Posts Tagged ‘travel’


An Unexpected Homecoming

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

On the Monday before Christmas we received a phone call from our daughter Michelle, who has been living in San Antonio with her boyfriend and his mother for almost a year. My wife talked with her for a while, as they usually do, and came to me after she hung up the phone.

“She said he’s broken up with her, and she wanted to know if she could move back home,” my wife said.

“That was sudden,” I replied. “When was she planning to come up here?”

“They want her out of the apartment before Christmas,” she said. “And with everything she’s got down there, it’ll take the truck to move it all here.”

“The truck” referred to my 14-year-old Ford F-250 diesel pickup with just over 200,000 miles on it. That is a lot of miles, but in the diesel world it represents about half of the engine’s useful life; it is not uncommon for these trucks to run up to half a million miles before they finally bite the dust. It is not pretty to look at, but I did not buy it for its looks; it was that engine that attracted me to it in the first place.

“That’s about a six hour drive each way. Are you up to riding in the truck that long?” I asked. San Antonio is approximately 350 miles from our home.

“I guess I’ll have to be,” was the answer.

“All right, find out when she will be packed and we’ll go from there. It’s been a long time since I filled up both of the truck’s fuel tanks.”

A couple of phone calls later, we had most of the arrangements worked out. She would be ready to go on Thursday the 23rd. I came up with an aggressive game plan: we would get up at 4am and be out the door by 6, arrive in San Antonio around lunchtime, load her stuff, eat lunch, and drive home, hopefully getting back in time for a late dinner.

The next two days were spent hurriedly finishing up our Christmas shopping. Fortunately, we had already done all of our shopping for Michelle, and had even shipped her presents to her the Friday before. She had been told not to open the shipping box until Christmas Day; now, in an ironic twist, the box would be coming back to our house to be opened.

Thursday, 4am. My wife and I struggled to get out of bed, drag ourselves into the shower, get dressed, and grab a bite to eat before heading out the door. A stop at a gas station to top off the tanks, and we were on our way. The drive down was somewhat uneventful; the most excitement came while we were going through Austin, the state capitol. The traffic there reminded me very much of downtown Atlanta when we used to live in Georgia: everyone running flat out, dodging and weaving their way like they were in a NASCAR race. The one benefit from that was it did not take us very long to drive through the city.

We finally arrived in San Antonio, pretty close to the time I had envisioned. Following the directions we had mapped out the day before, we found our way to the street where the apartment complex was located, and with Michelle helping on the other end of my cell phone we made it to the entrance gates. We pulled up in front of the apartment building and saw our daughter, standing alone. After a quick greeting and hugs all around, we went inside the apartment. I met her now ex-boyfriend and his mother for the first (and probably only) time, and much to my relief everyone was quite civil about the situation. They helped with loading her things into the truck, then after a round of goodbyes we left.

After stopping for lunch, we got back out on the highway and retraced our route to go home. Unfortunately, the trip back was more eventful than the trip out. There were traffic jams in two different cities, each taking an hour or so to get through; and, the truck was also losing antifreeze somehow, taking almost two extra gallons of it to get home (I learned later the heater core had a split in it). Thanks to the delays, it was almost 9pm when we finally arrived at the house. We unloaded Michelle’s things and piled them into her bedroom, fixed ourselves something to eat, then sat down to relax. The cost for spending 15 hours on the road? Aside from frazzled nerves all around, it took 35 gallons of fuel, two gallons of antifreeze, lunch and snacks.

But, our daughter was back in our home, safe and sound. We do not know how long she will be staying with us; it could be weeks, months, or even longer. One thing I do know: she has been missed by all of us.

Welcome home, Michelle.


It’s All Relative

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

I recently made an unscheduled trip to Georgia (the first trip in several years for any of us) to visit my oldest brother, who was in the hospital after collapsing in his bathroom a couple of nights before and seemed to be doing very poorly. I went alone; my son is in school, and my wife stayed behind with him. It was an interesting trip for many reasons, but most of all it was interesting because of the way my relatives acted toward me while I was there. No, there was nothing bad about it; quite to the contrary, it was the most pleasant and accommodating visit I have had since moving my family to Texas ten years ago.

I felt like royalty – my mother tended to the bedroom and bathroom I used in her house like I was staying in a five-star hotel; my oldest niece took me out to lunch the day I arrived; and both my mother and my sisters-in-law cooked delicious dinners each night I was there, including a big steak dinner the night before I went home. I got to visit with almost all of my family at one point or another, missing only my youngest brother’s wife and his oldest daughter. Each and every one of them seemed overjoyed that I had come to visit, and one niece in particular kept pushing the question, “When are you going to move back to Georgia?”

When I finally left to begin the 14-hour drive back to Texas, I had many things to think about. The most pervasive thought was over whether to start visiting Georgia more often. Moving there permanently is out of the question; with our son Stephen buried here in Texas, my wife and I have decided that when our time comes we will be buried next to him. But, there is nothing to say we cannot visit relatives more often. The first opportunity for us to do that would likely be at Thanksgiving; school is out for that entire week, and getting time off from work should not be an issue either. My mother has already offered her spare bedrooms for us to use; all we have to do is get there.

Therein lies the issue. How should we travel – by air or by road? Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Flying is much faster, but is more expensive than driving…and we would still need some form of ground transportation after we arrive in Georgia, which means renting a car. Driving is less expensive and gives us a means of transportation when we arrive, but the trip is quite long (as I mentioned earlier, it is about 14 hours each way). My wife prefers flying, but when we look at our budget it quickly becomes clear that driving is the more affordable choice.

And with that, the discussions continue. What will we finally decide? When I find out, I will be sure to let you all know!

(Postscript: My brother had a very large bleeding ulcer in his intestine that was causing him to pass a lot of blood, lowering his blood count and making him weak. He is now out of the hospital and resting at home.)