(This is the last in the series. Click here for parts one, two, three, four, five and six of my series reminiscing about our trip to Florida 30 years ago.)
Our week in the sun wasn't couldn't last. The Florida fun was ending. It was time to drive home to Chicago.
From Tampa, we piled back into our Chevy Citation and began the two-day trip back. This was my first experience that the ride home from vacation is never quick and rarely fun -- a stark reminder that the good times can't last, that everyday life must be resumed.
But we did have a little fun going home. We stopped in Dalton, Georgia, and stayed at the same hotel as we did on the trip down. I think we went to Pizza Hut for dinner, then I remember watching "Best of the West" on ABC. The next morning, I ordered French toast and was surprised and dismayed at how much cinnamon was put on it (I'm guessing it's a Southern thing).
When we drove into Chattanooga, we stopped and took the Incline -- a sort of vertical train -- up Lookout Mountain. There wasn't too much to see at the top -- I don't think the Civil War attractions I found on the website were there in 1982, and most of the mountain is simply residential -- but the ride was fun nonetheless.
After Lookout Mountain, Dad pushed the miles to get us home that night. We listened to a Beatles tape I mentioned in another post. In Indiana, we were getting hungry, but Dad really wanted to get home, so he just went through a Burger Chef drive-thru to get us dinner. Finally, we made it to Chicago. We picked up our dog (Pepper, who we had only had for about six weeks) from Grandma Elsie's house the next day. We unpacked. We returned to school. Our wonderful and warm vacation was over.
My mother has said that our two big vacations (we drove back to Florida in 1984) provided some of her happiest memories from when we were kids. We only did two of these big trips -- my sons have already experienced at least five of them. Part of that surely is because we live so far away from our families, but I think part of it, too, is that we know how fast these years will go by and are creating as many happy times, as many memories as possible. I'm not begrudging my parents for not taking us on more trips -- time off was hard to come by for my dad, money was tight, they never went on many vacations when they were young kids, and they were young parents who may not have realized how fast things were going to zip by with us. But even our little trips -- to Milwaukee a few times or the Dells, for example -- were great. The commercials trying to get families to come to Disney World or on cruises or wherever, however exploitive they might seem have one thing right: These are the experiences that families will never forget. I will never forget driving through Indiana, or Space Mountain, or Paul Davis' "Cool Night," or Shamu, or free orange juice, or Lookout Mountain. And I'll definitely never forget the smell of spoiled milk.