Saturday, June 27, 2009

“Day one of vacation.” To many, there are few sweeter words than these. “Sun”, “fun”, “relaxation”, “enjoyment” – to some people, these words are often considered to be synonymous with the phrase “Day one of vacation”.

To those people who think that Day one of vacation is sunny, relaxing, enjoyable or fun… I say “you have never travelled, have you?”

I am reasonably certain that I have mentioned before that I am not what most people would call a fan of travelling. I hate it – loath it, really. The closest equivalent I can come up with for how I perceive travelling would be if you decided to put some loud, obnoxious gangsta rap on repeat play on an iPod with an unending power source and a malfunctioning volume control that keeps on getting louder and force me to listen to it while you stick bamboo needles under my fingernails while putting hot pokers in my eyes and doing some kind of weird ninja thing (with a little hissing). Well, that’s a close description, I guess, but I don’t think it quite reaches the specifics of my feelings about travelling. I apologize for my failure with words.

But I must admit, just so that no one will misunderstand me… the travel on Day one of our Massanutten vacation this year was not too bad. I mean, the traffic was light for the most part and the miles and miles and miles ofconstruction really had no negative impact on the trip. Neither did the fact that we stopped at what felt like every restroom along the three hundred fifty mile trek west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike between New Jersey and Carlisle, Pennsylvania and south on Interstate 81 from Carlisle, Pennsylvania to Harrisonburg, Virginia. Oh, and one stop along the side of the road, just to make it interesting.

Anyway, the day started like any other day should start: with a dog standing next to my face and breathing on me until I got up to walk her. It was, as always, before 5 AM. So, the morning went on as one might expect it to go when getting ready for a week away from home – packing and straightening up, watering the plants, taking out the trash, that sort of thing. The Girl had been at her friend’s sleepover birthday party, so she wasn’t around. The Boy spent the morning helping out but stopping every five minutes to check if it was time to go yet.

We put Doolittle in charge of my sister-in-law around 10:45 or so and finished getting ready to leave. This included The Boy and me getting into our baseball clothes because his All Star game was rescheduled for today. That accomplished, we made sure that the toilet handle had been jiggled so that it would stop running, set the dishwasher to start on its own and then set out on our way.

The three of us who had stayed at home for the night before vacation piled into the car and set off to the local gas station to fill the pockets of the local oil barons. Having accomplished this, we headed off to collect The Girl from her sleepover party. This transition of custody went off seamlessly aside from a minor struggle to fit the sleepover gear into the car along with the baseball gear and the vacation gear… and the four of us.

Next stop was the baseball field. We arrived at 12:30 for a 1:00 game and found that we were the first ones there for our YMCA league coach-pitch baseball All Star Game. This is what we, well, Nick, looked like: Nick, the All Star”  

There were other games going on, championship games for other leagues, so the field we were supposed to play on was unavailable. They unchained the last remaining field and The Boy and I went ahead and loosened up. Eventually, other players joined us as the All Stars made their way to the field. Apparently, I looked like I knew what I was doing so a number of people came to me seeking information which I, unfortunately, did not have. So, I made it up and told them where to go. I liked that.

One woman walked through the gate and onto the field and looked at me. “It’s a nice day, isn’t it?” I flirted. “Every day is a great day for baseball,” I added.

“Are you Rob,” she asked.

I, being an honest sort of man, said “Maybe.”

She countered with, “I was told to see Coach Rob, but you don’t appear to like girls so you must not be him.”

I, being a cool and level headed sort of man, replied, “I beg your pardon? I like girls.”

The reply to this was similar to my own as the woman said, “I beg your pardon? Oh, wait, you don’t seem like you were expecting a girl.”

Not wanting to continue this conversation any longer than I had to, I looked around and found a girl, dressed in a baseball uniform, standing outside the gate. Recognizing the uniform as being from our league, I said “Oh, your daughter is here for the All Star Game. Well, I am not the Rob you seek. However, she can join us to loosen up for the game, since it is a nice, sunny day and since EVERY day is a GREAT day at the Hamilton Area YMCA. Besides, in the end we are all on the same team, right?”

She looked hesitant to put her daughter with me but the girlhad already run out and started to have a catch with Nick, so I excused myself from the girl’s mother and began tossing with them. Soon other kids arrived and I had about 8 kids that I was playing catch with. The mother seemed to relax at that point and wandered to the stands.

Eventually coaches arrived, bringing new shirts for all of the kids so that the two all star teams were identifiable. At this point I was informed that we were following slightly different rules than we had followed all season and so I set out to help explain it to the kids.

The game started and went well enough. I was the All Star pitcher for the team wearing white shirts (my son’s team, as well as the aforementioned girl’s team). It was interesting to have to pitch to other kids than the team I had been pitching to all season – the kids from my team were used to straight overhand pitching and I also knew how hard I could throw to each of them; the other kids were used to more of a lobbed overhand toss, which made it a little more complicated for me. Nevertheless, I pitched like an all star, as evidenced by this mug shot:

Me, the all star

Anyway, the part of this that is most relevant to my story is that my son had some good hits and looked like this after hitting a solid line drive:


And like this while running it out:

Nick the runner

Anyway, everyone played well enough, I nearly got taken out by a line drive back up the middle and a good time was had by all. Our coach was far more aggressive than he had been all season for some reason and was getting upset with some of the kids when they didn’t throw the ball to the right base or when they didn’t move to catch the ball. My son said on the way to the game that his goal was to make a good catch in the field and here’s how he looked making a put out at second:

Nick, the fielder

He is not the kid wearing number 9 or the kid wearing blue, nor is he the dude without a head in the background. And trust me, he caught the ball and was touching second. My daughter was proud of her brother and like any celebrity family member she had to look cool while she watched:

Rosa, the celebrity family member

Trust me, she was very excited and proud. The sunglasses were due to the bright sunlight and had nothing to do with her late night partying. Nothing.

