Dawn wanted to do something special with Brandon and Sophia this summer. I think she based her decision on destinations on what we did as a family -- every summer from the time she was one until she and Brett were in their teens we spent a week in a timeshare in Myrtle Beach.
Her second family and their daughter, her close friend since childhood, offered the use of their channel house there. Vacation destination chosen! And Brandon and Sophia were eager to go to the beach.
Twenty minutes -- a mere twenty miles outside of Canton -- the bickering in the backseat started. Brandon couldn't look at Sophia without her being offended and tattling. Then Brandon started reaching out to Sophia, pointing a finger as though he were prepared to poke or touch her. More howls from Sophia. Then Brandon complained that he was cramped and tried to straighten his legs toward Sophia's side of the car. More wailing. Seven hours of this.
Dawn and I had threatened after arriving at our evening destination to put Brandon in the passenger seat next to the driver the next morning. He promised that he'd not antagonize Sophia and wanted to remain next to her. But the experience Dawn and I shared the previous day weighed heavily on our decision to have Brandon occupy the front seat for the rest of the trip. I was about as happy sitting in the back seat as Brandon was in the front, but the cacophany of arguing and tattling stopped.
Weather was great. This was the beach, after all, so it was hot -- in the 90's. But the house is only a couple short blocks from the ocean and the beach was clean and big. After unloading the car we walked down to the beach and just after the three of them got into the water, the life guard pulled them out, pointing to a possibly dangerous bank of clouds moving over the city. So it was back to the house to shower and then we headed out to shop for groceries.
Although Dawn and Sophia made it to the beach every day for a couple hours, Brandon suffered from chafed thighs and put away his swimming suit Tuesday. And then he complained that he was bored as he laid around the house and played games on his iPod.
Evenings we went out for dinner and occasionally extended the evening with entertainment such as Grand Prix car racing. Sophia is still talking about the Skydrop. The three were tethered together, hauled by a pulley to the top of a tower, and then released to free fall. Scream? Oh, yes! At the bottom of the fall, they simply swung back and forth as the arc's path shortened until they could be returned to the "launch area" and be released from the apparatus.
Ripley's touted their new exhibit on sharks, so we visited the aquarium. We went early in the day and still stood in line for 30-45 minutes to purchase tickets. Once inside, we walked to the line to the shark display. What a waste of time. Lots of displays, but not the shark exhibit we'd anticipated. But the highlight was next -- the aquarium itself. We stood on a people-mover walk and were able to see lots of sharks and a variety of fish. The kids weren't bored since with all the movement in the water, there was no lack of interesting activity. When we finally exited the aquarium the line to see the shark exhibit was three times as long as when we'd stood in it. Poor souls.
Brandon's favorite activity ... wait for it ... was shopping at the Tanger outlet! They have an Under Armour store there and he loves their apparel. Dawn loves Coach, and there was a store for her. Sophia likes jewelry and Claire's has a shop. Dawn got her purse, Brandon got some shorts and Sophia got jewelry. I bought some socks. Both kids have new "Lids". Brandon tried to talk Sophia into a hat that he figured he'd quickly inherit from her. But she wasn't having any of it. Good girl, Sophia!
On Friday, Brandon said he was anxious to come home. He missed his cat, as Sophia missed hers, and he wanted to begin cleaning so we could leave Saturday instead of the planned return on Sunday. Dawn and I realized that another 11 hours in the car with Brandon and Sophia, all of it in one day, was more than we were up for. So we got up early Saturday and the four of us cleaned. After a last visit to the ocean for Dawn and Sophia, we headed for home around 3:00 Saturday afternoon. We spent the night in Charlotte, hit the road at 9:00 Sunday morning and got home about 5:00.
I think Dawn's already decided that vacation next year will be a series of three- or four-day periods spent at destinations no more than two hours from home. And fortunately the kids like the idea of short trips. Not far from here are popular amusement parks, a couple water parks, and even a Tanger outlet! There are even other activities here that aren't available at the beach. Sounds like a good plan to me!