Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The time we were crazy enough to drive for 31 hours

And for 2 weeks before our road trip to Louisiana Darric had Mercury school in NH so I had to work, wrangle kids and pack The only reason I survived that was the fact that I am so blessed with the people in my life that are there to help me out.

Those 2 weeks went by so slow that I never thought our vacation was going to get here. And then my alarm went off at 2:30am and it began. After throwing my hair in a hat, squeezed the last couple of items into the car, set the house to vacation mode, and gently placed the kids into the minivan having no such luck with trying to keep them asleep, it was nice to sit and exhale knowing that it was finally here.

We were traveling to the Big Easy to visit family that we hadn't seen in 12 years. We were traveling with Darric's parents. His mom is originally from Louisiana and that side of the family hadn't even met Grace yet, so when they asked us to join them we couldn't say no.

Thankfully the kids fell right back to sleep. Not surprisingly the men also were snoring before we even hit the interstate. Darric's mom kept yawning so I offered to drive and we switched in Waterville. I drove until the middle of Massachusetts, it was nice watching the sunrise on the first day of my vacation. The van was quiet except for snoring and my voice singing along with the radio.

By the afternoon the guys were still sleeping (surprise, surprise), a cold was brewing in my nose, Grace had gone through 2 jars of Cheerios...
Jordan had read and listened to a number of books, we'd worked on some spelling, talked about the states we had gone through and time was actually flying by.
When we stopped for lunch Jordan asked his never ending question "What state are we in now, Mom?" And after I answered Pennsylvania he obviously asked "Well where are the pencils?" God I love that kid.

We decided to stop around 10:00pm and stayed at a hotel in West Virginia. Although it didn't have an elevator, it was nice to get out of those seats and lay down flat.

7:00am the next morning, our tummies were full of continental breakfast and we were back on the road. I felt like we were making pretty good time and we must have been...that is until we saw the blue lights flashing behind us. My MIL was driving, (sorry Deb, but I must share this part), she was only going 10 over, but in the state of WV, that is considered criminal. Fortunately, the cop was nice and knocked it down a notch, but not nice enough and issue Deb her very first speeding ticket in 38 years.
With the cruise control now set to the speed limit, Grace asleep, along with the two others, Jordan sitting back with a movie, I decided to plug in my mp3 player and relax to some Nora Jones. An hour later I remembered why I hate riding in cars with boys...I mean sleeping in cars, every bump jolts me awake and then the migraine steps into gear, along with my nose acting as a faucet...ahh, I was feeling great.

As dark set in, we were now in pacific time zone, the temperature was finally feeling un-Maine like, Grace was content with her Magna doodle, Jordan had the Leapster going strong, guys still sleeping and the GPS stated we were 2 hours away.

We stayed with Darric's great aunt Chetta and her husband Ivy, the two most welcoming and thoughtful people. Their house was very nice and I felt an awe come over me as I listened to their stories of surviving hurricane Katrina. As Chetta stood in the doorway explaining where the tree had come through the roof, pointing to the chips in the glass table that had surprisingly made it through with the rest of them, Ivy chimed in about how Chetta was in that doorway as the tree was about the come down and he grabbed her and they went and hid in the closet. I could not imagine what that time was like for them, but it was like something out of a horror movie as they explained how the walls were bleeding water.

The next day the girls drove over to get Darric's grandmother to come and spend a couple of days with us. I kept hearing Chetta talk about going over the causeway, OK so I don't get out much, so when I realized what the causeway was I was so excited.
And it was the perfect day, it was beautiful looking over at the city.On the way back we stopped at a drive-thru daiquiri shop for some Pina Collada daiquiri's. Wearing a short sleeved shirt with the windows down and sippin' on this it hit me and I started yelling it out the window..."I'M ON VACATION!!! I'M ON VACATION!!!"

The next day we decided to drive into the french quarter. We walked the cobble stone streets, ate muffalettas and bean yeas. Even took a horse drawn carriage ride, that Jordan got to drive...and heard about some great New Orleans.
We got entertained by some street performers ...And, made a visit to one of my favorite parts of the city.

The St. Louis Cathedral...
You can see a video of the whole inside here...

It was Wednesday, time to head to Gulfport, Mississippi. Darric's parent's anniversary was the following day and this was their present from Chetta and Ivy and we got to tag along. We stayed on the 17th floor at the Beau Rivage
and our room looked right out onto the Gulf of Mexico.

The buffet was loaded with amazing food, we got to go to a theatre performance and do some gambling where I was a dummy for not quitting while I was ahead and ended up leaving $10.00 under, but at least as long as you were gambling you were getting free drinks so you could say I won that night.
Darric & Jordan also got to visit a real pirate ship...
while I got to visit a real life outlet mall.

