When we walked into the house this afternoon, it felt like we had been away for a week. Or at least a few VERY LONG days. But less than 48 hours prior, we raced out the door for our Polar Express adventure. It was a LONG 48 hours ago.
For whatever its worth, we had the best of intentions. We really did. I was so excited that I was already planning to make this trip to Bryson City every year. I just knew that it was going to be so much fun and so relaxing that we'd be sad to leave and eager to return the following year.
Our planned escape from Atlanta was to take place on Friday at 2pm. Nope, it was a 3:30PM departure. And Mr. Garmin led us straight into traffic on 85N and a few other spots. An alleged 3.5 hour trip turned into 5 hours. And THAT is the good news.
The bad news was that Mr. Garmin really likes to take the fastest route possible, even if it only shaves off 2 or 3 minutes from the next best option. So, he decided to take us through the most curvy mountain roads that I've even seen. And saying that I've "seen" them isn't really the truth since it was pitch black by the time we were in North Carolina. And we were on said roads for 20+ miles.
Connor was watching "The Polar Express" on the 9 inch DVD player on the back of the passengers seat headrest. I would say that it was on the back of my headrest but I wasn't sitting there. I was wedged between the two kids in the back seat. Connor looked up after we'd been on this miserable mountain road for a good while and said, "my butt hurts". At least that's what we thought he said.
Until he started to barf.
In hindsight, I don't think he was referring to his butt. I think he might've been saying "my belly hurts". Luckily for us, we only had 2 or 3 more miles to go until we would be able to pull over to clean him up a bit. We drove up to the property management company to get the keys to our cabin and Dennis jumped out to talk details with the manager while I picked up our sweet, puke-covered little boy, and took off his shirt. The house was only a few miles away so it wasn't long before we could completely undress Connor and brush his teeth.
Once in the house, we were able to breathe a sigh of relief. We did it. We were there.
All four of us slept together in the main bedroom - Connor on his "blow up Big Boy bed" and Blake in the pack-n-play. I must admit that I fell in love with the king sized bed that was for Dennis and me. He was awake most of the night because he didn't feel well and I didn't even notice. I slept like a log.
We started off the next day in pretty good spirits. I was determined that this was going to be our most fun trip yet.
Dennis told me that he was bored and Connor was getting cabin-fever, so I suggested that they go to check out the "really cool waterfalls" that I heard about. So they did. I told Dennis that I thought the waterfall might be a short walk from the national park entrance, nothing too bad. They could go to check out the waterfall while I finished getting ready and fed Blake another time.
I was right that it wasn't a far walk to the waterfalls once you were in the park. It was .3 miles, Dennis said. What I wasn't so right about was it being an easy walk. Dennis told me it was straight uphill. And he had to carry Connor.
At least he didn't need a workout that day, then, right?
After they returned to the house, we set out to explore Bryson City. It took us approximately 2 minutes to drive there from the house, which was nice. And it was a cute little town.
We played around and checked out some of the gift shops, and stopped in a toy store geared just to train-lovers, AKA Connor. We walked out of there with an ornament for our Christmas tree and a new train for Connor. He only has 90,000 trains and so he definitely needed this one.
After eating lunch, Dennis said he'd take Connor to get the car if I'd take care of the check and our little girl. Seemed easy enough.
But it wasn't. Well, it was easy for me because Blake was asleep. Connor, on the other hand, decided that he didn't want to be carried to the car. And he didn't want to walk to the car, either. But he did want to scream and cry. Dennis LOVES carrying Connor when he is like that.
Needless to say, Dennis and Connor looked exhausted when they picked us up. They both needed a nap.
Lucky for them, they got one. As soon as we were back at the house, they both passed out.
I fed Blake and almost got to take a nap, too. We were all rested and so excited to ride The Polar Express. It was going to be SO. MUCH. FUN.
