It’s been so long since I’ve been on my blog. After four posts I was extremely proud of, life got supremely busy and I had a major case of writer’s block. If you’re creative, you know how extremely frustrating that can be! You have so much to say but somehow can’t figure out what it is. There is inspiration EVERYWHERE but it’s difficult to actually put the words on paper (or keys to the web page in my case).
Every post I began to work out got extremely personal. Although I am proud of those pieces, they express emotions that I’m not yet ready to share with my 1,000+ Facebook friends (many of whom I have not talked to in a hot minute, no offense). There was definitely a time where I would jump at any opportunity to share my deepest self with my followers, but as I’ve matured, I’ve learned the irreplaceable value of sharing my true colors with the select few who deeply appreciate them. Relationships are sacred!!!
But I have heard the cries of the people (my two or three fans) and I’m ready to start writing again. Sooo thanks for all your patience and for all the love! Hope you all enjoy this piece just as much as I enjoyed writing it.
A few years ago, my parents and I were sitting around when we came across an online quiz entitled “How Well Do You Know Your Child.” Everyone knows how close my family is, so it comes as no surprise that my parents were breezing through the questions.
We got a question that read, “What is your child’s favorite vacation?” In that moment, we all died of laughter because the answer was obvious: Our week-long Florida Keys vacation from 2013. Growing up, we didn’t go on vacations and that trip was our first extended vacation we ever took as a family. It won by default.
As a self-employed businessman, my dad is a one-man-band and never got much time off of work. In his words, “You gotta show up everyday.” My mom, a former teacher’s assistant, stayed home with us kids in the summer and on long weekends. We’d occasionally go to the theme parks in Orlando, but for the most part we had everything we needed right at home (a backyard pool and a golden retriever that swam with us in the pool).
But in 2013, my dad started getting some time off. The week-long vacations became something we looked forward to and planned with diligence. From New York, to Savannah, to St. Augustine, we thoroughly enjoyed our annual trips.
And then in 2017 my dad announced that him, my mom, and myself would be taking a 13 hour drive to spend a week in Nashville and the Smoky Mountains to which my ungrateful self responded, “Can’t we just fly?”
It is so out of my family’s comfort zone to fly anywhere. We can’t just hop on a plane, be there in two hours, and Uber to a hotel. It can’t be that easy. We NEED to punish ourselves, sit in a car for over half a day, fight the GPS directions, and hit every type of traffic jam imaginable. We need to, we can’t travel any other way.
For weeks I offered to fly into Nashville. I was willing to throw away over $300 of my own money to fly into one of the most popular cities in America on a holiday weekend in order to spare myself 11 hours of hardship. The day before we left, I was still making big pushes to fly when my mother responded, “I would give anything to be in the car with my parents for 1 hour let alone 13.”
We were driving by 6:30am.
Now before I continue, people, I think it’s important to inform you all that my parents and I are not country folk. After country music, a rack of ribs, and a pontoon boat, you lose us. It is what it is. My parents are northerners and I was raised in good ol’ suburban Coral Springs. We ain’t changin’. So when it was revealed that we were going to Tennessee, you could imagine my face. But according to my dad, I would “love the mountains” and it would be “unlike anything I’ve ever seen.” We gave it a shot.
Nevertheless, we did have a great trip! If we’re friends on Facebook, you got the constant check-ins and picture updates. We had too much fun in Nashville and ended up extending our stay there to see the largest 4th of July firework display in the country (and a free concert starring one of my favorite artists CHRIS YOUNG!!!!!!)
By the time we got to Gatlinburg five days into the trip, we (AKA my mom, a homebody with zero appreciation of the outdoors) were ready to go home.The hotel was advertised as a resort on a river with a spectacular view of the Smoky Mountains that you could see while lounging by the luxurious pool. Long story short, we got catfished by a hotel. The pool was the size of a small watering hole, the river was a crick, and the view of the mountains was actually a view of the neighboring hotel. The beds dipped in the middle of the mattress and there was a disturbing gas smell in the hallway. What the hell were we doing in this place?
It was 4:30am when I woke up to the sound of my parents laughing. My dad looked at me and said, “Get up, we’re getting the fuck out of here.” In 30 minutes, we were driving away from the hotel.
It was pitch black darkness on the road leading us out of Gatlinburg and back into civilization. All of a sudden, a local in a pick up truck came up behind our car with his brights on. Now, ladies and gents, my dad literally cannot drive when there is someone riding his bumper. It freaks him out (I know because I’m the same way). So take this guy, my dad’s anxiety, a winding mountain road, and pure darkness… Things are getting kinda sticky. In a moment of pure genius, my dad speeds up. We are now FLYING down the side of a mountain in Gatlinburg at 5:00 in the morning with a redneck on our tails.
If you think matters couldn’t get any worse, we hit a patch of fog that we mistook for a cloudy windshield. My dad, the vision of grace under pressure, starts freaking out but has to hold on to the wheel so that he doesn’t fling 3/5 of the Daly family of the mountain. So my mom starts fiddling with the heaters only to realize that, ah YES, we are in fog and there’s nothing we can do but watch the road. At this point, we’re all yelling at each other as we soar down the mountain. My dad is saying how he has PTSD from a head-on collision he was in as a teenager and my mom was firing back comments such as, “So you’re going to kill the three of us because of something that happened 40 years ago?” While all of this is going on, a bunny ran across the road in front of the car as well. Chaos.
Alright so obviously, I’m writing this so we did live to see another day (and so did the bunny, no worries!!!) But the trauma did not end on the side of a mountain in Tennessee.
We were about 3 miles from the highway when our GPS led us on to a very small, one way dirt road on the side of the mountain. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in my short 20 years of living. On the sides of this road were wooden shacks with no windows, outhouses in the backyards with moss growing up the sides, tractors tipped over in the front yards. My dad was screaming, “Holy shit, man! This looks like Deliverance!” (Which if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s about these guys who go off on vacation in the woods and end up being very graphically attacked by backwoods locals. I don’t know how it has 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.) Basically, it wasn’t looking good for us.
Okay, I know I’m making light of this, but we were all TERRIFIED. I. Am. Telling. You. I have never been more genuinely fearful for my life. We had zero cellphone service and if Google Maps were to stop working or we would get a flat tire, we would be donezo. No one would ever find us. All I could imagine was a village local yelling “TAKE THE GIRL” while they hit my parents with the same shovel they used to till their land that morning. (Do you even use a shovel to till land? What even is tilling?)
So I’m BEGGING my dad to turn around and he’s yelling, “We can’t go back! We’ve come too far.”
I responded, “Dad, I am going to be SO MAD at you if we get killed out here.” I got things to do, people. Degrees to obtain. A man to marry. Kids to have. Places to see. I don’t have the TIME to die (most likely by pitchfork) on the side of a mountain in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
“I know, Kelly. I can just picture you all pissed off at the pearly gates of heaven just so upset that we’re dead. And God’s asking you to forgive me for this whole thing so that you can go to heaven but no,” my dad said.
That is actually very accurate. This is why we don’t go anywhere.
The sun had just started to creep over the side of the mountain when we saw the highway in the distance. I have NEVER been so excited to see a freaking highway in my life. It was like I had just escaped the grip of death. Not even gonna lie, I tear slipped from my eye.
It is absolutely never a dull moment with my family, I swear.
Usually I like to end my posts on some note that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy but I got nothing on this one. If there’s anything you can take away from this post, PLAN your trips. Look up driving directions ahead of time and when your GPS tells you to “make a slight left on to Groundhog Road,” don’t make the slight left for the love of God.