Day trip away from it all

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

It was less than 24 hours, but those hours were ours. With a new baby, Spencer and I de­cided not to plan a full va­ca­tion this year. Our fam­ily trip to the Outer Banks when Oliver was barely a year old was fun in an in­sane what-were-we-think­ing kind of way, and we en­joyed be­ing with my par­ents, sis­ter and brother-in-law — but trav­el­ing with chil­dren is just feed­ing, cau­tion­ing and chas­ing af­ter them in a more com­pli­cated lo­ca­tion. Un­til my son and daugh­ter are older, I just don’t get it.

The point is to re­lax, right? Our an­nual fam­ily trips to the Outer Banks are some of my fond­est mem­o­ries, but that peace­ful and easy­go­ing phase of my life — when I was a kid my­self, re­spon­si­ble for noth­ing and no one — has passed.

Be­ing an adult means I must make sure the linens and flipflops and con­tact lens so­lu­tion have all made their way into our bulky, over­flow­ing suit­cases. Pack­ing for one per­son is sim­ple . . . but pack­ing for four? Ol­lie can al­ready claim five states on his “vis­ited” list, but Hadley is my Mary­land girl. We just don’t have the en­ergy.

The drive is there, but the time and money and pa­tience are not. Who doesn’t love a good va­ca­tion? A break, an ad­ven­ture — a chance to en­joy your cof­fee from a porch swing in­stead of stuck in morn­ing traf­fic?

When my mother- and fa­therin-law men­tioned they were plan­ning to stay a few days with us in mid-July, I started think­ing. Hav­ing Alex and Lance in town was a rare chance to get away for a night. How many times have I thought about what I could ac­com­plish with an un­in­ter­rupted night of sleep? I hadn’t had one since Oliver came home from the NICU in May 2015 — un­less you count stay­ing in the hos­pi­tal af­ter Hadley’s birth. You know: with new­born Hadley. So no, def­i­nitely never off-duty.

Which is OK, of course. I mean, these are my chil­dren; I love them dearly, even when my el­dest is wak­ing me for ap­ple juice at 2 a.m. But my hus­band has trav­eled for work sev­eral times since Ol­lie came home — as re­cently as a few weeks ago — and I’d be ly­ing if I said I wasn’t jeal­ous of his peace­ful plane rides and quiet ho­tel rooms. Ex­haus­tion blots out ra­tio­nal thought.

Know­ing their grand­par­ents are their ideal care­tak­ers and they’d surely be in great, pa­tient hands, Spencer and I asked if they would mind keep­ing the kids overnight while we hopped over to the Eastern Shore. My hus­band — a col­lec­tor to his core — found an en­grav­ing ma­chine he wants to fix up listed on­line, but we had to visit Delaware to get it.

When Spence men­tioned cross­ing state lines to pick up some vin­tage ma­chin­ery to add to his treasure trove of other ran­dom ma­chin­ery, my eyes al­most fell out of my head. But know­ing we could use that as a start­ing point for a week­end trip by our­selves, well — vin­tage is cool again. By me, any­way.

We left Fri­day af­ter work. With the kids set­tled and hav­ing din­ner, Spence and I snuck off to get across the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Bridge be­fore it be­came a clogged-up night­mare.

We weren’t fast enough. Or slow enough, de­pend­ing on your per­spec­tive.

Lis­ten up, friends: Fri­day night is a ter­ri­ble time to travel. Ev­ery beach­goer from Mary­land to Vir­ginia to Tim­buktu was on east­bound U.S. 50, and we tried to cross the span at pre­cisely the same time as all the Tim-buk­tu­to­ni­ans. It was mad­ness.

I knew we wouldn’t have much time in Eas­ton be­fore crash­ing for the night, but it never oc­curred to me that we wouldn’t make it to our ho­tel un­til af­ter 10 p.m. We left at 5:30. Yes, there was a din­ner stop in there — but not an es­pe­cially long one. It was just a jour­ney punc­tu­ated by brake lights.

It didn’t help that I started get­ting pan­icky as we were leav­ing the kids. Though I knew they would be per­fectly fine with their grand­par­ents, I’d never spent a night away from the baby — and Ol­lie has a night­time rou­tine punc­tu­ated by Spencer and I both tak­ing him up to bed for good­night hugs. For all my grum­bling, I live for those mo­ments. Sweet and sleepy tod­dlers, man: it doesn’t get much bet­ter than that. Es­pe­cially at the end of a busy week.

But we needed a chance to be “us” again — even for a few hours. Spence and I have made many long drives to­gether (and this was no ex­cep­tion), but I looked at it as re­ceiv­ing the gift of un­di­vided at­ten­tion. We were free to talk un­in­ter­rupted over hot meals. Ones we could en­joy to­gether — an­other rar­ity, given we typ­i­cally sit down to din­ner in shifts. We even or­dered and shared an ap­pe­tizer at lunch: tater tots smoth­ered in crab dip with lots of cheese and Old Bay. Crabby tots: the stuff that Mary­lan­ders’ dreams are made of.

The weather in Re­hoboth Beach, Del., was damp and dark and cloudy; the traf­fic, be­ing a sum­mer Satur­day and all, was rough. Putting aside our bay bridge mis­ad­ven­tures, just nav­i­gat­ing and find­ing park­ing any­where near the board­walk was very chal­leng­ing.

We wound up briefly, er, “paus­ing” in a 15-minute “ho­tel park­ing only” lot near a public beach en­trance just so we could see the wa­ter. I think this qual­i­fies as the most re­bel­lious thing I’ve done in a decade.

The ocean was as I re­mem­bered it: churn­ing and in­tim­i­dat­ing, es­pe­cially with dark clouds rolling in over­head. We could taste the thick, salty air long be­fore we saw the wa­ter, and Spencer — fresh off a busi­ness trip to Cal­i­for­nia — mar­veled at see­ing both the At­lantic and Pa­cific this month.

I mar­veled at the lux­ury of star­ing at the in­side of my eye­lids for eight bliss­ful, un­in­ter­rupted hours.

And the crabby tots, of course. Noth­ing says one-day va­ca­tion like salty car­bo­hy­drates.

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