It started out as a risk and we both knew it. Sue and I debated it for a couple of days before deciding that we would pull the trigger and spend most of our Christmas budget on a family trip to Florida instead of another set of semi-useless gifts that were not really needed or wanted. That they would not be getting many gifts would not be the issue but the fact that we were pulling them away from their friends at New Years could be. Our oldest would turn 21 on January 1st (a day my wife has dreaded since she went into labor on December 31st, 1992) and we envisioned him having an elaborate plan of drinking and debauchery that we were about to foil. His brother who had just turned 18 last month now had a girlfriend (going on 6 months) and we feared a mini Romeo and Juliet level of despondency over not spending New Year's Eve together. Their sister, now 14 has such an active social life that we wondered if we would have to put an ad in the paper explaining our decision to her friends...simply to get our side of the story "out there". As it turns out, all of them, while suspicious (we gave them "present clues" to open) were very open to the idea and excited about it actually. It probably helped with the boys that we had tickets to see Wisconsin play South Carolina on January 1st and while they did not care, Megan was floored that Hunter Hayes was playing both a pre-game concert and the halftime show. As parents, we had scored...at least a few points.
They were somewhat stunned that we were driving and not flying but we explained that the "Air travel budget had been eaten up with a rental house on the beach". Enough said. They understood. But they didn't...not really. You see mornings are the hardest. Like when battling a cold, starting a new workday or waking up from a night of "one too many"... mornings and road trips do not go well...especially when you combine a soon to be college graduate, two teens and their parents. Yes mornings are the hardest... and we were caught off guard.
On departure day the problems began. First, we decided to leave early as we were headed down to stay in Durham so our sons could see UNC (for the younger one) and Duke (for the oldest). We had roughly seven and a half hours which meant we "targeted" 7 am. This would give us enough time to see the two schools in daylight. I say "targeted" because we never meet our "targets" because they are set for the hours prior to noon and when our three kids are off school those hours are for sleeping not traveling.
At 8 AM we were deep in the middle of packing the car and this was a new experience; one that was not going well. In the past we had the giant SUV so we could essentially take anything or anyone we wanted and still have enough room for all Family members (even dogs). Now we were a little more space challenged...and two of us were taking golf clubs. This did not set well with the two of the passengers who identified the clubs as "space stealers" and "comfort crushers". The clubs made the trip. When my daughter saw her space in the third row her expression of disbelief was outdone only by the dogs who are very accustomed to seeing me leave the doorway with luggage in tow but who nearly shivered out of their hides when they saw Sue with a bag as well.
We exited the driveway at 8:25 AM and the chatter in the car was not about the excitement of the trip but more about how little space "this crappy car" had. Sue started out driving and our oldest was sitting behind me. Just prior to my getting in he had moved my seat all the way forward because he "Needed the leg room". I was able to sit in the seat but any sudden stop would have severed my spinal cord as my head would have hit the windshield. I had less legroom than on a regional jet and began to move back. The protests were deafening...so much so that after a couple of minutes I could no longer hear them. That may have been because the other two were arguing over where a bag was placed and how quickly it might fall and create discomfort, etc., etc. I attempted to mediate but as my wife often tells me that is not what I do for a living. I failed miserably and quickly moved from mediator to dictator making idle threats everyone including me knew I could not keep. I managed to be loud enough and sufficiently unreasonable that everyone stopped talking...totally. We were five minutes into the trip.