"Well, it was my son's birthday. Twenty-six years old. I don't even remember twenty-six years old. Oh, yes I do. Melissa was one year old and I think we were getting ready to move back to the Eastern Shore. The ex, well he wasn't the ex then of course, was stationed in the Air Force and his four years was up. We were living in Newport News, Virginia, and he gets a choice. He can either sign up for another four and move to Korea or he can get out. He chose to get the hell out and we moved into a dump of a house on the Eastern Shore. That house was haunted, too. Remind me to tell you that story.
So, anyway, it was Ryan's birthday and we really didn't have any concrete plans except I knew we were going out mountain seeing, then go to Walmart and get a birthday cake. I think if I can remember right we were going to have a little party back at the cabin (I even brought balloons from home) and watch a movie in the theater room which I hadn't been able to do since we got there.
I remember being not really happy I forgot milk coming in as there would be no traditional pancake, egg and bacon breakfast like last time we were in the Smokies a couple of years ago. That pissed me off, not to mention the fact I forgot the coffee, too.
Melissa comes in and asks me if I want her to use up all the eggs and I remember telling her to save them because when we got back to the cabin that night, I might pick up some milk when I picked up the birthday cake. So she starts cooking and I think I remember jumping on her laptop to check in with the girls at Pump Up. A few guffaws were reported by Cheryl, but other than that, it seemed to be running on its own.
I missed the girls - Cheryl, Jaime, Tracee and Becky. But I didn't miss all the work and what I did before I left was work overtime to get the first week's worth of tours done, then when I got back everything would be running on schedule.
So while I was deeply involved in deleting and answering email, Melissa asks me what we're going to be doing today and I tell her I guess we'll just ride out to the mountains, get a cake, come back here and have a party for Ryan.
That seemed to be the plan.
So I finish up with email reading and throw my dirty clothes into the washer. I had forgotten those damn white shorts I left hanging in the closet at home and had to wear the same pair of shorts throughout the trip which was really no big deal being as this was going to be a laid back trip anyway.
I threw the clothes into the washer and that's when everything fell apart...
'Where are the keys to the van, Mom?'
I froze in my tracks. Holy Jesus God, they were in the pockets of my freaking shorts in the washer!
I ran for the washer and tried to open the door but it was one of those washers that opened in the front instead of up top and it had an automatic lock on it. I couldn't get my freaking key out of my freaking shorts for the life of me!
I freaked, freaked, freaked! I ran into the other room and that's when they all piled into the washing room and tried to pry the lid off the washer.
Now, listen. It wouldn't be a big deal to leave a key in your pocket and have it washed but when it's an electronic key, it IS a big deal! And that's when Melissa lets into me. She's yelling and I'm yelling back, then crying, then yelling it was an accident!
They finally get the key out of the washer and try it. It worked. Okay so I've had a mini - heart attack but it worked. On the way out, though, I hear Melissa saying, 'Thank God Ryan left his door unlocked because the doors won't open when you lock them now.'
That's when I started crying. Again. I didn't want to let them see me cry, hell no, so I just sat in the back and wiped my eyes but uttered no sound.
So Melissa turns around and says, 'Just for the record, I'm sorry I yelled at you and have been a bitch this whole trip.'
You would think that would be the time when everyone kissed and made up but I'm still freaking pissed she yelled at me for something that was an accident!
So I said, 'Just don't talk to me.'
Isn't that what mothers say? Just don't talk to me. I was upset because I had paid all this money for this trip and it was already the trip from hell. I wasn't having fun, no one was having fun, it was one freaking thing after another and I vowed I would never ever ever do it again.
Well, we start out into the mountains after we stopped at McDonald's to get a bite to eat. After I had something in my stomach, I was feeling a little better and I really wanted to start enjoying this trip.
We pulled over to take some pictures and even found a little stream where we collected rocks to put in vases as decoration. The mood was starting to lift.
We left there and went to another spot, I can't remember the name of it but it was on the Tennessee/North Carolina border. Even had a sign saying that which we all took pictures of.
