I've always thought Chattanooga was a perfectly lovely place to visit.
It wasn't until one evening after a particularly long day that I realized just how much there is wrong with Chattanooga.
Now, I realize that there are several of my friends who think Chatty-town is a great place to live, breathe, attend school, yadda yadda yadda.
All I can think is this: I hope it's a LOoooOOng time before I see the hills around that town again.
The day before the Chattanooga incident, the kids and I had left our farm in northern Michigan and driven to Raini's house in Indiana, a 7 hour drive. The next day we threw Raini and Levi's things into our car... well, as fast as you can "throw" a carseat in the car when somebody's father is slightly OCD about how perfectly his son's seat is set in place....20 minutes and some very loud sighing on my part later, we were on our way.
That was around noon.
We'd gone prepared. Or so we thought.
We had a nice lunch packed, sandwiches, fruit, crackers and juice for everyone. We had special treat bags for the kids when they might need a snack before we could find a decent place for dinner, and loads of activities stuffed into pockets and boxes conveniently located within arms reach.
But there are a few things, we found out, that even when taken into consideration, can't be planned out very well.
Potty breaks, for instance.
Let's see: a four-year-old girl, a pregnant woman, and 2 two-year-olds still in diapers that get stinky without warning. At least we had 2 passengers who had reasonable ideas about bathroom breaks.
We made... a few stops here and there... and everywhere.
We had lunch on the road.
We had snacks on the road.
We looked and looked for one of those McDonald's with a play area for the kids to stretch their legs at before the big overnight sleep in the car seat, but could NOT find one anywhere.
Or a taco bell for that matter.
'Cause it's not like we actually wanted to EAT at McDonald's, just play there.
We couldn't find either one of those two things, let alone both at one exit. So we drove. And we drove. And we drove some more. In between potty breaks, of course.
At long last we came down the hill into the outskirts of Chattanooga. It was getting desperate in the small confines of the car.
We were all hungry, tired of sitting, and well, one of us at least, was in need of yet another potty break.
"Look!! A TACO BELL!", I screamed above the whiny din as I swerved toward the obliging exit.
Down the off ramp we went, giddy with excitement as we thought of burritos and happy children instead of hungry children.
We pulled in behind one other car in the drive-through, determined to grab dinner and keep going until we eventually found a good place for the kids to play instead of subjecting the other diners inside the restaurant to antsy kids running up and down the aisle.
We put in our order a few minutes later and pulled around to pay.
But instead we sat there in the car and waited.
We sat there over 20 minutes waiting for our food. If it hadn't been for the knowledge that we hadn't seen a taco bell anywhere in the last 100 miles and who knew where the next one was, we'd have left long before that. Or took all the kids inside and let them play there anyway while we waited, but we didn't want them to spit in our food.
Instead they got our food wrong. We had to go back in and get the missing stuff.
Some of our food was flat out COLD. So gross. Have you ever had a caramel apple empanada that was lukewarm? Eww.
As we pulled slowly away from the window, feeling slightly frustrated and defeated, I spotted a gas station between the Taco Bell and the freeway.
"I'm going to run in there real quick and grab some cough drops for Joshua.", I said as I pulled into the parking area next to the convenience store. He'd found a cough somewhere on the first leg of the trip and was by then coughing pretty miserably.
In I ran.
I was antsy. We'd already wasted almost half an hour on a "quick" stop that the kids hadn't even been able to get out of the car on. We needed to make time! Soon they'd be falling asleep and we all knew how badly that would go if they didn't get in some quality play time OUTSIDE of their seats first.
I hurried around the store and grabbed exactly one thing off the shelf: a small package of halls.
I hurried up to the counter, to find three college age girls standing at the counter, laughing and carrying on with the cashier while they took turns buying scratch-its and scratching them off right there at the counter.
I glanced around, wondering if there were another cashier who might be a little more eager to take my money.
Come on. Anyone? I have CASH HERE!!!, I wanted to say.
I thought at first maybe she just didn't see me since I was so much shorter than the three girls at the counter.
Ahem, Ahem, AHEM! I coughed.
About then a young couple walked in, waltzed their way down to the soft drinks, made their selection and waltzed back up to the counter. Strange? Not unless you take into consideration they really were kind of dancing their way through the store, and to top that off, the girl was SINGING.
All out, unabashed, singing along with the song on the radio like it was the most normal thing to do.
You know, hang out at the gas station on a Monday night, sway around the store, your boyfriend swaying right along with you, and pretend it's karaoke night.
The cashier STILL wasn't in a hurry.
The shortness thing was definitely not an excuse any more. She couldn't HELP but have noticed the other... customers... in the store by then.
Apparently we are now in the south, I muttered to myself as the three college girls giggled over their scratch-its and the couple continued to sway back and forth with their arms around each other.
NO one is in a hurry down here.
No one except US!! We were in an all out hurry to get OUT of there!
Somewhere just over the border we found the elusive playplace and the kids had a blast for about an hour before we deemed it necessary to press on.
Back in the seats they went, and on we drove, through the night, and into Florida.
This is NOT what we looked like when we arrived there:
But unfortunately my phone won't spit out the very comical pictures of us sitting at the Denny's in Lakeland at 6 am the next morning... so this is what you get!