the vacation that wouldn’t end defines “Vacation” as “leisure time away from work devoted to rest or pleasure.” It defines “Torment” as “intense feelings of suffering; acute mental or physical pain.” One of these things happened this past week.

It didn’t start with a V.

For me personally, everything Started Saturday morning as I participated in my first ever bike race. FM24 was a 24 hour Alley Cat race in downtown Atlanta. From noon Saturday to noon Sunday my 5 man team had a man on the road. By the end we had done 32 laps total. That’s just under 400 miles in all, 83 Miles personally. Needless to say, I was tired. Despite this, we took off Sunday afternoon, after the race, rather than try and travel through Monday morning traffic.

Everything was moving along fine until about 7:30, when my car headed up a hill, and seemed to refuse to change to a higher gear. I cut off my cruise control and as I began to slow down I heard a rattling sound coming from my engine. Yay. My oil pressure light came on. I pulled into a station, checked the oil, it was very low. Funny, the oil change the month beforehand said everything was working fine. 3 quarts of oil later my dipstick finally said I was at full, but it was too late. My hopes that enough oil could drown out an klinking engine were in vain.

We found a hotel and stopped for the night. This is where the adventure began. I’ll try and keep this brief.

Morning. Hotel guy recommends a mechanic. We go into town at 15mph, klinking along. Can’t find the guy. We pull into the first shop that appears open. Two men walk out of the garage with the most pained looking faces I’ve ever seen on a man not currently suffering kidney stones. They say bad things like “melted bearings” and “replace engine.” They send me over to “the only other guy in town I’d trust.” Oh, that really instills hope.

We find THAT guy, he seems to know what he’s talking about. Teresa comments that he’s completely unlike any other puhy mechanic she’s ever talked to. Ray of sunshine in the storm. Thanks Scott of Mike and Sons. We call up some rental places and everyone is out of cars until the afternoon. We find one that has a single car on the lot. I bike over to them (Thank GOD I had my bike with me, so useful throughout all this) and get a van. 500 bucks. Oi. At least we have plenty of room for people and luggage.

We finally get to St. Augustine. The condo is wonderful, literally across the street from the ocean. Monday goes on just fine.

Tuesday starts, and both Teresa and Noah feel bad. Noah is coughing up a storm. Tree soon follows. Sore bodies and fevers.

We find out fixing the car will cost us 3 grand. We go for it, figuring I’d rather spend 3 grand on MY used car than buy someone else’s used car for 8 grand. Also, the new engine is 30,000 miles less than the current one. So we’re a couple days into our ‘vacation’ and we’ve already spent about 4 grand. Yay! The time we spend in Historic St. Augustine is always cut short by Noah looking over-heated and barely conscious.

We finally decide Noah has been sick for too long once Thursday comes around. We go in to a walk-in clinic, and Noah is diagnosed with Swine Flu. We can only guess that we picked it up from the hotel. Upside, it’s just Tree and Noah. Still got one guy up and running to care for the others. (Consider this foreshadowing.)

Friday is spent sitting around the condo. The rest of the gang go down to Daytona Beach. I realize that cable really isn’t worth paying for. We decide to cut the vacation short and leave Saturday. After all, moping around home is always more satisfying than someone else’s place.

Saturday comes, and I wake up with a cough. Yay! We spend the day in the car. 7.5 hours to get home. Everyone is miserable and couching and generally no fun. Every time we stop we have to keep Noah and Teresa out of the public as much as possible. This is more difficult/annoying than it sounds.

We get home. Toby practically mauls us all night. We sleep.

It’s now Sunday. We awak slowly, mull around the house till noon, dreading the trip BACK to Valdosta to return the rental car. Yeah, since everyone else was out of cars, we went with the local place, and now we have to return it ourselves. we think it’s a 3 hour drive. It’s actually a 4.5 hour drive. A second day with three sick people in a car for 8 hours. Yay!

The drive down is wonderfully uneventful. I burn 5 CDs so I can be entertained on the ride down, but I find the CD player in this crappy rental barely works. By barely I mean it plays the first 20 seconds of the first track of each CD. Another day of listening to awful radio going in and out.

So, after all this, we finally arrive in Valdosta, pull into the rental place, find the key drop-off box, and it turns out God is not yet done with trying to kill me. The big, fat keyless entry key does not fit into the envelope-thin drop-off box slot. Awesome. We call several numbers (Thank God for internet enabled phones) and finally get a hit when we dial the number on the top of the credit card receipt. “Andy” tells us to hide the key somewhere. I just know the car will be stolen and this “Andy” character will no longer exist and we’ll have to buy them a van.

4.5 hours back. We’re home. All three still sick. I have to take off work now that all my vacation time has been used up by this week of wonderful family time.

And sometime next week I’ll have to drive all the way back to Valdosta to pick up my car. Yay!

our vacation in Tennessee

yeah, I know this is like, 3 weeks late, but you know what? I’m a busy man, so leave me alone.

I’ll warn you, this will be very long, as it is fairly detailed. It covers each day separately, and plays out much like the horrible slide show you never want to get stuck watching. So if you want, you can just scroll through and look at the pretty pictures. There’s a video at the end that I promise is not horrifyingly boring. It includes bears. Does that reel you in? If not, then you should just leave now.
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welcome back

So late last night Teresa, Noah, and I got back into town from our week long vacation. I have a nice long recap that I’m working on, with a bunch of photos, but it won’t be posted until later. For now, I will complain.

Yesterday was a bad day. We didn’t plan anything for the day, so we ended up driving around the Tennessee mountains with nothing to do until 5:30pm, when we would drop the Gray’s off at the airport. Once we started top head home, our GPS unit gave us a route we weren’t happy with, and trying to figure out how to get to the highway proved daunting. We had driven on enough small local roads for the week, and we just wanted to get on a highway and drive 70mph, even if it meant taking longer.

A couple hours in Teresa realized she didn’t know where her phone was. I called it, and rather than hearing the familiar tone in the car, I hear “Hello?” in a much more manly voice than I’m used to hearing when calling my wife. So Teresa left her cell phone in at the Applebee’s in Alcoa, TN.

We finally make it into Georgia, and just about the time we get inside the border, our home state greets us with rain. We had managed to have beautiful weather though the whole vacation, so I guess this is only fitting.

We finally get in right after 10pm, and as soon as we walk in, I smell something weird. I figure its a side effect of setting your A/C at 85 for a week. But as I head down the hall to the thermostat, the smell decreases drastically. Why does my front door smell funny? The “maybe something died behind the screen door” theory didn’t pan out. We’re both too tired to spend too much time investigating, so we get ready for bed.

So Teresa goes out to get her nightly glass of water, and returns with the question, “Did you turn off the water from the Fridge?”

I walk into the kitchen, open the fridge door, and it is immediately apparent that no amount of animals stuck in a screen door could sin against my nose in the same way as a fridge full of food that sat at 85 degree for a week could. It would appear that when we unplugged the microwave from the wall, it tripped the circuit breaker, and shut off our fridge.

We do our best to try and go to sleep, ignoring the disgusting task that lay before us bright and early in the morning. It doesn’t work well, and both of us wake up from dreams of rotting food only to smell the fridge all the way from our room.

So you can understand why I’m having a hard time figuring out why I left the beautiful mountain-top abode to come back here.