“We can do it. Let’s just drive straight through.”
Those were the famous last words spoken by yours truly as my wife and I packed the car. We had been in Florida for five days on vacation and were trying to decide if we wanted to make the drive back to Indianapolis in one giant push or break it up by getting a hotel.
“We’re young. We can do this. YOLO baby.”
YOLO. The battle cry of twenty-something college students who decide to take a multi-hundred mile adventure at a quarter-to-redonkulous-in-the-morning to try and find the nearest Krispy Kreme conveyor belt of goodness. YOLO is also the famous last words of thirty-something parents with a 3-year old who are about to get the snot kicked out of them as they travel cross country.
(If you are over 33 – which is how old I was when I googled “YOLO” to figure out what the heck that has tag meant – means “You only live once”)
1100 miles. 17 hours. YOLO baby.
Heading home after a vacation is always the worst part of a vacation. But more than that, it has to be one of the worst things in the world. You have zero motivation to leave. Villa across the street from the Gulf of Mexico, subdivision in Indiana across the street from a corn field? It isn’t hard to figure out why motivation is often lacking for the return trip. On top of that is the mystery of how in the world you fit everything in your suitcase on the way down. As you repack everything it becomes clear that not everything is going to fit and you’re left wondering what you can leave behind. On the way to Florida, the car was packed neatly and everything fit perfectly. On the way home our son looks adorable, and secure, with his head poking out from all things that had all fit in the trunk on the way there, but now barely fit in the car and were stuffed around him.
The trip started out fine. Nothing serious. Nothing adventurous. Just the way you want a drive to go. Around 10:00 p.m. I started to get a little tired. So I did what anybody seeking to YOLO experience would do. I grabbed a Monster energy drink and let the caffeine do its work.
At 3:00 a.m. I started another Monster.
At 3:10 I stopped drinking it because, you know, my heart. I remember staying up all night with friends drinking 2-liters of Mountain Dew and never feeling it. Not once. Now, the thought of Mountain Dew makes me feel a sugar coma. I drove until it wasn’t safe to drive anymore.
Somewhere around 4:00 a.m. or so my wife took over and I moved to the passenger seat to sleep. Have you tried to sleep in a car recently? You have to contort you body into some hellish position just to get comfortable for five minutes. At which point your back begins to hate life and scream that I am not as young as I think I am. People who say, “Age is mental,” are only half right. Mentally, I can still do everything I could when I was 22. Mentally, I can still. run full court basketball and sprint around the bases all day. And there are times when, mentally, I forget that I am 34 and do that. And you know what? Three days later, when I still need help getting off the couch, I think my body would like me to start mentally thinking I’m older.
So no, I didn’t sleep in the front seat of our Nissan Altima.
Around 4:45 a.m. it started raining heavily creating one of those ultra dark, difficult to see mornings. So we pulled over to wait it out. We finally got back on the road and all seemed to be good. We were about 15 miles from home when I looked up in the rearview mirror to see my son arching his back.
“You have to go to the bathroom, buddy?”
“No!” he said with a burgeoning level of sarcasm for three year-old.
Two minutes later he vomited every where. Every. Where. 1,085 miles traveled and he spews technicolor 15 miles from home. At one point he stopped puking long enough to cry out, “I can’t stop!” and then proceeded for round two. Or three. I can’t remember.
Vacations are great. I loved being in Florida. My son and I spent hours on the beach looking for shark teeth and came home with a great collection. I unplugged from work and rested. We need these times. For rest. For family. For memories. I am a believer in experiences, and hope my family has a lot of great family experiences on vacation together.
But coming home sucks.
I’m convinced that the people who settled the American West weren’t actually looking for new land to homestead. They were on vacation and when they thought about the trip home they decided to stay, thus populating anything west of Kansas. Those who tried coming home realized how horrible an idea that was and just decided to screw it and call it good enough. That’s how we got Kansas and Iowa. For anyone whose ever wondered why people would want to live there, now you know. It’s filled with parents who looked at each other and said, “We could keep going…
…or we could just live here.”