Last week, Lindsey and I celebrated our four year wedding anniversary. And by celebrate, I mean we sent each other text messages and ate Rosa’s because, you know, baby. We got married on July 3rd which sounds like a great idea until the subsequent years roll around and you realize that it’s almost impossible to celebrate anything on the week of Independence Day. Hotels are booked and way more expensive than they should be, the roads are jammed with alcoholics, and there’s always a host of other parties, gatherings, etc. that you have to attend that take precedence over your anniversary. As such, we haven’t really done much on this occasion since the first year, content instead to share our big day with America’s big day. And by “big day”, of course I mean the anniversary of the debut of Independence Day in 1996. This year, however, given the birth of our vampire/ghost baby, we decided we needed a weekend away to recoup and not wash bottles 20 times a day and thus, a trip was planned.
I booked a cabin in Broken Bow, Oklahoma and we headed up on Friday afternoon with the intention of doing nothing but eating, sleeping, and hanging out without fear of waking the King of the Grumbles. It seemed like a great plan until we realized that we had voluntarily come to a lake town in the Middle of Nowhere, Oklahoma during the biggest touristy weekend of the year. 10 minutes into our first meal on the first day of our trip, Lindsey looked at me and whispered, “You have got to write a blog about this trip” and before the sentence was even out of her mouth, I replied, “I’m already taking notes.” Here, now, is a diary account of our weekend.
DAY ONE We hit the road at approximately 2:30 pm, which is approximately four hours after I intended to leave, naturally. It was not until this point that I realized we would be driving out 30 through Dallas and Rockwall instead of up 35 through Denton and Winstar Country. The moment of departure is a stupid time to look at a map for the first time but I just assume that everything in Oklahoma that is worth seeing is either near or through Oklahoma City. I probably would not have booked this cabin if I’d known we had to go out that way. I drove Eastbound-30 approximately 750 times during my college days because I foolishly went to school in Arkansas and honestly, if I never see that part of 30 again, I’ll be just fine. Alas, it was too late to back out and we headed out, directly into a traffic jam over Lake Ray Hubbard because, again, it’s the busiest weekend of the year and literally every human was either on the way to a lake or already at a lake.
On long drives, we usually listen to an audiobook. It’s a tradition unlike any other. This time around, we selected comedian Jim Gaffigan’s book, Dad is Fat. If you’re unfamiliar with Mr. Gaffigan, he’s the very pale comedian who does the “Hot Pocket” bit and he’s hilarious. He’s also an idiot because he has five children and having just had our first kid, I feel confident in saying anyone who has five kids is either drunk a lot or dumb. (To any of my readers who may have five or more kids, please know that I’m just joking and that also I think maybe you have some sort of biological disorder that doesn’t allow you to feel fatigue or pain, like a Bond villain.) The book is a collection of essays on parenting and general life advice and it’s great except that I started writing a very similar book last month and now there’s no point because Gaffigan beat me to it. Brian Gill: Always Two Steps Behind.
About halfway through our drive, I got a text alerting me that Dwight Howard had decided to not sign with the Mavericks and so the rest of the drive is a blank to me due to the rage stroke I suffered.
We arrived at our isolated cabin in the woods where (probably) no one has ever died in horror-movie fashion and it was better than advertised. We had a full kitchen, a giant Jacuzzi tub, satellite TV, a hammock and hot tub on the deck. Perfect! On the downside, there was no bathroom door and even more importantly, no shower. So if you’re keeping track at home, we have room for the world’s biggest bathtub but not a shower. Alright then. Also, the appliances were the exact same ones we have at home so I think that means we need to buy new ones. In addition, the décor in this cabin basically broke down into two categories: Paintings of flowers and stuff with scriptures on it. I counted 15 different items in this tiny cabin that had a scripture on it. I’m guessing this is not a prime vacation spot for atheists.
After getting all of our stuff in the cabin, I unpacked the Blu-Ray player I brought so that we could watch some movies over our weekend away. Because nothing says, “Happy Anniversary” like Django Unchained. At this point I realized I left the Blu-Ray player’s remote at home and apparently it is the only Blu-Ray player in the world that does not have any pushable buttons on the actual player itself so it is useless. Fortunately, there was a DVD player but half of the movies I brought are on Blu-Ray so I basically packed an entire bag full of worthless items for this trip. Brian Gill: Great Ideas, Iffy Execution Since 1983.
