Sit back, friends, it is story time.
Finding ourselves completely burnt out, the Hubs and I decided that we needed a vacation. It had been years since we had gotten away and we needed to do it again. We decided to travel down to North Carolina to visit with my mother-in-law and do all of the fun things along the way. Mammoth Caves. Check. Gatlinburg. Check. Driving over the Smoky Mountains. Check. Spending time in Cherokee (my favorite place, ever). Check. Then over to the coast for ocean living. Bliss. I am a planner and I am cheap, so I took a calendar and literally wrote out all of our destinations and reserved motel rooms and hotel rooms in advance and cost shopped around. Folks, right here is where your English teacher would be pointing out the foreshadowing. Right. Here.
I already knew that we needed to get creative in order to make it out alive. In a large tote, I packed a ton of food that was Hank-Safe for the occasions when we might not be able to find food that he could have. In that tote, I also packed the cups that he uses to drink his medical food and the accessories need to wash them. I packed a large cooler with his rice milk and his refrigerated medications. Then, the clothing. Little dude needs to have many changes of clothing, as the resident puker of the family, I had to make sure that he could be clothed at all times and that meant a lot of clothes and a bottle of laundry detergent.
Now, right here, I know that you are thinking, ‘Good Feta, woman! There are stores all over the country that carry rice milk, that carry laundry detergent, that carry food!’ But I am a planner and I was worried that it would be late and I would need something and I wouldn’t be able to leave to get what was needed.
Day one into the trip was lovely. We stopped at rest areas and ate packed lunches from the magical food tote. We ran around play areas and did yoga in the grass to stretch our legs and backs. We drove to our first hotel. We planned the first stop to land us near the Newport Aquarium in Kentucky. If you are ever in that area, you need to do yourself a solid and visit. It was here, in a parking lot, I realized that you shouldn’t leave your parking ticket on a magnet. Paid for a whole day instead of the 3 hours. A little salty, I was.
Day two, was Mammoth Caves! Oh it was glorious. The stalactites, the formations, the crying kids, the seized back muscles the Hubs got. Wait. What? Yeah. Something that I didn’t count on is how scary this wonder of the world would be on young kids. In their fear, they needed special hand holding and coddling. Twenty steps down into the cave, found the hubs, walking down, leaning forward and holding a kid’s hand. Forty steps down, he was able to stand up. His back, however, was not able.
We did not mean to spend more than two nights in that area, and therefore, I had booked the campiest motel that I could. It didn’t have a playground, working air conditioning or a pool – but that was ok, the next hotel we were scheduled to stay at was a super nice place with a massive pool. But now, I had a Hubs in the ER for the night and two kids with NOTHING to do. We were to hike around the caves for a few days, but they “noped” that activity after the first five steps into the cave. We checked out of the motel and checked into a hotel with a pool. Canceled the following night’s hotel in Gatlinburg. I could totally see the lost money flying out of my purse.
Day three, we swam. We waited. We went to the drug store and bought Pokémon cards. We finally got the Hubs back.
Day four, I drove Over the Mountains while the Hubs slept with his muscle relaxer.
Days Five, Six and Seven, we realized something that was golden and a simple internet search would have told me this, but did you know that the South is sort of famous for their BBQ?
This is where the ‘Laugh’ sign gets lit for the audience.
I wish that I had thought to research all the BBQ restaurants that were on the route of where we were going. If nothing else, this kid can and will survive on pulled pork. Even more, whereas a BBQ chef won’t tell me what is in his secret family rub, he will tell you if your allergens are in it. The relief was so strong, that I thought about leaving the very bulky food tote in a motel and driving off. I didn’t.
The rest of the vacation was uneventful and full of relaxation and bliss. We did find all of the local BBQ joints, we ate our way through the south, and we ended up coming home with a nearly full food tote.
Mining For Gold in Cherokee, NC
What did I learn for from all of this? I can’t plan everything out. It just won’t happen that smoothly. I learned that the one family member that I was most worried about was the least trouble. I learned that the world has options that we can use. I learned that planning the vacation to stay inexpensive is like poking the proverbial bear.
Oh, and Cherokee is where I ended up spending my birthday. At the base of the mountains, with the scent of flowers and green in the air, I spent the twilight of my 38th drinking a water on a shared motel balcony with a motorcycle club. 12/10 would do again.