But that’s not the only thing I’m anticipating.
You see, we have a bit of a track record. Nothing major, mind you, but I’ll put it this way — we not only look for the best local beaches and restaurants, but also the nearest hospital in proximity to our campsite.
There was the time our infant son awoke with a 104-degree fever and full-body rash. Or when waterproof sunscreen sealed our daughter’s eyes shut. Once, I had such a severe reaction to no-see-um bites that I looked like I should be quarantined. We’ve had bouts of pink eye, strep throat, food poisoning — you name it.
Then, just as our medical issues seemed to dwindle, Mother Nature kicked in.
Ever experience black fly season in the U.P.? I don’t recommend it.
We’ve also survived torrential downpours, wind storms and record low temperatures. There’s nothing worse than when you’re on vacation from a long Michigan winter and the locals keep telling you, “It’s never like this — last week it was sunny and 80 every day.” Gee, thanks.
And lest we forget our technical difficulties — blown fuses, the hole in the water hose that flooded our pop-up camper, that kind of thing.
The topper was probably a couple of years ago. It had been a fairly smooth, relaxing week. Per the norm, the day of departure was gorgeous. So, after we packed up, we couldn’t resist spending just a little more time on the beach. A few hours later, we reluctantly started our long trek home. Of course, by that time we were all hungry, so we stopped for a leisurely lunch. We hit the road again and, after several hours of driving, I asked my husband where he wanted to stop for a hotel.
That’s when things started to go down hill.
He announced that he was "in the groove" and wanted to drive straight through. Really? Isn’t that something you plan for and leave bright and early to do? I mean, it was already late in the evening and we had barely gotten to Tennessee!
As you can imagine, I was not pleased. I had wanted to take a hot shower and sleep in a bed; plus, our dog was now stuck in the car for 16 hours; and the kids had to sleep sitting up, wearing seat belts.
By 3 a.m., I was still angrily thrashing around, trying to get comfortable, when our headlights went dim and the truck shut down on the side of the highway. What happened next is what we now fondly refer to as "Apollo 13."
We frantically start unplugging everything we could — the fridge in the camper, the DVD and CD players, the GPS, etc. My husband then goes into MacGyver-mode, rigging up something with the camper battery. After a while, we are able to get the engine started and make our way to a gas station, where we spent the rest of the night.
When daylight arrives, the truck thankfully starts. We barely make it into town, desperately hoping not to get stopped at any lights for fear we’d remain stopped. It was like the movie “Speed,” only in slow-motion.
Eventually, we make it home, at which time my husband says, “See? Lucky I wanted to drive through the night so this happened closer to home. Otherwise, we would be trying to get the truck towed and fixed in the middle of nowhere, and might not have gotten back today.”
Gosh darn it, he was right.
Obviously, after all that, we were hesitant about taking the trip the following year. We decided last-minute to go for it, only to find out that the campground had no record of our reservation. I switched from frantically packing to frantically looking online for a vacancy somewhere — three days before spring break!
Miraculously, I found one. It was North Carolina — so, a little colder, and we’d have to drive to the beach, but it was better than nothing.
Turns out, it was great! If we hadn’t had the mishap, we would’ve never discovered the cool beach town; or seen a Venus flytrap in the wild, since it was the only place they grow in North America. Sure, my husband broke his big toe, but that’s small potatoes compared to what we’re used to!
So, this year, as spring break approaches, I find myself not only dreaming of the warm sun, but wondering what adventure lies ahead. Because, through it all, we’ve learned: Things don’t always go as planned, but you can still have fun, as long as you’re together — and stay at least one night in a hotel.
— By Kelly Kalis, Tribune community columnist