Quick reference: Day 1 * Day 2 * Day 3 * The Introduction * The Liar, The Witch, & The Wardrobe *
We have left The Village behind, and are wending our way toward The Florida Turnpike once again.
It will take three days of driving to arrive home.
That first day, I cried for hours. Drove, and cried. Twinks - having fulfilled her duties as Navigator on the way down - either dozed or played with her GameBoy DS.
We made good time that first day, and things went well enough despite the intermittent showers we drove through. We were looking forward to stopping for a break (and maybe a bit of ice cream) when we came upon yet another huge traffic accident.
This one had just happened, literally moments before we crested the rise. It was on the other side of the Interstate, and I saw cars going in crazy directions, some headed for our side of the road, trying not to rear-end one another. Right in the center of the highway, a minivan, not that dissimilar to the one I was driving was still rocking back and forth... on it's roof. People were running up to the minivan, tugging on the doors.
I had to keep driving - and try to keep my focus on the other vehicles around me, some of which were drifting a bit as their own drivers craned their necks to see as they passed. We prayed for the people in the upside-down van, and for the people in the other cars, and kept going.
A little bit shaken, we stopped for ice cream, and we still made it to the Slippery Tub hotel in time for dinner. This time, we were armed with a rubber bath mat I had purchased, and so we showered in relative safety. I did a load of laundry in the guest laundromat, and Twinks had a fast dip in the pool. We retired early, because we knew that the next day we would be driving in the rain, and we would also have the most difficult part of the journey again - that mad vertical dash across my former home state. I knew if we could get on the road early enough, we would be able to avoid rush hour in the two big cities that we had to pass through - and I also knew that we would (hopefully) hit a gap in the weather system that might allow us to drive between the storms.
Having safely showered, we loaded the minivan, and checked out of the Slippery Tub, and headed out the morning of Day Two: The Return Journey Home. We did dodge most of the rain until well after lunch, and we also beat the rush hour traffic as we had hoped. After we made it through the second big city, Twinks took a little nap, and I found a radio station that was :::gasp!::: actually NOT playing country music... The miles ticked by, and we continued to make good time. The rain finally caught us about 100 miles away from our next hotel (the nice, new Holiday Inn Express). While Twinks was snoozing, we passed another accident scene: a semi tumped over on it's side. Luckily, traffic was fairly light, and the gapers block was small.
When we got to the nice, shiny-new Holiday Inn Express, we found that the rain had been there, and was gone for the day. This meant one thing: we had to eat dinner, and FAST, Mom, because *someone* wanted to get in the pool! We accomplished dinner, and we filled the minivan with gas (one less thing to do in the morning) and then I pulled into the hotel parking lot, where Twinks bounced out, room key in hand, to get her swimsuit on. By the time I got to the room, she was ready to go to the pool, and so I sat by the pool for a while, and she goofed off in the water. It was a lovely evening, with a sweet, rain-cooled breeze, and as the clouds scudded away, the stars popped out. I took a picture of The Twinkster in the pool with my cell phone, and sent it home to Daddy.
We both slept well that night, and the next morning we were up early, and ready to go... Home! Since it was a Saturday, we didn't have to worry about rush hour traffic. The hotel's front desk manager told me about a great shortcut that saved us about 20 miles, and a ton of frustration, routing us around a huge construction project. No rain on this day - only blue skies, and warm sunshine!
We called The Wrench every time we stopped, to update him on our progress. He was glad to know we were on our way home again; we were eager to get there. He is my rock in times of crisis, and I had missed him so much while we were in Florida. Even though we spoke every day on the phone, and emailed each other, I still wanted him there with me. But, he had been busy at home... going to work, taking care of the kitties and the gerbils, and keeping the home fires burning.
We ate lunch at a Subway that was inside a HUGE, extremely busy truck stop along the Interstate highway, and we stopped a couple of more times, for potty breaks and leg-stretching, but overall the afternoon went by faster than I thought it would. Usually, the last stretch home seems to take forever, but today we sailed across the landscape, rejoicing when we finally picked up one of the radio stations from The Greater Metro.
We got home, and Twinks shot out of the van, and into The Wrench's arms like she was jet-propelled. Then, he and I were hugging, and kissing, and I knew for sure we were *home*.
The Wrench insisted on unloading the minivan, and after we had a bit of time to clean up and relax, he drove us up the road to our favorite little cantina for dinner - our sweet, familiar, Saturday night family ritual - and then he took us home again.
To sleep in our own beds, and awake in our own rooms, and know that for another day, at least, we are Home Again.
Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.
Home is, in fact, where the heart is.
It was a long, physically and emotionally exhausting trip. I found that I have been growing up a little bit more, becoming a source of help and strength for my mother. I also found myself praying more, thankful that we drove nearly 3000 miles without incident. I realized that while I *can* handle a crisis without The Wrench, I still want him by my side, good times or bad.
So, yes, I learned some things on my summer vacation. And it wasn't perfect; it didn't all work out the way I hoped it would.
But in the end, I wouldn't change anything. Because this, like all of the events in our lives, this has shaped me, and become a part of who I am.
I'm just hoping that my *next* vacation won't be as... life changing!