When Allyson was four months old and Ethan was nine, we went on a rather ill-conceived vacation to Destin, Florida. We were pretty broke, so we decided to do one of those resort tours where you get the free hotel stay. It was a long drive for a short stay, and the tour was a beating. Still, we managed to have a little fun along the way. Here are some excerpts from Ethan's journal.
Day Two, Saturday 10/7/06
Naturally, Allyson was none too pleased about getting back in her carseat, and you got pretty frustrated when you couldn't get her to take her pacifier. So we traded places. I guess I should mention that our little Sentra was absolutely crammed full of luggage, snacks, and baby paraphernalia. Allyson's bulky car seat was in the middle of the backseat, and the entire left side was filled with the diaper bag, nursing pillow, snacks, books, DVDs, bottle cooler, breast pump, and a big sun hat.
Your space--actually my space most of the time--was the narrow spot between the car seat and the right door. When you were in the backseat, all of your floor space was taken up with your bulging backpack. You didn't seem to mind as long as you could adjust the sun shades to block out the warm sunlight.
The trunk was ridiculously full. Bill managed to fit the big suitcase, a backpack of toiletries, the Pack & Play playpen, the stroller, and a bunch of shoes in there with a lot of rough shoving and a minimum of cursing....
Day Three, Sunday 10/8/06
We could only stay at the beach for about an hour and a half because we had an appointment to tour the Fairfield Resort at 1:00....
We warned you NOT TO GET WET, but of course you were drenched in under five minutes. You said the waves were huge, and you hadn't meant to let them overtake you. Even after you were supposedly wiser, you still kept "accidentally" getting wet.
The water was so beautiful, and I could see why they call this the Emerald Coast. The water was aqua near the beach, and a much deeper blue farther out. The sand was white and powdery and felt wonderful on our feet. There was a cool breeze that made me thankful for my sweater, but the sun was warm and soothing. The water was really cold, and no one was swimming, only wading.
Enduring the Resort Tour
The resort tour was just as we'd expected, and Bill was about as grumpy about it as you were. We listened to a sales presentation for over an hour, and then we toured a couple of condos. They were very, very nice, but we knew that we were not ready to commit to any sort of monthly payment for a timeshare.
Bill and I both said no to three different salespeople, and then we finally collected our hotel, gas, and restaurant vouchers and left. By then it was too late to catch our sunset cruise; the tour was not 90 minutes as we'd been told....
At sunset, everyone stood on the pier and counted down as the huge orange sun slipped into the water. On "one," the restaurant fired a cannon that made us all jump. The food was very good. Even you ate most of your burger and fries. [Ethan eats almost nothing on vacations. The excitement is too much for him.]
After dinner, we went into a couple of shops on the Boardwalk. You admired the shells, T-shirts, and sharks' jawbones and finally settled on a small alligator head (real - yuck!). It was only $13, so I gave in. We also had some gelato, a type of Italian ice cream. It was light and tasty....
Back at the hotel, we went out to the allegedly heated pool and the hot tub. The hot tub was great, but the pool was icy. You started by jumping into the pool, and then you got into the hot tub, your entire body steaming. There were two kids from Alabama, and the three of you kept egging each other on as you continually jumped into the pool, the hot tub, and the pool again.
I fed Allyson, and then she lay on the bed between you and me. At one point, she pulled my shirt way out and seemed to be looking inside. You and I both thought that was funny, and we got pretty silly.
"What's on the menu?" I asked in a high-pitched voice.
"Milk, milk, and a side of milk," you replied.
"And the prices? All free!"
"It's a buffet!" you cried. "All you can eat."
"Eat until you puke!" I choked out. And we both dissolved into giggles while Allyson looked on. When Bill came out of the bathroom, we tried to explain it, but it wasn't as funny in the retelling.
