Two years ago, after a disastrous drive to and from Destin, Florida over Memorial Day weekend, I said we would never make this drive from Nashville again. It was the fourth straight year we’d made the drive and the fourth straight year I’d gotten a speeding ticket somewhere in the bowels of the country otherwise known as bumfuck lower Alabama. A place where 95% of the tax revenue for a city is derived from pulling over people for “speeding” in the most infernal speed trap creations anywhere in the United States. Where else but Opp, Alabama — not named after the Naughty By Nature song — or Andalusia or Luverne, could there be speed limits that go from 25 to 55 in a quarter mile and then back down again?
So two years ago I said I wouldn’t do it again. Last year we flew without incident. (Aside from me forgetting to check my wife in on a Southwest flight and her having to board in the C group, which is about as hellish as flying can get.) This year my wife decreed that we would drive again because we have a new eight month old baby and she wanted to make sure we fit all of his manifold devices in our car for the trip to the beach. (You would think an eight month old baby, seeing as how he only weighs about fifteen pounds, would not require fifteen hundred pounds of assorted equipment. Unfortunately you would be dead fucking wrong in that assessment.)
So it came to pass that we — me, my wife, our seven year old, our four year old, our eight month old and our nanny — left the Saturday before Memorial Day for Rosemary Beach, Florida. I’m going to skip over the drive down — although, for the record, the entire eight hour drive was bumper to bumper traffic and after four hours my wife turned to me and said, “We should have flown.” — because I’ve already repressed most of it from memory.
This article is about our return trip, this past Sunday.
For those of you who have never made the drive to Destin, Florida it’s important to note that the first half of the drive is by interstate — and this part of the drive is totally normal — but the second half of the drive is through middle of nowhere Alabama. And this part of the drive is terrifying.
1. My wife wakes me up at 6:30 in the morning because I’ve agreed to go on a run with her.
I don’t know why I agreed to do this.
My wife has had three kids, the most recent of which was born eight months ago, and she has abdominal muscles. I have not had three kids and I have man boobs. I have run more than a mile twice in the past five years, since I finished a half marathon in two hours and forty-seven minutes. That is not a good time, people say. But you know what? THERE IS NO GOOD TIME WHEN YOU ARE RUNNING.
BECAUSE RUNNING FUCKING SUCKS.
I ran five miles with my wife two years ago in Central Park. This morning we are going on a four mile jog along 30A. Running is the only thing you can do on 30A, a stretch of pristine white sandy beaches along Alabama and Florida’s gulf coast, that sucks.
Seriously, the only thing.
2. It’s already 148 degrees with 99% humidity at 6:30 in the morning.
We start jogging.
My wife tells me that there is no shade on the jog once we leave Rosemary Beach.
3. We have lots of fun conversations.
For instance: My wife is concerned that our oldest son might become a drug addict.
He is seven.
4. Did I mention how fucking hot it is?
Because it’s really fucking hot.
5. A woman pushing a baby in a stroller sprints past us.
I hate that bitch.
6. I also hate joggers in general, what with their — I can run a long way — cockiness.
You know what training to run a long way gets you? The ability to run a long way. Which is a skill that is totally unnecessary in our modern world. Do you know the last time I had to run anywhere for any length of time?
Do you know the last time you had to?
7. My thighs are starting to chafe.
8. It’s occurring to me that this entire article about the drive could be turning into an article about how much I hate jogging.
So we finish the four miles and jump into the kid’s pool outside the house.
I’m in my underwear, my thighs are burning from where they chafed while I ran. Like all great athletes, I have rubbed my inner thighs raw.
9. Our four year old jumps in the pool.
He and my seven year old are always negotiating for something.
To get them to stay at the beach earlier in the week, I promised them five dollars. My seven year old doesn’t like the beach because sand gets in his butt crack. Seriously, that’s his complaint about the beach. He won’t sit down the entire day on the beach.
The next day we were going to the beach and I offered them double or nothing if they went without complaint. But first I had to explain double or nothing to them. It’s only a matter of time until we’re filling out three team parlays together.
