Friday, March 27, 2015

Cuurmudgeon takes a vacation -- Part III -- A Journey of 1,000 Miles Begins With A Single Step... and Forgotten Maps... and the Wrong Charger

We took two cars, stayed in two hotel rooms, but Long Suffering Spouse and I were together the entire trip. Confused? Well, hang on.

You'll recall, of course, my insufferable bragging about the careful, logical, analytical way I planned our accommodations for this Florida adventure. No detail was too small. I even printed out detailed, turn-by-turn instructions from Google Maps, which promised to get us to our hotel in 17 hours, 47 minutes.

These were the maps and directions I left on a chair in the living room of the Curmudgeon manse when we finally got underway.

And that, Dear Readers, was the least of my failings.

By the beginning of that first full weekend of March, we knew that Youngest Son was scheduled to pitch on Sunday afternoon and again on the following Friday. I had hoped for a Thursday start, perhaps, so that we might have a more leisurely journey home, but at least we were armed with the facts.

Youngest Son had been ill during the week preceding the Florida trip -- fever, hacking, wheezing, congestion. He called me on Monday of the week we were to leave informing me of this malady and, essentially, demanding that I give up the identity of the secret pill or potion that would instantly restore him to good health. As if there was one. From our distant vantage point in Chicago, Long Suffering Spouse and I feared pneumonia, or bronchitis at least, and urged Youngest Son to seek medical attention. He ignored us, of course, at least at first. Perhaps he consulted with the team trainer.

By Friday, the day he was to leave (by air from Milwaukee) -- and the day we were to leave by rented car that I would pick up Friday afternoon -- I was still unsure of his health. I texted him to inquire whether he actually made it to the airport bus. He texted back that the bus had just left campus for Milwaukee's Mitchell Field. Twelve hours later he would text again, to confirm touchdown in Orlando. This made me feel even better about not flying.

Even the weather cooperated... sort of. Winter Storm Thor was pulling out of the Southeast as Friday dawned -- but my wife was petrified by horror stories of persons stuck in their vehicles on I-65 overnight (a lot of celebrities and pols among them, heading for Selma and the 50th anniversary remembrance of Bloody Sunday). There aren't a lot of choices for people driving from Chicago to Florida: The best route is to take I-65 to Nashville, turn east on Interstate 24 to Chattanooga, then turn south on I-75, all the way into Florida, land of the endless toll roads. Stranded motorists were still being pulled from cars in Kentucky -- there had been nearly two feet of snow in Louisville courtesy of "Thor" -- and Long Suffering Spouse was worried that the roads might not yet be passable when we got there.

By this time, however, I'd adopted the stubborn, inflexible mindset of a World War I general. We were going over the top as scheduled no matter what. I was certain that the road would be cleared in time for us. On this one point, at least, I was proved right, ultimately, but our discussions about the likely driving conditions did add an extra layer of tension and confusion to our final preparations.

I took Friday off to prepare for the trip. My wife worked a full day -- and then some -- because, she said, she could not leave her substitute (Mrs. Lork) without stuff to keep the kids busy. She had assignments. She had contingent assignments. She created punishment assignments if the kids got unruly. And she wrote out d-e-t-a-i-l-e-d instructions. She'd been working on these all week -- and she still wasn't finished late Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, I took our second car to Younger Daughter's house -- she needed the car to watch our house during our absence -- with the expectation that Younger Daughter would then take me to the Blue Line so I could get to O'Hare and the rental car. Both Younger Daughter and Long Suffering Spouse were concerned about using public transportation to get to the rental car place... but you really can't drive up to one of these places in your own car. How do you get out? Everywhere you go is either a gate or a row of spikes that will shred your tires should you foolishly try and back up. No, the train and the shuttle bus was the best plan -- such a planner I'd become!