It's starting to get hot and we're thinking about going ahead back to the cabin, maybe get in the pool, maybe even walk down Gatlinburg like we planned, so we go ahead and get back in the van.
And that's when...the most horriblist of things happened. The key would not work.
INVALID KEY or something like that popped up on the dashboard. The guy who went with us tried and tried again over and over again and nothing would make that key work.
'Here give it to me,' Ryan said. 'It's probably just wet.'
Meanwhile, Melissa has gotten out of the van saying her stomach hurt and she was going to the bathroom. I followed her. She's crying and I'm praying.
On the way to the bathroom, I saw the most beautiful sight - a park ranger. 'I wonder if you could help us?' I pleaded. 'The van won't start. I washed the key and it's one of those electronic jobs and the van freaking won't start.'
He says where are you, I tell him and he follows us back.
The park ranger takes the key and tries it. Nothing. He tries it again. Nothing. I get out and pray again and Melissa gets out and starts crying again.
People were staring, but I didn't care. I guess there's nothing better to do.
The park ranger takes the key back to his car and dries it out some more. He said there was water all over the battery and that could be the reason why it wouldn't connect with the motor. Damn these electronic things...why can't they make normal keys anymore???
So he takes the key back to the van and tries it again. Nothing. 'Did you try calling the car rental people?' he asks.
'I did,' Melissa says, 'but they were rude and didn't help at all.'
I got out again and started at the cliff behind us and I said out loud, 'Please please help us.'
And that's when it started. Woohoo! I ran over to the park ranger and said, 'Can I hug you?' I didn't even wait for him to answer. I threw my arms around him and people watching were cheering me on. I owe Mr. Park Ranger the biggest Margaria I can find if he ever comes to Virginia.
So Mr. Park Ranger pulls off, the crowd goes back to looking at the mountains and we're yelling hallelajuh until...
Melissa has this idea of just going back home since we can't turn the freaking van off.
Well this time I was agreeing...I had had enough. I just wanted to go back to Virginia, but what a way to spend Ryan's birthday - on the road. No party. Nothing. And more freaking driving.
I told them I wanted to at least buy some t-shirts at Hard Rock Cafe on the way out being as we couldn't even buy souvenirs at that point. So that's what Ryan and I did - jump out real quick and buy the t-shirts while the rest stayed in the van with it running.
So we get back to the cabin and we're throwing everything back in suitcases and running out the door before the van overheats and head on back home.
What a wasted trip. What a freaking wasted trip. The whole vacation was spent going and coming and NOTHING else.
We figured we'd at least get to Virginia, get a room with a pool and have one last shot at vacation. We found a really nice hotel with a pool, then went out and had a nice dinner and that's how we spent poor Ryan's birthday. No cake, nothing. He did enjoy the pool, though.
So we're on the way home and guess what. The electrical system started messing up. We had stopped at a gas station and I had my window partly open. I ran in to use the bathroom, came back out and noticed that the automatic door closer didn't work. No big deal, I thought. I'll just do it manually. We take off and I notice my window won't shut. Then we notice the blinkers don't work and the windshield wipers don't work. As a matter of fact, the only thing working was the freaking engine and God knows how long that was still going to work.
We got home, though. And I look back to this day thinking why? Why did everything have to go wrong? Was there supposed to be a learning experience or two in there somewhere?
All I know is that this was something that no one but us four could ever relate to. Oh, I can tell you this story and you might be able to feel sorry for me just a tad, but it was one of those you had to be there experiences and I'll tell you this much...I never want to ever have to go through that again. The Smokies are beautiful, but this trip I don't think was ever meant to be in the first place.
'I told you I didn't want to go,' my daughter tells me after the fact. Well, I've gotta go home now, but be sure to give Chevy my best regards and if he ever makes a movie about it, I'll be in the front row laughing instead of crying."
Well, Chevy, what do you think? Chevy? Chevy?
I think he hung up.