I am going to go straight into telling you about my vacation because it is going to be long.
We had a great Christmas. As you may know, we do a big Christmas Eve family dinner. Dad comes over and cooks from about noon to about 6pm. People stream in all day and it is so awesome. Christmas morning was pretty great too. When you have kids, it is so awesome to start traditions and have memories. We open presents at about 7am, then my family comes over about 9am. We do gift exchanges and then we eat. My wife does a couple stradas and we do bagels and lox and those kind of things.
Obviously, the house is a mess after all that and it is really hard to pack for a 7 day winter adventure with all that going on. Once everyone leaves, we turn it into high gear. I clean the house (as best as I can) and my wife starts to pack.
If you didn't hear, we were going to the mountains of North Carolina to a city called Sapphire, 38 miles SW of Asheville. It is about a 10 hour drive from our house.
Oh, and I almost forgot, I invited my wife's family to join us up there. She has a cousin that is married (they are our age) and they have three children, a 16 year old girl, a 14 year old boy, and a 4 year old daughter. And her other cousin, who is a single mom of a 11 year old girl. We really love their company and we have been talking about doing this vacation for a long time. I figured this is a 4 bedroom house, it should be fine. We were very excited.
As an aside, at Thanksgiving, we met the 16 year old's boyfriend and they made the soft sell on us about him coming on the trip. What I mean by soft sell is, "Oh, he is coming with us."
And, after much discussion in the car on the way home, we were going to let it be. But two days before we were supposed to leave, they texted us (you know how I feel about texting) saying, "Our son's girlfriend is coming, too."
Now I really do love my wife's cousins. I love them more than my own cousins. And not because I have to love them, but because I really like being around them. And maybe I don't know anything about having teenagers and the craziness that goes on, but my wife had to call and talk to them about our concerns. We were going to take the two upstairs bedrooms and let the kids have the downstairs but we didn't want teenage orgies going on in front of our 11, 10 and 7 year olds. They understood where we were coming from and said it would be cool. My wife calmed down and was comfortable with the conversation.
So, at about 2pm we loaded up the family truckster and were off. We had a laptop, an iPhone, an iPad, a portable DVD player, a ton of movies, and half of everything we owned packed in that van. And we drove. We were in constant contact with the cousins, who are from Miami, because we planned on meeting in Orangeburg, GA, for our first layover.
We got into the hotel, where we were meeting, about an hour and a half before they did. We settled in and went to bed. By the way, we stopped in a Denny's right off the highway at about 7pm and it was PACKED. Full of folks going to Disney World and such.
We woke up the next morning to their text at 6:30am, "Ready to go." So we dragged ourselves to the free breakfast downstairs. I met my cousin in the lobby. Hugs and kisses all around because everyone was so excited about the mountains. We went in to the restaurant, and my cousin was like the mayor, saying hello to everyone. I looked at my wife like, "What the !@#$ is going on here?" How does he know all these people?
Turns out he has invited just about everyone he knows. His sister and her family and his parents are there. They got their own place together. He invited a co-worker and his family who are getting their own place. And everyone is downstairs at the breakfast place at this hotel. It was like little Havanna in there. It was a little shocking but whatever - the more the merrier. It was going to be great. Packed up the car and got on the road. And, oh yeah, it was already snowing.
Trust me this is a good thing.
We now have about 20 Floridians who have just wee wee-d themselves because there is snow on their windshields.
I am the lead car in a train of 5 cars. I have got the GPS going and my wife is following our tracks on GoogleMaps on the iPhone. Somewhere in South Carolina the directions start to get hairy. What I mean is that you have to go through some small towns to get to this mountain road. The GPS is telling me to go on this road but GoogleMaps is telling me that road. And you know that everyone else's GPS is saying something else.
I know everyone must have thought I was screwing things up so I just pulled over. "My GPS said we should have gone...." "Well, my printed out MapQuest told me we should have turned..."
Whatever. Someone else take over. I don't care. So now I am car #3 out of five. Too many personalities.
We got to Sapphire Valley just fine, without anymore trouble, at about 1pm. We drove into the "neighborhood" and there was A LOT of snow on the roads. Great to play in, but no so much fun to drive in. We got about 1/4 of a mile in (and that was about 2 miles short of our destination) and couldn't go anymore. Well, s!@#$t.
We had to turn the Havanna convoy around. We went to the neighborhood community center and asked around. They said that the neighborhood was supposed to be plowed, but that we should probably get a hotel for the night. We checked in at the Hampton Inn right across the street from the community center. One of the five families got to their home.
(This the front yard of the one house that we got in)
(this is how we chilled the booze)
We were hopeful that tomorrow we were going to be able to get to the house. The next day. we awoke to 12 degree temps. Homey doesn't play 12.
It was bone-chilling cold, but that is why we were there. They said the roads were going to be plowed that day but we didn't want to rush anything. We went tubing and tried to waste time.
At 4pm, we tried the mountain. Yee haw, the roads were plowed. Yessiree we should be in our house in an hour or two.
Okay, so I was wrong. A plowed road doesn't always mean a drivable road. We made it up the mountain about 1/4 farther before it got too steep for a minivan. One of families brought a 4x4, so we called him up. I thought if he could get us up there, we could make better decisions. Well, he got us up about a mile before he was starting to slip. We are Florida boys, what the hell do we know about mountain driving?
So we bagged it for the second night. Back to the one house that was inhabited and we all had a Cuban feast. My wife and I decided to rent at a Bed and Breakfast that night, and it was very cozy for our family. The others decided to sleep on the one available house's floor. That would be 7 adults and 9 children in a three bedroom house (with hardwood floors).
We woke up fine and they woke up ticked off because of lack of sleep. They went straight to the local time share place and rented two condos for the remainder of the time. They didn't want to risk not having a bed to sleep in for another night. They asked me if I thought this was okay.
What was I going to say? I kind of felt responsible for their misery. But I was still holding out hope we could get to this house. I was thinking to myself, "They say they are going to plow the roads again until they are passable. They are going to salt the roads. We could possibly get there today."
But then again, they can be right and they would really be angry. We checked into the condo. My family shared a two bedroom condo with my wife's cousin and her daughter. They got a room and we got a room. Our boys slept on a pull-out couch.
We went from a 4,000 square foot house on the side of a mountain with pristine views and 2,000 decks looking out to 900 square feet on the bottom of the mountain to this. We did get to the house, but I am not going to tell you anything else.
I know I sound like such a wussy. I heard on the radio that Florida is the only state NOT getting snow today. All of you have seen these photos right outside your house. But like I said, I am a Florida boy and get to see snow like every 3 years.
I have to go now and shovel about 8 inches of sunshine off my driveway (I know I am rubbing it in).
See you friday,