Friday, December 31, 2010

Once In a Lifetime

Once in a lifetime – such an over-used phrase.  “A once in a lifetime sale, opportunity, event, etc.!”  Advertisers love to use that phrase excessively to hype their products.  There are only a limited number of actual once in a lifetime events or opportunities - births, deaths, weddings, funerals, graduations and such.  It is most unusual to experience two such events at the same time.  Several months ago I had the opportunity to experience exactly that, two once in a lifetime events.  And I lived to tell about it.

It began with a blind date in the spring, and ended with a wedding in the fall, my brother-in-law being the groom.  In the spring, several family members set up the blind date, and all went well.  The couple had a great time, and made arrangements to see each other again.  Things went well again, and again, and again, and again…you get the drift.  Many trips were made from Ohio to Texas.  And then came the realization that the rest of the family would need to make a trip to Texas for a wedding.

To fly or to drive, that was the question.  Personally, for the six members of our household, we decided we would drive.  Some people had made the drive in 17 hours.  That seemed reasonable, and with the price of airline tickets, it just made sense.  Oh!  And what if we would rent a large van, fill it with more family, and make memories that last a lifetime!

And so was hatched the fateful plan to put 12 people in a 15 passenger van, and travel around, oh, let’s say 2500 miles.  That sounds like fun!  And so we did.  Three preschoolers, four adults, and six youth, in a confined space.  No overnight accommodations, we were traveling the whole way in one shot, because that’s how we roll.  It wouldn’t be so bad.

We got an enclosed, locking box to attach to the hitch of the van for extra luggage space.  That didn’t quite carry everything, so we strapped an ice chest on top of that.  We would soon discover that all weight back there would make for an interesting driving experience, not only for the driver, but for all the passengers as well.  The van would dance and weave to the beat of a different drummer, as the driver would try to corral it between the lines, all while appearing calm, as if everything was normal.  He would get it under control, and then the next semi would come roaring past, sending the van into its next series of gleeful swerving.  As a passenger, it was hard to relax, especially after dark when it was time to sleep.  As a driver, it was stressful and tiring trying to keep the van under control.  A little bit of rain added another dimension to the mix, but thankfully it didn’t last long.  We were only a couple of hours into the trip, when one of the kids expressed all of our thoughts by asking, "Are we in Africa yet, I mean, Texas?"

The next issue was lack of planning from the parents of the preschoolers.  It seems that they forgot to make each one go to the bathroom every time a stop was made.  This resulted in several extra, unplanned stops, much to the chagrin of the other passengers.  Then of course, there was the normal complaining that comes from sitting in a car seat for an extended period of time.  Also, every spare inch of the van was cluttered with luggage,  blankets, pillows, books, ipods, snacks, and various other items designed to distract us on this un-ending journey.

We did eventually get there after what seemed like several years.  Actually it took us 22 hours. 

We were able to have an enjoyable time while we were in Texas, and the couple is happily married.  We broke up our trip home with an overnight stay, so we never reached the levels of despair we had previously experienced.  We also had less weight in our luggage box in the back, and the van ceased its happy dance, much to our delight.

It was a trip that needed to be made, and a wedding we were privileged to attend.  If such a situation were to occur again, I hope we would be wiser now in choosing our method of travel.

I truly hope this was a once in a lifetime event.