Every New Years, something seems to come up that just screams “let’s out do the previous year!” This year was no exception. The only thing about that was that the out doing of last year wasn’t the amount of drinks one could consume, or the extravagant explosions, it was the the sheer happiness with the place I am in my life. Well, we did have some explosions (SJ has the video to prove it) and there was a good deal of drinks to be had (I have the pics to prove that), but we also had peace and happiness and a ton of love. SJ and I are getting married in 3 months and the holiday’s put us through the ringer. From driving here and there to illness to what should Santa bring this year to a new “puppy”, we had a lot on our plates. Through all that we remained strong and in love as ever. Continue reading “Party like it was 1999… 11 years ago”
Day 2 of NC was a perfect way to wrap up our family road trip! The boys and I, along with the Bateman’s, headed off to play in the Atlantic for a few hours! After a quick stop at the “Shark Store” for a boogie board, a kite, and sand toys, we arrived at the beautiful beach! As a child, my family typically went to the Gulf for our vacations and the beaches there are gawgeous! I have to admit I was surprised to see how nice the Atlantic was how big and beautiful the waves were. Perfect for boogie boarding and body surfing. 🙂 Chase had the best time playing in the waves. I was a nervous wreck as usual…thinking he was going out too far…worried about the under toe…etc., but everybody had a safe, fun time. We wrapped up the day with some fresh seafood and a great dinner. By the end of the day we were full, tired, sunburned, and happy. We had such an amazing time on our trip, but we all agreed we were ready to be home. One final night in NC and we were heading home to sweet ol’ Georgia. The ride home was nice and quiet for the most part. Chase amazed me as a road tripper and really was an awesome car rider. As we crossed into the Georgia state line we found a Randy Travis station on Pandora that brought me right back to road trips I’ve taken in my life and the trips I took as a child in my dad’s ‘big truck’. As we listened and sang along I laughed and cried and smiled and shared stories and memories that the old country songs brought back to me. I felt lucky to have had the ‘abnormal childhood’ that I often joke about and to have such great memories connected to song…and even more lucky that my son will have his own road trip stories to tell now. This trip was my favorite part of my summer vacation…and little did I know it would soon be tied with another favorite part of the summer…just a few weeks later…
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Despite a bit of construction traffic we arrived in Philly a little after lunch time on Wednesday. Everyone was awaiting our arrival and it felt so good to be there! I love the constant flow of visitors and family through the house and MAN did we eat! The first night my Grandmom made us the most delicious meal: Ham, beans, potatoes, rolls. It was so nice to take a break from eating out or grabbing fast food on the road. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing and learning how to play pinochle. It’s a family tradition and SniperBen fell into place so perfectly. Everyone seemed to love him and he even got in some guy time with one of my uncles! Continue reading “Road Trip – Philly”
Every summer needs a summer vacation. This year our summer vacation was an epic road trip. Since Jess has family in Philly and I have some friends in NC that we hadn’t seen in a while, we figured it would be the perfect time to see them both all while visiting our nation’s capitol, especially since Jess and Chase had never been there and the last time I was there was when I was a kid.
As with every great road trip we planned it all out, got all our ducks in a row and headed out early. Our first stop was DC, approximately 10 hours away. The trip was a lot of fun. We played the usual car games of I Spy and how many different state license plates can we find (nearly 40 during the entire trip) and did some singing and all that. We made great time and arrived just in time for dinner. I had scoped out places to eat prior to getting there so we wouldn’t have to spend our time looking. First up was Matchbox DC – Vintage Pizza Bistro. The food and atmosphere were great! Continue reading “Road Trip – DC”
I’m not sure if it was the time difference or not…but the days in El Salvador were LONG! This was a good thing. I remember being at the beach or in the pool and it felt like 5:00. Thinking we should get ready for our dinner reservations, I would check the time and was always baffled that it was only 1 or 2 o’clock. Things moved slowly, time moved slowly, people moved slowly. The last month of school for me was fucking ridiculous a little busy so I soaked up the El Salvadorian pace as much as possible. No where to be at a specific time…no watch..no phone…just peace.
Now I will say that the laid back feeling was put on hold for our travel day. Here’s what I knew: 1) We were at LEAST 2 hours from the rental car place. 2) Where was that rental car place again? 3) Every time we venture out on four wheels, we get lost. 4) We had buddy passes 5)There is only ONE flight from San Salvador to Atlanta, GA a day.
