Forty-five minutes into our drive to Florida everyone had basically accepted the fact that while we were crowded (yes the golf clubs contributed to the pain but so did the multiple blankets, backpack with homework that was never going to be released from the backpack...ok it actually was...and a yoga mat thingy along with a food bag of snacks) we were actually on vacation and headed south in the winter. A very good thing. We planned to stop in North Carolina for the evening so we could do a couple of high level (meaning unofficial) college visits. The sun was out and the temperatures were rising. Moods inside the car were improving with each sunny mile that passed.
We arrived and attempted to tour Duke around 3:30 PM. But our navigation system was not cooperating and we kept getting directed away from the campus...or so we thought. We quit on "her" and moved to UNC that we found quickly and were very pleased to walk around for 30 minutes.
We decided to try to find Duke again discovering it had an East and a West Campus. Apparently we had been circling the East campus and while nice enough...it did not seem like, well, Duke. That is because it wasn't...not really. Happily we found the West Campus but just as we started to embark on a walking tour there, the mood began to shift. It was getting dark outside ...and even darker inside. Not able to put my finger on the growing tension I attempted more mediation, which failed (again) miserably. The only light moment was when our oldest thought he had seen a "celebrity" and shouted out "Is that Larry David....ahhh noooo"? A man dressed in a ball cap with white hair and glasses stood before us. He looked more like Bernie Madoff than Larry David and the way the mood was in the car his two siblings verbally pounded him for a good 5 minutes.
Still trying to determine our next move as the angry din grew inside the medium sized crosswagvantourer, Sue finally realized the problem. Being the diligent travelers that we were and given too that we had "A schedule to keep" we had neglected one crucial item. We had not fed the hungry humans in our control. With blood sugars plummeting and tempers rising we sprang into action and engaged the services of the navi again who, most likely due to operator error, was only able to locate fast food...after five minutes of coaxing. Sue's IPhone was not getting "service" (which the kids also blamed on operator error which did not enhance the happiness factor one bit). Finally we were able to locate a restaurant that seemed a bit more upscale but we had no choice. We arrived and discovered an area basketball player probably violating NCAA rules (and we'll leave it at that) but had an excellent dinner and the moods improved temporarily. The night ended with everyone dreading the next day's drive.
Throughout the trip we had many ups (we saw friends we had not seen in quite some time, we fished, we enjoyed the brief Florida sun, we watched a bowl game...yes Wisconsin lost) and only a few downs. The downs occurred each day we had to drive any significant distance, which were 5 out of the 7 days. Essentially what would happen is we would load up our luggage and then cram everyone in around it and the tempers began to boil...what typically happens is one person just isn't "right" and for whatever reason feels slighted.... that they have been deliberately targeted as the child who will suffer that day. They then make sure the rest of the car knows it and off we go. Twenty minutes later everyone has been "mediated" and they are told to "Never speak again unless it is an emergency and even then it is preferable that you just handle it yourself". So began each morning of our driving days. Perhaps the worst was my threat to ban all family trips until the kids have kids and then force them to drive exorbitant distances with 4 year olds...just so they know how it feels. The fact that this threat sounded like a four year old was not lost on any of us. I had also threatened to sell the dogs more than once…just to make myself feel better. Typically, this threat was met with laughter and therefore it had the opposite of my intended effect.
In the end we had covered some 2400 miles of which about 100 were really bad. The rest, while not perfect, were great as we all love Florida and appear to feel the same way about each other...just not in the morning...