And so we have come to Saturday, the last day of our vacation, though it is really the second day of our un-vacation travel time.  Or, the reprise of day 0.5.  No matter what you call it, it is not really part of the vacation in my opinion.

It is, however, very much part of the travelling.

Let me begin today’s post by telling you this simple fact:  last night was awesome!

Last night, we were all in bed by 9:00.  Soon after that, the fun began.

At about 10:00, the room was quiet except for the window rattling due to my better half’s snoring.  I was lying in there, admiring the silent bits between the snores when all of a sudden, to my surprise, out of the clear blue skies… the hallway exploded in the sounds of children laughing, talking and playing.  They sounded so happy, so joyful and carefree. 

So rude.

No, seriously, they were shouting four-letter words at each other, and I’m not talking about words like “food” or “love” or “cake” or “mama.”  Finally, after a few minutes of this, I couldn’t take it anymore.  So I got up and opened the door to yell –

– and they were gone.

It was as if they sensed that I was coming to yell at them and they hurried to hide in the shadowy doorways, behind the potted fichus tree or under the ice machine.  Or maybe their parents finally stopped them. 

Figuring they were gone, I closed and locked the door and went back to bed.  As soon as I closed my eyes, they were back. This time they were playing with a super ball, throwing it up and down the hallway and exclaiming at the ball’s crazy bounces.  When the ball hit my door and stopped nearby, the kids ran to it, giggling as they wrestled for it.  I got up again, intent on yelling “Get off my lawn you crazy kids!” or something to that effect.  Whipping open the door, I looked out into the hall to find it empty once again.

Now, I’m not saying this hotel is haunted or anything, but clearly I was either losing my mind or there was some other-worldly prank being played on me.  I closed the door, muttering some of the four-letter words I had learned earlier, and went back to bed.  Soon after, the kids were back, wearing out their ballet slippers despite the fact that their daddy had locked them in their rooms.

Wait… that’s “The 12 Dancing Princesses” not “The Story of the Day Zero (Reprise) Sleep Study” story.  The kids weren’t dancing, they were playing. And clearly, they were not locked in their rooms.  But this time I was wise to them.  This time I knew what was going on.

This time I stayed in bed and said, “There are no kids in the hall; they are simply a manifestation of my mind’s own hatred of the chaos of traveling.  They will not prevent me from having coffee.”

Repeating this over and over again, I felt a wave of calm wash over me.  There would be coffee.  All would be fine.

The kids continued playing and I eventually drifted off to sleep. I woke up to talking and giggling out in the hall several times over night, but I was able to roll over and go back to sleep.  The funny thing is, Ginny, Rosa and Nick all slept through it.

Sometimes I hate being a light sleeper…

Anyway, I woke up this morning slightly less refreshed than I might have liked to have felt, but energized to get home to the garden, the pets and the friends and family I knew were eagerly awaiting our return. Oh, and the reliable, fast Verizon Fios internet – I was looking forward to that, too.

So we packed up most of our stuff and went down to the continental breakfast.  I must say, Holiday Inn Express provides one of the better free breakfasts I’ve had in hotels. There are usually eggs or omelets, juices, toast, coffee, yogurt and Danishes or muffins.  Oh and bacon – there’s usually a lot of bacon.

But today, if you wanted bacon, I hope you got there to the breakfast before The Bacon Lady.  The Bacon Lady, apparently, decided that the majority of the bacon was for her, so she loaded up her plate with a huge pile of the fried pig fat.  Then, as she turned, a bunch of it slid off her plate and fell to the floor.  So, what did she do?  That’s right – she stepped over it and turned back to replace that which she had dropped.  Then she went to her table.

Now, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned this incident at all except that she never went to pick up the bacon she dropped; she just left it there, oozing slippery grease and porcine juices onto the tile floor.  I *might* have even let her slide on this except she then proceeded to not eat the pile of bacon she brought to the table.

Does she not have any respect?  Does she not understand how many good pigs laid down their lives so that she could have the opportunity and joy of ingesting their tender, highly salted and fried flesh?  Did she not understand that her wastefulness will, ultimately, drive up the price of my next stay at a Holiday Inn Express?

Well, now she does, for when The Bacon Lady reads this (and you know she will, eventually, read this golden bit of literary genius), she will know of the eternal shame and dishonor she has brought upon herself and her descendants for generations to come.

Way to go, Bacon Lady.


Where was I?

Oh.  Right.  We finished breakfast, leaving nothing on our plates of course and then we loaded up the car.  Finally, we set off on the last leg of our journey home.

Once again, the drive itself was reasonably simple and uneventful.  We stopped at our requisite four or five restrooms, the kids watched movies – it was all good. We have some interesting stories from the rest areas, though.

First up is the one where I went to get my travel mug filled at Starbucks.  I got to the front of the line, placed my order and handed the barista my mug.  You may recall from last year that I stopped at a Starbucks on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and they refused to fill my mug.  Since this was a different Starbucks on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and since another year of enlightened environmental learning had taken place, I figured that they would be happy to fill my mug.

And I was right!

The nice barista smiled as she took my mug. Then she took a paper coffee cup and filled it with coffee. This completed, she then poured the coffee from the paper cup into my mug.  “Don’t worry, ” she said as she handed me my now-filled mug.  “I’ll use the other cup for the next customer. I’m sure you understand.”

Well, thanks for assuming, but no – I do not understand why you had to use a middle cup to fill my mug. But I suppose I do understand now why I didn’t get the travel-mug discount like I was supposed to.  Thanks for clarifying that for me. 

At least she didn’t put a plastic lid on the paper cup before pouring the coffee into my mug.

The second event was far more traumatic, largely because it impacted my family.  It’s one thing to mess with my brain; it’s another thing to mess with me and my kids.  Oh and with my wife, too.

See, we were hungry.  So, we stopped to use the restroom, of course.  That done, we were still hungry, so we decided to get some crappy turnpike rest stop pizza.  So, I ordered 4 of them, much to the dismay of the zit-faced teenager behind the counter.  He took my money and said it would be a few minutes, so I waited. And waited. And waited. And then, for fun, I waited some more.  That accomplished, I happily took the four tiny pizza boxes that had cost me $24 and went to the table to which my starving family had staked a claim.  We opened our respective boxes and took a bite of the pizza… and it was still frozen.  The edges were warm and the cheese was sort of melted, but the bread was still frozen.  So, I took it all back and asked the kid to reheat them. He was annoyed, but he did it. After he gave them back, they were, in fact, warmer than room temperature, but they were not hot.  We ate them anyway because we were hungry and in a hurry.  But it was certainly less than satisfying.

Back in the car, we were able to laugh about the incident, but it was no less annoying, despite the laughter.  Nevertheless, we finally made it home.  The animals were happy to see us.  The garden was happy to see me.  My sister-in-law, who had spent the week living in our house to take care of things, was happy to not have to deal with the spiders anymore.

And just like that, it was all, officially and unofficially, over. We had a good time out there in Illinois, but we were happy to be home in New Jersey, to sleep in our own beds, to look forward to getting up in the middle of the night to take Doolittle outside.  I don’t think we’ll be going back to this place in Sheridan, but that’s mostly because of the distance. We can find other ways to be off the beaten path much closer to home and, probably, with internet access.

I think we’ve already decided we’re going back to Massanutten next year. I’m sure you can tell how excited I am to travel again in a year or so.  But for now I’ll resign myself to traveling the long commute each day from my house down to the dungeon. That’s certainly enough excitement for me for a while!