Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Alabama 2012 (The Coles' Notes Version)

I was trying to think of how in the world was I going to summarize a full two week vacation into a blog entry that wouldn't be too long and yet provide enough information to let people know what fun we had. 
I figured I better get a start on documenting our trip before the events of our time away were forgotten. Even though I updated Facebook quite regularly, I wanted this written down in my blog as a story that we will remember for many years.

Part I

It began on June 29 as the kids and I spent the day packing up our motor home in eager preparation for the adventure that was awaiting us. Shortly after Doug arrived home from work, we ordered a pizza, said good bye to his parents and hit the road. We made it as far as Estevan, Saskatchewan... sometime in the early hours of Saturday morning. Crossing the border was quick and smooth despite my {usual} uneasiness when traveling to the US. Since we had a destination goal in mind, the captain of our ship put on some serious miles and only slept in short spurts. Our second night {Saturday} was spent in Iowa where again, Doug snagged a mere four hours of sleep. Eager to arrive, we booked it down to Mt. Olive, Alabama... we rolled into Scott & Lelia's driveway at 8:15pm. It was so wonderful to be there again with our friends. The kids quickly found the trampoline outside and Lelia and I bathed the two little ones. We settled the kids down for bed and enjoyed a nice long (in person) visit.
Unfortunately, they still had to work that first week, but their daughter stayed home with us and we did some shopping and hanging out. It kind of felt like a summer vacation home!  We brought food in from the motorhome and soon our stuff simply mixed in with theirs.  We quickly settled into a bit of a routine and started to feel like we were on vacation.
Wednesday was July 4th and we were quite excited to be spending the holiday in the States!  Lelia and I did some kid-free shopping at the outlets and then hung out at the house.  We had dinner at Dreamland BBQ with Scott's parents.  Our first plan was to head home and then back to downtown for the fireworks but that would have been an extra hour of driving so we decided to buy our own and set them off ourselves.  What a lot of fun that was!  So much so, that Scott and Doug hopped in the truck to buy a second batch!  As it turned out, Sarah was terrified of the noise that they made so she spent the next little bit in the house watching TV with the equally scared 92 pound golden retriever!
On Thursday, two more of my online friends drove from Georgia for an afternoon visit. This was the second time I've met them in person which was really neat. The day was hot and humid and the kids spent the entire afternoon outside in the pool and on the trampoline. Thankfully, Lelia was able to be home early from work that day and could join in the company.
Saturday morning finally rolled around... we were headed to Orange Beach! The house was honestly like the opening scene from the movie Home Alone. The kids were crazy wound up and buzzing like bees, us moms were trying to ensure everything was packed and ready to go while the dads started to load the vehicles. Now I have to back up a little bit... on Thursday, Lelia wasn't feeling good. Without getting into details, she was progressively feeling worse as time went on. So, as we were just about to head out, she took a pain killer and we hit the road. We were off!  Doug, Scott, Joshua, Andrea and James were in the truck while Lelia, the middle girls, Sarah and I were in the car. We began the road trip and I noticed that Lelia was not looking well. I mean, I was beginning to REALLY worry about her.  After about 20 minutes, she pulled off the interstate and asked Doug to drive. That seemed like an ok plan... except Lelia was not doing well. At all. Scott eventually decided that Lelia needed to go the emergency room. So, the 10 of us booked it to St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham to get her checked out. Lelia was quickly admitted and Doug and I found ourselves with six slightly disappointed kids aged 3, 4, 8, 8, 11 & 13. Without going into much more detail, after 4+ hours in a hospital, Lelia finally came out having had a kidney stone. Since she was under the influence of some serious pain killers, Doug and I drove her car and she slept in the truck while Scott drove.

Part II

Orange Beach, Alabama. We had finally arrived at the condo. It was a beautiful suite. A large master bedroom, another large bedroom and then a smaller one. Each room had it's own bathroom. There was a large balcony overlooking the pool, lazy river and water slide. Just past the pool, we could see the bay full of boats. Sunday was spent at pool side. Doug and Sarah came in a little early and the rest of us swam and played until 3:00pm. It wasn't long that we found despite numerous applications of sunscreen, we were all a little sunburned. We all showered up and headed out for dinner to Lulu's. The next morning, we got up on time and headed to the beach. Just as we nicely set up, the sky darkened, the thunder began to rumble and the rain fell. Thankfully, Scott was watching the weather closely and we decided to wait the storm out. We made some lunch on the tailgate of the truck while waiting and before long, we headed back to the sand. The sun never really came back out but that actually made the temperatures bearable and not too hot. Supper that night was at The Oyster House. Once again, wonderful tasting food! All too soon, Tuesday rolled around... time to check out of our fantasy world and back to reality. The kids spent an hour in the pool that morning while Lelia and I cleaned and packed up. We enjoyed lunch together at Lambert's Cafe and the thing that they are known for is throwing rolls. Quite fun to have part of your meal tossed at you! We then continued the journey back north to the McCloud's home. There was a little sense of sadness as Doug and I and the kids planned to head home that evening. Once we arrived at their house, it was a flurry of activity as we unpacked suitcases, bags and bins, all the while sorting out whose stuff belonged to who. Pizzas were ordered in for a late supper, babies were bathed, kids showered and all too soon, we knew we had to say good bye. It was a teary farewell as we pulled out of their driveway just after 10:00 pm to begin the trek home. Let me just add that Scott and Lelia are amazing people.  They opened their home to us, treated us to many delicious meals and were the perfect hosts.  I love that we can maintain such good friendships even while living over 3,000km apart.

Part III

Because it's easier to put on the miles while the kids are sleeping, we agreed to push through the nights. Doug stopped first in Kentucky to grab a few hours of shut eye. On Thursday, we stopped in De Smet, South Dakota to visit the Ingall's homestead. The kids and I are avid Little House fans so to see some of what we've watched and read come to life was very exciting. Although the buildings are replicas, it doesn't take much to imagine what it would have been like over 100 years ago. Our second stop of the day was in Wall, SD. We walked through the shops of Wall Drug and if you have the time, you should check out www.walldrug.com
The last stop of our trip was Calgary, Alberta where my sister moved to.  We spent the evening and next day with Paul, Alicia and the kids.  That afternoon, we drove downtown to let the kids wade in the pools and visit a large playground.  Once again, we knew that an unavoidable good-bye was drawing closer.  We packed up the motor home. One. Last. Time.  The last leg of our trip was a mere 3.5 hours and we parked our home on wheels shortly before 10:00 pm. 

And that, in a nutshell, was our holiday!

Other tidbits:

  • I had promised myself I would never drive to Alabama again. I lied. There must be something pretty special down there for me to do it again.
  • This was our second trip in the motor home to visit Scott and Lelia.
  • It was neat to teach them how to say certain things without their southern accent and fun to try to repeat some words with their southern accent. I didn't do so good at that and they all laughed at me when I tried.
  • I avoided being bit by fire ants. Until 9:45, the night we left and I still have a bump on my toe from it.
  • One of my favorite times of the day was sitting on the balcony of the condo, first thing in the morning, drinking a coffee with Lelia. The days were full and busy so grabbing an early morning hour to ourselves was a wonderful way to begin our day. 
  • We have logged nearly 95 driving hours, including the trip to the beach and back.
  • Including the beach trip, we drove about 5,684 miles or 9,147 kilometers.
  • I took over 500 pictures. 
  • I lost my sunglasses to a wave in the ocean.
  • I can't promise never to do the trip again, but I'd sure like to fly next time.
  • We're already talking about when we'll visit again.

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