When you grow up broke in a rural part of the south, the zenith of vacation mountain is Walt Disney World. Especially when you don’t know any better and neither does anyone around you.
And if you grow up broke like me, this is a once maybe twice event as you grow up. So, I was in my really early teenage years, and my family managed to get enough money together to do a trip to Disney.
Unfortunately, my uncle’s family got enough money together at the same time. So the decision was made to make it a joint family trip. Separate cars, separate hotels even. But we would convoy together from the homestead all the way to Florida (about a 14 hour drive) and do most of the park visits together.
However, as the day of departure was approaching, the first wrinkle in the plan showed up. A hurricane headed straight for Mobile, AL, right in the middle of our journey across the I-10. Wouldn’t effect Disney World when we got there, but the trick was that landfall was on the exact day of departure.
The plan was to get up ass early (4am) and hit the road to miss all but weak feeder bands as we drove across the gulf coast.
Well, cut to 4am. We ready. No Uncle. We look at each other confused. Pop on the weather channel. Storm track hasn’t moved. So we call my uncle. [Editor’s Note: All of my uncle’s comments were to my dad.]
“Brother-in-law, we packing it up right now. We gunna be at your house in 30 min.”
30 min passes. No uncle & family. 30 more min. Nothing. They got an extra 30 min from my parents gratis before the phone call.
“Brother-in-law, I had to fix my radio. You know I can’t get down the road if I don’t have my tunes going. Ill have it up in an hour”
Daylight creeps up. An hour passes by…nothing. Another phone call.
“Brother-in-law, one of my little shits broke the fucking seat belt. Look, get down the road, I’ll catch up no problem.”
So, we headed out. Completely uneventful (I don’t even remember any of it) until Alabama. Feeder bands were making landfall by then. We are MID storm. My dad is like holding the steering wheel a bit to the right to make up for the winds.
And of course call from my uncle.
“Brother-in-law, we left an hour ago. We are right behind you.”
So, my mom makes the fateful decision. Completely out of the hurricane zone was Tallahassee. We would stop at this rest area in Tallahassee and wait the hour for my uncle to catch up.
Little did we know what was in store for us…
We ended up staying at that rest stop SIX god damn hours.
Turns out my uncle was giving us a load of bullshit the whole god damn time. My mom called, FURIOUS every hour. And every hour my uncle made it sound like he was around the corner. My favorite of the update calls happened about 4 hours through our extended rest area stay.
“BROTHER-IN-LAW, I JUST DROVE THROUGH THE EYE”
The eye of that hurricane was about 100 miles still off shore.
“I HAD MY MUSIC PLAYING BROTHER-IN-LAW AND I DROVE THRU DA EYE!!!!”
He was still another 2 hours out.
Have you ever been at a rest area for six fucking hours. We were not prepared for this. I had my Gameboy to be sure, but I didn’t want to waste out all my AAs.
So, it was boredom. There was a little trail back through there, but it was too fucking hot to do anything. And it wasn’t one of those rest areas with a big huge air conditioned place. It had a small area where the bathrooms were and that’s it.
We had all the doors open on our Econoline van, hanging out like a bunch of hobos. And the oppressive heat made us look ragged…
But not as ragged as the things we saw. I think it will come as a shock to no one that over six hours you can see quite a bit of humanity pass through a rest area on I-10. Personally, I was impressed with the variety of objects people hit their kids with. Magazines, fans, coke bottles (both full and empty)… I saw one person chase their kid with a tennis racket.
I saw a family dump Gatorade bottle after Gatorade bottle on the side. I am assuming it was piss.
I tried to occupy my time. I read every single roadside attraction pamphlet they had at the rest area. Alot of weird (defunct now, I’m sure) Americana. I remember this was the first time I realized that Medieval Times was not something they made up for The Cable Guy.
There were internal fights. Questions of if we could go to like an IHOP or something and ride out the time in the fridged A/C. Oh no, my mom said my uncle would be right around the corner. We just had to wait.
The hours melted away in the heat. My mom got angrier and angrier. Finally, just as the sun was setting, a suburban came HAULING into the rest area. I am almost positive he accelerated as soon as he hit the off ramp for the rest area. Huge loud screech as he slammed the breaks to come to a stop right near our van-encampment.
“WE MAKING IT TO DISNEY TONIGHT”
We didn’t. We made it a bit further down the road and got a hotel.
The best part of the whole shit is after we left the hotel the next morning, we never saw them again for the rest of the trip. They were in a hotel on the other side of the park. We made one earnest attempt to connect with each other at EPCOT.
This was in the days before cell phones, so we just said we would meet “at the big ball” at a particular time. Nearest we can tell either 1) we were on different sides of the ball or 2) my uncle’s family never showed up and they lied to us.
We ended up having a decent vacation, at least as far as any vacation to Orlando can be. But, it’s those six hours in the rest area that ended up being the thing we talk about even almost 30 years later.