Channeling the Griswolds

Sparky et al

Sparky et al

It all started before it even started.  The Friday afternoon before hoping to leave bright and early for a 10-hour car ride with three kids, I began to contemplate changing my name to “Sparky” and buying a Wagon Queen Family Truckster.

My 9-year-old daughter was flying home from Florida, where she had spent two weeks with her grandparents, who happened to have purchased for her a shiny new cell phone…  which she promptly left on the plane, never to be seen again.

Simultaneously, while my wife was picking her up at the airport and dealing with that drama/tragedy, it was my job to take our Husky mix, Bella, to “Camp Bow Wow” on the other side of town.  Unfortunately, Bella is not a good traveler.  She decided to vomit twice in the back seat where she was riding.  Now, while this was not the vehicle we would be taking on our trip, I did need to pick up my 8-year-old twins in it roughly 20 minutes from that moment, when they would be riding in that very back seat.  Always the good boy scout, I had placed both a blanket and a towel across the seat before loading in the dog.  The seat was clean, but the stench of the wad of pukey towels would linger for a while.

Around 10pm that night, while the house was abuzz with packing and planning, the transformer on our street blew out in a blaze of glory, leaving our house and about 9 others in darkness.  Let me tell you, 8 and 9-year-old kids just LOVE total darkness (tongue planted firmly in cheek).  Amidst the giddy little screams and grasping hands, we lit candles and found the 500-candle-power flashlight, trying to continue our trip preparations.  Around 11pm, the power came back on…  for about 30 minutes.  Then, the transformer blew again.  This time, however, it would be a bigger ordeal.  I was not keen on going to sleep with candle “night lights” lit around the house, so I stayed mostly awake for the next several hours.  Around 2am, I was jolted awake as the power returned with a vengeance in the form of a massive power surge.  Every light we had left on was shining brighter than a thousand suns, and a loud popping noise was coming from the kitchen.  That would be the microwave oven frying, along with both of our cable TV boxes, although I didn’t realize this until the next morning.  After the surge, the power was off again and darkness returned until 3:15, when the replacement transformer was finally turned on for good, and I could get some shut-eye.

The Wagon Queen Family Truckster!

Now, keep in mind that the plan was to get up at 6am and leave by 7am for this “relaxing” vacation.  When we finally left the house at 9:45am, I was running on 3 hours of sleep and facing a 10-hour drive.  Once on the road, things really weren’t all that bad thanks to a two-screen DVD player, one portable DVD player, a Nintendo DSi, a Blackberry Curve with games, and an HTC Incredible with games.  The kids also played one annoying game over and over again, where they shouted “Skittles” every time they saw a yellow car, and “busted” every time they saw a police car.  There was much debate about the accuracy of the score keeping, and the rules seemed to evolve as the day wore on.

Somewhere in the middle of Missouri, I opened my eyes.  The problem with that is that they had been closed… while I was driving with the cruise control set (on 55, of course) and the family in the car.  I’m sure it was a brief siesta, but it scared me to death.  I’m just glad I didn’t jerk the wheel to one side or something.  Instead, I calmly put my hand on my wife’s knee and said, “I think I’m going to need your help.”

About 9 hours and 9 potty breaks in, we hit a dark and giant storm front head-on.  We weathered the worst of it from inside a McDonald’s, but after racing out to the car and climbing in, we realized that the ropes and straps with which our luggage carrier was attached to the roof (which looped through the interior of the car) were wicking water from the roof and depositing it inside the car.  We rushed to find a covered gas station under which we could remove the ropes and wait for the worst of the rain to pass over.

When we finally arrived at my sister’s house around 8pm, I was thrilled to be handed a beer by my brother-in-law.  Good man.  After that, it became a much more standard, non-Griswold vacation packed with the usual suspects:

Swimming daily
Frog hunting/capturing
Bickering kids
Family meals
A Movie (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – I kept waiting for him to say “You’re Fired!”)
Wii Dance-Offs
An abundance of tattling
Lots of hugs goodbye

The ride home would be mostly uneventful, save for a reprise of the leaking luggage rack straps, seemingly hourly potty breaks, and the constant hum of “how many hours?” questioning from the back.  Somehow, what took 10 hours one-way, took 11 going home.  And yet, when I had to switch cars at the house to drive across town and pick up the dog, two of the kids wanted to come along.  Weird.

And so, we were home.  Two adults, three kids, a very excited dog, the lonely cat (who we later found had somehow managed to pee under the washing machine drip tray), and Little Caesar (who brought the pizza).  It was a long and winding road.  We never did see Christie Brinkley in a red Ferrari, but that’s probably for the best.  I’m betting the kids only remember the good parts, and are blissfully unaware of the rest.  They’ll probably get a kick out of reading this in a few years.  Perhaps, in some small way, they will realize all that their parents went through on their behalf!


~ by suitenectar on August 3, 2010.

2 Responses to “Channeling the Griswolds”

  1. Oh my goodness! That’s totally a Griswold trip! I hate to say it, but I was shocked, yet I laughed, at your descriptions…and your lovely wife stood next to me with “that” look and said, “Yea, exactly.” At least you all made it home in one piece!

  2. at least you didn’t have Aunt Edna. Dying on vacation stinks.

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