Easter Vacation, part I

“Torture,” as defined by a technology addict like my husband, would go something like: “enforced extended time spent in the middle of nowhere with almost no access to the outside world or the internet.” Chinese water torture? Bah. Child’s play. Nothing can reduce a grown man to a quivering pile of anxiety faster than taking his laptop away for 72 hours.

Well, I have a sister who lives in Virginia. It’s central Virginia and is 20 minutes outside of Farmville. Tim finds this incredibly amusing: They live OUTSIDE of FARMVILLE. It might as well be Antarctica as far as he’s concerned. They live on a farm in the country, and to go to the store or anything you have to drive that 20 minutes to town. My nieces talk about “going to town” like the Ingalls girls do in Little House on the Prairie: It’s a big deal, and takes hours. And, worst of all - there’s no high speed internet access.

To Tim, this is the absolute worst thing in the world. I attribute this to the fact that he’s a city boy. Tim will vehemently deny this and insist that he’s a child of the suburbs, not a city boy. City boys, he says, are from Philadelphia proper, not the suburbs like Langhorne. A city boy takes mass transit and walks everywhere and does funky downtown artsy stuff. A suburban boy just gets to drive to the mall. Yeah, I get that Langhorne isn’t the city like Philadelphia, and that he isn’t FROM the city. But, in his mentality, I still say he’s a city boy.

I have my reasons for thinking this. It has something to do with growing up in a town of 10,000 that was half an hour away from anything. (Okay, I think Humphrey was like 15 minutes away but it had a population of a couple hundred and the only store was a gas station, so that doesn’t really count.) Once you left the town limits of Stuttgart, there was nothing but flat rice fields for as far as the eye could see, and the sign proclaiming “Welcome to Stuttgart, duck and rice capitol of the world!” The weekend activity of choice was driving the strip between the Sonic and the gas station, honking at people you knew and generally being obnoxious. You might stop in an empty parking lot with a bunch of other friends for a while until the police came and chased you away for loitering. I wasn’t in the partying crowd, but those who were spent a lot of time drinking at various hidden places or parent-less homes. There was a movie theater with two screens and a bowling alley that the younger kids went to. If you were feeling really adventurous maybe you’d drive 30 minutes out to DeVall’s bluff to see the “ghost lights” drive over the hill - but that was mainly just an excuse to get alone in the dark to make out. There were two sit-down restaurants in town: Pizza Hut and Cajun Hideaway. Besides that there was McDonald’s and Hardees, and later a Subway came. But that was pretty much it, at least when I lived there.

Tim likes to make fun of me about all this whenever he can. To him, such a life is utterly incomprehensible. Driving more than 10 minutes to a mall is really far to him, and having hundreds of different restaurants and dozens of muliplexes nearby is just how NORMAL people live.

THAT is why I say he’s a city boy. We’ve agreed to disagree on this.

Well, my city boy husband and I just returned from spending three nights and two days at my sister’s house - and miraculously, he survived!! I attribute his survival to the fact that he volunteered to drywall a room in their basement, so he had something to keep him occupied while we were there. So, I guess the answer is to always have heavy labor to take the place of missing technology, and he’ll be okay.

We hadn’t been down to see Helen for years. When the kids were little I just didn’t feel up to the 7 hour drive, and that was a lot of it, but now that they’re 5 and 7 it seemed like something we could handle, so we planned to give it a try over Easter break. And we had a really great trip!

We had a great trip down. We left first thing Wednesday morning, and two hours later arrived in Baltimore, where we stopped to go to the National Aquarium. We’d been once before, but it was the kids’ first time, and they had a blast. Emily exclaimed at one point (in her usual dramatic way) “This is the BEST day EVER!” I don’t know about the best day EVER - but it was pretty great. Here are a few pictures.

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Doesn’t that look awesome? If you’ve never been there, and you get the chance, do it. It’s kinda pricey, but worth it. Get there early, though, because they give you tickets for a certain time, depending on how busy it is. We got there at 11, and couldn’t get in until 1:30, so we spent the time walking around the inner harbor and eating lunch. So, it took us much longer than we expected and we didn’t get back on the road until 4:00. So we were driving past Baltimore/Washington between 4 and 5 on a weekday. Not exactly the best timing in the world. But, amazingly, we still had a really good trip. The kids didn’t argue with each other once. NOT ONCE. And they didn’t yell or get crazy or say they were bored or anything. They just played with their sticker books and drew and ate snacks and Emily read us the entire thing of “Junie B. Jones is a Beauty Shop Guy.”

I love Junie B. Jones. That took up a whole hour nicely.

And there were some amusing things along the way. Shortly outside of Baltimore, I saw this van:
Now, does anyone else besides me find this incredibly amusing? I wonder if the handicapped status is a result of what the plate says?!

We also saw this throwback from 1965:
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I wanted to get a better picture of the side, but I was afraid they’d catch me taking a picture of their car and get mad and, contrary to the peace signs all over the place, suddenly get gripped by road rage and chase us down. So this is the best I got. But we found it really entertaining!

The traffic was horrendous, though. Fortunately, I reminded Tim that, technically, we were a High Occupancy Vehicle since we had 3+ passengers like the sign said. It’s TECHNICALLY for carpoolers, but the sign didn’t say that specifically and didn’t exclude children, so we decided to take it. Here’s the difference between the HOV lane and the normal lane:

The cars on the right is everyone crawling at like 2 miles an hour. The lane on the left was the smooth sailing on the HOV lane. And it went on for 30 miles, so can you even imagine the time we saved by not being in the middle of that snarl on the right? I have no idea if we were legally considered a HOV or not. In my book, we were, and we didn’t get stopped, so it was all good.

We also had fun listening to an eclectic selection of 80’s hits. Actually, it was an itunes “genius” selection that started off with “American Pie,” so don’t ask me how 80’s tunes got included in it, but it did. We got a kick out of hearing the kids try to sing along with them, especially when Emily started singing: “She drives me crazy/cause I love bananas” to the Fine Young Cannibals hit.

It was a long trip, though, and so towards the end the kids of course started to ask about our arrival. But, you know your kids are a product of the digital age when instead of asking, “Are we there yet?” they kept asking, “Have we arrived at our destination?” like the GPS says. Oh, my.

We got there finally at 8:30, having left at 8:30 that morning, so it was quite a long day. But we were all happy and in good spirits, so all in all, the drive down was an immense success. And, since this is already so long, I’m going to break now and continue in the next post with pictures of the actual visit. See, I’m considerate like that.