Day trip away from it all
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.