Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Well - we did it.  We made it back from the Griswold Gregg Family Christmas seemingly unscathed.

Sure, we are more than a little tired, we have a house with way too many toys, and now we have memories that will last a lifetime.  Whether that is good or bad is yet to be decided.

You see, our traveling north for Christmas was a little more... hmmmm... difficult than what one would have expected.  As the madness continued, I was asked to blog the adventure once the adventure concluded.  Apparently, it was a week long adventure, and it may not yet be over, but here is what transpired:

Early December:  We decide to drive our family (two adults, one 4 year old, one 20 month old) back to Missouri / Illinois to see family for Christmas.  We make the decision to leave the day after Christmas.

A few days later:  We alter the decision to leave around 2 p.m. Christmas day, spend the night in a hotel, and get to our destination earlier on the 26th.  A hotel was booked in Little Rock, Arkansas through priceline.

December 20th:  The forecast is beginning to call for snow.  Lots of it in our old hometown, and strong winds and snow throughout most of our route.  We watch the forecasts for the next four days and decide to leave at noon instead of 2 to get to our hotel earlier and beat the worst of the weather.

December 25th:  I arise early and wait with anticipation for B's door to open and see his gifts.  Finally, at about 8, the door finally opens, and we continue to rip open paper for the next hour.  I then fix homemade doughnuts, the kids play with toys, the husband and I load the van, and I take two excedrin for the migraine that is brewing.  Just before noon, we load the van.  Kids are excited.  I am nauseous.  Stupid headache.  "No talking in the van!"

December 25th, 12:10 p.m.:  The husband mentions that there are he and two other not nauseous mouths that need fed.  "Who can think of food right now?  I'm dying."

December 25th, 12:13 p.m.:  We discover regretfully that most restaurants and establishments close on Christmas day.  Uh-oh.

December 25th, 12:16 p.m.:  I give the hubs the warning, "If I ask you to pull over, don't ask questions."

December 25th, 12:20 p.m.:  We spot an open McDonalds on route!  I shiver at the thought of food, then make the executive decision to visit the facilities inside to try to will the homemade doughnuts out of me.  Everyone who has had migraines knows... sometimes relieving the nauseousness is the best thing for us.  Hubs continues through the drive through.  I order nothing.

December 25th, 12:22 p.m.: (tmi warning) I will myself to throw up, immediately feel better, walk around the building to find my family in the drive through and proceed to order some fries and a sprite. Life is good... well, better.

December 25th, approx. 3:00 p.m.:  The adventure begins.  The check engine light comes on.  Within minutes we realize that the illuminating of the check engine light is coupled with a vibration when the van moves into passing gear.  We make the decision to try to continue to Little Rock.

December 25th, 3:20 p.m. :  I'm doing what I do and looking up worst possible scenarios on my phone.  I suggest having it looked at somewhere before we cause major damage.  I'm quickly reminded it's Christmas day.

December 25th, 3:30 p.m.:  The van is feeling worse.  We teeter with the idea of driving back home, but what good does that do us?  It's closer to Little Rock now.  We make the decision to see if there's a Mazda dealership in Texarkana.  If so, we may get a hotel there.

December 25th, 3:45 p.m.:  I find a car dealership, and a hotel right next to it, in Texarkana.  We pray they are open the next day and there is room in the Inn.  Feeling a lot like Jesus right now.  It also starts to sleet / snow.  We discover how awful people in Texas drive in the snow.  Less than a few miles and 9 cars off the road.

December 25th, 4:00 p.m.:  I walk into the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Texarkana and inquire about a room.  Room booked, portable crib acquired, crisis, seemingly averted.

December 25th, 4:30 p.m.:  Our overnight bag and each human is in the designated hotel room.  Hubs has inquired about the dealership the next day, which plans to open at 7:30, and we decide we are hungry.  Time for Christmas dinner!

December 25th, 4:34 p.m.:  We, once again, realize it is Christmas day and begin calling an entire list of restaurants to see if they are open.  After 20+ failures, hubs ventures down to the front desk to inquire about food.  An Ihop about 5 miles down the road is open.  That means getting in the sketchy van in the nasty weather.  We consider trying to find a gas station.

December 25th, 5:00 p.m.:  It's decided.  We can't eat gas station food for Christmas!  It's on to Ihop.

December 25th, 6:30 p.m.: Back to the hotel.  Kids are crazy.  Going to be an early night to bed.  Mickey it is!

December 25th, 8:00 p.m.:  Everyone is in bed.  Ansley is screaming.  This isn't like her.  I take pity, get up, love on her, and we decide to move her crib right next to ours.  I rub her back until she falls asleep.

