#1 Reason Travel Woes Become Travel Wows!

Posted on April 13, 2015 by Kate Moynihan | 0 comments
After months of waiting, the daydreaming was finally over. It was time to revel in the spring break trip with my grandkids. 
   “Have you checked the weather?” Larry, my husband, asked as I loaded snowboard gear into the car. He had a good reason to question. After a winter of knee-deep snow, a warm front with heavy rain had blown through last night.
   “Yes, I checked,” I said, yawning – it was 6:00 a.m.
   Larry leveled me with a hard stare.
   “Okay, I checked two days ago,” I meekly added. Then I bolstered my confidence and replied, “Crystal Mountain said they were closing mid-week to conserve the snow for this weekend so the trip is right on schedule.”
   A tightness set in his jaw. My husband leaves nothing to chance.
   I pushed on. “Besides, this warm front is blowing south. I’m sure it will be colder farther north in Cadillac,” I said, naming the town near Crystal Mountain Ski Resort.
  He grunted, which I took as a good sign because he wasn’t disagreeing with me. Of course he wasn’t agreeing, either.
   Deciding it was best to keep packing, I tossed boots and helmets into the hatchback determined to enjoy this last hoopla on the slopes with the grandkids. Earlier in the winter, I’d taken them to Mulligan Hollow, the local ski bowl in Grand Haven, Michigan. It didn’t matter The Bowl was rope-tow only with its short little runs because the Groomer Man and his magic Piston Bully - the mighty machine that scoops and pushes snow around - had made a mammoth jump. It sat smack dab in the middle of the front slope. The kids cheered with every half-turn and flip grab they performed at this bare basic haven.
   Now, knowing in two hours and thirty seven minutes we’d be having another rip-roaring good time, I pressed on. I couldn’t wait to see the grandkids be air dogs on their snow boards again.
  Once packed, I roused the snoozing kids. Sleepy-eyed they crawled into the backseat. My son-in-law, John, had dropped them off the night before so it’d be easier to be on the road before sunrise.
   Lastly Mom shuffled out of the house and crawled into the co-pilot seat. Even in her elderly years she was willing to troop along for this big adventure.
   I backed the car out of the driveway. What was that crunching sound?  It couldn’t be. The tires were rolling over gravel. Just yesterday packed snow covered the shaded driveway. I drove farther. We passed a good mile of mud and dead grass before I spied even a trace of snow. It was in a grimy pile in the corner of a parking lot.
   I glanced at the outdoor thermometer on the car dashboard. “Oh, no! It’s 62 degrees.” I said.
   “And it’s only six in the morning!” Mom cried. “Just wait until the sun peeks out and warms up the day even more.”
   “Do you think there will still be snow on the slopes?” Lilly asked. Her voice trembled a bit as she huddled in the backseat while pre-dawn darkness wrapped around her.
   My stubbornness kicked in. “Of course,” I said. “When I checked earlier in the week the weatherman insisted this unusual warm spell was heading south.”
   Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the glow of my phone light up. Jackson had pulled it out of the travel bag.
   “What are you doing?” I asked.
   “Checking ski conditions,” he answered as he logged onto the Internet. Jackson inherited my husband's worry gene.
   From the backseat I heard a wail. “Crystal Mountain is closed, there’s no snow!” Jackson cried.
   I couldn’t believe it. How could it be closed? The grandkids had been waiting for months to rocket down the mile-long runs and fly over mountainous jumps. There must be another option. My brain buzzed. “How about Nubs Nob?” I asked, listing another ski resort farther north in Michigan.
   Jackson’s fingers flew across the keypad. “Closed, too,” he answered. “I'll try Search Mont, in Sault Ste. Marie.” 
   “Canada?” Mom squeaked.
   “Yes, Canada.  They'll have snow,” Lilly shouted, pumping her fist wildly in the air. “We'll just have to drive a bit farther, but it’ll be worth the ride.”
   “Search Mont is closed, too,” Jackson reported. “I'll google northern Ontario.” 
   “Wait! Wait! How far do you think we can go?” Mom asked. “We’re due home on Sunday. That's two days away.”
   But Mom’s comment didn’t concern Jackson, seconds later he reported, “Sudbury has two ski resorts: Adanac and Lively Hills. And they both have snow!”
  “Yes! I’ll be riding my board by lunchtime,” Lilly cheered.
   “Try skiing by bedtime, Lilly. The slopes are 590 miles away,” Jackson said after calculating the driving distance. I heard his voice fall to a sullen sigh.
   My heart sank. Truth was we were not skiing today. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not until next year. Suddenly it was dead silent in the car. It felt as frigid as a glacier – no problem of snow melting in here.
   Then I remembered a conversation just yesterday with a customer. I brimmed with joy and a stupid, wide-mouthed grin spread across my face. I said, “Jackson, type in: French Lick.”
