A few times each year, we make what we call the "grandparent circuit." It usually consists of an 8 hour jaunt over to the Memphis area, then another 8 hours down to Pensacola. This time, however, my in-laws were on a road trip of their own so we decided at the last minute to go down to Austin, TX and then over to Florida. When I say "last minute," I mean that we didn't even know if we'd be able to leave Oklahoma for the 4th of July weekend until less than 24 hours before our departure. My husband had a couple of highly critical flights to complete that neither of us thought would happen, yet lo and behold, they both came into fruition and he aced them (as usual ;-)).
I therefore had to frantically pack, clean the house, book hotels, and plan out an itinerary for this impromptu excursion. I had been looking for an excuse to visit Austin, and this seemed to fit the bill. We left after my husband came home from work on a Friday and immediately drove right into grid lock traffic. To top off getting stuck in rush hour, an emergency signal came on over the radio informing us that a tornado was forming due west of our position and we were directly in the path. We got off onto some back country roads and raced through tiny towns, trying to outrun the wall of greenish clouds fast approaching. Nothing like living in Oklahoma...
We managed to successfully thwart death by twister and arrived at our hotel in Austin at midnight, which is way past our bedtime. We all crashed and didn't wake up until after 8 the next morning. I hadn't managed to come up with any rock solid plans for our day in Austin, so we ended up just driving to the main downtown area to park and explore. The girls were actually quite difficult that day; complaining about walking, the heat, their imminent starvation, etc. They're usually real troopers and far more determined than the average child to embark on questionable adventures with me, so it did kind of bother me. I can't blame them though...it was stupid hot (even the locals were commenting on how bloody awful and unusual it was) and we were just kind of wandering with no clue as to where to go. The biggest hits of the day were swimming in the hotel pool and eating ice cream for dinner :-)
Our original plan after visiting Austin was to drive to New Orleans on Sunday, ride a trolley that afternoon, then snag some beignets on Monday morning before making the last short leg into Pensacola. However, we were approaching New Orleans a bit after 3 on Sunday and my husband felt like he could make it the whole way. Thus, I canceled our hotel reservation and we set a record for driving with the girls: 12 hours in one day. Yeah, it was rough. But we were determined to get to see my brother-in-law and his son before they left and let the cousins play on the beach and all go to dinner together.
My husband got to spend the 4th of July with us for the first time in 4 years! He's always been deployed or on some other kind of training/mission and considering this is his favorite holiday, it's been pretty rough on him. I know he was relieved to finally eat some grilled out food, drink a couple of beers, and set things on fire. We also went to a bigger downtown fireworks show, but the playground stole it for the girls. It was a pretty awesome playground; tons of climbing stuff which is right up their alley.
There were a couple of blasts from my past on this particular visit. The Blue Angels were having their annual beach show, so we went to their rehearsal. The girls weren't that impressed...it was too loud for them, but they happily stayed and played in the sand while we all oohed and aahed at the jets. I also got overly excited that my favorite goofy golf course had reopened the week before we got there. So many happy childhood memories came from that place, so I was thrilled to be able to take the girls there. They're pretty terrible at golf, but it runs in the family.
Our stay was fairly brief and packed, but we got to see lots of family and friends, eat delicious grilled out foods, and enjoy some classic summer fun. We topped off the vacation with 14.5 hours of driving straight home from Florida to Oklahoma. Yeah, we're nuts. Yet it was surprisingly easy. Next up, down to Houston next month for a week so that my oldest can go to her first space camp!