Quote of the Day: “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” –Lao Tzu
It is really amazing all the good a road trip can do. TB and the gang took off Thursday night in route to a job for Friday morning in Hattiesburg and with the intention of doing something, we did not know what, by Friday lunch. We did know we were not returning home until Sunday evening. It’s the kind of trip we used to take when we were only two, with no planning, no reservations and no hesitation. And now we know it works just as well for three as it did for two.
For an hour Friday morning we scoured the internet looking for just the right bargain hotel deal in New Orleans. We talked the night before about the aquarium, the zoo, the park, where to eat and all the other little details you should have an idea about prior to embarking on a road trip. We were at last settled on a plan, but decided making the reservation could wait until after lunch. So we lunched and stopped for gas and provisions for the road. Standing at the gas pump, a warm southerly breeze suddenly set sail through my hair, leaving it more pleasantly mussed than usual. I thought I caught the scent of salt, from memory or the moment I could not be sure. Then I finished fueling up the car and the passengers and warily suggested we turn left instead of right on leaving the Hub City. The breeze was a messenger from the road trip gods, I reasoned. Let’s go to the beach instead. Because my gang of travelers are pros, they recognize travel inspiration when they see it. They enthusiastically endorsed my new plan; “ok”, from the passenger seat and “milk” from the back.
So we wound up in Fort Morgan, Alabama, less than a hundred miles as the seagull flies from my hometown and a mere dozen miles from Gulf Shores, Alabama, practically my back yard as a teenager. But a place I’d never been. My crew found a condo perfect for our needs and much lower than our original budget allowed. TB is a notoriously poor negotiator when dealing for my own purposes, so it is well that I have a shrewd bargainer on the team. For once however, it looked like our last minute maneuvering might backfire as the master negotiator reached an impasse, after business hours no less, with the condo booking company. The last refuge of the last minute traveler is to bite the bullet and pay top dollar out of desperation, an act of which I am much more willing to resort than my consort. But after an hour of haggling, exercising the walk away, and then striking out at the competitors for a better deal, it was decided we would, for the first time in our joint careers, be forced to do just that. I volunteered to go in and put up the big money and endure the shame of slinking back to the deal we’d so gallantly eschewed just a short time before. I went with the sheepish grin instead of the million watt megacharmer and the gods were pleased. For no reason at all, the agent “remembered” she could give a 20% discount to walk-ins and suggested I could knock off another twenty bucks by foregoing the travel insurance we didn’t even know was part of the previous rate. We ended up paying even less than expected, which was to be expected considering we were on a beach road trip in late February with storms in the forecast.
Our stay at the ingeniously named “Beach Club” was all we hoped it would be. We walked on the beach, took photos of our third wheel in all manner of poses and moods, swam in the heated pool, ate pizza, drank cheap wine (or milk), slept late, waited for the storm that continually threatened but never delivered and planned our next trip. We were there only 36 hours or so, but it seemed like more. Our batteries recharged. The recession receded. Our resolve to repeatedly retreat from reality was reinforced. And we realized our recent addition assuredly received the road trip trait, same as her folks, when we heard tears from astern as we headed north from the coast. “Hey guys,” I said soothingly, “I hear there are some good last minute airfares out there. Maybe I should see what I can find for a weekend in March?” From the co-pilot’s chair, “ok”, and from the jumpseat, “milk.”
Look for notes from Phoenix in a few weeks. Or maybe Fort Lauderdale.