On the road to Colmar… or Wally World.

This vacance started out as the trip that seemed determined not to happen.

First, there was the matter of packing the car. A much bigger ordeal than I’d imagined it would be. We couldn’t take the car we’d designated as our “travel car” because it smells. Like throw up. Last Saturday after going sledding, Bill found out the hard way that it doesn’t take a seat in the back of a tour bus going up to Haliakala for Kaitlyn to get carsick. All it takes is a fast ride down the winding road from Chamrousse, in her snowsuit, in the back seat of his car, which has an auto climate system that keeps it a swealtering two degrees shy of hell. Several cleanings and airings-out have not resulted in a fresh smelling car. Bill is actually talking about getting rid of it for another car. (just cause? Or just an excuse?) Luckily, I didn’t buy a Mini Cooper or a Pugeout 207 – clown cars even smaller than the one I got. So we opened the hatch to my car and packed. Or tried. One duffel bag (bought for European road trips), one carry on and two train cases later the “luggage compartment” was so full the door would barely close. When we bought my car and we brought it home, I was so convinced that it is bigger than Bills I made him take out a measuring tape to check. Turns out, our cars are within an inch of being identical. The big difference is that Bill’s rear seat can scoot forward about 4 inches, which just might have made enough room for our luggage to fit more easily. Of course, it would have also put Kaitlyn’s feet in my back for the entire trip. Doesn’t seem to matter now, with the car’s seemingly permanent odor.

         Once we crammed everything into the car (which required taking up the back seat next to Kaitlyn) and set all our presents out under the tree so Kaitlyn will see that Santa came to the house while we’re gone, we rushed to the school to pick her up just before the pick-up “deadline.” We started down the hill off the mountain when I said “our passports!” Back up the mountain we went and as we turned away from the center of town toward our house Kaitlyn said “my doggie!” She had taken a stuffed dog to school and left him behind. So Bill turned the car around again so I could rush to the classroom and fetch the pup. The poor teacher was trying to eat her lunch when I busted in, but mission accomplished. Then it was off to the house for our passports then, finally, we were on our way. Only an hour after the time I thought we’d leave.

        The plan was to stop at a sandwich shop the gps said was “on our route.” Now, when I had checked the drivetime online, it routed us through Switzerland. Bonnie (our gps) took us the other direction. I tried not to be too alarmed. But I nearly broke out in a sweat when I realized she was telling us to get off the interstate at the exit in Lyon where the Ikea is. Not just because I was convinced that Lyon was hundreds of kilometers out of our way. Because we’ve been there. And we knew what we’d find. A McDonalds with a massive playland next door to a Toys R Us. Kaitlyn recognizes both. Immediately, she announced “I want to go to the playground. There’s a McDonalds.” We put our feet down. No playground. We made a deal: french fries and a toy. In the parking lot, Kaitlyn said “hey! Look at the big toy store!” If Lyon was on our way, this stop surely wasn’t. (A later check of the gps confirmed my suspicions somewhat – we were supposed to go toward Lyon but she did take us off route to make that particular stop. Thanks, Bonnie.)

        A Happy Meal, Deluxe Cheese and McChicken later, we were on the road. Not that we’d left the car, we ate in the parking lot. Whatever it takes to get this vacation going! Ok, so we’re driving toward Colmar, it’s 2pm – naptime – so everything should be back on track. No, no! The child who cannot keep her eyes open driving to the Petit Casino 7 minutes away from home was wide awake. And tired enough to not be well behaved. A couple of hours later she decided to just unbuckle herself so she could crawl around on the floor to find a lost mimi. Bill reached around back and swatted her leg, so then we got to ride with her screaming. I wasn’t so sure that screaming was better than squirming, until I learned what the offense was. You don’t get out of your car seat while riding on an autoroute at 130 kilometers an hour. Bill pulled off at the next rest stop, which thankfully are very close together. He got out of the car and walked around to tend to Kaitlyn’s most immediate needs – her mimi, her pants pulled up (she complained they were falling off), a check of her seat belt and an explanation of the rules of the road. Ok, rules of the back seat. When he opened her door, she said “yes, Daddy?” with all the forced innocence with which one greets a state trooper who has just pulled him over for speeding. At least that ordeal finally wore her out enough to give in and nap. I did the same.

        We finally got to Colmar and checked into our hotel, after a small debate over where to park the car. Turns out the hotel’s parking lot is down the street behind some architect’s office. (Apparently, architects ’round the world need extra cash) We put our luggage in our room and headed toward the marches for some much needed Christmas spirit. It was 7:10pm, the markets closed at 8, and we had no idea the scope of the mistake we were making. Not realizing it when booking the hotel weeks ago online, I put us in a place a good 15 minute walk away from the charming part of Colmar and all the Christmas activities we were there for. We were tired. We were cold. We were hungry. And we were just a wee bit lost. Bill prefers to say “turned around.” That’s like refusing to say you have a problem; insisting on calling it an “opportunity.” Rushing past the markets once we found them, yelling at Kaitlyn to stop or not to run into the street that blended perfectly into the sidewalk – it was not the vacation I’d imagined. It was the vacation I’d feared. I made it worse by rejecting Bill’s suggestion of buying sandwiches to take back to the hotel room. I basically insisted we go into a restaurant I was sure I’d read about in my travel book. I’m in the Alsace region, dang it, I’m going to have some Alsacian food. What I was served was a generous helping of nasty looks from the woman at the next (very close) table with a side of threats to drag Kaitlyn out into the cold for time out if she didn’t stop talking too loud, getting up out of her chair, being three years old.

        Mercifully, the all too long day ended after an all too long walk in the cold back to our hotel. Please, let day two be better.

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