Anyway, the game ended and he received a trophy for being an All Star. Nick, the trophy-getter

The dude in front, with the box of juice pouches in his hand, drew my wrath a few moments after this picture was taken because he assumed that The Boy didn’t want a juice pouch because he had refused to eat the hotdog he had been offered, what with being vegetarian and such. Situation rectified, I made Nick rush through his juice pouch, say goodbye to his pals and then get in the car so that we could start the second half of our day.

After a stop home, of course, because there was no way I was driving in my sweaty baseball clothes.

Anyway, the next start to our vacation started at about 3 PM as we hit the road. The kids put a movie on the computer that I had strapped to the back of the driver’s seat and then proceeded to complain that they couldn’t see anything. The fact that it was a darkly lit movie (“Narnia”) clearly could not have been the issue so rather than trying another movie, the computer was shut off and we switched to music on the Zune for a little while. Eventually the computer was turned back on and, surprisingly, a different, more brightly lit movie (“The Simpsons Movie”) was quite visible.

As I mentioned before, it seemed like we stopped at every possible restroom along our path, as well as one emergency parking area in the middle of nowhere along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. In reality, we stopped like 5 times, but I just wanted to get the driving over with and so every stop was too much.

We stopped at one of the official rest areas along the turnpike, the Lawn Service Area, to inspect the restrooms. Seeing a Starbucks there, I, of course, had to fill my cup with a nice, hot, Pikes Place Roast. So, I sauntered up to the lovely barrista (her name was Elena, I believe) and I put my thing down. She looked at my thing, a lovely, metal travel mug that I received for some nice peer recognition at work and then she looked at me. “How many ounces is this?” she asked. Now, I fill this cup every morning at our local Starbucks. I’ve filled it at Dunkin’ Donuts. I’ve filled it at It’s a Grind. It is always a ‘medium’ and then there’s always a reusable cup discount. So, I answered her with “It’s a grande.” She smiled, walked to the coffee bucket and filled a grande sized paper cup with the brew for my soul, handed it to me and took my tendered gift card. Of course, the little display on the customer side of the register was either off or malfunctioning so I didn’t notice that she charged me for the grande and did not give me my cup discount. I didn’t ask because I was so confused as to why she didn’t use my mug. It was irritating.

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate, and I mean hate nearly as much as I hate travelling, the fact that cash registers don’t always show the customer how much they’re being charged? It’s hard enough to follow charges as they’re popping across some tiny LCD screen; have you ever tried to follow the cashier’s flying fingers on a hidden keyboard? It’s not easy, let me tell you.

But I digress.

So, still dazed by the extra paper cup that symbolized the purposeless death of yet another tree, I poured the coffee into my mug (so that it would stay hot for longer given the fact that there were still many hours left to drive) and then I sulked back to the car to drink my tasty brew in honor of my fallen tree friend. I said a silent little prayer, put the mug to my lips and took a drink.

It was cold.

Well, it wasn’t cold as in “Brrr, that’s brisk baby” or as in something that might turn those weird beer cans blue when the beer inside is as cold as the Rockies. It was, well, just not hot. Nor was it fresh. But, coffee is coffee and there had already been enough waste for this one transaction so I set off once again, me, the family, our vacation stuff and this warmish, oldish, swill that I had just been overcharged for. If I had more of my wits about me and/or did not have another four hours of driving ahead of me, I might have stomped back in and given Elena a piece of my mind.

Anyway, back on the road again, we encountered little other trouble along the way. Some interesting pictures were taken during the drive. There are pictures of clouds, pictures of trees, pictures of old barns, pictures of cows, pictures of the inside of my windshield, pictures of a passing truck that says “Sheetz” on it, pictures of a water tower, pictures of… oh, here, just look at some of them:

Oh, yeah, there were also pictures of the mountains as we approached and the sunset over the mountains that makes the mountains look like they might be on fire:

We arrived at our destination at 9 PM. We, of course, had to inspect the restrooms at the check in area. After checking in, the resort’s policy is that you go to a second desk to get your parking pass and get solicited to receive a free breakfast buffet and other goodies in exchange for us spending several hours doing a tour and filling out forms and surveys. I politely refused, several times, despite the nice man’s attempts to convince me about how great a value it was to me and my family to spend several hours of our vacation in meetings. He REALLY didn’t want me to get all indignant about meetings, I’m sure, so I politely insisted and he handed me the parking pass.

We went up the mountain and got into our unit after a little bit of effort to park in the parking spot that is a) on a hill, sideways and b) delineated with angled lines.

So that’s Day one of our vacation. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate the fact that vacations start and end with days that count in terms of being paid for but do not count in terms of actually being able to use and enjoy them? I mean, really… I can go anywhere I want, even just down the shore a couple hours from home… and cannot check into my hotel or condo or villa until after 4 PM. Yet, you’re paying for that day, which has 16 hours before you’re allowed to check in and enjoy your facilities. Hmmm. And besides — what on earth can a morning person do after 4 PM? I’ll tell you – nothing.

It’s even worse when arriving after 9 PM. I unloaded the car and we put away as much as we could… then we collapsed on the fold out couch, wondering what Day Two, or what I would more appropriately call “Day One the Second”, would bring.