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Brandi Chambless – The Conquistadors

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The alternative to a vacation is to stay home and tip every third person you see.  ~Author Unknown

The sandwiches are neatly packed in the ice chest along with two cases of ice cold drinks.  It’s 4 AM.  All possible preparations for a memorable summer vacation have been made and this is going to be THE year.  It’s time to beat the system.

Everyone enjoys the number one tourist destinations in the world, but there’s nothing like being lured into over-priced, underrated tourist traps to leave travelers feeling duped.   Moms and Dads, feeling duped.

Not this year.  Not this girl.  Freshly prepared chicken salad with grapes and nuts, pimento cheese tea sandwiches, freshly picked fruit, blonde brownies, and mango tea are one of the finest inaugural road-trip meals I can imagine.  Too bad I’m not my Mama and I only packed Oscar Mayer, Wonder Bread, and Diet Cokes.  Excursions that Walt Disney himself could not manufacture await my kid’s summer junket, all within Mama’s super-savings stowaway.

Isn’t this wonderful?  A picnic on the riverbank after skidding down the first rapids—I’m completely insouciant in the snake-free setting unlike the waters of my youth.

Two snakes and 1,099 turtles later, a thunder-less storm bursts forth from a heavy sky.  Anticipating lightning, I know my kitchen creations are fitted in the dry box, safer than I.  If I make it out of this jungle alive, I will have six more days to recover buried in the crystal North-American sands that have been calling my name.

I’m satisfied on day two of my vacation as my eyes open in a budget hotel and I reach for a whole grain breakfast bar.  I’m quite familiar with the wholesale cost of eggs and am just not willing to fall prey to high-priced island buffets.  I can squeeze my own juice later.  Pass the hotel brew, please.  Wow, I’m so Martha.  My Mama would totally approve.  I should write an article about this.

The sunrise of day three bears witness that we’ve been through a lot.  All the preparation for my road trip and money I’ve saved in advance warrant a boutique hotel.  I deserve it.  How else is my son going to experience history?

Setting my toes on the soft shelly Atlantic shoreline, I splurge.  I’ll have what she’s having. Anything served in a melon cup is probably filled with vitamins.  Like a child at play, I surf among the sharks and treat myself to a free salt scrub once the tide has tossed me ashore.  God is good.  Woo Hoo! I don’t care who hears.

Hey Mom, can I get a burger?

I have all of these cold cuts and mustard with our favorite chips, but sure.  Why not?  Have a burger…AND A SHAKE.  Do you want fries to go with that?  Vacation is for everyone!  Garçon, can I have another one of those fancy smoothies?  Two umbrellas this time!  Room 204, thank you!  Isn’t vacation grand?

Several hours later, I’m flat-ironed and pressed, starring face to face with twin spiny lobsters.  We are SO doing this every year from now on.

Couldn’t Day 4 be a repeat of Day 3?  Sunburned skin provides reason enough to justify a breakfast buffet with fresh fruit.  Everyone needs fiber on vacation.  The drinks in my ice chest are now floating in lukewarm water.  Another day at the beach may require a new cover up and large-brimmed sun hat.

Later that night.  More seafood.  When in Rome.

Since the budget is letting loose some, let’s take an excursion, visit a souvenir shop, buy some silver and a large piece of crystal that will never end up in a garage sale a few years from now.

Day 5.  This ice chest is gross.  Mom, should I order Surf-N-Turf or Macaroni and Cheese?

Day 6.  Longing for home, I can’t remember any food groups other than string cheese, peanut butter and jelly, death by seafood, and grape soda.  Another $39 hamburger? No problem.  Put it on my room.

After viewing the hotel bill in the wee hours of Day 7, the boutique bellhop gives us a twenty-dollar wave goodbye just before sunrise.  Stunned, we drive until dark in silence.  What part of “pre-paid” did we misunderstand? 

We more clearly comprehend the saying sight for sore eyes when our stinky Labrador Retriever nearly jumps into the car as I open the driver’s door.  Though my plan to beat the system didn’t really pan out this year, sleeping in my own bed again was priceless.

I decided that along with the hope of going to some far away land and all the earthly paradisium of the conquest, there remains a longing for the something more precious than silver to which no remedy this side of Heaven can complete.  Complacent as our lives may be, I believe therein lies a secret blessing like a chest filled with buried treasure.

Like the great conquistadors of old, we made the incredible journey—one in which we did go and grow, read, play, and think.  We did retreat.  We returned with aches, pains, utter exhaustion, and an outpouring of a thankful heart for the blessings great and small, and great anticipation for the things to come.  Ahoy!

“Wake up, Matey!  We’re home!”

Read Brandi’s column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

 

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