I was not raised this way. No, where I come from there is planning ahead. Hotel reservations are booked weeks in advance. Itineraries are printed.
Then I married farmer Gene. Its rush and scamper, and make hay while the sun shines. I can’t count how often there has been a planned event, (Memorial Day weekend with friends comes to mind), and suddenly there is tons to do on the farm. Hay to make, and so on and so forth and what have you. We arrive the last of everyone; each time, every time.
We’ve had strife over this. I have a hard time understanding why we can’t plan and then go. Slowly though, it’s been sinking into my watery brain that you don’t plan things like rain, tractor failures, and perfect sunshine, but they all three happen. (Gene would say s.l.o.w.l.y it’s been sinking in. So slowly he may not have noticed that I now I am totally understanding all the time)
With school out, we have a general idea of some fun things we want to do with our children, but taking off a week or more for a real vacation is not going to happen. Enter: Spur of the Moment Trips. My life has been revolutionized!
Last week we checked out the week coming. No hay needed to be cut. The corn was planted. We had time to kick on thing off of our bucket list: the zoo. Which zoo should we go to? Philadelphia? Baltimore? DC? Why wouldn’t we drag four small children with no interest in politics or American history to the free zoo in Washington DC? We couldn’t see why not.
After a 3 hour drive, (traffic = turtles pace) we arrived at our hotel(that had been booked a mere two days in advance) in Washington DC. To get the party started, I immediately get everybody in their swim gear and we head towards the pool. As we are arriving the lifeguard is literally flipping a CLOSED sign on the glass door. Apparently in Virginia, hotels must have lifeguards, and those lifeguards most close at any sign of lightening. There are tears, and the scenario enforces my belief to never promise my children anything.
There is a happy ending to this story, because after an hour or two I went with my heart-broken three year old to look at the pool again and it had re-opened. We (technically “they” – I was putting Jena to sleep) swam until 10:00 pm. Because on a spur-of -the moment vacation; who cares if you tire your children out until they are a shell of their former selves? Not us!
The next morning we are eating our (Free! Continental! Two bowls of lucky charms for everybody!)Breakfast- all happy. Two different people mention to Gene that driving to the zoo is a bad idea. We were seven miles from the zoo, but only people with bricks for their brain would drive to the zoo. That’s how awful it is. Then a kind man passing by our table handed us his Metro passes. This sealed the deal. Why wouldn’t we schlep our four young children onto the Metro? We could see no reason why not.
We (Gene & I) are semi-seasoned travelers. It’s been awhile though, and we are not seasoned at travelling Metro’s with our children AT ALL. You know when you are a country person, and you’re headed to the city, you want to appear slick and suave and kind of slide below the radar?
Take your four country children with you, and there is nothing suave and slick about it. The oldest starts wringing her hands in worry, and wondering, “How do we know we are on the right train?” “How do we know when to get off?” What happens if we get off at the wrong place? At every stop, she yelps “Is this where we get off?
The second born with his loud voice wonders about the excitement of the city. “WOW, THERE SURE IS NO GRASS IN THIS CITY!” “WOW MOM, THIS CITY SURE HAS A LOT OF LETTERS” “MOM, DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE PENGUINS AT THE ZOO?”
The third was her winning self, and when we stood to exit the train she proclaimed, “Yay, we’re at the jungle!” (Jungle = zoo??)
The zoo was fine. The kids truly did great. Jena did awesome, and she is so light, and when she got tired of her stroller it wasn’t a burden to carry her. We walked..and walked. We took pictures of every animal. I faithfully manned the camera until I realized the kids were expecting pictures of E.V.E.R.Y bird, land mammal and sea creature. I handed the camera over to the children.
It was a fun day. We walked back to the Metro Station. It was Monday evening rush hour. We dragged/pulled/stacked our children into the corners of the train. We trekked back to our hotel. Drove out of the parking lot, and decided to keep our promise to the children that we would find the president’s house. We drove around Pennsylvania Avenue with our noses against the glass catching a glimpse of the White House as we cruised by. We bought ice cream sundaes for everyone as a treat. We pulled into our driveway at 10:30 p.m. with four sleeping children with chocolate smudged faces, and dirty feet. We dropped them into their beds.
I asked Gene if we would have known ahead of time how much walking and dragging of children the trip would have been, would we have done it? That is the beauty of a spontaneous trip- you don’t know what you’re going to get. I know this lack of planning isn’t for everyone, and I can miss a well-thought-out-planned-ahead trip. This impromptu trip though, I loved.