Guess where we went last weekend. Here, let me give you a hint:
Need another one?
You guessed it! We got to go back to the beach! Ken announced several weeks ago that he had a sales meeting in Pensacola, and before I even had a chance to guilt him into taking the kids and me, he invited us along. I didn’t even have to beg. We are just that lovable, I guess.
We had such a great time, and once again, I left with the same feeling as before: I love this stage in our family’s life. I enjoy my kids now in a way that I haven’t been able to in the past. Roark is finally old enough to be in on the fun, as oppose to being a lump of dimpled thighs and chubby cheeks that tags along in a stroller. I think part of the reason I have enjoyed my kids so much this summer is because for the past several summers, I’ve been the one lagging behind, pushing the stroller while I watch Ken creating memories and playing with Edie. But now, those stroller days are over, and Roark and I finally get to join in on the fun.
We arrived at the beach on Thursday afternoon, and of course, the kids where in the pool within thirty minutes of our arrival. We stayed in the same Hilton that we were in when we visited last May, and I must admit, we will probably stay there from now on. We really love it. Ken and I love the fact that we can stay there on Hilton points, and the kids love their pool and easy access to the beach. So everybody’s happy.
After swimming, we went to eat dinner at a place a couple of buildings down from the hotel. The food was so-so, nothing to brag about, but that didn’t matter because we happened to get there in time for the Hermit Crab Races. This was a new sport to us, but then again, most sports are foreign to us. It started with a crusty, old beach bum calling all the kids to join him at the outdoor stage and to circle up around the wooden table. Then the kids each got to choose a hermit crab. Roarkie named his “Mater.” Big surprise for a kid’s whose favorite word these days is “Dad-gum!” I can’t remember what Edie named her crab. It was something that sounded like she made it up on the fly, like Magenna or Madeena, but the beach bum just acted like it was as good a name as any. Each of the kids chose crabs that had shells painted like ladybugs. There were only two in the crab pile that looked like ladybugs, and for some reason, both my kids thought ladybugs meant “speed” in the hermit crab world. Sadly, they were wrong, and neither of them were anywhere close to winning the the race. But I love the memory I now have of each of them cheering and clapping for their crabs because the beach bum told them that their crab would move faster if they yelled at them.
The next three days were spent building sand castles and swimming. There was a red flag flying on Friday. So we weren’t able to play in the ocean. It was just the same to me. Since Friday was the day Ken was at his meeting and I was manning it alone, I’m not sure I could have handled both the kids and the waves. So we played in the sand and then headed over to the pool.
The kids did learn a valuable lesson about oceans that day. I spent our entire beach time saying every two or three minutes, “Don’t get in the water past your ankles!” Even though I had explained over and over that this was for their safety, somehow they still just thought it was another one of my mean rules like no jumping on the bed. Well, I got the last word on the matter when we were cleaning up our stuff, and I stepped into the waves to wash off our sand toys. I didn’t realize that I had been followed until I turned around just in time to see both of my kids being tumbled around by a wave. They now know what it feels like to be a pair of underwear in a washing machine. Both of them immediately stood up SCREAMING at the top of their lungs, covered in sand. Roark looked like he had a sandy comb-over. You’ll be happy to know, that I saved the “I told you so” speech for later and spent a good five minutes calming them down and comforting them. They now understand why that flag was red.
Saturday, the beach authorities downgraded the flag to yellow, but it was still just a little too rough for us. Edie tried some body surfing with her father, and Roark laughed his head off as he jumped in the crashing surf. But after awhile, we decided to head over to the bay side where things were just a little bit calmer. Before we left, I had bought Edie a snorkeling set, and she had been dying for her father to show her how to use it. We got to the bay a couple of hours before sunset, and honestly, it was just one of those perfect moments. Ken and Edie snorkeled, while Roark and I played boats, and after awhile you didn’t even need the snorkels to see the fish. With it being sunset, minnows and fish were swimming all around us. It was like National Geographic, and our kids ate it up. We watched the birds diving for their dinner, and the fish jumping to get away. All the while, the sun was setting, and everything just seemed peaceful. It felt like vacation.
We had to check out on Sunday, and as luck would have it, the flag was finally green and the water perfect for swimming. So we packed everything up except our swimsuits and beach chairs and decided to drive home afterward. It has been a long time since I’ve seen the water that perfect: crystal clear, no sea weed, and small, relaxing waves.
Of course, no beach trip is complete without someone coming home with a sunburn, and unfortunately for him, Ken drew the short straw this time. He got FRIED. Now as the mom of our little family, it’s my job to put sunblock on everybody, and I accept it. But really, I’ll just say it, this is a bad idea. You see, I don’t really get sunburned. I’m one of those that fair-skinned people love to hate. So thinking about reapplying sunscreen just doesn’t come naturally to me. Now, I’ll remember to slather everybody before we go out, but once the fun in the sun begins, I don’t really think about it again. So why Ken got burned and little snow white Roarkie didn’t is a mystery to me. Both got SPF 55 applied to them at the start of the day, but came out with very different results. Ken’s burn is just proof that I’m not a perfect mother/wife. Of course, I was fully aware of this before the sunburn, and still maintain that I did not ask for the job of “Sunscreen Queen” and don’t argue with the fact that I suck at it.