We headed back to Chetta's on Christmas eve and actually stayed at Chetta's son's house, aka Jordan's and Grace's godfather. He has some kids as well and there was a bit of a surprise happening at Chris' house on Christmas morning. The morning came fast, but I guess that's so when you go to bed at 2:00am.
I was perched in the corner with my video camera as Jordan walked into the room, and as he noticed the white bearded man in red sitting in the recliner, he turned back around and headed out of the room.
Keeping his distance he came back, accepted his gifts from Santa, but couldn't keep his curious eyes off him. As Santa left, my heart grew 2 sizes as Jordan waved to him walking out the door.
Seconds later all the presents were open and the living room was looking like a train wreck, but the children had smiles on their faces and that's what it's all about.
It felt weird being over 1,000 miles away from home on Christmas, it felt weird not having snow or cold weather on Christmas. I was missing Maine and my family on this day. We did have a great day, ate lots of good food including ham, turkey, potatoes, gumbo and cousin Shantel made pralines. Sweet, and very yummy.

So, like I said before, the last time we were in New Orleans was twelve years ago, so do the math and figure out that we weren't even 21 at the time, so we wanted to make sure that this time we were going to party on Bourbon Street. So, the kids stayed with Grammie and Papa for the night and Chris and his wife Tammie took us out for a night on the town. Our first stop...Coyote Ugly at Happy Hour. It was Monday night and the Saints were playing Monday Night Football, unfortunately away in Atlanta. The good thing about this though was that the streets weren't too crowded and it was less dangerous. There were 4 other people sitting at the Coyote bar when we walked in and we must have had fresh meat written all over us when we walked in. (This is where all grandmothers should probably stop reading). So, I had the best intentions not to drink too much this night, but the waitress named Jazmin had other plans and asked if I had just turned 21 when I ordered an Amaretto Sour. "Honey, Amaretto is not alcohol." she told me. So, I asked what she recommended and she gave me a sample of something way too sweet for me and after contemplating I talked her into sticking me with my usual. So, every hour the waitresses buy a round of shots for everyone and it just so happened that 5 minutes later was the time for that. We then watched Jazmin do a little dance on the bar, just like in the movie.
Then Darric just had to do a body shot, and as I was positioning get the picture of coarse, Miss Jazmin whispered to me that for $10.00 I would get a picture worth a thousands words, and honestly she wouldn't let me say no. Jazmin reached up and grabbed one of the bras hanging from the ceiling and covered Darric's eyes with it, then she pulled out this shooter that could have been shaped from a well hung big foot if you know what I'm saying.
After Darric swallowed...he was bent over the bar and Jazmin and the other waitress pulled out their spiked belts and whipped him about four times...each. He walked away after that, rubbing his ass, but with a smile on his face. So, then I was told it was my turn. They were much, much nicer to me, I can't imagine why...I had to put a shot glass into my mouth, without using my hands and do the shot without spitting or spilling, and if I failed I had to buy the guy who was still rubbing his ass another body shot. Well....I failed, I'd like to say it was on purpose, but I'm pathetic. It appeared Darric forgot about his hurt buttocks after his next body shot... just saying...
An hour later and $100.00 less in our pockets we decided to leave Coyote Ugly. Pat O'Brien is a well known place on Bourbon, so that was our next stop. It's known for it's water fountains that have fire blowing out of them
and a lot of celebrities have been seen there as well. We weren't lucky enough to see any, but we did get one of their traditional poses taken in front of the fountain.
The girls were in the mood for some singing, so we left watching the game at Pat O's and headed for the Cat's Meow, the world's best karaoke bar.
I have never had more fun in a bar like this before. We got to dance on the stage as others were singing, all the people were so friendly and they even had a web cam so as we sang our song, our family back home got to watch.
After we sang our hearts out, danced a little more, walked the streets... Darric rode a bull and sucked at it... he tried to talk me into going into a strip bar and we saw some people get arrested, so we decided to call it a night.

Our final days were spent bouncing at a huge bounce house, strolled through Celebration in the OaksJordan got to go to an Alligator farm and actual held a baby alligator, we went to the Aquarium,

and to the zoo and then on our final day when we had planned on packing I got sick with the inevitable flu and was bed ridden for New Years and our last day.

So, you can imagine what the ride home was like. Actually it wasn't as bad as it could have been, Deb actually had gotten a taste of the sickness that was going around, and even though my kids were still being AWESOME I could feel I didn't have as much patience with them as I did on the ride down. It felt like torcher watching the miles and hours tick down as we got closer to home. And as we were 30 miles from home it started snowing....urg! But we made it.

The whole time we were on this trip I tried to make Jordan and Grace realize how lucky they were to be on a vacation like this. I tried to make sure Jordan got the most out of everything we did, and I tried to capture every moment as a memory. You can view some of my other photos from our trip here.

Right now I'm in the process of making a scrapbook out of all of those memories that we made. Jordan says the next place he wants to go is California....that's fine by me, but we are NOT driving.

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