   “What’s a wrench-kick?” Lilly asked.
   It’s Fuh-rench Lick,” I said, emphasizing the syllables. “It’s a town in Indiana. Maybe this warm front went farther south, too. Let’s check the weather in French Lick.”
   “78 degrees, with a high in the mid-80’s for the next two days,” Jackson said. “But what good does that do us?”
   “Type in Pete Dye,” I said.
   That’s all it took. The icy mood instantly lifted around us. I knew John, their dad, an avid golfer, would have taught his kids about Pete Dye.
   “Wow! Check this out,” Jackson said as he shoved the phone between the co-pilot seats for Mom and I to view.
   The video zoomed in and focused on a lush green fairway that split: one path was sandwiched between trees, the other was packed with rocks, water and a sand trap.
   “Wow! That hole is double tricky. What a course!” Jackson said his voice ringing with excitement.
   “Where in the world is this place?” Mom asked with her arms folded across her chest. I could tell she was a bit unsettled; she’s not much of a golf enthusiast.
   “About an hour south of Indianapolis,” I answered.
   Jackson searched the Internet again. “Indianapolis is five hours away, making French Lick less than six. We could be golfing by lunchtime,” he quickly computed. “Can we go?”
   “Yeah, can we go?” Lilly spoke up, too. “If we could golf this Pete Dye course our friend Lucas would have to quit bragging about the one and only time he played the island hole Pete Dye designed at Eagle Eye in East Lansing.”
   I glanced at Mom. To block out the bright rising sun she had slipped on dark sunglasses. Her eyes were hidden. Her jaw set tight. Her thoughts unreadable. Then I saw her eyebrows snarl. Uh-oh, it felt like the blizzard was back inside the car. Finally, her lips arched and a trace of a smile appeared. She said, “Jackson, if you can find a place for us to stay on that gadget, let’s go!”
   The grandkids cheered and I turned the car around to head south. In minutes Jackson had us booked at the French Lick Springs Hotel. We made a brief stop in Jenison to pick up the kid's cooler clothes. John and Allison weren’t home so it was a fast trip in and out.
   By noon we were pulling into the long, curvy, tree-lined drive of the hotel – and it was 83 degrees. Hooray for Indiana in the springtime!
   Around the next bend the old, fancy, palace-size hotel came into view. It sat on top of a hill, with what seemed like more than a hundred steps to climb and just as many – if not more – windows.
   “Wow! There are 186 windows!” Jackson said, quickly putting a total to the mass.
   At the entrance gate, a man in uniform, stood tall and proper. With a gloved hand, the man opened the car door and tipped his hat. The grandkids tumbled out in awe.
   “Welcome you-all. Take you bags, sir?” he said to Jackson who was struggling with his bulging suitcase. The one we’d hastily tossed short sleeve shirts into.
   Jackson froze. “He called me ‘sir,’” he whispered to Lilly. “And I’m not quite nine.”
   By now Mom was out of the car and staring at the hatchback. I heard a disgruntled “tsk” as her face grew scarlet when she caught sight of the cargo area: it spit out a mound of sweaters, ski goggles, and snow pants, in addition to shorts and sun hat.
   As I scooped up the jumbled gear, Mom humbly told the doorman we’d manage on our own. Oblivious to the grown-ups’ embarrassment, Lilly was bouncing in her shoes asking for directions to the Pete Dye golf course.
   “Yea by yea, and a bit yonder,” the doorman said as he moved his hand in a roller coaster motion.
   I followed his arm and looked around. Mile after mile of green rolling hills came into view. Magnolias, dogwoods and forsythia were in full bloom. I took a moment to suck in the sweet perfume scents.
   We hustled through check-in, changed into cooler clothes, and were off. At the golf course a man sporting a brand new Pet Dye logo golf cap greeted us.
   “We’ll need to rent clubs,” I said, knowing we were unable to access the kids’ clubs that were stored in the locked shed at home.
   “Great. We just got the new ones unpacked,” he said, pulling out Taylor Made R15 drivers and Pin G30 irons.
   Jackson eyes grew wide. “Tiger Woods only plays with 14 clubs and each of these bags has 15!” His fingers fondled the plastic wrap that was still covering the titanium heads.
   “Where are all the other golfers,” Mom asked as she scanned the empty tee-box.
   “We just opened a few hours ago,” he said. “This warm weather is a bit off kilter so we decided to open early. Play as long as you like. No one will be behind you.”
   “No one behind us!” Lilly exclaimed. “Lucas will never believe we played Pete Dye’s course and no one was behind us.”
   As it turned out, we golfed longer than it took us to drive to French Lick. And that was just the first nine holes. It's funny how the initial travel woes turned into travel wows! Just remember to be a bit flexible.
I bet you've had some travel plans with a few hiccups, too.

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