Needless to say we left pretty early. We enjoyed another beautiful drive and were confident about directions so we were able to relax and talk and take pics and enjoy what may be one of most beautiful places I have ever been. I found myself envying the country that only a few days prior I was cursing at. It was raw, untouched, un-superficial, and happy. I remember wondering what the native people would think of Americans if they visited our home.
So we made it…and everything was smooth sailing. The bridge was out, again. We drove through the river, again. We were stopped by the policia in a routine traffic stop and made it to the rental car place with time to spare! They took us to the airport, bags checked, gate found, snack had…we were ready! Then…the stress began. Have you ever flown on standby? Well, it’s one thing to fly standby on a flight that leaves every 30 minutes, it’s another thing entirely to wait for seats on a flight that happens once a day! The gate filled up, fast. No one at the desk could tell us if we were getting on. I tried taking a head count of the people at our gate…there at least 100.
Ben: “Umm…ok. Maybe we should start thinking of a plan b?”
Jess: Biting nails. “No. There is no plan b. There is only plan a. Which is us, on that plane.” Cue hispanic man who sits in one of the few empty seats (beside me) dressed like a soldier only he’s not, but he does know his English expletives and smells likes he’s been up drinking for about oh, say, three days.
Hombre: “I’m sick of this fucking country…you? The police stole my laptop…and you know…I got a little pissed off…you know? Those police back there? points behind us to three cops… They are the ones…they are pissing me off following me. Hey amigo..to Ben…take this back to your friends…yeah?” He laughs…and hands Ben a homemade ‘cigar’ with God knows what inside of it.
Ben: Politely “Oh no thank you…I’m gonna pass this time.”
Jess: Oh my God we’re gonna be stuck here forever…
All dramatics aside, they loaded the plane for about 20 minutes before FINALLY calling our names. Biggest sigh of relief ever! And..it was first class. We watched a movie, had a great meal, and prepared to be home. I miss my nino so much I wanted to kiss his cheeks off when I saw him! We landed and were high on life. We made a beeline for baggage claim and were going to book it home because a very, very important finale was coming on that night! Last snag of the trip: no luggage. None of our three bags had made the trip back to Los Estados Unidos. We claimed the luggage as lost and made it home just in time to order a pizza and crash. Thankfully..the luggage showed up later that week!
We have souvenirs and memories from the trip that I will never forget. Jude and Neal are such a beautiful couple inside and out and being a part of their beautiful wedding was an honor. Adios El Salllbaaaddoooorrr!!!!!
The day of the wedding arrived and by now, SJ and I were totally ready for the journey. We had made contact with the outside world, got a general idea of where to meet up with Neal, go the times, and were out the door in record time. The wedding was at 11am, so we knew we should be out the door by 8. This would give us time to get to the hotel where Neal was, change, then head over to the location of the wedding. What we didn’t account for were road closings and the inability for Google Maps to give an accurate location of the hotel.
Jess was the driver and I was the navigator. I had my maps, my phone, and my eyes on the road. She was driving and not missing a beat. We soon realized that to get around this place you had to drive like the locals. The locals drive like they just don’t give a damn. So I had her going left and right and here and there and all over the place. We finally turned down what we Google thought was the road where the hotel was. As it turns out, it was simply a dead end on a cliff. We sat there for a few moments, took a few deep breaths, and started driving again. I can’t say how amazed I am at Jess’ calmness during all this. We were driving around people and busses and bikes and all manner of things that were jockeying for spot on the road. She zipped around here and there it was amazing.
I finally got in touch with Neal and he informed us that the hotel was in the south west part of town. We were currently driving through the north west. So we hauled ass down that way, and finally in a bold move on Jess’ part, asked a local for directions. This lady didn’t understand a bit of English, and we sure as hell didn’t understand her. What we were able to communicate was “Holiday Inn Santa Anna”. She understood, gave us some very detailed directions in Spanish using land marks like “banco” and “St. Nicholas” and making some sort of hand gesture like we’d be driving around a circle. We jetted away and sure enough we passed a bank, a big sign that was for some St. Nicholas thing and went through a round-a-bout! Next thing we knew we were at the hotel. I’ve never been more excited in my life. Jess shared in this joy. We felt so accomplished and proud of ourselves. We had overcome a LOT on this 3 hour journey and made it. There was no obstacle we couldn’t overcome at this point.
