Category Archives: Travel

500 Miles to Heaven

Well, hello! I’ve been quiet, I know, but I was on vacation. And then when we got back home, my brain was on the slow setting for at least another week and a half.

Our vacations are typically spent at my parents’ place on Lake Superior. They live in the same state as we do, and yet their place is 500 miles away. 500 miles! In the same state! I’m sure that sounds like loony talk to you east coast people, who can drive through 5 states in 20 minutes. But if you look at a map of Michigan, it will make sense. Michigan is two long gobs of land surrounded by water…not a shortcut to be had. See, look how crazy Michigan is:

We drive from almost the furthest southeastern point on the map (near Detroit) to the furthest location northwesterly (is that a word?) in the fingerlike projection east of Minnesota. So, the northwesterly fingerlike thingy. You see what I mean, right?

Crazier still is making that drive with two little kids and a 6-month old puppy. Before we left, I thought, “Oh, it’ll be fine.. Benjamin’s gained so much maturity since last time, and Ellie…well, at least she’s not a baby anymore.”

Ummmmmmmm. Well.


7:00 a.m. Already several hours behind schedule. Ellie, normally the early chirpy bird in the family, refuses to get up. She actually says, “Mama, you be quiet now so I can sleeeeeeeeeeeep.”

7:30 a.m. Car almost loaded. Children jump around, excited. Puppy goes on one last walk before interminable confinement.

7:45 a.m. Tim Horton’s drive-through. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. COFFEE.

8:00 a.m. Takeoff! Estimated time of arrival – 6:00 p.m.

8:30 a.m. Benjamin asks how much longer it’s going to be before we get there.

9:00 a.m. I had wanted to save movies for later when things got desperate. As it turns out, we’re already desperate at the end of hour one. I put in the movie Rio.

9:30 a.m. Children quiet, dog crying. Bathroom break!

10:00 a.m. Road trip bliss. Silence from the back. I’m even reading a grown-up book.

10:15 a.m. Movie concludes. Whining begins. Ellie’s diaper has soaked through; The Daddy pulls over.

10:30 a.m.  Back on the road.

10:45 a.m. Children want to see Rio again.

12:30 p.m. We stop at our favorite drive-in restaurant for lunch. Amazingly, Ellie has wet through ANOTHER diaper? Also, only one surly waitress has been assigned to carside service. She ignores us, and then ignores us some more. Finally, a woman in the car next to us takes pity. When the waitress comes to take their order, she points to us and says, “Uhhh, they’ve been here for a long time, much longer than we have.” She sullenly takes our order. When she finally brings the food, she delivers it on one of those window-hangy trays, even though I had told her that we’d need it to go since we’d been there so long (an hour!). I’m afraid of her, but I muster the courage to ask her to bag it up for us. She is furious. I give her a big tip so she doesn’t slash our tires on the sly before we can peel out of there.

1:45 p.m. Finally eating food. No picnic tables available, so we set up lunch on a blanket in the grass. It’s fun! It’s so much fun, in fact, that both children, overstimulated by the wonders of nature, ignore their lunches completely.  I plead and admonish, but no one listens. The Daddy walks Maya in large circles around the park, trying to eat as she alternately sniffs and lunges. Poor guy.

2:15 p.m. Back on the road. Benjamin asks, “How much longer?” and “Can we watch Rio again?” I start listing all of the other movies I brought, but each selection is denied. I tell them we need a break from Rio for a little while and they should just watch the scenery go by, or maybe read a book. Benjamin reminds me that Ellie can’t read, so I suggest that he read to her. He chooses to watch the scenery. Ellie whines.

2:30 p.m. Both children are hungry and whiny. Surprise! I mention that they should’ve eaten lunch, and pass out snacks and juice boxes.

3:00 p.m. Ellie’s whining finally flips my overload switch. I yell at her to quit it already, which makes her cry. The crying is louder and screechier than the whining. The Daddy is wowed by my superior parenting skills.

3:15 p.m. You guessed it….Rio.

3:45 p.m. And more whining.

4:00 p.m. Can’t anyone just take a NAP? We stop to walk the dog again. I get some “coffee” (brown aquarium water?) at a gas station.

5:30 p.m. We stop at Wendy’s so the kids can get out of the car for a while. The Daddy is once again stuck with the dog, although I am beginning to feel jealous of dog duty. We try to order some food, since lunch was so poorly received. Ellie wants chicken; Benjamin wants nothing. Then he wants a cheeseburger. No, he doesn’t. Yes, he does. No. Yes? Oh wait – no. We get to the table, and it turns out that what he really wants is chicken. What I really want is a lobotomy. And ear plugs.

6:00 p.m. Getting closer. I talk the kids into watching Curious George, which is even more audibly irritating than Rio. Ellie says her “bums hurts” and Benjamin says, “Mine too!”

7:00 p.m. Getting closer.

7:30 p.m. Yesssssssss!

So there you have it – only eleven and a half hours. What am I complaining about?

Despite the pain of getting there, the rewards make it all worthwhile. Time spent with my parents is priceless, and they don’t get to see the kids enough. The beauty of the place is breathtaking, and what could be better than having a private place to play and swim, right in your own back yard?

It is simply heaven.


For The Woman Who Scrubbed My Sink

Dear Friend,

I saw you earlier today in the hall, when I was on my way to check out of my beautiful room. I wanted to say thank you for all that you did for me, but I was too shy (and worried that I was late for my meeting) to manage more than a quick smile and a rushed morning hello.

On the way to the airport, I thought about a typical day for you. I did your job in the summer between high school and college, although comparing what I did to what you do is like a parish priest comparing himself to the Pope. It was a Ramada Inn in a small Michigan town, as opposed to a world-class luxury hotel in ritzy Santa Barbara.

As I thought about you, I imagined that you likely awoke before dawn. You probably helped a child or two get ready for the day, and maybe you walked a dog. Perhaps you threw some dinner ingredients into a crock pot, as I often do, and put the clean dishes away that dried overnight. You probably put on your uniform at the last minute, wishing it was more comfortable, and plucked a pair of stiff black shoes from the bottom of your closet.

You arrived at work early and went in through the back entrance, smiling at various coworkers on the way, greeting them quietly in case of guests looming nearby. You hurried to the stock room to get a cart – you hoped you were early enough to score one of the newer carts with the squeak-free wheels. Finding one, you loaded it up with supplies; first the sheets, then the towels, then the cleaners and toiletries. You prayed for one of the good vacuums, since the bad ones could add as much as 3 minutes to the time spent in each room.

You stopped by the supervisor’s desk to get your list of room assignments, helpfully organized into “check-outs” and “stay-overs.” The sheet contained a time limit in which you should have completed all of the rooms, as though all messes are created equal. The time limit didn’t account for the kinds of disasters created by late-night parties/the food poisoning victim who couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time/the little girl who couldn’t bear to leave her hamster at home and has been keeping it in the bathtub for the past three days.

You pushed your heavy load down the hall, accustomed to and unaffected by the perpetual feeling that the whole thing was going to capsize. When I saw you, you were probably already on your fourth or fifth stay-over room, moving at a steady clip, not yet exhausted and dreaming of putting your feet up.

I should’ve said out loud that I’m grateful for what you do. At the very least, I should’ve left you a note on the dresser, thanking you for caring for me and cleaning up my mess in your unassuming, anonymous way. Your work is important and it is truly appreciated. For those of us who are especially weary of cleaning up our own messes (and those of our children), your services are a rare and cherished luxury.


The Woman With All The Unnecessary Shoes in Room 525