(As always, you can click on the pics to get the full size. This is not like subjecting you to a 200-picture slide show of our family vacation on the paneled walls of my living room — this is slightly less annoying.)
The family summer vacation is winding down with a long return trip from Orlando to Amarillo: ten days, five states, three thousand miles, in one very old minivan. We embark on the final leg today in our last set of clean clothes, unshaven, a little sunburned, and with sand still lodged in some questionable places. This was the first summer vacation in which not all of us were present — Valerie is working as a youth ministry intern at the Pleasant Ridge Church of Christ in Arlington this summer. So, yeah, that’s a little weird. Time is getting away from us. Quickly. Man, we’ve got to enjoy these family vacations.
But we did our typical every-four-years Orlando vacation. We caught “throwed rolls” at Lambert’s Café in Gulf Shores, Alabama and spent a wonderful day on the beach there together. We also caught a really strange rock band — Voodoo Gumbo — doing some interesting covers of the Stones, Poison, Michael Jackson, and Foreigner. We found a brand new Chuy’s in Orlando (Yes!) and worshiped with a wonderful group of Christ-followers at Celebration Community Church just four or five miles away from our condo.
And it rained. Every day in Orlando it rained. Sometimes it started at 5:00 in the afternoon, sometimes it started at noon. But every afternoon and evening it rained.
However, that didn’t dampen our spirits. Much. We stayed away from Disney and spent two very full days at the Universal theme parks. We rode the best roller coasters (Hulk, Dragon’s Challenge, Rockin’ Rockit, Mummy, Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall), walked around in amazement at the new Harry Potter addition, saw the cheesy Jimmy Fallon thing, waited in long lines, did two or three too many 3-D virtual rides, and ate a lot of very expensive fast food. We got wet and dried off, we took a lot of corny pictures, we ran the wrong way down moving sidewalks, and we had dinner at the world’s largest Hard Rock Café.
We ate Krusty Burgers and drank Buzz Cola at the Simpsons!
We also drove up to Cocoa Beach for a day and just spent another day hanging out at the condo.
Now we’re driving back home via a little weekend detour in Arlington with Carrie-Anne’s mom and a chance to enjoy a meal and an hour or two with Valerie.
I treasure these vacations with Carrie-Anne and our daughters. Fifty hours in the van with no data on the phones, all crammed in together, is just about the only time we have anymore to give each other our full undivided attention. When we find a good radio station we sing Tom Petty and the Eagles together. But in between those times, we talk. And laugh. We share memories from vacations past, we delight in seeing new things, we make plans for the future, and we dream a little together about what might be. We evaluate our current situations and we talk about possibilities and options for all of us. We smile broadly at the really great things that bless our lives and we look intently for the grace of God in the not-so-great things.
Valerie’s probably out for family vacations now. By this time next year Carley will be a high school graduate. Who knows what these will look like down the road? Who knows that maybe we haven’t already taken our last family vacation? Weird. It happened fast. I suppose we’ll still travel without kids, right? But singing “Texas, Our Texas!” as we cross the border back into the Lone Star State won’t be the same if it’s just Carrie-Anne and me.