So we met up with Neal, quickly changed clothes then hopped back in Pedro for our trip to the location for the wedding. Luckily, we were following someone. After a mile or so, we soon realized this was going to be an interesting ride. The roads kept getting steeper and steeper. We were climbing further and further into the clouds. Once we finally got to our destination we had a beautiful view of the city. We had to be like 3 miles in the air (probably not that high, but it felt like it). The location was beautiful and the wedding got started as soon as we got there.
Contrary to most weddings I’ve been to, or been part of, this one was almost a “figure it out as you go” kinda thing. There wasn’t a ton of organization, but that was part of the fun. I was told to walk in with Neal, then wait, but now go, but you were supposed to stand over there, ok, now you all go sit down and BOOM, I now pronounce you husband and wife! It was a short and sweet ceremony, where unbeknownst to Neal and Jude they had to say their own vows. They totally winged it and it was perfect.
After the ceremony, we did the usual every possible picture combination possible thing. The food was traditional El Salvadorian and fantastic. We danced, talked, laughed, and just enjoyed ourselves. The Bishops had a beautiful wedding. Everything turned out as it should. There was no “backstage drama”, all the guests were happy, and it was a wonderful time. I love seeing my friends happy, and to be there on this day of ultimate happiness for both of them was an honor. To share it with the woman I love most in this world, made it unforgettable. This was quite possibly the best wedding I’ve ever been to….so far. 😉
As the day went on, the clouds rolled in. At first, we thought something was on fire, but as it turns out, it was just the clouds rolling UP the mountain we were on. Knowing our luck with driving and visibility down to about 10ft, SJ and I decided to roll out before the weather got any worse. We hopped in the car and took off down the mountain. Jess was now a pro El Salvadorian driver and handled the roads like a champ. We were soon below the clouds and well on our way back to the resort. We made it in record time and quickly got into our bathing suits so we could enjoy the evening by the pool. After all it was our final night in this place and we wanted to make the best of if.
Our final day in El Salvador had come to a close. We had witnessed our friends getting married and survived another journey in a foreign land. The next day was our final adventure and what an adventure it was going to be.
So we survived travel day! I will tell you that my anxiety level reached record levels that day. It’s funny how quickly my adventurous, spontaneous, free spirited ways drift away as I get older. I was literally a scared ball of nerves and felt so out of control. I kept telling SB that had I taken this trip with anyone else…I may have had a mental breakdown! Somehow…that man bring out a patient and level headed Jess.
The next day was Thursday. Jueves. (I do remember some things from High School!) We started the day off with a massage on the beach. It was JUST what my body needed after travel day and we walked out of the tiki huts feeling fannnntastic. We hit the pool asap and had cold drinks in our hands. We were ready to take on the challenges of language barriers and enjoy the beauty that was around us. What we were NOT prepared for…was the sun. Somehow, the idea to dab on a lil sunscreen escaped both of us. We don’t put it on at home…probably won’t need it here, right? Wrong. Only a few short hours later we realized just how burnt we were. Despite our efforts to put on sunscreen after the fact we decided to head inside for a siesta and to get out of the ball of fire.
Viernes. Needless to say we were sunburned, but we were feeling more and more comfortable with the surroundings at Decameron. We figured out what to eat (and more importantly NOT eat) at the restaurants and found a modest little spot on the beach to spend the day. It was covered by a tiki hut umbrella thing to block any unnecessary sun. We did some exploring in the ocean and took lots of pics. We relaxed and we had some talks that brought our relationship to an even better level. We needed this trip. 🙂 We also needed the day of relaxing to prepare us for the following day…Neal and Jude getting married! On Sabado…we continued our journey…
When Neal asked us to come to his and Jude’s wedding, I wasn’t sure that an excursion to another country would fit within the things we were going to be able to do this year. However, after much deliberating, Jess and I decided to do it. So we budgeted out the next few months and booked the trip. The events that followed were something I will never forget. 🙂
The morning of the trip sprang on us faster than we thought but we were ready. Chase was dropped off with his dad and we hit up the airport. We had buddy passes so we were on stand-by. No worries, we were about 5 hours early to the airport. It was freezing cold at the airport as well as on the plane. Being in first class certainly helped, but it was still chilly. The notion of anything cold soon evaporated. From what I remember it was about TWO THOUSAND DEGREES in El Salvador when we got there. The humidity was off the charts and it was a new kind of heat. Something the likes of Georgia just doesn’t have. No worries. This was a tropical adventure.
