The Misadventures of a Family Vacation

I suppose it happened because I defended family vacations in a BlogHer post that was syndicated by the Today Show blog. Perhaps someone, somewhere, who had one of those Worst Vacations Ever read my post, pulled out a voodoo doll and stuck pins in it all week long. Maybe it was karma for being too smug.

I mean, sure, things had gone wrong while we were on vacation. BigBrother got a splinter in his toe. I managed to get a sunburn on my belly since my stomach hasn’t seen the sun since 2002. My mom got hit by a monster wave and lost her sunglasses and favorite pink hat. I caught a bagel on fire and made the smoke detector go off before everyone was awake. I got a computer virus (it got fixed) and lost an entire memory card to it (it was not fixed). The cheap shirts we bought for the boys at Wings ruined with the first washing. There were some minor disagreements.

But, really, I was smug. Because despite all of those minor inconveniences, which mostly ended up being humorous in the end, our vacation was amazing. As we made the long drive back home, FireDad and I were rehashing how great our week had been. Just enough sun and heat, with a rain shower here and there that made us go inland to the awesome Maritime museum. Really, really good food. I got in some nice almost three mile runs. The moon was full and my husband and I enjoyed a cliched moonlit walk on the beach. We laughed at stories and new memories we created. We talked about plans for next year. Yes, we were feeling smug.

And then our truck sputtered and stalled on VA-37 just outside Winchester, Virginia. Which, by the way, is the birth place of Patsy Cline. That didn’t make me feel any better.


I might have cried. More than once. My husband had that feeling where you know you aren’t going to throw up but you know it would feel better if you did. What went wrong with our truck (fuel pump) and how much it cost us to get it fixed ($$$) doesn’t really matter.

Because somewhere in the gloom and doom of a totally unplanned (and expensive) misadventure, we learned a few things.

  • Being safe is all that matters. When I called my parents’ cell phone, who had just split off from us to head their direction home, my mom’s initial fear was that we had been in an accident. We had all witnessed and nearly been involved in a bad accident earlier in the day on I-95. A broken down car is a billion times better than an accident in which someone gets hurt.
  • Children think misadventures are grand adventures. We had never stayed in a hotel with the boys prior to being stranded along side the road. They jumped on the bed (normally way off limits), watched baseball in bed and ate Captain Crunch at the coffee table in the morning. They thought it was super swell. I have to admit… the bed was mighty comfy.
  • The kindness of strangers is amazing and uplifting. Shortly after we coasted to a stop, a truck pulled up behind us. The wife was driving while the husband was spotting deer. They waited with us not just until my parents arrived, but actually drove my brother and sister-in-law to the nearest hotel in a caravan as we were short seats without the truck. They refused a monetary tip and disappeared into the growing night. The hotel went out of their way to help us, even allowing us a late checkout without an additional fee as our truck was still being worked on. The bartender gave me a double for the price of a single when she heard our story. I greatly appreciated that gesture.
  • There’s no place like home. Once the truck was running and we hit the road — tentatively — we made good time on our last — belated — leg home. I’ve never been so happy to see our city. I’ve also never been so happy to walk in my front door. Or sleep in my own bed.

And so, while the voodoo doll sticker might have thought she was going to derail my whole vacation, she was sadly mistaken. Yes, it was an expensive side trip. Yes, I would have rather just made it home when we initially planned to do so. But it didn’t ruin our vacation. We’re already laughing about it. It’s now just another funny story in our long-list of funny stories from Vacation 2010. I’ll include a couple pictures in our annual photo book. In 20, 30 or 40 years, we’ll start off a story, “Remember that time we broke down on the way home from the beach?

A Family Beach

And I hope I do.


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8 Replies to “The Misadventures of a Family Vacation”

  1. Wow, I really need to start thinking more positive like you do! By the way, I assume the picture is actually where you went. We love Emerald Isle!!

  2. Did you ” Fall to pieces”?!

    Just had to get a Patsy Cline joke in! Seriously though. I am glad you are home safe and sound and yes it will be a great story!

  3. Once, when I was younger, my mother was driving me to the sitter’s on a snow day. Naturally, she was running late, so of course our car took the chance to slide off the road. We weren’t hurt (shaken up, and whimpering and cold, but not hurt).

    This was pre-cell phone days, but still pay phones were hard to come by. While we were sitting there in this blizzard, debating whether or not to walk to the gas station, a stranger pulled off and silently hooked our car to a chain on his truck.

    Turns out this dude drives around my town every snowy day, just helping people out of jams. Mom offered him everything, from twenty dollars to her coffee. He meekly asked if he could maybe have a cigarette, if she could spare it? She gave him her whole pack.

    I love telling that story.

  4. The trips that never go as planned are always the most memorable. It’s also to know that there are still few good samaritians out there ready to roll up their sleeves and help a stranger. I’m glad you made it home safe and hope you are getting some post-vacation rest :)

  5. Glad you made it back safe and had a good vacation!

    We have a now-funny (wasn’t at the time) story about our trip back from Cape Hatteras 2 years ago. On the way back, my husband left his wallet on the counter at a gas station. Didn’t realize it for almost 200 miles. After almost an hour we finally figured out what the gas station was and their phone number. He called and the clerk said he had the wallet and would put it in the office. We should call back on Monday to talk to a manager.

    We drive the rest of the way home to find out the cat (we left him at home) had infested the ENTIRE house with fleas. Spent most of that night and the next day trying to rid ourselves (and poor Mr. Trouble) of fleas. Hubby calls the gas station Monday morning and speaks to the manager, only to find out the wallet is now gone!!! He then spends the rest of the morning trying to replace credit cards, license, etc.. It was a learning lesson!!!

    We laugh about it now. Really. We do.

  6. Glad you’re looking at the positive!

    My dad is from Winchester and my grandmother still lives there. Actually, my dad was just there for a visit last week.

  7. Glad your side-trip went as smoothly as it did! I just had to replace my fuel pump (and my battery, AND a window motor thingy) so I can feel your pain! (Well, a little. I was at home, thank goodness!)

  8. You’ve got the right perspective for sure, Fire Mom! One of our favorite family stories involves the nearly inedible Christmas dinner we had at Dennys (!) next to the Motel 6 where we stayed just off the road in Bakersfield when our car broke down…with the dog, and the ski equipment, and the presents…and the incredible shop owner who brought his crew in the day after Christmas to help get us back on the road. Oh my what a great memory that new transmission turned out to be!

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