With vacation in the books, I need a nap

By Dwight Collins | May 07, 2014

Camden — We made it home alive and when all was said and done, it wasn’t too bad. I definitely felt some influence from a certain '80s movie involving a long-distance vacation with a car full of people, but the memories that were made are truly priceless.

"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" is also a movie that came to mind because it accurately describes the attitudes at any given moment – usually at the most inopportune times. Food and bathroom breaks seemed to gather the most excitement, that’s the good. Kids not listening to instruction and instigating each other, that’s the bad; which in turn made the parental units, yup, ugly.

This was expected, and even processed prior to the trip to a certain extent, so plans had been laid to counteract the sneak attacks launched by the midget army sitting in the very back seat.

See, we stuck the older two teenagers in the row between to act as a buffer between the kiddos and the cockpit. If I couldn't hear it, it wasn’t happening. Yet, “Stop touching me,” “That’s my blanket” and “Stop licking your feet” were all things I heard coming from the back and chose to ignore. Why? Because I was focused – we were road warriors driving from Maine to Florida on a mission – Orlando or bust.

The trip down was awesome, instead of taking I-95 south I decided to take the “trucker’s route” using I-84 and 81 going out around the major cities and taking in the beauty of some lesser traveled roads.

We left late in the afternoon on Thursday, so by the time we got to the parts that go through the mountains in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia it was early in the morning on Friday. Tractor-trailer trucks lined the sides of the roads for hundreds of miles, their drivers sleeping, while I cruised along making our way south.

I remember at one point coming around the bend and seeing three large crosses off to the right and they looked like they were floating in air. They were illuminated by soft white light and hazy fog swirled around them like some heavenly mist. I was in awe, almost spiritual, then from the back I hear my son Zac say, “Holy crap Dad! Don’t look down!” – so of course -- I did. Off to the left, the breakdown lane gave away to steep banking and about a 300-foot drop. I couldn’t get far enough over to the right after seeing that view.

We reached Greenville, S.C., about 10 a.m., found a hotel and continued our trip on to sunny Florida the next day. We arrived early in the evening to the resort and got unpacked; the kids couldn’t wait to go to the pool. Crazy Mainers lugging swimming stuff down to a pool when it is 68 degrees outside – yup, we did.

We packed up the next morning for short trip to see my girlfriend's grandparents and took the opportunity to go to Homosassas Wildlife Preserve where the kids had the opportunity to see alligators, manatees, bald eagles, flamingos, a baby panther and a bunch of other animals native to Florida. The kids loved it – memory made.

We returned to Orlando after our day trip and went to Sea World. I have to say it was a great experience. The two older boys went off on their own to enjoy all the park had to offer, while the missus and the kids jumped from ride to ride. My son, AJ, took a big step in conquering his fear of roller coasters by riding the Journey to Atlantis ride -- and I still have the fingerprints on my arm to prove it.

With everything to do there, it was hard for the kids to pick their favorite thing, but finally we all agreed the Shamu show was our favorite.

We spent the last couple of days lounging by the pool. My girlfriend and I got to enjoy some of those frozen adult drinks, that were pretty good, I must say. I am pretty sure, though, they caused me to have a hyper sensitivity to the sun because I got a pretty good pre-tan – OK, I fell asleep and got a burn.

As Saturday morning came, I could see that everyone loved the trip but was ready to go home. We packed up the car and head north about 11 a.m. Driving through the night, this time north on I-95, we made it to Rhode Island by 7:30 a.m. where we stopped at Dunkin Donuts to get some breakfast. When we were ready to go I started the Tahoe and the battery light came on – crap, I thought, the alternator.

After a brief discussion and search for the AAA card, we headed north again, screaming Maine or bust. Holding my breath and feeling anxious as all get out, I pushed the old girl all the way to the Scarborough exit before she died.

So, AAA was called. Turns out we were 97.2 miles from Rockport, inside 100 miles and covered by AAA and we were good to go – or so I thought. Then, "The tow truck operator can only take two people with him and there are no rental car places open,” a AAA representative said.

When the tow truck showed up, a look of terror came across his face. Apparently AAA didn’t tell him we had seven people plus baggage. After putting our heads together, we figured out how to get the Tahoe off the exit and into the parking lot of Cabela’s. We loaded it on to the ramp truck there and the two older boys road home in the town truck, while the rest of us shopped and waited for my nephew to rescue us. Thank goodness he lives in Portland!

We finally got home and unpacked Sunday afternoon and when I finally passed out it had been 43 hours since I woke up in Florida.

I had a great time and we made some good memories, but, man – I need a vacation.

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