Traveling is filled with wonder and beauty, new amazing experiences and so much variety. Unfortunately, things don’t always go exactly as planned. This week, we thought we’d share one of those stories of the times where things didn’t go quite the way we hoped.
You know the feeling – it’s been a long trip, and you’re on the very last leg. At this point, you can practically see your destination. I don’t know about you, but for me, this is the time when I’m most likely to be, shall we say, not quite on my game.
Bria (my five-year-old daughter) and I had been on the road for a couple of weeks, and we stopped at our last hotel before spending a month on the beach with our friends in sunny Melbourne, Florida. Florida was a much-needed break we had been looking forward to for some time, and we had already been delayed more than once. We were in Valdosta, Georgia when we hit up Priceline for a place to lay our heads for the night.
From the beginning, the hotel experience was a little strange – I’ve never seen so many dogs in one place outside of a shelter or a dog park, and the front desk staff didn’t seem to speak as much English as I would have expected in Georgia – but we were able to rinse off the stress of the day in a pretty outdoor pool, we got some rest, and in the morning we got a decent early start.
That last day of our trip was a bit hectic. Even though Bria loves to get in the car and head out to see the world, at this point she was definitely not in the mood to be in a car, especially since we had originally planned to be done days earlier. We had to stop several times for recharge breaks, stretching the four hour drive into six or seven. By the time we arrived, relief didn’t cover my feelings.
Smiling and talking with our friends in the driveway of their beautiful Melbourne home, I opened the back of the van to grab our suitcase – and it wasn’t there.
My heart sank.
My mind raced.
And the picture that formed in my head was crystal clear. I knew exactly where I had left it.
As we left the hotel in Valdosta, Bria and I held hands and talked about our big plans when we arrived in Florida. With my spare hand, I wheeled the purple suitcase containing my laptop, the work I had brought inside the night before, our toiletries, and a week of clothes. Hanging from the handle was a plastic bag containing two new outfits and a swimsuit I had bought for Bria the day before.
We maneuvered that way down the stairs and across the parking lot to the van, I “parked” the suitcase and crawled into the backseat to help Bria into her car seat. Then I got into the driver’s seat and set my GPS for Melbourne, leaving the suitcase right where I had set it, in the hotel parking lot.
Just as I was beating myself up over my terrible bout of forgetfulness, my phone rang. My hubby has a knack for being the calm in a rough situation, and he had me send him the name and number for the hotel so he could call and see if they would overnight the case to us. There’s nothing quite like having a good support system in place when you are traveling, no matter what may come up!
The details are uninteresting, but delivery didn’t seem to be an option, and four phone calls later, I finally got someone who spoke enough English that I confirmed my bag was indeed still there. I asked them to please hang onto it, letting them know I would drive up to get it.
What followed should probably be its own travel oopsy, or maybe an episode of a goofy sitcom!
My friend and I decided the four of us (her and her six-year-old, Bria and me) would head out on an adventure and get the bag together. After getting a really late start, we thought we would drive through the night to Valdosta and then do some exploring the next day, but some serious meltdowns in the backseat led us to get a hotel room in Jacksonville.
In the morning, we set out on what should have been about a 90 minute drive to Valdosta.
About an hour later, the blood rushed from my face as I realized something I could only laugh at – we had left Jacksonville on the wrong highway, and were now moving at 65 miles per hour in the complete wrong direction.
Seriously, at this point I was wondering if I had some bad karma coming or something! Who had I wronged? Could I make some phone calls and fix it?
I pulled over to get my head straight and study the map, and my friend played with the girls in a roadside park while I came up with a new plan. There – between us and Valdosta – was Okefenokee Swamp. Wasn’t that a made up place in episodes of Scooby Doo? Whatever it was, it was huge, and I hoped it would be a fun place to explore.
A couple of Google searches later, we were on our way for an adventure of crocodile-ic proportions. And we had such a blast! Check out our post on the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge to see some of the cool animals and birds we were able to spy on this (completely intentional) detour.
With Okefenokee in our rearview, soon we were at the hotel. I took a deep breath, not sure what I was about to find, and went in.
“Haha, you decided to pick it up, huh?” the tall, thin 20-something behind the hotel’s front desk (who spoke perfect English, by the way) laughed, and disappeared into the office.
I held my breath, and he reappeared with my suitcase, shopping bag still around the handle, exactly the way I had left it. I resisted the urge to break into a happy dance there in middle of the lobby.
The trip back was a lot more straightforward, and included an amazing impromptu visit to the oldest city in Florida, Saint Augustine. Here are our posts about that stop, and a great time dancing in the sand (and some rain) as we ate yummy seafood by the ocean at the Golden Lion.
By way of disclaimer – I swear, I am not nearly as ditzy as this post makes me sound! This is probably the only time I’ve ever gone on a three day road trip to retrieve something I left at a hotel, but there was the time I screwed up the departure date at the beach house we rented (the cleaning crew showed up, and we thought we had another day), the time our hotel reservations at the all-inclusive hotel somehow didn’t show that we had four children with us and not only had they “upgraded” us from a family suite to an adults-only building, they wanted more additional cash than we had even paid for the reservation in the first place, the time I had to call AAA two days in a row while in the middle of Wyoming…
But those are stories for another day.