“Country roads, take me home, to the place… I belong, West Virginia, mountain momma, take me home… country roads.”
John Denver, 1971
I’m back. This time we all made the trip, and minus the 32 hours Jarret flew home on Easter Sunday, this is the first time my entire family has been together since January. Awww, you think, isn’t that great? Yes and no. To kick-off this version of the Bluefield Diaries (family edition), let’s illustrate all the differences in traveling with the entire Martin clan.
Hotel lodging near LAX: Leaving so early on Tuesday, we had to spend the night in Los Angeles Monday night, which meant that everyone was going to sleep in the same room for the first time since the kids stopped sleeping the heavy, almost drugged sleep of toddlers. Fine for me–not fine for the girls (18 and 16), as they weren’t prepared for the thunder-like snoring I’ve learned to sleep with during the course of a 21-year marriage. No one slept that night but Rob. So begins our trip–with two grumpy teenage girls. (Remember the grumpy part.)
And for the record: That really great deal I got through Hotwire for a 4-star hotel room ceased to be a great deal when they charged us $20 to park overnight.
Airport/Flight: Leaving for LAX bright and early and with plenty of time for security, the girls and I checked us in at United Airlines while Rob parked the car in the longterm lot. We waited for him at security to give him his license and boarding pass. Security was stunningly short (5 minutes), and I think I know why: As my purse, shoes, belt, laptop, and the bomb I packed went down the conveyor belt, I glanced up at the TSA agent, who was yawning and looking over at his buddy instead of at the X-ray screen. For the record, in all my flights since the haunt convention, this is the first agent to be anything but vigilant. For another record, I didn’t really pack my bomb (in case Big Brother is reading this).
Next thing I knew, we were on the tarmac to leave on a 5-hour flight to Orlando, where we would connect to Charlotte, NC. I had a lot of time to sit there and think about my travel planning. We didn’t push out on time, so I unfolded my itinerary and looked at the departure time of our next flight. Hmm…I cut our itinerary close, but it wasn’t impossible; we would have about 30 minutes to make our flight once we landed. But why weren’t we taking off? American Airlines always left on time–why wasn’t United? I looked at my watch. 15 minutes past takeoff. Ok, we could make our next flight. We began to taxi around the various runways, and I felt myself begin to relax until we passed every runway at LAX. We taxied past at least three dozen runways until at one point I began to wonder if we were going to drive to Orlando instead. I looked at my watch again; we were nearing 30 minutes late. By the time we finally took off, we were 45 minutes late. I wasn’t a math major, but I could guess we would be running in Orlando.
On the flight, we watched Iron Man 2 (shout-out to Jeff Hill, who told me to make sure to keep watching after the credits roll). Correction: Rob and I watched Iron Man 2 while the girls slept. Well, Jaisyn slept soundly, but Jordyn–who is in Stage 1 of a really bad cold–was being kicked repeatedly by a 7-year old sitting in the seat behind her, and I know this because it became apparent that something was wrong when, after about two hours into the flight, Jordyn launched herself over the back of her seat and, with the wild eyes born of a sleepless night and impending illness, pointedly asked the other two (older) children sitting beside the girl if they could make her “STOP KICKING MY SEAT!”
Then she slid back down her seat, flipped around, pulled her knees to her chest and went back to sleep. The rest of us stared at her in the way one might examine the girl in The Exorcist.
I knew we were going with the jet stream, so I hoped the captain would floor-it to Orlando. Sure enough, he somehow purchased 30 minutes of travel time, and we got to Florida in 4 1/2 hours. Our gate was about 6 gates away, so we made it there as the last of the passengers were boarding. Uneventful, after all.
Luggage/rental car: In order to pack four people for 10 days (three of those people women), copious amounts of luggage can’t be dismissed, so nothing short of an SUV would hold us, our luggage, and also seat Jarret & Allie once we made it to Bluefield (for the record, a van could, but don’t go there). So, I ended up reserving a car that would cost me about the same as our hotel for 10 days. Rob’s quite happy with the Tahoe; he’s trying to decide whether he likes it as well as my Expedition. He doesn’t know what it’s costing us because somewhere in his mind I am sure he’s still living in 1975, where prime rib dinners in Vegas should still be $3.00, hotels should still be $30, and rental cars must be around $20/day. I try to avoid talking about the rental agreement as much as possible and did manage to keep him away from the Alamo rental desk by telling him to get the luggage while I got the car. I’ll deal with the firestorm in 10 days.
Travel to Bluefield: On our way, I noticed (for the second time) that Judy doesn’t work that great in the mountainous regions of N. Carolina/Virginia. Judy is our GPS. At one point, we needed to mute her because she kept telling us to get off the freeway, which I knew was a relative straight shot to Bluefield. And as soon as I did that, we missed our exit and had to turn around. Volume up.
Because all we’d had time to eat during the long day was junk food we’d stuffed into carry-on bags, the travelers were complaining of hunger. So we pulled off the freeway when we saw Wendy’s. However, just next door was another fast food place called Bojangles, where I insisted that we eat because it was a restaurant we don’t have in California. “You can eat at Wendy’s when you get home!” I snapped when Sick Teenager #1 whined that she didn’t want Bojangles. I won.
By the time we found our way through the menu (all they have is chicken and biscuits, so it simply became a matter of how you wanted your chicken cooked), it became apparent that we were out-of-towners to the clerks who watched us debate whether we really wanted to try a “sweet potato pie” when we’d had our hearts set on an apple pie.
“It’s just like an apple pie except instead of apple, it’s sweet potato,” said the young girl with her deep south accent. “Where y’all from?”
“California,” I answered, smiling, waiting for it.
“Wow! Hey y’all! They’re from California!!” she announced to the rest of the crew, who turned to see the 4-person, travel-drained anomaly standing at the food counter.
Another young girl came up, looked at us, and with a smile asked, “Why would you come HERE? I’d LOVE to go to California!!”
We explained why we were traveling through their part of the country and also said how lucky they are to live in such a beautiful place. One of the girls scoffed at me and rolled her eyes. And her reaction got me to thinking about how many times I’ve seen teenagers in Bakersfield do the same thing. These young girls would give everything they have to go to (or live in ) California… even Bakersfield.
Home isn’t such a bad place after all.
To be continued.