I left two almost two weeks ago for a trip to Alabama with my good friend, Mallory. We had never taken a trip together before, so we were both very excited. We’re both planners, so this time we planned not to plan. We were going to buck the system and just go with the flow.
Honestly, I don’t know that the trip could have gone any smoother compatibility-wise. We both get up early. Neither one of us takes forever to get ready. We both enjoy just being on the beach and soaking up some sun. We both love to shop. We both love to eat. We both love to read. We both love coffee.
The love of coffee being the most important part, naturally.
So, we were set to leave before the crack of dawn Monday morning. Mal waited to the night before we left to inform her husband what time we needed to leave their house for the airport. 4:45 a.m. His incredulous response was “Fuh-fuh-fuh…???” He was a good sport about it, though.
At 6:00 a.m., we were bound for Chicago. Once we got to our terminal, we only had about 20 minutes to wait before we boarded our plane to Pensacola…where unbeknownst to us we would sit for over an hour waiting for our pilot (who was flying another plane) to get there. No part of that was fun.
Finally, we were off and we landed at Pensacola. We headed to the car rental desk to pick up the compact car I had reserved only to find out there were no compact cars left. Of course, they upgraded us to the next thingt they had available.
This is a 2014 Chevy Traverse loaded with leather seats, sun roof, back-up cam, three-rows of seats, and a TV screen hanging from the ceiling for all the kids we didn’t bring with us. I was kind of excited about this vehicle until I started driving it and found out I couldn’t drive it. Backing this thing up was a nightmare. No wonder it has a backup cam… YA CAN’T SEE ANYTHING OUT THE BACK!! And I’m just way too much of a control freak to trust anything but my eyes to see everything that needs to be seen when backing up. At one point, I made Mallory get out and direct me out of a parking spot because it is just really hard to maneuver a bus in a small parking lot. And trust me, we needed about a 1 acre lot to turn this thing. Driving this did give us a lot of laughs, though…when we weren’t screeching…or cringing.
The drive to our hotel was about 45 minutes and the first thing someone from Orange Beach asked us was, “New York, huh? We don’t get many New Yorkers around here.” (Our Traverse had New York plates.) I wanted to say, “Yes, sir. That’s correct. And I can’t park this thing because I’ve only ever taken taxis anywhere.”
After stopping at the hotel, we went in search of place to eat. Mallory had been to Orange Beach before, so she directed me to a place called The Wharf where shops and some restaurants are located. There’s a café there called Southern Grind that has salads, sandwiches, and most importantly, gelato. I scarfed down a Honey Walnut Chicken Salad sandwich, pasta salad, kettle-cooked chips, one scoop of Coffee Toffee gelato, and one scoop of Raspberry Cheescake gelato.
After that, I honestly don’t remember much about that day. Probably because I got up at 4:15 and everything got kind of foggy. I think we might have done a little shopping and some more eating that evening.
Oh, and we walked on the beach.
Tuesday morning, we got up at 6:30 a.m. and headed down to breakfast. We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Orange Beach and I would highly recommend it just based on the breakfast and the view out the hotel windows. Unfortunately, this is what it did all morning.
Yeah, it’s pouring down rain.
Every time we thought it had let up…
It was more of this.
And we were very…
First World Problems
About noon, it finally passed. However, the overcast, cloudy skies stayed with us for the rest of the day. We didn’t even care at this point. We had come to Orange Beach to sit out on the beach and, by golly, that’s what we were going to do.
And we were very happy.
I took this cute little picture of the beach and Mal’s feet. It’s one of my favorites from our trip.
So, we stayed out there for about 2 1/2 hours. We decided that sunscreen was probably unnecessary since it was so cloudy. I mean… I know you can still get burnt if it’s cloudy, but it takes longer…right?
As the afternoon crept into early evening, Mal and I started getting redder and redder.
We went to Lulu’s in Gulf Shores that evening. Excellent, by the way. The restaurant is right on one of the channels and it’s open to the water. The only thing cooling you are ceiling fans and the breeze. It was lovely.
On our walk back to “the bus,” we decided we were going to invest in some Noxema for our ever-increasing lobster state. My skin was starting to become unwieldy and stiff. With every step, Mallory was going, “Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.” Meanwhile, we’re both laughing at the sheer stupidity of what we had done.
We got back to the hotel and put Noxema on so thick that we were totally white and walking like mummies. It was then we decided to run down to the hotel lobby, grab some coffee, and settle in for a couple episodes of Scandal on Mallory’s iPad.
Have you ever smelled Noxema?
It has a very distinct, very strong scent. Eucalyptus oil. Menthol. Chemicals. If you haven’t smelled it, you’ll just have to trust me. It’ll clear your sinuses. It’s stout stuff.
Back to my story, we’re on the 7th floor of the hotel, so we’ve got a little bit of a ride on the elevator. We pull on sweats and long-sleeved shirts to cover up our completely white skin and head down the hallway like a couple of weirdos trying not to let anything touch.
