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Sharon’s Blog : No room at the inn (I mean campground): Spring Break with the guys

Posted by Sharon O'Donnell on 2007/04/14 17:40:03

Well, last week’s trip to Florida certainly was an experience. We started out late on a Friday afternoon — my husband, Kevin, had meetings until 6 so we couldn’t get away until then. Our destination — along with our three sons, male long-haired dachshund, and 30 foot travel trailer –was a campground north of Jacksonville. We’d camp there and then drive the rest of the way to Tampa and Clearwater, FL the next day.

The late start meant we didn’t pull into the campground until 2:00 in the morning. But we’d stayed at this campground before and knew that arriving late was okay; you just pick up your lot assignment at the office window. But this time there was no lot assignment for us. No notes at all. My three sleepy boys and I watched Kevin at the office window as he searched in vain for the reservation info that was supposed to be there. I got that “uh-oh” feeling in the pit of my stomach. Our dog, Fenway, who has this really weird attachment and loyalty to Kevin, was looking out the SUV window, his nose on the glass, whimpering.
Then Kevin came back, furious because the campground had not honored our reservation made two months earlier. There were no lots left at all, so we pulled back out onto I-95, hoping to find somewhere to stop.

I have to admit I got a little excited at the thought that we might have to get a hotel room for the night and leave our camper in the parking lot. I smiled, thinking of the hotel bathroom with lots of towels, warm water, and much more space than our camper bathroom had. Showers in our camper consisted of taking a shower within the 15 seconds before the warm water ran out, trying not to bump your head or other body parts getting out of the tiny shower stall, and finding a towel that had not been used by another family member. So you can understand my excitement at a possible reprieve from camping life.

Then I remembered the little brown dog on my lap and realized it would be nearly impossible to find a hotel room that accepted pets. We might have to settle for pulling over at a rest stop and sleeping in the parking lot in complete darkness. We stopped at a Comfort Inn, but it had a sign on the door saying “No Rooms Available”.

By that time it was 2:30, and we were all pretty drowsy. Amazingly, we saw a sign for a campground. We pulled in to find there were plenty of spots to hook up our camper, and the office window sign said, “Pick a lot, see you in the morning”. So we finally found a spot to park the camper but then the real fun began. My husband had to extend the side of the camper and then pull out the end of it where the queen bed was. My son turned the fold-out couch into a bed and helped hook up the electricity, water, and sewer. Next, there were sheets to put on the beds. By the time we were all in bed, it was after 3 a.m.

We slept well until a little after 6, when we awoke to the sound of airplanes overhead. Imagine our joy to discover our campground was on the direct flight path of Jacksonville Airport.

The rest of our trip was to be a typical vacation for this mom of boys: a water park visit, a visit to Bush Gardens where our main priority was to get back to the TV in time for the Red Sox opening game of the season on ESPN, and the supposed highlight — a hockey game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and our hometown Carolina Hurricanes (yes, we drove hundreds of miles to Tampa to see the ‘Canes play even though we had good tickets to two Hurricanes games in Raleigh — but my guys all wanted to see them play in another arena for some odd reason — HOW do I get roped into these things??). The Canes ended up losing, which meant they would not get into the play-offs this year. Which meant we were all disappointed afterwards.

And what did we do with the dog while we were out at these various activities? He was content to stay in our camper on the queen bed — as long as we also placed Kevin’s boots on the bed beside him. He sees it as his duty to guard the boots — or any other possession of Kevin’s — so he stayed in that one spot. He guards Kevin’s things at home, too, and barks at anyone who comes near. I think our house of testosterone has rubbed off on him a bit too much.

I do have to admit I did get to sneak away from the guys once — a long-time friend of mine, Tina, lives in Tampa with her family. I left the guys at the water park for a few hours and went to have lunch with her at the tea room she works in. We had a little time to catch up on life. A nice estrogen escape. And the tea room is wonderful with delicious food, including Tina’s yummy recipe for Tuna Salad. The place is called Miracles – part gift shop and part tea room. The tea room portion is called Maggie’s tea room. It’s in the New Tampa part of the city, about 15 to 20 minutes from Busch Gardens. Those of you who live near there, check it out!

And we also saw Kevin’s grad school buddies, Chuck and Pat. We know Chuck really well since he spent some time living in Cary near us. He was a great tour guide down there and took us to a terrific restaurant on the beach called Guppie’s, where the waiter called me “Young lady.”
Yes, I know this was probably just because he wanted a big tip, but still, it was nice to hear.
Chuck also took us to a unique shopping area at Meirdera Beach, where of course, the only store we actually bought anything in was a sports store.

We did have a pool at our campground, but it was frequented mostly by retirees who lived there year-round, so I was reluctant to let our boys play as energetically and loudly as they usually do. OUr six-year-old threw a small beach ball into the path of an elderly lady walking across the pool, and based on the shock that showed on her face, I don’t think this is a regular occurrence at this particular pool. My guys had to tone it down.

Then we drove up the coast to Tallahassee and the Florida State campus, where Kevin received his graduate degree in Finance back in 1984. Very pretty place. Our oldest, Billy, a 10th grader, is starting to look at colleges now, and he even had a brief meeting with an admissions counselor. What did we learn? That I’m not ready to have my ‘little’ boy go off to college, particularly hundreds of miles away. It truly is amazing to me how quickly the time has flown since he was a little boy. This college trip made his growing up very real to me. Strange, strange feeling.


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