September 12, 2014

Vacation - Kind Of

The week of September 1st was supposed to be a relatively relaxing one. My dad was going to fly down on Tuesday, my brother was graduating from basic combat training (BCT), and we were going to take a relaxing drive up to Virginia to deliver him to his advanced individual training (AIT). And the best part? No work! Easy. Perfect. Good times had by all.

And then I blinked and it was over.

I had high hopes to redesign the blog and to put up pictures and develop some of my pages. I was going to prepare loads of posts for future dates when I was either too busy to post or didn't have a whole lot going on. THEN, I was going to clean my house, do all my laundry, wash my car, cut the lawn and take a longgggg soak in my tub.

Needless to say, none of those things happened. I stayed up late the night before my dad's arrival to organize the house and prepare the guest room (semi-reveal to come!). The morning of his arrival, I drove to Charlotte to pick him up at the airport and straight down to Charleston for an afternoon jaunt through town. Dad's never been to Charleston and I thought it would be nice to spend a little father-daughter time exploring a city. I've been once or twice but have never spent a significant amount of time there. 

It turned out to be an absolutely beautiful day. We took a stroll around the Waterfront Park, saw dolphins off the coast and had lunch at AW Shucks (highly recommended). We walked around Market Street and took a trip over to Rainbow Row. All in all, a very successful endeavor for a measly afternoon field trip. 
I couldn't see the screen to take the shot.
I'm surprised our heads are even in it. 

We then drove the 3.5 hours back to my house. All in all, I spent about eight hours in the car on Tuesday and filled my gas tank twice. 

Wednesday morning rolled around and Matt, Dad and I drove to Fort Jackson bright and early for one of the two graduation ceremonies that take place for soldiers upon completion of boot camp. Wednesday is Family Day and on base this means that soldiers with family have free reign of the base (but can't leave to go anywhere else). So after the ceremony we took advantage of the indoor-amenities and bowled, watched a movie at the theater and ate and ate and ate. 

Turns out, I am the best bowler in the family. (But I already knew that. Suckers.)

Photo cred: Matt - this is immediately after I stopped crying. 
I know I'm getting older because even happy occasions make me cry. 
And I am not a pretty crier. 
Russell was required to report back to the barracks at 1930 hours (that's 7:30 PM to "civis" as the army folk like to say) so Matt, Dad and I drove home to relax. We got home at 8:30 and by 9:30 I could no longer keep my eyes open. So I shut them for a second...and then it was Thursday.

Matt worked on Thursday so Dad and I went to graduation together and it took us an hour and a half to get there with the crazy traffic. Once we parked, we sat in the bleachers where ultimately we could not see or hear the going-ons of the ceremony because there were so many people in front of us and because the speakers were pointed away from our seats. So instead of fighting the crowds, we sat around baking in the hot sun until it was over (Dad bought a DVD so that we can relive the experience from the comfort of our air conditioned homes). 

Russell could not WAIT to book it out of training - having spent 10 1/2 weeks under the thumbs of cranky drill sergeants - so as soon as everything was over we hightailed it to the barracks (READ: Sat in traffic some more), picked up the remainder of his stuff and made a B-line back to my place for some R&R. Upon arrival, Russell immediately secluded himself up in the room above the garage with the kitten, where the two of them made video calls to the various friends that Russ had not spoken to in 2.5 months. We missed you too, pal.

Thursday night was dinner with Matt's mom, where we gorged ourselves on the best barbecue pizza I've ever had (the key is a tangy mustard base - Carolina Gold!).

I stole this from my Instagram. When I wasn't driving,
I was creeping on Russell in the back seat.
He was mostly unawares of my mischief.
I had the idea that we would be up and at 'em and out the door by 7 AM on Friday to head to Virginia. Of course, my plans never work, and this was no exception. Dad slept on the couch so that Russell could have the guest bed. He didn't sleep well as a result and was a little late to rise. Russell had promised to finish folding all his laundry that I had washed and dried and pack it before morning. Instead, he stayed on the phone until 2 AM (after having woken up at 4 AM the previous day). So by the time I got around to knocking on his door at 6 blah blah o'clock, he still had to get up, pack, shower, pack, doze, pack and play with the kitten. Long story shortened a little: we didn't leave until 8 AM. 

Virginia is a 7 hour haul from my house and with stops for gas and snacks and stretches, we arrived at base right on time at 3:30. Russell was supposed to check in by 4. I won't bore you with all the details but he did that and we did other stuff and then we left him to play with his friends. Dad and I proceeded to our lousy hotel (very disappointing) and then drove back to base and back to the hotel a second time, where I promptly passed out for 9 hours.

Saturday, we met Russell for breakfast, immediately followed by a trip to Best Buy so that he could purchase some necessary supplies. While he's at AIT, I'll be making him apply to colleges in hopes of enrolling in the Spring Semester. Oh, the essays he'll write! We dropped him back at base to set up and what not and Dad and I spent the afternoon on Virginia Beach. I've never been, but it was really nice! And hot. So hot. But there were more dolphins and luckily the place was not that busy. 


We didn't actually walk on the pier. They wanted $2 per person per VIEW. I think not.
I made the mistake of not drinking enough water (I never do) and ended up with a bit of a headache by the time we left. We had intended to take a dip in the [not crowded and less likely to be shark infested] waters of the hotel pool. Which was closed... In the middle of the day... On a weekend... During tourist season and 90 degree heat... Due to "end of season maintenance". *Sigh* 

We picked up Russell for dinner at 6 and made the short drive to Smoky Bones BBQ Grill and let me tell you - it was so, so good. Like, really delicious. A great experience and the highlight meal of our trip.

And then all of a sudden it was Sunday. Russell had to be to base by 12 PM for his first formation and shake down, where they confiscate his civilian clothes and verify that he has all of his army issued equipment and apparel. So we had breakfast at IHop and delivered him (sadly) to base. 
My "little" brother, making me feel short. 

Dad and I then drove alllll the way back down to Charlotte to bring him to the airport (with an hour long detour to JR's. Not sure if any of you are familiar, but it's like a warehouse kind of like.. Big Lots or Job Lot. Everything is discounted or overstock, etc. I was looking for a comforter! And books! Naturally, I found neither). 

I sat with Dad at the airport for about an hour until his flight and no sooner did I watch him walk into the security check point... cue tears. I cried and cried and cried all the way back to my car. And in the garage. And while waiting in line to pay for parking. And at the gas station. And almost all the way home. And a little when I got back to the house (some two hours later). 

I am very unprofessional at goodbyes.

It was a sad end to what felt like a very short week. I miss them already. That being said, however, we had a pretty good time despite the fact that it was essentially a business trip. And I am so very proud of my brother! And so happy to have seen them both! Prepare for a photo dump:

Dad says, "Oh! Are we taking a .. a facey?! Wait,what are they called?"
Insert hysterical laughter from Russell and me *HERE*.

All in all, I drove about 1500 miles over the course of a week, spent more than 25 hours in the car, and filled my gas tank six times. I am still recovering and I'll tell ya, I think I need a vacation to recover from my vacation.

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