What I couldn't plan, of course, was the duration of Granddaughter No. 1's nap. Younger Daughter and Olaf are in the process of housebreaking Granddaughter No. 1 -- and she's doing very well indeed, I can tell you -- but it has complicated her schedule. On that particular day, she didn't go down for her afternoon nap until late -- and she wasn't yet awake when I arrived (already later than I'd wanted).

Readers of this blog will readily understand that one cannot simply bundle a toddler, newly awoken from a nap, into a car and take Grandpa for a ride. Wait! Grandpa's here? What are you doing here? Well -- the child was happy to see me (it's my blog and you'll just have to take my word for it) but there had to be a delay before Younger Daughter would even consider trying to get Granddaughter No. 1 into her coat. So we lost more time there.

Eventually, though, we could go. Granddaughter No. 1 was upset when I jumped out of the car at the River Road train station, but I was finally back on the plan.

I didn't realize how cold it would be shivering on the platform at the River Road station. The wind was whipping and -- this is the story of my life -- there were four trains from O'Hare before the first one arrived heading toward the airport. Eventually, however, I got the car -- a 2015 GMC Terrain. It had all sorts of gizmos and whizbangs on a very spaceshipish-sort-of-instrument-panel that I had no clue how to operate. Still, a dim thought worked its way into my consciousness. Perhaps, I thought, we could connect the i-Pod to the vehicle and listen to music. That might be nice.

Younger Daughter and Granddaughter No. 1 were at my house when I brought the rental home. This was not part of the plan. I forget why they had come. Granddaughter No. 1 may have insisted. But I seized on the opportunity to ask my daughter how to connect the i-Pod. Not only could I do that, Younger Daughter told me, but I could hook up the cell phone through the car, too. She was trying to show me how while Granddaughter No. 1 climbed into the vehicle, situated herself in front of the instrument panel, and began pushing random buttons and twisting knobs. I'm not sure I absorbed the lesson very well.

I am sure that it was dark out by the time Younger Daughter and Granddaughter No. 1 were gone and Long Suffering Spouse and I were ready to hit the open highway. "Are you sure we shouldn't wait until morning?" asked Long Suffering Spouse for the 80th time. But Field Marshal Curmudgeon would hear none of this. We had a hotel room in Florida Saturday night which we could not possibly reach if we left Saturday morning. No, although we were hours behind schedule, The Plan Must Be Followed. "Do we have the I-Pass?" asked Long Suffering Spouse -- that gets us through toll booths in Illinois and Indiana, although (as is not particularly surprising) not in Florida -- and I answered in the affirmative. "Are all the bags in the car?" she asked. I answered in the affirmative. "Did you bring a brush for snow?" Well, no, I said, we're going to Florida, remember? "Bring a brush," my wife said, "we don't know what weather we will encounter en route." I was going to ask if she wanted me to bring a shovel, too, but I thought the better of it. If I asked, she might have said yes. "Where is the phone charger?" she asked. "I don't know," I answered. "Get the phone charger," she told me. I went into the family van and grabbed a phone charger.

Now, apparently, although I didn't realize it at the time, we have two phone chargers that plug into the family van. One of these is for a phone that we no longer have. Why this should still be in the van under the circumstances is not something I can answer. I can admit that I didn't check to see if I had grabbed the right charger or the wrong charger because I didn't realize there were two.

Long Suffering Spouse, however, figured it out mere minutes after we finally left. We had just gotten on the Illinois Tollway. The phone charger discovery happened moments after my wife figured out that I'd left the maps and directions in the living room. This was not the most auspicious way to beging a journey.

"Turn around. We are going home. We will leave tomorrow."

If Long Suffering Spouse hadn't said anything about leaving tomorrow I probably would have turned around. Probably. But Field Marshall Curmudgeon was not going to wait until first light Saturday to start the attack on Florida. We were leaving Friday as the plan required, no matter how late on Friday that might be. I didn't turn around. I was not a very popular fellow in that vehicle, let me tell you.

But -- like this story -- we kept going.

1 comment:

Steve Skinner said...

I think that Florida has so many toll booth as a way to keep you from speeding.