All that being said, we really had fun. Of course, when we got home, Ken made a point to tell me to stop talking about how badly I want to go on a vacation. And I plan to honor that request…at least, for the next couple of months.
In an effort to try and make this blog really confusing, I’m posting the final video of last years vacation on the heels of finishing up our 2010 vacation journal. Did that make sense? In other words, this video footage was taken over a year ago.
The end of this trip was mostly driving down the coast. By which I mean, we drove on bridges and islands all the way down from Ocean City, Maryland to Charleston, North Carolina. In fact, we even drove the RV onto a ferry when there were no roads available. As much as I would like to say I supported the ferry decision, I spent the entire time second-guessing my husband’s sense of adventure. It wasn’t until we were off the boat that I finally admitted that it was a good idea.
We stopped by Kittyhawk and saw the place where the Wright Brothers flew the first plane. If you’ve never been, Kittyhawk is basically a grassy field with a plaque and some geese. It was worth a stop because we were driving right through the town, and it’s a piece of American history. But don’t plan a trip around it.
We ended the vacation with a stop in Charleston, and although it’s been over a year since we were there, I just remember it being really hot. One of the air conditioner units decided to crap out on the last couple of days of the trip, and we sweated A LOT.
On a completely unrelated note, I can’t believe how little Roarkie looks while I’m holding him as we swing. Wow! So much can change in a year. I am so thankful to have a husband that preserves our family memories in these videos. They are priceless to me and one of my most treasured possessions.
This trip is different from last year. I mean, it’s the same family and same RV, but entirely different kind of trip. Last year we spent a good part of the time on the road, seeing the sights from America’s highways. In other words, there was A LOT of driving. Coincidentally, there was also a lot of screaming from our precious son who did not appreciate sitting in a car seat for that amount of time. So in the interest of keeping our family together and not leaving Roark somewhere in Tennessee, we decided to make this trip more about the locations rather than the road, which is nice because we get to hang our hats (or park our rig) in a spot for more than one night at a time.
We spent the first several nights in Natural Springs, Virginia. I know I’ve already told you about all there is to do when it’s raining, but when the weather’s cooperative, the fun really begins.
The first thing on our to-do list was the Virginia Safari Park. And as much as I would like to tell you that this stop was completely for the kids that would only be a half truth. I really planned this with myself in mind and thought the kids wouldn’t mind tagging along.
The only thing I knew about safari parks before last Wednesday was what I had learned from watching clips on America’s Funniest Home Videos. I always thought it looked like a good time and something I needed to experience someday. I was not disappointed.
When we first arrived, we visited their walk-thru area which was kind of like a small zoo. I was really impressed with the amount of animals that were just in this part including tigers, giraffes, and monkeys. The animal habitats were so nice, but yet you could actually see the animals. I’ve always defended the Birmingham Zoo, but maybe everyone is right. Maybe it really is kind of crummy.
On a side note, I will now start referring to Roarkie’s hair color as “straw colored blonde.” As he was standing next to one of the pens watching goats eat some hay, a camel came up and tried to eat his hair. Ken was rolling the camera, but dropped it in response to my yelling that a camel was eating Roark’s head. I feel pretty sure that we could have made an appearance on AFV ourselves had the camera still been rolling.
Anyway, the highlight of the walk-thru area was the kangaroo walk-about. The sign on the fence literally said, “Please step over sleeping kangaroos.” We actually got to pet a kangaroo that was lying in the middle of the trail. Some of them were a bit skittish, but I would probably run too if I were a kangaroo and saw two little kids running up to me with their hands out.
After we had seen everything in the walk-thru area, it was time to begin the real fun. We loaded back into the car. (No, we didn’t try this in the motor home.) Ken drove while Edie sat in the passenger seat, and I sat behind her in the back with Roarkie. We had four buckets of feed.
We didn’t even get through the gate before a pack of llamas were at our car windows. In fact, several were standing in front of the car, making it impossible to drive. We eventually inched our way through the gate, and I had my bucket out the window ready for action. Within the first couple of minutes, we had llamas sticking their heads in the car, trying to get the buckets. Ken and I were laughing hysterically. Edie was screaming as she crouched down in the floorboard, and Roarkie was telling them to get “OUT!”
I must admit, the ostriches freaked me out. They pecked at my bucket with force and then threw their heads back to swallow the mouthful of feed in one gulp. Something about it was unsettling. I guess because I had a birds eye view (pun intended), and I quickly decided that I was going to stay away from them.
The camels were definitely the most aggressive which is probably why they were behind a fence. We were about to pass them by without feeding them until I decided to give it a try. The sign on the fence said, “Careful. We steal buckets.” I now have a bruise on my arm the size of a half dollar that can attest to the sign’s truthfulness.
That camel nearly pulled my arm out of socket trying to wrestle that bucket out of my hand. I finally relinquished it when my arm got penned in the window that was only half-way down. The whole spectacle was only about seven seconds and ended with me howling in the back seat, holding my arm. I’m sad to say, I let the camel beat me, but he had an advantage. He was willing to resort to physical pain, and I wasn’t.
