On Wednesday night we hosted a going away party. It was a chance for us to show off Wesley, our 1985 VW Westfalia camper van, before we drive it to South America, and a chance for our friends to show off their Hawaiian party shirts. I think most people were impressed by Wesley.
The kids had spent the preceding week with their grandparents and R and I used the time to empty every drawer in the house of stray paper clips and find a nesting place in Wesley for every electronics cord that we own even if we weren't sure which tablet, iPod, laptop, Kindle, or MP3 player it belonged to or if we would ever remember which plastic bin, tub, or tray we had stored it in. It was satisfying to empty the house of much of the meaningless riff raff we'd managed to accumulate and a lot of fun finding places to store things in Wesley, and then just as much fun finding things to store in the places we found to store things. For example, R found this secret place on top of the water tank that was hard to get to but perfect for things we had to bring, but weren't going to need every day, like Coconut's 365 day supply of contact lenses. After we got the box of contact lenses squeezed in, we kept on jamming things in, amazed at the amount of found space, and it wasn't until we lost a tube of sunscreen between the back wall and the water tank that we realized we couldn't store anything as small as a tube of sunscreen there. But we found a domino and a bunch of dog hair in another secret spot next to the bench, so we are hopeful that an as of yet unrevealed spot will yield something useful.
Anyway, the point is R spent a lot of time planning where in Wesley to put our clothes, toiletries, plates, cups, pots, bedding, chapstick, and toolbox so they would be accessible when needed, but in surface versus deep storage based on the probability that we would need them daily, weekly, or not at all, and I spent a lot of time wandering around the house wondering if I should bring my Teva's and my flip flops, or just my flip flops. I'm not too good at packing but by the time it was party time, R had everything in its place in Wesley, I had the van refrigerator packed with luke-warm beer, the awning over the slider door was pulled taut and staked and the loft bed popped up and looking cozy. We chose not to shatter this idyllic vision of life on the road by actually starting the engine so everyone could hear the uneven idle and smell the overloaded fuses.
It was nice to hear the support from our friends for our planned adventure and to share our excitement with them. It turns out that many are just as excited as we are, and it was interesting to see what they thought would be important for us to bring along by the gifts they gave us: wet wipes for an instant shower from the musician who had spent time on tour, a bobblehead zen kitty for the dashboard from a therapist dedicated to relaxation, a tourniquet and windshield hammer from our first responder friend, "chill pills" for R from her father to help her loosen up when necessary (don't get any ideas we are a traveling pharmacy; the "chill pills" were just ibuprofen in a pill bottle my father-in-law doctored with his own label), and duct tape (my tool of choice) from a half dozen others.
Then, finally, on Friday morning, July 31, 2015, we were ready to put the pedal to the thin and worn carpet laid over the metal.
Our first destination was a brief stop in Richmond to visit my grandmother who will turn 94 this October, and then it was on to Williamsburg so that J could experience the class trip that he will be missing during this, his fourth grade school year. We were a bit concerned that a trip down route 95 on a steaming hot Friday morning in a van with no air conditioning and in the direction of Virginia Beach would not be the most auspicious beginning to a year spent on the road. Things went amazingly well, however, and we take that as a sign that choosing this trip was the right thing to do. Yes, we sweated, but not profusely, because in what should be recognized by the authorities at the Vatican as a minor miracle, traffic never actually came to a standstill. There was a car stopped in the middle lane of route 95, but it wasn't ours. A cricket flew in our open window while we were driving, landed on J, kissed him on the neck and then flew out the other window. Oh, and at one point J, the boy who won't admit he's ever tired, actually took a nap stretched out across the bench seat and Coconut let him put his feet in her lap. It's too soon to say, but maybe this brave act by Coconut is proof in the pudding that she and J will actually draw closer as brother and sister during this year.
My sisters and nephew drove from New Jersey to meet us in Williamsburg and we promptly dropped big dollars on dinner at a Colonial tavern on Friday night, two hundred dollars at Water Country USA on Saturday, another hundred at dinner on Saturday night, and we made our best effort to enrich the shareholders of Busch Gardens amusement park today.
It's an unsustainable pace for us to spend money, but it's been a lot of fun. Thus far, our very untraditional plan for the year has gotten off on the foot of a very traditional American vacation.