We get into the elevator…and have to stop at every floor on the way down to let people on. By the time we get to the first floor, we’re all packed into this little elevator like sardines and I’m about to die because I am 100% certain that everyone in that elevator is being assaulted with the odor of Noxema.
When we got off the elevator, we laughed so hard we cried. (By the way, the maids cleaned our room every day after that and the smell still lingered.)
On Wednesday, we got up early and did our now morning ritual of breakfast and coffee while watching the ocean. However, we were too burnt to enjoy the beach that day. We thought it best to give ourselves a break so we could go out and do it all over again on Thursday.
So, we decided it was a good day to sit on the hotel deck (in the shade, of course), read our books, and then maybe go get some pampering. A couple of facials, massages, mani/pedis. We called around and there were no openings. Very disappointing since my husband was the one that encouraged a spa day and told me to get the works.
For lunch, we headed back to our favorite little lunch spot (Southern Grind) and I ordered unsweetened tea for my drink. This is when the guy at the cash register goes, “Where are you girls from?” I said, “Missouri.” He goes, “Wow! You’re a long way from home! You two are too burnt to be from around here. That’s how I always know.”
I thought to myself, Pfsshh, it was because I ordered unsweetened tea.
But, we were pretty burnt.
We stayed at The Wharf and walked in and out of shops for a little while. After that, we decided to head to Gulf Shores and go to a nail salon for mani-pedis.
I feel it is important to remind you at this juncture that we are still very burnt. However, Mal had a nice tan going on her legs and feet already due to taking her kids out for recess every day. (She’s a kindergarten teacher.) I, however, did not have that going in my favor. Therefore, I was very…very red. My feet, ankles, and the tops of my legs were not ok. I put my feet in the warm, bubbly, fizzy water and knew inside of my heart of hearts that this was not going to be good.
This was taken right before I settled in for the most excruciating massage of my life.
It started with just letting my feet soak and a lady working on my nails. Everything was going just dandy until she walked away and came back with a wet washcloth. She slapped this blazing washcloth on my already charred arm and proceeded to massage-slap the top of the washcloth. At this point, I did one of those close-mouthed shrieks and said, “MMMMMMMMM!!!! I can’t take it!!” She laughed at me and honestly, who wouldn’t? It was perfect punishment.
However, I wasn’t done yet. After the wash cloth fiasco, a different nail technician sits down in front of me to work on my feet. Meanwhile, I hear Mallory say to hers, “No hot stones, please. No hot stones.” I immediately turn to mine and say, “No hot stones for me, either!” He goes, “No hot stones?” I say, “No hot stones…and no hot washcloths, either. Cold washcloths” He chuckles and says, “You are very red.” No, really??
After he gets my toes in tip-top shape, he pours this green gel into his hands and rubs it on my leg. It is at this point that I discover the grittiness of this substance and think to myself, These people are enjoying this! Seriously??!!! He never looked up or he would have seen the tormented cringe on my face. My guy was a little ahead of Mal’s at this point so a minute or two later, Mal looks over at me wide-eyed with “This does NOT feel good” written all over her face.
Meanwhile, my nail tech is Helga from Hades rubbing lotion on my red, exfoliated leg like he’s trying to give somebody an indian burn. And I am shaking trying to control the laughter I’m holding back at the hilarity of my current situation. It hurt. So. Bad.
Pain equals beauty, right? Lots and lots of beauty here.
He painted my toes beautifully and I got up to move to the nail painting station. I sat down next to a kind woman who said to me, “Oh darling,’ your poor legs.” I chuckled and said, “Yeah, that exfoliating massage didn’t help me any.” She had to laugh while she said, “Oh honey, I imagine it didn’t. We’ve all been there.”
When we left, our finger and toe nails were gorgeous and we went back to the hotel and sat on the beach for a bit. It was late afternoon by this point and we put on sunscreen. ‘Cuz we’re smart like that.
For dinner, we went to a place in Orange Beach called Fishers. It was on the marina and it was beautiful, as well. We sat outside right off the dock with this as our background.
Some of the boats we saw were like mini-yachts. These were some of the smaller boats. Ha! There was one this size for sale. Let me tell ya, it was a steal. $229,000.
Mallory ordered something really pretty. It was called something like “Shrimp Tasso with Rice.”
We always ordered something different so we could share some of what the other got. It was yummy!
Then, we tried to walk off some of what we ate on the beach that night.
Do you like long walks on the beach? Why, yes, I do.
Not hard to see why, either.
Thursday was our last full day in Orange Beach and we were determined we were going to make the best of it. We got up, went for breakfast and coffee, got some more coffee and watched an episode or two of Scandal. (When you get up with the chickens, you have some time to kill.) We did not come to the beach to come home without a nice tan, so we went out Thursday (with sunscreen) and just enjoyed the water, the sun, and even got to see a “dolphin” swim by. I distinctly remember saying, “Aw, how cool! I hear dolphins like people.” Mallory wasn’t so sure.