So from there, we wound around through more pastures and fields, feeding different types of elk and deer. Edie eventually worked up the nerve to hang out the window and hold her bucket out. I nicknamed her the “Feed Nazi” because she would let a deer get a bite of food, and then quickly shoo him away while saying, “That’s enough for you!”
Since Ken’s window didn’t roll down, he played tricks on the animals by placing buckets of food on the dashboard. The animals would hang across the windshield and drool as we all laughed. (Don’t worry, Dad. We’ll wash the car before we bring it back to you.)
By the end of our safari adventure, we had four empty buckets, one wound, and some great memories. Later that night, Ken and I watched the video footage and were still laughing at the spectacle of it all.
The next day, we toured the Natural Bridge of Natural Bridge, Virginia, and in a nut shell, it’s just another tourist trap. It was cool to see where George Washington had carved his initials in the side of the rock while he was surveying in his pre-military days, but honestly, we didn’t even know that was what it was until we went through the second-rate wax museum (admission included with our ticket). Natural Bridge wasn’t really worth the stop, but it was forgotten because the Safari Park was so much fun.
I’m worn out from pushing a stroller all day. I spent the afternoon wrangling kids in a gift shop, and I paid way too much for a mediocre lunch. It can only mean one thing: the McKibben’s are on vacation!
I have now learned from experience that every vacation we take in the future we will be departing on a Saturday. My original plan was to leave on Tuesday, but as soon as Ken got off work on Friday, he put his vacation shorts on, dug his flip flops out of the closet, and said, “Let’s go!” I spent the next day and a half slinging clothes into laundry baskets and shuttling stuff between our house and the motor home. I didn’t stop for 18 hours straight, but I turned three days of packing into one. We finally pulled out of the driveway on Sunday afternoon, and it was a good thing because after all that packing, I really needed a vacation.
Our first destination was to Natural Bridge, Virginia, or to be more precise, Jellystone Park in Natural Bridge, Virginia. The internet made it look like a kid’s paradise and the best campground in the world, but from what I can tell, it’s basically a normal campground with a slash pad, inflatable bouncing pad, and Yogi Bear’s picture plastered on anything that will stand still.
However, as far as Edie’s concerned, it is, in fact, the best campground in the world. She is especially a fan of the times Yogi Bear himself has come by our campsite for a hug. Two days ago, she’d never even heard of him, but I guess she thinks he must be pretty famous since she’s been seeing his picture everywhere lately.
There is a fair amount to do in this little area provided you have good weather. I can say for a fact that there is absolutely NOTHING to do here if you don’t. In hindsight, I might not have busted my butt to get us out of the house early if I had known that we would just be spending the extra day cooped up in the RV due to rain.
It started raining first thing in the morning while we were saying the pledge of allegiance with Yogi Bear. We immediately began searching the internet for something to do indoors since all of our planned activities needed sunshine and quickly realized that we were grasping at straws. Our first day of vacation consisted of lunch at Burger King, and a stop by Radio Shack and the Dollar Store.
By evening the rain had not let up. So onto the next plan: the movies. However, even that seemed somewhat impossible. According to Fandango, the nearest movie theater was over an hour away. I kept searching and coming up with nothing. I could feel the RV walls moving in on me. Edie was whiney. Roark was getting into everything, and I was quickly losing it. I told Ken, “I don’t care what we do, but we’ve got to get out of this RV!”
So Ken set down in front of the computer and began to work his magic. Five minutes later, he was telling everyone to get their shoes on. He had found a little theater showing the Beesus and Ramona movie about fifteen minutes away, and it was starting in ten minutes.
I can’t imagine a more perfect movie theater for our purpose. First, when I was buying our tickets, the young girl behind the counter told me that Tuesday was “Family Night,” so right there I could feel our luck changing. Second, we were the only people there, and I mean, in the ENTIRE theater. As in, we were the only people that patronized the establishment that whole evening. This was great because Roark could run the aisles once he was bored with the movie and no one would care. They actually waited until we took our seats to begin the show.
Now to really appreciate this scene, you have to remember what we do for a living. Ken has worked in some of the finest movie theaters in the country, and we are proud to boast that some of them are even our clients. So when a third of the movie was being projected onto the curtains and there wasn’t even a sub in the speakers, we just looked at each other and laughed. We drove nine hours to watch Ramona Quimby in a two bit theater. The scene was priceless.
It was really a cute movie. I had secretly wanted to see it since Beverly Cleary was one of my favorite children’s authors. So it worked out because I didn’t really see Ken allowing me to add it to our Netflix queue. There were even several funny parts where we all laughed out loud. But the best moment was when the train went by outside and was so loud I thought the stained ceiling tiles were going to fall down on our heads.
We all had popcorn for dinner and bladder-busting-sized cokes, and during the credits, the kids and I danced in the aisles just because we could. Once again, Daddy saved the day, and whenever I think of that movie, I will always remember that night in Virginia where we got to enjoy our own private showing.