You really can't see it in this picture, but Grandma's hand is being held by Isaac, and they both fell asleep like that.
We are very thankful for our big van and for lots of family to fill it!
Here is a pic of the handsome driver!
In PA, we saw these purple hanging things. They were about the size of a medium sized gift bag, about the same type of dimensions and we have no clue what they are. Anyone know? (sorry the pic is so bad, but it isn't easy getting a clear picture doing 70 mph on a highway.)
One of Dale's pet peeves is poor marking on the roads that make it difficult to see the lines at night or in the rain. These reflecters were large, out of the way, yet good markers. NY needs to get some.
Everyone fall out! Time to stop, stretch, eat, and use the facilities!
Here is a pic of just one of the classic cars we saw.
At the wedding, Isaac prefered chewing on the sling to watching the ceremony.
The table centerpieces were very pretty.
The happy couple! Blessings to my niece and her husband!