Having never been out of the country, Jess and I were ill prepared for the lack of U.S. Citizens and anyone that spoke english. We managed to round up our luggage and get to the rental car place. I had enough sense to pre-book us a car so we were quick to actually get in the car and get on the road. Despite not being able to speak the native tongue we were able to communicate as needed. The car they gave us was this 1992 Nissan Sentra that had seen better days. I’m not sure if they realized a) who was going to be driving this car and b) what country they were in. The roads were rough at best. Never-the-less, we made the best of it, and Jess, me, and “Pedro” (that’s the name we dubbed our car) were on our way.
It took about 30 mins to figure out where we were exactly, but once we got going it was an awesome drive. That is until we made it to the river that we had to drive through. Apparently, the roads in El Salvador aren’t their highest priority and a recent storm had washed away one of the bridges. Thankfully, the local children were gracious enough to navigate us down a dirt path through the actual river (about 12″ deep) to the other side. I will forever be grateful to the little children of El Salvador.
The rest of the ride was pretty straight forward. It was about 2 hours driving through gorgeous country side and cliffs overlooking the ocean. You could see mountains way off in the distance that dwarf anything I’ve seen before. The camera was all a flurry. With no music to keep us company, we resorted to talking to each other. It’s a foreign concept that seems be long gone from some relationships, but not this one. We talked about the cows and people on bikes. About how the people there seem to have a simple life. How no one seems to harbor any sort of ill intentions or desire to harm or wrong us. People were just nice there. The country was “untouched” as Jess put it. With out the distraction of a radio or technology or Facebooks and Twitters we really got to reconnect. That ride was something I will always remember.
Around 3pm El Salv. time we rolled up on the hotel. It was a stunning place and we figured surely, there would be other gringos there and someone to speak our language. Again, we were mistaken. All the hotel staff and guests and armed guards were either from El Salvador or from El Salvador. This didn’t stop Jess and I though, we were going to make the best of it. It took us a while to figure out what was going on, but we soon realized that at 3 they start checking people in. We were all (like 200 people) into a big conference room where we were assigned a number. This tiny little card with “88” was all we were given. Up on stage there was a guy that sounded like a cross between a Spanish auctioneer and a monster truck announcer was going to town. We saw people check their cards, then head up to one of five booths. We deduced that they were calling out the numbers. Jess knew enough Spanish to know that “88” was “ochenta y ocho”. So there we sat, listening for the those 2 words. Eventually, our number was called and we worked our way through what the host lady was saying at the booth. We got our key and a map of the hotel and headed to our room. The room was very nice. It was a million degrees outside, but inside, it was nice and cool.
After some unpacking and re-gaining of our bearings we donned our bathing suits, some towels and hit the pool. The resort was all inclusive, so the drinks were free. However they were served in the worlds smallest cups. Jess and I fixed that problem with a trip to the gift shop. We got our huge coffee mugs and were set for the rest of the trip. The rest of the afternoon was spent just walking around the resort, making sure we knew where everything was (bars, restaurants, spa, etc). Dinner was at Pastafari (a fusion of Italian and Jamaican food… still not sure that’s a successful combo). We wanted to hit up the shows or “discotech”, but sadly we were exhausted and decided to call it an early night. We had survived our first day in a foreign country where only about 1% of the people spoke our language. We had driven a tiny little car literally “over the river and through the woods” through streets lined with cows, old ladies on bikes, people selling shoes, DVDs, mangos, and children. It was an adventure. It was unforgettable, and it was only the beginning.
A few weeks ago Jess and I decided it would be nice to take Chase to Stone Mountain to see all the Christmas decorations, the laser show, the Atlanta skyline at sunset, and the building of the Snow Mountain area. Despite living in Georgia my entire life, I have never been on top of Stone Mountain. I know…it is a shock to me too! We packed up the camera, got bundled up, made a quick stop to get a snack, and we were on our way. Continue reading “On top of Stone Mountain”