We left Friday morning and on Friday afternoon, red flags were posted all over Orange Beach because a swarm of 7 or 8 sharks had been spotted by a helicopter close to shore. The carcasses of cleaned fish were washing that way with the tide and the sharks had an easy meal.
That night, we went to Grazie Café, an Italian seafood restaurant. It was the best of the restaurants we went to. Mal ordered a seafood linguine and I ordered a seafood pizza. They were both absolutely delicious! We ate seafood every night we were there. You don’t go the coast without doing that. That would be just…wrong.
I bet you’ll never guess what we did after that.
Yep, another long walk on the beach.
I couldn’t decide which one of these two I liked the best, so I’m showing you the same picture over again.
This one’s different, though.
We got out a little earlier for those three. Before sunset.
I never tire of taking these pictures because the view is ever-changing even though it stays the same.
Friday morning we got up and did the same thing we’d done for the last three mornings. Ate, drank coffee, and read while we listened to the ocean. It was bittersweet. I was looking forward to seeing my sweet little family at the airport, but I didn’t want to leave this place and the good times we’d had. I knew it would be a while before I got to do this again with our second child coming. Some people are totally willing to travel with babies. Kudos to those folks. This chick is not that brave.
This might have something to do with the fact that the only child I’ve ever had required no sleep for a whole year. Even after that, it was still dicey.
This might also have something to do with why we waited 3 1/2 years to start trying to have another one. The farmer and I both spent many a night up with her and we really had to think about whether we could handle another Peanut if we got one. She ran us through the ringer! She’s been such a joy to raise, though, that we thought doing it all over again would be totally worth it! And hey, maybe we’ll get one that will sleep 20 hours a day!
We packed everything up, said our farewells to Orange Beach, returned the bus to the rental desk, and hopped on our plane from Pensacola to Chicago. The lady sitting in front of us was informing everyone that this was her son’s first time to fly. He must have been a little nervous because shortly after take- off, Mal and I badly needed those oxygen masks the flight attendant showed us how to use.
We weren’t looking forward to our layover at Chicago. We had almost 3 hours to wait. This is when I decided I strongly disliked Chicago O’Hare airport. First, they made us sit on a hot plane for over an hour at the terminal on our way to Orange Beach. Second, on our long layover, their WIFI did not work on Mallory’s iPad, so we couldn’t even watch Netflix. Near the end of our layover time, they inform us that our connecting flight to Springfield has not left Minneapolis yet. (I realize this is not the airport’s fault, but I don’t care at this point.) We waited 2 more hours for a total of 5 hours in the Chicago O’Hare airport. This is when I decided that from now on, I would avoid Chicago O’Hare like the plague. I’ll fly to Canada for a connecting flight before I’ll fly to Chicago. Plus, she and I both froze while waiting in the terminal. And we already had hoodies on.
So, we sat and we waited. We waited and we sat. We walked the whole airport. We read. Finally, Mallory turns to me and says, “I think I need a Red Bull. I’m really starting to feel exhausted.” About 10 minutes after she drinks all of it—I won’t lie. I took a few swigs, too—she’s climbing the airport walls. I kind of knew what I was in for because I’ve gotten to experience my friend on Red Bull before. We’re sitting there with our teeth chattering from the frigid temperature, so she stands up and proceeds to run in place—while she’s still talking to me—all the while smiling and laughing. I’m pretty sure one of her eyes might have had a slight tic to it. I’ll admit I was standing, as well, bouncing on the balls of my feet because I was FREEZING!! But, unlike Mallory, I wasn’t on the verge of doing jumping jacks after I timed how quickly I could sprint the entire Chicago O’Hare airport. I started laughing. I couldn’t help it. I looked at Mal and said, “Hi, everyone! This is my special friend, Mallory.” She died laughing and got this huge, open-mouthed grin and started waving real big. We fell into the seats laughing with tears in our eyes. Sitting there waiting was pretty awful, but I can’t imagine how bad it would have been had I been there with someone that didn’t try to make the best out of it. Both of us are pretty good about the “it is what it is” mentality.
Finally, at 8:00 p.m., we arrived at Springfield. I was anxious to see my husband and daughter. I knew I was sorely missed and that’s a wonderful feeling to come home to. Once we got outside the terminal, I spotted my husband’s face behind some other people. Knowing Peanut was down below him, I couldn’t keep from smiling. I reached them to find Peanut with her arms full of a big, beautiful bouquet of flowers. “Surprise!” she said. My eyes got a little wet. I squeezed her and stood up and squeezed my husband. It’s nice being missed.
It was a wonderful trip. Lots of laughs and a whole lot of memories. I can’t wait to do it all over again.