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Thoughts from the Lower 40: ARE WE THERE YET? Part 2
In May 7 Issue
By Wade Daffron, Columnist

Hmmm, let's see, now where did I leave off last time?

Just to recap, cheap, family vacation to the Carolina coast LONG drive, three kids, all seven and under, you get the picture.

Arrived at the beach exhausted on a nice day.

Woke up the next morning to thunder and pouring rain-which oddly enough seems to be centered only along the beach.

Discovered the joys of a hotel pool and a nearby Dollar Tree, and the horrors of staring at bikini-clad women that aren't your wife.


Sometimes, you just gotta be resourceful.

The near-monsoon at the beach drove us inland, where we decided, what the heck, we're going to have a "fancy meal."

I only eat meat and bread, Wifey is a vegetarian, and each of the three kids, of course wanted something different.

Which lead to the decision to please us all: Dominos Pizza.

Nothing like being hundreds of miles from home and doing something different.

I know a lot of people go to expensive seafood places, or (heaven forbid) a restaurant where you have to wear shoes and a shirt, but we don't roll like that.

At one point, I'm pretty sure I counted at least four, empty pizza boxes in our hotel room. I thought about building a "pizza box fort" with them, but didn't wish to draw attention to myself as everyone else was entranced with a rerun of "America's Funniest Home Videos."

We were originally going to stay at Carolina Beach for THREE nights, but due to a scheduling problem, we had to high-tail it about two hours south to Myrtle Beach.

Oh yeah, you know what I'm thinking…PAR-TAY! You ever been to Myrtle Beach in the off-season?

I got to know practically EVERYONE who was at Myrtle Beach, which was my family, the desk clerk at our second, even-cheaper hotel, and some guy I always seemed to run into on the elevator. That was about it.

We spent our first evening at Myrtle Beach not on the beach, but, you guessed it, in the hotel pool.

This is an important point because you must remember I had already lost a contact in the pool of the previous hotel.

On my first dive into this pool, I came up out of the water…blinded. I had lost my other, remaining contact.

Somehow, someway, by the grace of God, I looked down to see a tiny "bubble" sinking to the bottom of the pool.

Almost as in slow-motion, I cupped my hand around the disappearing contact, and snatched it from a certain, chlorine death.

I swam to the edge of the pool, where a young boy stood watching me.

He ran to his mother and say, "Mommy, mommy, that man poked his eye out!"

I didn't…yet.

Another interesting pool issue was the fact that even though it was an indoor pool, it was located in a detached building-away from the section of hotel rooms.

Which meant that one had to walk quite a distance from the room, through a parking garage, and across an outdoor garden/sunning area, to the actual pool building.

Anyone ever notice how the wind seems to be blow all the time at the beach?

Anyone ever notice how that wind feels when it's raining, and the temperature is in the 50s?

Anyone ever notice how cold that feels when you're coming from a heated pool, carrying two, small, frozen popsicle-like children under your arms? Yep.

The "strip" along the beach was all but shut down.

There were remnants of a small, amusement park, about 100 different pancake restaurants (all closed), t-shirts shops (where you could get a colorful, spray-painted t-shirt with your name and a unicorn on it), and a couple of tiny little grocery stores where you could purchase a gallon of milk for about $6.

The only place we found open and thriving? Domino's Pizza.

Needless to say, by the time the end of the week rolled around, I'm pretty sure I was sweating herbs and spices.

Speaking of sweating… On the LAST day of vacation, I peeked through the curtains to see…wait…what is that…could it be…SUNSHINE!

We polished off the remaining boxes of Little Debbie snack cakes (which had been long ago crushed during the car trip), and headed to the beach.

By golly, we were going to actually spend some time on the beach one way or another! I also decided that there was no way I was going to go on a beach vacation and not come back home looking tan and trim. (OK, tan then.)

We all found a nice little spot on the sand, and I "excused" myself to sneak back to the room.


To get "some extra towels", I said. (TRANSLATION-I'm no fool, I was going to put on some extra sunblock!).

I made an official declaration that we would be staying on the beach…until dark. We had a wonderful afternoon, and I think I may have even cracked a smile or two. (No, for real.)

After about five hours, and with the sun setting on the horizon, we packed up our belongings, got ready, and actually did end up having sort of a "fancy meal" at a nearby Hard Rock Café, where I critiqued all the instruments hanging on the wall, and pouted because Wifey wouldn't let me keep the little flag they stuck in my sandwich. (Darn-it!)

Later that evening, our youngest son, Drake had shockingly fallen asleep during yet another rerun of "America's Funniest Home Videos."

He rose up out of bed, and I noticed he must have a fever because his forehead seemed red.

He started to speak, but all that came out of his mouth was a stream of projectile vomit.

He groaned, pulled several blankets over his head, and went back to sleep.

"What is wrong with him?" Wifey asked as she stripped the sheets off the bed, carefully maneuvering around the sleeping children.

"Looks like he's got a fever, like you do," I responded. "You're both red as beets."

"Have you looked at yourself?" she said?

I turned, looked in the mirror, and saw a startling, shocking image staring back at me.

I was not red, I was scarlet. Flaming red. Fire engine red. Blood red. Molten lava red.

How? How could that be?

I looked around the room to see daughter Kate and Izzy with steam coming off their tiny bodies.

I considered Drake's present condition, and come up with the diagnosis of…SUN POISONING!

What do we do? Do we need medical attention? Do we need to head home immediately? Are there any Little Debbie snack cakes left?

Wifey did some Internet research (I personally think she was facebooking), and determined our lives were not in danger.

"But I swear, it looks like you keep getting redder," she said.

And she was right.

I could actually feel my skin getting "tighter." I dug around to find what kind of sunblock I had used, or THOUGHT I had used.

In my haste, I had actually smeared myself in suntan LOTION, not sunblock, and I was now literally baking in my flip-flops. Ouch, and ouch!

I slept fitfully (if any) that night and we were on the road home in the morning.

It was Drake's birthday, and he chose to celebrate by wanting to stop at an IHOP. (That's my boy!)

We made it home safe (Thank you, Lord!), and to this day, are still going through our "vacation laundry."

You know what's weird? We somehow managed not to bring a grain of sand home with us.

What was my favorite part of vacation?

We spent nearly a week together with no arguments, no disputes (Well, there was that Hard Rock Café flag thing…), just family fun.

We did it as cheaply as we could-even though we probably really couldn't afford it.

But to me, the memories are priceless.

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