Progression of Night: repeatedly get karate kicked by the sleeping four year old, finally get up and move to the love seat, Ansley wakes crying in the middle of the night (also rare), I soothe her, climb back in bed, she falls asleep on my arm on the 'safe side' (as in, away from her brother), I let her lay for a few minutes and attempt to move her, which wakes, her, and it starts again.  I rub her back in the crib, she falls asleep, all is well, and hubs starts snoring.  It's 2:30.  I'm just about to doze for the first time and I notice darling daughter is standing smiling at me.  It's now 3 o'clock.  I concede, if her laying with me gets me any sleep, I'm up for it.  She lays super still for the next several hours, but never drifts off, and occasionally taps my face to smile at me or plays with my hair.  At 6 I've had it and I jump in the shower.  Only an hour and a half until the shop opens and this will be over.

December 26th, 7:00 a.m.:  Hubs takes B and they head to the dealership.  The early bird gets the worm, right?!

December 26th 8:00 a.m.:  Hubs and B are shuttled back to the hotel with the information that the mechanic won't even be in to look at it until 8:30.  Sigh.

December 26th, 9:30 a.m.:  We hear!  It's a coil, going to take until 11 or so and it will get us back on the road!

December 26th, 10:45 a.m.: The phone call comes, it's done!  Courtesy car is coming!

December 26th, 10:47 a.m.:  Call back.  Courtesy car is unavailable.  Going to be 20-30 minutes.  Hubs decides to walk over.

December 26th, 11:00 a.m.:  We are checked out, packed in, and ready to go.  Restaurants are open today!  Burger King it is.

December 26th, 11:10 a.m.:  As we are entering the interstate the van shutters a little.  Hubs and I look at each other.  I ask, "is the light back on?"  He says, "No, but I'm going to call them just in case."  We keep driving.  Hubs calls, gets no one, leaves a message, and we take it easy and waits to hear back.

December 26th, 12:14 a.m.:  Still no phone call and the check engine light comes back on.  We are halfway between Texarkana and Little Rock.  Hubs places another phone call.  The service manager said they fixed the problem that was present, asks us if we can turn around and bring it back.  We decide to at least get to Little Rock which is an hour closer to our destination as opposed to going back an hour in the wrong direction.  Little Rock has a dealership.  Service manager tell us to keep him posted.

December 26th, 12:52 a.m.:  We come up on stand still traffic on the interstate.  No movement.  Lots of snow.  We wait.  And we wait.  And we wait.  The car shutters.  Only 30 more miles to Little Rock.

December 26th, 1:18 p.m.:  We have moved mere yards.  A woman is walking down the interstate to find out information.  Her result: Little Rock got hit hard, the back up is 14 miles long to get past fallen trees and ice.  Oh... and all of Little Rock is out of power.  (Which would explain why none of the car dealerships I've been calling have answered their phones.)  New decisions to be made.  There's no where to turn around, Texarkana is too far the wrong direction now, we are praying that there are people AT the car dealerships even if the phones and power are down.  Praying.

December 26th, 3:30 p.m.:  We finally make it the 30 miles to Little Rock (after passing many snowmen on the interstate).  We drive to the car dealership, which is vacant and definitely not open.  We reconsider our options.  We think about renting a car, call several rental car places, which are also not answering and out of power, and decide that if any place will have electricity, it's the airport.  We head off to make the 20 minute drive to the airport.

December 26th, 3:50 p.m.: Hubs enters the airport to inquire about a rental car.  While he's in there the check engine light begins blinking (which, according to the manual means "do not drive").  He returns empty handed.  The quote was more than $700 for a week.  He makes the decision to drive on to Memphis (the next closest car dealership... and they have power, and a rental car), which is two hours on a good day on good roads.

December 26th, 4:10 p.m.:  We find ourselves outside of Little Rock at the only available open restaurant, a KFC / Taco Bell.  It's filthy, covered in ice, and packed.  We leave about 10 minutes after we get there empty handed.

December 26th, 4:25 p.m.:  We are nearing the exit for the airport (again) on the way to Memphis when I express my concern about the still blinking check engine light.  We drive another 20 minutes back to the airport to get a quote from a different counter.

December 26th 4:50 p.m.:  A nice man from the avis counter gets me a full sized car (which is a slight issue with the van load of stuff we have), for half the price of the other quote.  I take it and leave with a set of keys and a Chevy Impala.

December 26th, 5:15 p.m.:  I have followed the hubs back to the closed car dealership where we unload all of our luggage, packages, and children into the pint sized car, (of which I had to change our daughter on the front seat at 35 degrees) write a note on the back of a check register, drop it and the keys to our decrepit van into their slot and leave it there.  We have every intention of driving the 6 hours to our destination.  Our trip starts with a promise from Hubs to B that, "I'll get you to Gaga's house tonight, I promise."