It had been a long day, and we were all in bed by just after 10:00. You fell asleep instantly, and Bill and I lay whispering for a minute or two. At the resort, they'd gone on about how awful it is to share a simple hotel room, and how it's so much nicer to have two or more bedrooms in a condo, each with its own TV. But I told Bill this was the kind of vacation I liked, with all my family near me, all in the same room.
Bill agreed, but he did complain about the skinny pillows. "If we were at the Fairfield Resort," he said, "we'd have fluffy pillows--lots of them--outlined in gold." No matter. We had everything we needed.
Day Four, Monday 10/9/06
While Bill finished his cereal, you kept Allyson entertained with a colorful bouquet of silk flowers. You leaned the vase toward her, and she could just brush the leaves with her fingertips. She found this very amusing, and she cooed her appreciation....
At last we made it to Henderson State Park, where we set up a little lounging area on the sugar sand. You ran straight for the water while Bill struggled to set up the beach umbrella in the wind. He also spread out two bamboo mats that I had surreptitiously rescued from a trash bin the day before. They were a little tattered on the edges, but they worked well at protecting our towels from the sand.
You came running back to report that you'd seen a jellyfish. I rather doubted your story, but when we finally made it to the shoreline, we saw lots of dead jellyfish, of many sizes, floating in the surf. They were really neat and rather pretty when they were floating, but on the sand they were a mass of clear... jelly, I suppose. One woman was scooping up jellyfish in a yellow net and pushing them across the sand. She reminded me of Spongebob Squarepants, who loves to collect jellyfish with his little net. I half expected her to jerk with a jolt of electricity--zzt!--like on the cartoon.
Allyson watched the waves intently, but she was quite sober, so we couldn't tell if she liked it.... We put her in her stroller, where she could enjoy the breeze and be shaded from the sun. She cried and cried, but Bill finally soothed her to sleep. I thought it was funny that she was sleeping to the sound of real ocean waves, just like on her noisemaker at home....
There were Monarch butterflies everywhere. They were beautiful, but they were almost pesty when they flew right past our faces. When we drove away, we were afraid they would splat against the windshield, but they somehow avoided that fate.
At 4:30, we went on the Olin Marler's Sunset Dolphin Tour. We cruised around the bay and the gulf for two hours while the captain pointed out various historic sites, restaurants, and celebrity homes.
Shortly before sunset, we saw a large group of dolphins. They swam right past the boat in pairs, threes, and fours. I couldn't catch them on our slow digital camera, but I did capture them with the video camera. We caught our breath when they leapt and dove in tight arcs. They were amazing!
And so was the sunset, which we viewed over a ridge of rocks. I was taking endless pictures, and Bill finally told me to put the camera down and just look. I was glad I did. So beautiful!
Day Five, Tuesday 10/10/06
Since you were now the primary front-seat passenger, you took on the role of navigator. Bill told you what to look for in the big yellow atlas, and you gave estimates of the distances. It was good to see you putting your map skills to work in a real-life setting....
The gift of being young is that you can sleep anywhere, through anything. Bill and I, however, did not fare so well on Tuesday night.
We arrived at our LaQuinta in Monroe, Louisiana, around 6:00 PM. Upon opening the door, we were assaulted with a strong odor of mildew and mothballs. There was a different smell in the bathroom, sort of like rust. And there were hairs all over the bathtub.... I suppose we should have asked for another room, but neither Bill nor I enjoy conflict. Besides, who knew whether another room would be better? And we had already unloaded the bulging car....
No matter, you fell right to sleep after I had smoothed cool lotion on your stinging sunburn. You fell asleep before anyone else. You slept soundly through 30 minutes of Allyson's sleepy fussing. You slept through the loud farts that kept waking me--mine! You slept through Allyson's repeated choking and coughing. [She had an awful cold.] And you slept through train after deafening train on the track that was within sight of our room.
In the morning, your only complaint was your tender sunburn. Bill and I, though, had seen better days. Bill said emphatically that we would not be coming back here again.
So, this wasn't our favorite vacation ever, but we still found lots of fun and laughter along the way. I'd do it again... maybe.