We headed into Broken Bow for dinner and were presented with three non-McDonald’s options: Pier 49, a catfish place that is nowhere near a pier, Papa Pablano’s which serves Mexican food…in Oklahoma, and The Oaks Steakhouse, which looked relatively promising. Wrong. There was a sign on the wall next to a staircase leading up to what I’m assuming was an office space that read, “Upstairs is PRIVATE. Keep Out.” The lady behind the counter just stared at us when we walked in. Just stared. Finally I figured out that there was a host who was supposed to be seating us but he was nowhere to be found and after, I’m not exaggerating, 45 seconds of awkward silence, she finally pointed to a table and muttered, “Sit there.” We sat and before long the host, a teenage boy wearing a Gorillaz t-shirt and featuring the worst case of mouth breathing I’ve ever seen, shuffled up, placed menus in front of us, and stated, with a slight twinge of malice that I would say is unjustified given the setting, that our server would take our drink order.
We looked over the menu and it was exactly what I fear in such a setting. If you’re ever on a trip to a small town, you want to find the place with the smallest menu possible because there’s a better chance that they’ll actually be good at making those few things. The Oaks was the opposite of that. The menu was similar to what you’ll find at Applebee’s, a recipe for disaster. There were a hundred things on the menu and at least a dozen little notes like, “NO SHARING!” hand-written next to the price for the salad bar. Our waitress came around and took our order and for some reason, we asked to pay for an appetizer on top of what was likely to be a horrible meal and one bite of the fried zucchini was all it took to shame us for our error. There were four TVs in the place. One was off, one was playing Fox News (of course), and the other two ran a loop of commercials for the stores, shops, and attractions of the area. Because nothing says “quality meal” like a feature on the local Shoe Carnival. We ate as fast as we and got out of there, but not before the woman the counter, whom I would have SWORN was the owner/wife of the owner, informed us that, “This place is just getting too busy, I told the owner she needed to get out here and handle this crowd because I’m going home.” There were 15 other people in the restaurant.
After dinner, we headed back to the cabin to watch Fringe (again, suuuuuper romantic) and whereas Lindsey took the no-baby occasion to fall asleep by 10, I stayed up until 3:30 because A.) My body is now used to staying up that late no matter what and B.) I had to write 3,000 words on what the Mavs should do now that Dwight Howard has gone elsewhere in order to be able to sleep. Who will read this 3,000 word essay? No one, but this is how my sports brain works and also that one bite of fried zucchini may have given me hallucinations.
DAY TWO I set no alarm (greatest feeling in the world) and awoke at 9:30 with no prompting from anything or anyone else. Initially, I was disappointed that I only got 6 hours of sleep on my first night of Vacation Sleep but then I realized that I was completely rested and ready to go. The difference between 6 hours of sleep with a baby monitor and 6 hours of sleep WITHOUT a baby monitor is astounding.
We went into town to get a few grocery items, including some breakfast-y stuff, and were presented with two options: a mom-n-pop grocery store similar to a Food ‘N Stuff and a non-super Wal-Mart. A VERY non-super Wal-Mart. We flipped a coin and it came up, “Both of these options are terrible so it doesn’t really matter” and headed into Wal-Mart. It was JAM PACKED with…stuff. Take all of the stuff you find in a Super Wal-Mart, take out the produce section and a few other essentials in the food department, then pack the rest of it into a space that is approximately one-third the size of the average Super Wal-Mart and that’s what we were dealing with. All we were looking for was bacon, cheese, and biscuits. Biscuits, however, proved to be impossible to find, though the place did have a giant cart of the largest marshmallows I’ve ever seen. So there’s that.
After breakfast and a couple of hours doing nothing, we decided we’d go into Hochatown for lunch. That meant getting ready for the day which meant I needed to take a shower. Except there was no shower, just a giant Jacuzzi tub with a handheld shower head hooked up to it. Now, look, I’ve had a few awkward shower experiences in my time. In Honduras I used a pila which is basically a large reservoir of freezing cold water that you dump on yourself while standing in the middle of the bathroom. One year in college we had community showers which were made all the more uncomfortable by the presence of the hall’s RA who always seemed to be showering at the same time as me and always faced out instead of in when rinsing himself. (I’m certain this person is in jail now.) And of course there are the uncomfortable locker room experiences from middle and high school. But I would probably take them all over ever having to sit down to shower in the middle of a giant tub like that again. I don’t know what it was about this situation but it really weirded me out. Next time I rent a room, I’ll be sure to ask explicitly if said room does, in fact, come with a shower.