 December 26th, 5:45 p.m.:  B announces from the backseat, "I don't feel good."  Which matches his ghostly complexion.  In that moment I did three things: I yanked the cord to the dvd player, realized we all needed to eat (still in a town with no power), and realize that my son has not used the restroom or drank anything since we left Texarkana.  I conclude that I'm a horrible parent.

December 26th, 5:50 p.m.: We are praying B doesn't throw up, as we take an exit for a McDonald's, which turns out to be closed.

December 26th, 6:00 p.m.:  We take a different exit with a sonic right next to a gas station.  I get B out at the gas station, armed to make him pee and to buy some bottled water (just in case), when, as we are standing in the below freezing temps with no coats we notice the white sign on the door, "closed due to weather."  We walk back to Sonic where the hubs is and I take B to pee there.  He pees, and pees and pees.  Confirmation: I'm a bad mother.  Bright side: the cold air looks to have made him feel better.

December 26th, 7:51 p.m.:  We have all eaten, B seems better, but once again, we are now stuck on the interstate due to road work.  I suggest a hotel (regretfully, but our estimated arrival time is 2:30 a.m. now), to which the hubs replies, "no".  He'd promised B, after all.

December 26th, 9:00 p.m.:  We've hardly moved, and I make the call to the Embassy Suites in Memphis.  We've stayed there before, and there is two rooms... this girl has to sleep tonight, which means kids in their own place!  Hotel room booked.  Now to get there.

December 26th, 10:58 p.m.:  We arrive at the hotel, carry in kids, no luggage, make up beds, and hit the hay.  Nighty night.

December 27th, 6:30 a.m.:  B wakes, but miracle of all miracles, we all slept a little!  We decide against attempting to unpack the trunk to get to our clothes, and we all wear the clothes that we've slept in and driven in the day before, to get back in the car after breakfast.

December 27th, 10:40 a.m.:  B has mentioned once or twice that he needs to pee... in the snow.  So only a half hour away from our destination (and mere moments from the nearest gas station), we concede and he pees in the snow on the side of the road.  More confirmation on the parent thing...

December 27th, 11:14 a.m.:   A mere 47 hours after leaving, we arrive at our destination!  The car dealership that we left our van at still isn't open.

December 28th:  And they still aren't open.

December 29th: They finally call:  another coil is shot, and spark plugs need replaced.  They tell us to replace all coils as when one goes out, they all will eventually.  We concede.  It will be ready Wednesday on our way back through.

December 30th:  We pack the 'full-size' car with all of our luggage with the addition of Christmas gifts to the kids from grandparents... geared up for the next set of Christmas in Missouri.  It's a two hour drive, and it is tight.

December 30th, 2:00 p.m.:  The kids have opened all of their Christmas presents, and I'm feeling hopeful we can make them all fit, until Uncle Mark pulls out the big guns.  Kid sized Mickey and Minnie dolls.  The hubs and I just look at each other.

January 1st, 2:00 p.m.:  The hubs and I get in the rental car to run an errand.  As he's shutting his door, it keeps bouncing back open.  He looks at me, I laugh.  He gets out to see the handle is stuck in the cold.  Easy fix, but typical to the trip.

January 1st, 9:00 p.m.:  I begin rolling and a stuffing and a packing and a throwing as best as I can.  Hubs works the jigsaw of a puzzle out to get everything in the car.  We joke that the trunk may be like a jack in the box.  Only a few items are left for the morning.

January 2nd, 7:45 a.m.:  We are packing all of the last pieces in the car, when I realize both kids will be sitting with their feet in their chairs.  It's only 6 hours, right?  Van should be done at 2, and we get on the road.

January 2nd, 10:45 a.m.:  We pull off to gas up and grab lunch.  As we are getting out of the car the hubs phone rings.  It's the dealerships.  Mazda is a day behind on parts.  No shipment will be made today.  He talks for another ten minutes with them repeating, "this is really bad."  The conversation ends with him explaining that they'll need to provide us with a rental car (ours is due back) and a hotel room.  We start rearranging plans.  It will be tomorrow afternoon before the car is done now.

January 2nd, 11:15 a.m.:  The dealership calls back.  Somehow they've scrounged up one coil, and say it will get us home.  Hubs questions why they'd been so adament about replacing the 5 before, but they are confident this should do it, but it could be 4 before it's ready.

January 2nd, 3:40 p.m.:  We pick up the van, find out we've paid $48 in freight charges for the shipping of the parts we didn't even get, hubs protests charges and we're given a customer service number.  Rental car is unpacked, van is repacked, rental car is driven the 20 minutes back the wrong direction to the airport.

January 2nd, 10:30 p.m.:  The rest of the trip is uneventful, and 14.5 hours after leaving, we are pulling into our garage, with only one decision left to be made:  Next time, we fly.


*EDIT*:  Check engine light is BACK on... *sigh*

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