This past year has been full of changes in my life (moving, career advancement, new house, etc.) Needless to say, I’ve had little time to take a vacation. Reflecting on this assignment I started thinking about all of the wonderful opportunities I’ve had to travel in the past. My travels to Europe, Alaska, the Pacific North West and the Caribbean have been nothing short of magical and I could indulge myself in near essays on those trips.
However this post isn’t about those enchanting whims through the streets of Paris or scenic hikes around the base of Mount McKinley. This post is about an ill fated, but well intended trip to rural Florida, that began at a retirement park shuffleboard tournament and ended at a Tampa Bay Costco. A trip that has inspired to me the sentiment “If life gives you lemons, then get yourself some Kirkland brand vodka” .
After a particularly gruelling winter in Northern Ontario, I had decided on a whim (and a little wine) that a visit to somewhere warm was in absolute order. Luckily, my in-laws owned a small vacation home in a retirement park, in a fairly remote town in central Florida.
“Florida is always sunny!” I erroneously announce to my husband, who has at this point has realized that begrudging acceptance is his best argument.
Two discount plane tickets later we were on our way to tropical humidity paradise. My spend-thrift way landed us a multi-layover flight, giving us the unique vantage to explore the bathrooms of no less than seven American airports. If enquiring minds wonder, O’Hare has by far the nicest. Finally, after hours of making new friends with the people we were nestled between on opposite ends of the plane, we saw the ocean – bright, gleaming and through a 8×8 window.
My father in law greeted us excitedly at the airport, and we were off on weekend adventure! Winding through the backroads of Tampa and into rural towns full of Windixie delights, the palm trees dwindled away to mossy swamp land – we were almost there. Our arrival to the retirement park was full of delighted anticipation on my behalf, and clear dread on my husbands – after all what twenty-something doesn’t want to spend three days in small trailer with their parents?
We celebrated the first evening with cocktails on the deck, enjoying the last hours of sunshine, and conversations with people whom we weren’t uncomfortably sharing tiny armrests with.
“There is a shuffleboard tournament tomorrow morning” My father in law announced
Enthusiastically I retort, “I am a pro at shuffleboard” – this is an absolute fallacy.
In the morning we joined the rest of the park at the club house, the air rife with competitive anticipation and whisps Bailey’s laden morning coffee. The sunshine of yesterday, had given way to tropical showers, the likes of which I was told hadn’t been seen there in weeks. But, there we were, and I was determined to enjoy my trip, and kick some butt at a sport which I had never actually played. Incidentally, shuffleboard pucks don’t shuffle in the rain, and our game was cut short.
“I probably would have won too” I informed my father in law.
Having narrowly been spared the humiliation of losing a game which I had talked up so much, we deferred ourselves to the streets of Zephyrhills. The torrential rains had taken their toll on the town and much of it had lost power. We strolled the aisles of Big Lots as if it were Fifth Avenue, and triumphantly returned to our blacked out trailer with a dozen hotdogs, and other delicacies that we could craft up sans electricity. We grilled, we laughed, we went to bed at 8:45.
Our third and final day brought forth the opportunity for a trip into the city, perhaps even to the beach. The previous days storm had not broken our spirits, we were going to have our big day out. Traffic however, had decided otherwise. A purported two hour drive into town, saw the major highways shut down due to heavy construction and a slew of fender benders, and took only slightly longer than discount airline flight across the country. We arrived in the city, with only moments to spare prior to the Costco closing time.
“This has been one heck of a trip, eh?” My mother in law announced as we glided into the liquor aisle. “I think we need margaritas” And as fate would have it, there was absolutely no tequila left – Kirkland brand vodka it was.
But here’s the thing; those Costco brand vodka and limeade were delicious; the laughs we shared in the glacially paced traffic were endless; the power-outrage hotdogs were actually the best I’ve ever had; and I got to keep my pride in tact having not been absolutely beaten at shuffle board. Sometimes vacations end up being a comedy of errors, and what should have been a weekend beach getaway, is ultimately spent in the backseat of a truck on the interstate. Vacations aren’t always about dreamy sightseeing, or gourmet dining, sometimes the best travel memories are just the time you spend with people you love, and the crazy circumstances you overcome. Because, hey, when the Canadian weather is warm, and your glass is filled with real margaritas, you need trips like this to look back on and laugh.