I probably should've known to bring my expectations down to a more normal (or sub-par) level when we had to park what seemed like a mile away from the train depot. It was gravel a lot, which is fine. The problem was that the stroller we brought with us doesn't work well on gravel. So Dennis ended up carrying Blake in her car seat and Connor walked along side me with his non-stop chatter about the train. He was really excited to ride a choo-choo.
I knew it! I just knew this was going to be the best trip ever.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention something. And it was rather disturbing. Yes, the kids in the movie are all wearing their PJ's and so it makes sense for the kids to wear their PJ's on this train ride. What doesn't make sense is for the parents to be wearing PJ's, too. We saw entire families in matching one-piece PJ's. Dennis made it very clear that if we ever came back that I shouldn't even so much as ask him to do that. Because the answer was always going to be NO. And I assured him that those words would never come out of my mouth.
OK, so we finished walking 85 miles to our train car. We lucked out and got the very last one. Eagerly, we boarded the train and were excited to find out that there weren't enough seats. Are you kidding me?! Technically there were ENOUGH seats but since they weren't assigned, people in groups of 6 or 2 or 5 or any other number just screwed us. We couldn't find 4 seats together. And it was 500 degrees on the train.
A party of six was nice enough to "squish" together so that we had 3 seats together. We weren't just squishing together, we were completed squashed. Blake and her car seat in one spot, Connor on Dennis' lap, and the camera, diaper bag, bottle bag, my purse and everything else you can imagine, were all piled on my lap.
The train departed and Connor was beside himself to be on a real, live, train. It was really sweet to see the amazement in his eyes and the other kids on the train.
The train departed and one of the Polar Express crewmembers, if you will call them that, was named Fluffy. And that was just such a perfect name for her. She was thrilled that we had a baby on the train and decided to come over to look at Blake and SCARE HER TO DEATH. This lady wasn't scary looking but as soon as Blake saw her, she started crying. And screaming. And Blake doesn't cry. It felt like it got 100 degrees warmer in our train car at that moment. Dennis shifted Connor over to my lap and grabbed our screaming little girl.
After she calmed down, we shifted again and I was holding Blake. And then she made a deposit in her pants. Of course she had to do that on the train. In these close quarters.
Fluffy came by again. And again. And again. And everytime she stopped by, Blake would cry.
It got to the point that when I saw Fluffy approaching our seats, I started to cry a little, too. I wasn't sure if I would be able to survive the entire 75 minute train ride.
We traveled past the North Pole, saw where Santa lives and saw a few elves. Then Santa got on the train and gave each child a bell. Connor was thrilled. Tired, but thrilled.
The train made it's way back to the station and Dennis kept making comments about Fluffy under his breath. He made me laugh so hard that I had tears rolling down my cheeks. The hilarity (is that a word?!) of the entire cluster-you-know-what was too much to take. And the train ride couldn't be over soon enough.
Once back at the station, we hiked another 85 miles back to the car. This time I was carrying the tired, crying, little boy of ours. He was so far past being done that it was a nightmare getting him loaded up and back into the car.
I packed tons of fun things to drink anticipating that we'd return home to the cabin on Saturday night, put the kids to bed, and be ready to relax and spend a few hours hanging out just the two of us. Again, I had the best of intentions... There is a good chance that I took two sips of my beer. MAYBE two sips. Probably just one. Dennis was sick and completely exhausted from the days activities. So the hot tub went un-used and we brought home all of the fun drinks that I packed for us to have that night.
We left early this morning (Sunday) and made it home in an easy 3 hours. We avoided the curvy-puke-inducing-road that we took on the way there and now that I think about it, those 3 hours might've been the only ones that went as planned.
We might not ever go back to Bryson City to participate in the Polar Express Train ride again. Or we might. But if we do, it won't be sooner than 2 or 3 years from now. We need to have slightly older children and we need time for the wounds to heal from this trip. We need to forget what we went through.
Then again, I don't want us to forget. Now that we are home, I can say with a smile that it was fun. OK, it's more of a smirk, but it's close to a smile. And we created Christmas memories that we'll joke about for years to come.