I roll over in bed unable to open my eyes fully. All I know is that there is something horrible screaming just beside me. After a few seconds of confusion, I realize that it’s my alarm clock screaming and it’s 3:45am. Immediately, I’m awake! We’re leaving in 15 minutes to head to the airport to pick up my bride who’s been gone for 30 days. Ok, actually it was only 4 days, but it sure felt like 30. She was returning from visiting her best friend in Phoenix. For those of you who don’t know my wife, she’s absolutely amazing! She’s a master of taking care of 6 very active children and one very needy husband. Phoenix was her first chance in a VERY LONG TIME to just rest and get recharged. With that being said… she was coming home and it couldn’t happen soon enough.
Before bedtime the night before we (the kids and I) had managed to clean the whole house, pack up the van, and bathe the little ones.
The plan was simple:
Pick mom up from the Cleveland Airport at 4:45am and head straight to Virginia (a 7 hour trip) to spend the last 4 days of Spring Break with my sister and my parents.
4:00am and we’re in the car and well on our way. We arrive at the airport a little early so we head over to the cellphone parking area. As we’re waiting for mom’s plane to land we’re going through our typical pre-vacation ritual.
Child 1) “She touched me!”
Child 2) “He’s turning around!”
Child 3) “She’s breathing!”
Me) “Ok, Quiet or you’re not coming with us to Aunt Kara’s!”
Finally, after a few minutes of agitation my cell phone “dings”. It’s a text letting me know that my love has landed and ready for pick up.
I can’t tell you how excited I was to pick my wife up. I wasn’t excited to get help around the house or with the kids. I was truly ready to be with my wife again. We often say, “We just do better together!”
So anyway, I put the car in reverse and start to drive off. Only something was wrong. It felt as though we were dragging something under the car. Worse than that, it felt as though we we’re hardly moving. A flat tire! First, my heart sank. Then immediately it went from sadness to extreme irritation. You see, the spare tire in a Toyota Sienna is under the back seats. I’m going to have to jack the van up and craw under the van and release the tire. My vacation is going to start off with me soaking wet!!!
I quickly texted my wife to let her know I’ll be a few minutes late and walked to the back of the van and opened my trunk. Naturally, I have to get the jack out which is covered by suitcases, gym bags and a dog kennel. (yes, my dog was with us too) After a few minutes of unloading, I managed to get the jack out and in place. Oh, did I mention it was raining the whole time! I jacked the van up and slowly lower myself only the wet pavement feeling the cold water (it was also only about 35 degrees outside) soak through a few layers of clothing. Very carefully, I scoot under the van to see where my spare tire was hiding. I discovered quickly that this tire was very good at hiding. As a matter of fact, it was too good. There was NO SPARE TIRE! Now, we have had this van for several years now and obviously I have not had a flat tire until now. The entire time we’ve owned this vehicle I never knew that the spare tire was gone. Now what?!!? I texted my wife and told her about the predicament. AAA would tow us, but where? I have six children and a dog with me. That’s when I remembered the small air compressor that my father-in-law gave me several years ago for Christmas. It was a lifesaver! I put the compressor on the tire and pump it up as high as I could. I literally had the kids pray while I pulled the van around to pick mom up at the terminal. The entire way there I could feel the tire slowly deflating.
The plan shifted:
Find a WalMart near by and get a new tire. Thanks to my friends at Google I found a WalMart only a couple miles away. Our drive to WalMart in the rain was a lot of fun. My girls in the back we’re praying. My poor wife sat in the front seat trying to acclimate from the 98 degree weather of Phoenix to the 35 degree weather of Cleveland, and I was stopping every two minutes to pull off the road, attach a compressor, and stand for 10 minutes… in the rain… while I inflated the flat tire. This was the pattern the entire way to Walmart. Hopes were raised once we arrived only to be dashed again to discover that this Walmart didn’t have a Tire Center. Aauughghhh!
Google found another Wal-Mart, this one with a Tire Center, about 7 miles way. For the record, 7 miles is a long way when you’re stopping every few minutes to pump up a tire. By the time we arrived at Walmart it was 6:30am. Sure enough, this Walmart had a Tire Center. It opened at 7:00am. We waited for a half an hour outside the Tire Center garage doors. My wife and I talking about her trip to Phoenix, my daughters texted their friends asking for prayers, and my youngest son and daughter (3 and 4 years old) asking if we were almost there. 30 minutes later and a new tire, we are ready to go.
Only by this time everyone was up and hungry. Lucky for us there was a Cracker Barrel next door. We all crowded around a table at Cracker Barrel and fought over the little golf-Tee jumping game and ate our breakfast. We finally got on the road at 8:30am.
The Original Plan:
Pick mom up at 4:45am and hit the road by 5:00am.
Reality: Go to the airport at 4:45am and hit the road by 8:30am.
So you tell me- was this a great start to a family vacation or a horrible one?
Strangely enough as I think back to my own childhood, I can only remember the family vacations that started off a lot like this!
And those were Great vacations!