Upon exiting my strange bath-shower a changed man, we headed into Hochatown to try our luck on finding suitable food. Of the three options presented, the Blue Rooster looked the most respectable and so we headed in with great trepidation. My fears were almost immediately assuaged when The Black Keys greeted my ears. Usually in small towns like this you only get both kinds of music in a restaurant or shop: country and western. The Blue Rooster, though, played a steady stream of the Keys, Florence and the Machine, and selections from the Can’t Hardly Wait soundtrack, which was all in keeping with the ambiance of the place. The menu contained only a handful of items which, again, is really what you want in any restaurant but ESPECIALLY one in a small town. We ate fried shrimp and catfish and chased it with a homemade fried pie, all of it delicious. I’m always a big tipper (because I’m LOADED with cash, thanks to my job in ministry) but given our previous night’s experience, I made sure our waitress understood how much we appreciated her place of work. If ever I find my way back to the area, I will only eat at The Blue Rooster for every single meal. I’ll become a regular.
On the way back to the cabin after lunch, we made two stops. First, we pulled into a fruit stand on the side of the road. While we waited to buy more produce than any two humans can realistically hope to eat by themselves, we listened to the patron converse with another customer. Their conversation consisted mostly of the customer giving the patron a recipe for “deer meat” stew (not venison, deer meat) and then stating that, “Pretty much all I eat anymore is deer meat.” I believed her. Afterward, we swung by a souvenir shop called Janet’s Treasure Chest because we collect decks of cards from all of our various vacation spots because we are lame. This place had everything: Antiques, candy, cabin décor, candles, an entire room of junk toys that would be rejected from a pharmacy, the Statue of Liberty, and a sizeable amount of Sasquatch-related memorabilia. Because apparently there is a Sasquatch in Oklahoma? We found our deck of cards and also I bought a jar of jelly because for some reason I have an affinity for homemade jams and jellies. Brian Gill: Buying Weird Things Since 1983.
The rest of the day consisted of watching Fringe, picking up dinner from our second best option in Hochatown, The Grateful Head Pizza Parlor (which was basically just a Mellow Mushroom knock-off), and me being stuck on the same level of Candy Crush for hours on end. Can we all agree that the creator of Candy Crush is going to hell? What sort of sadistic jerk creates a game that is THAT addicting and then DOESN’T give you unlimited lives so you are forced to just sit and wait until the game allows you the opportunity to play again? You’re one sick puppy, Candy Crush creator. At some point around two I finally gave up on Candy Crush, cried like a baby over my failures, and went to bed knowing that I would never amount to anything if I couldn’t conquer level 65.
DAY THREE Night One of Vacation Sleep was the, “I don’t have to be responsible for anyone else and that makes me happy!” night while Night Two was the, “Oh sweet goodness, I haven’t not been responsible for anyone else in two months and that makes me (*slowed down drugged voice*) sleeeepppppyyyyyy.” We had tentatively planned to be on the road by 11 but plans could not stand in the way of sleeping forever. When I did awake, I decided to forgo another awkward tub-shower and we packed up with an eye to getting home to our cuddly bundle of grumbles.
Before we could get out, though, I discovered the tip envelope. Now, we’ve stayed at a few of these private rentals before and I’ve never noticed a tip envelope nor did I have any idea we were supposed to tip in this situation. Two things came to mind. One, if there isn’t an app to tell you when to tip and what the appropriate amount to tip is, then I claim that idea and I’m going to force my friend Emily to develop it for me. Two, we paid a ridiculously healthy sum of money to stay in a place that did not have a shower and the check-out list required us to perform basically all of the cleaning tasks that are usually associated with turning a room over to the next tenant so…I’m not super keen on tipping in that situation. I left what I considered to be a fair amount and if that was too small a figure, then I’ll come back in three years when my app is fully developed and it can tell me how much I should have left.
We got on the road and decided to delay eating as long as possible so as to avoid any more exposure to Broken Bow than we’d already had. We cracked in Mount Vernon and found ourselves at the local Sonic. A word about Sonic food: It shouldn’t exist. There should be a bill passed that bans Sonic from serving any food beyond corn dogs, mozzarella sticks, and tater tots. Nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good Sonic drink or shake as much as the next guy. But I have never in my life purchased a Sonic food product (other than those listed above) without immediately regretting my decision. The Sonic experience in Mount Vernon was no different but at least I got a kick out of watching smoke come out of the carhop’s ears when she handed me two drinks and only one straw then stumbled over this issue as if she was working out an algebra problem. I said nothing and eventually she just slowly backed away as if she’d gotten away with robbing me.
Eventually we made it home, though not before encountering the dumbest traffic jam ever wherein the deputies in Sulphur Springs shut down one of the highway lanes for FIVE SOLID MILES because of a one-car accident that basically amounted to a fender bender. Well done, Sulphur Springs. We collected our baby and happily brought him home where he promptly spit up on me as if he wished to remind me that vacation was over and it was time to get back on track. Welcome home indeed.
Brian Gill: Writing Excessively Long Vacation Diaries For No Reason, Brian