Saturday morning, February 16th. Packed and ready to go. I took the first leg of the drive to Scranton, PA. Bandit got half a pill to keep him quiet, but he still yowled almost the whole way. Chris and I were about to pull our own heads off, ha ha. Got to the Econo Lodge and since it was President's Day weekend, we ended up with a smoking room with two double beds. The room reeked of smoke and the bathroom was filthy. Yuck.
I ended up sleeping with Guin on one bed - she was so restless. Bandit passed out. I guess it was too much yowling for him.
The next morning, we grabbed coffee at Dunkin Donuts and Chris drove the rest of the way to Virginia. It was mainly highway on 84 (we avoided 95 because of the horrendous traffic around the DC area) and when we got closer to Ashland, the highways became more rural. It was a pretty ride and it was exciting as the temperature kept climbing the more south we went.
Every state we drove through, we'd stop to use the restroom, let the dogs do their thing or get more coffee and we'd get a $1 lottery ticket. We won $25 on one and were psyched with that, LOL. That day we gave Bandit a whole pill and he pretty much slept the entire ride, so it was a lot quieter and more enjoyable.
Got to Ashland and checked into the Quality Inn
. A very nice hotel - got a king bed, non-smoking, with access to the grass in the courtyard by the pool. What a difference from the other hotel. We ended up getting a free breakfast at the coffee shop both mornings and it was a full breakfast with coffee and choice of eggs w/toast or pancakes w/bacon. Pretty darned good deal.
I called my contact at Randolph Macon College
and she said she had something to bring by the hotel for us. Debbie ended up bringing a huge basket filled with goodies to us. I was so surprised! There were snacks, chips and salsa, a bottle of white wine with two wine glasses from a local vineyard, a large bottle of water, snacks for the dogs and two toys for the dogs, plus a package of notecards with the RMC logo on it and a sports bottle also with the school logo on it.
We did drive through at Arby's that night and ate in the room. The next morning I headed over to the college to give my first talk. They were expecting about 45 students/staff and ended up with over 60 people - it was standing room only. Got great questions, had pizza with the students and had a good time.
It was 76 degrees when I headed back to the hotel. Chris and I took the dogs for a drive around town. Ashland has a pretty downtown area, then strip malls and such on the outskirts. The college campus is beautiful!
Chris and I went to dinner at a local BBQ joint with some of the students who'd attended my talk and a few of the instructors. It was fun and good food.
My nighttime talk had even more people show up and I sold a bunch of books afterwards. The local police chief met me and was impressed, as well as a local reporter who interviewed me. Here's the link to his article
. It was great and when I got back to the room, I was exhausted, but stayed up a bit to watch TV with Chris.
The next morning Chris drove to Pennsylvania and we stopped in Hershey to visit Chocolate World
. I had raved about the place when I went there in the fall and Chris wanted to see it for himself. The look on his face when we walked into the store with all that candy was precious. He had a hard time finding what he wanted to get. He was literally a kid in the candy store. I got more of the green tea chocolate bars and we picked up a couple of things for his kids, who we'd be picking up the next day on the way home.
We got to Scranton and this time stayed at a Clarion Hotel. The catch was that the pets floor was on the fifth floor. Ah - what? Which meant we had to time taking the dogs down in the elevator. The room was even better (third time's the charm, eh?) and we had room service to wind down from the drive. Although we'd given Bandit 3/4 of a pill this time, he fought it and was grumpy as heck the entire way from Virginia. We got Bandit and Guin settled in, then went downstairs to the bar for a drink. I had a glass of wine and he had a beer. It's all we could handle. We were tired from all the driving.
We went back upstairs, settled in bed to watch some TV and heard nothing but teenagers in the adjoining room screaming and yelling and running across the hall to another room. Hey, kids will be kids, so we let it go until 10 pm. We wanted to sleep. Chris got up, knocked on the adjoining door and said loudly, "Please keep it down, we're trying to sleep."
It was quiet for a bit, then got worse. I called the front desk and they said they'd take care of it. We heard the phone ring in the next room and it quieted down. We fell asleep. I got up once to take the dogs out, no problems.
When we checked out, it was the same person who'd called the teens next door. She told me that after that phone call, they'd had to call again because they could HEAR the teens in the lobby. Yes, from the fifth floor. When I told her I needed to pay for the food and bar, she told me to forget about it and apologized for the problem with the teens.
Yahoo! Since I used my reward points for this room, that night cost us a big, fat zero.
I drove to Massachusetts and we met Chris' ex to get the kids. His son is 13 and daughter is 11 and they're good kids. And very cute - they have Chris' eyes. Bandit wouldn't shut up and I ended up sitting in the back with Bandit on my lap and Guin on Chris' daughter's lap. That was the only way to shut them up, LOL.
Got home, unpacked, then repacked for my next trip to Yarmouth the next morning. We got pizza and I hit bed early. Got up, showered, dressed, kissed Chris, then drove to Yarmouth. I would be staying overnight. My first talk was before lunch for the high school kids. They were appropriately quiet when I told them what the consequences of posting the wrong things on Myspace and Facebook were. I checked into my room, called Chris and he was doing a job moving some furniture. He'd taken the kids with him since it was only supposed to be a couple of hours of work.
I did my staff training for over an hour, then met with some of the mothers of students for appetizers and had nice talks with them. Two of them said their kids had been at my talk and thought I was great and "real." Cool!
Did my parent talk and sold all of the books I'd brought with me - hooray! I was tired, but had to stay up to watch LOST (which Chris is now hooked on as well) and called him. It turned out the woman he was helping to move was a bit scatterbrained and it ended up taking him eight hours. He'd dropped the kids off at the house after a couple of hours and he was as tired as me.
The next morning I went to LL Bean to pick up a couple of things, then went back to the school to do my talk with the middle school students. Another hit with the kids!
Drove home and was so glad to see Chris and his kids. I took a shower, changed into my jammies, we had spaghetti for dinner, then I watched the three of them play golf on the Nintendo Wii. I was too tired to play.
The next morning Chris and his son went to plow the driveways at the condos and his daughter and I cleaned up around the house and talked. I helped the kids put songs on their MP3 players and we had a really good time. We all went to see the movie "Witless Protection" (don't bother - it sucked big time), then to Olive Garden for dinner. It took us an hour to get a table, but the food was excellent and worth it.
We played Wii - all of us and had a good time. The next morning we took the kids to the beach and to see the Nubble Lighthouse, then back to Massachusetts to their mom and soon-to-be stepdad. Yep, Chris' ex is also getting married. Her wedding is in August and she's doing a full out wedding. I'm really happy for her - I like her a lot.
Got home and it was so quiet. Guin kept running around the house looking for the kids, which was funny.
One thing that Chris' daughter said to me struck me. She saw the photo of Chris and me on the fridge and I told her it was taken the night he asked me to marry him. She hugged me and said, "I'm so glad you're going to be my stepmom."
Wow. If you'd told me 10 years ago I was going to be a stepmom, I would have laughed you right out of the room. I never, ever wanted to have kids, but having them "part-time" like this is pretty darned cool. And fun.