My seven year old refused to go to the beach and demanded his five dollars. My four year went to the beach, won his double or nothing money, and then said he wanted to go double for nothing with me every day for the rest of his life. My four year old is not the son who my wife is worried will become a drug addict.
My four year old has been trying to get me to buy him the Ghostbuster Firehouse for the past four months. It’s a 1980’s era toy that retails for approximately $4 billion dollars on eBay.
“If I’m good on the drive, will you get me the ghostbuster firehouse?” he asks in the pool.
“Ask your mom,” I say.
10. Our eight month old is in a bad mood.
Yesterday we decided we would leave for home after lunch in Rosemary Beach — which, by the way, is heaven on earth –, but since the eight month old is in a bad mood, I’m going to suggest we leave in the morning instead.
This is always a delicate task because my wife is a planner and when things are planned with her it is basically impossible to deviate from the plan.
If you have a wife or husband who is a planner, you know that sometimes it is better to execute a bad plan than to even suggest changing the plan. (I’m convinced this is exactly what happened with George W. Bush in Iraq, by the way.)
I am not a planner. If I were packing for a beach trip we would arrive at the beach with two juice boxes, three pairs of bathing suits, and buy whatever we needed at the beach store.
I have been told this is not a good plan.
11. I persuade my wife to leave early — it’s like negotiating the Yalta peace accords — but we’re good to go.
My wife is 5’2″ and has everything in the car auto set for her. So when I get into her car, a Ford Explorer with three rows of seats, to drive the car seat slides me forward immediately, my knees are crumpling like episode 4 of Star Wars when Luke, Leia and Han are trapped in the garbage compactor. I’m also simultaneously hitting my head on the roof of the car because the seat rises as well.
So I’m frantically hitting buttons on the driver side door, my head’s scrunched all up against the ceiling, my knees are buckling, we haven’t even driven a mile yet and I’m already beaten by this drive.
Only eight more hours to go.
12. The first crisis is already upon us.
My seven year old spent the morning on his iPad so the charge is down incredibly low. That’s bad, but this is even worse:
HIS CHARGER IS NOT CHARGING EITHER.
This qualifies as an emergency.
Because it means that he will have to share the four year old’s iPad.
Which means they will fight over everything.
This certainly qualifies as a first world problem, but, and when I say this I mean it, I have no idea how any parents raised any children before the iPad was invented.
13. I attempt to check my phone for text messages.
My wife is on me like a hawk.
“What are you doing?”
“Checking the time,” I lie.
“Don’t look at your phone while you drive,” she says, blithely scrolling through her phone.
This is the worst thing about driving long distances. I make my living off my phone. And I can’t touch it while we drive. So I have no idea what’s going on in the world.
At a red light I sneak a peek at my Twitter mentions.
Wait, Nick Saban’s daughter drove off the football field with fireworks going off on her wedding day? And someone sent me a video of male and female Bama mascots dancing with the bride and groom? And I can’t do anything about it for eight hours?
The world may come to an end on this drive.
And I wouldn’t know.
14. We don’t have a full tank of gas and my wife is convinced we are going to run out of gas.
I have never run out of gas in my life as a driver. And that was even before we had a Ford Explorer that counts down exactly how many miles of gas we have left in our tank.
Every time we pass a gas station my wife says, “Why don’t you get gas?”
My plan is to get gas when we stop for lunch, not before.
See, I can plan too..
(And also driving is so awful I want something to look forward to. Such as filling up my gas tank with gas).
15. Everyone is in a better mood after a long drive than I am and then I get blamed for being in a bad mood on drives.
Worse, we’ll get in arguments over why I’m in a bad mood during long drives while I’m driving. Which makes the long drive even worse.
This is the curse of being a dad driver on long road trips, everyone else in the car is able to do something other than drive. You just have to drive. And listen to 90’s on 9. God bless 90’s on 9 on satellite radio.
My wife always says, “Well, you won’t let me drive,” when I complain about long drives.
Of course I won’t let her drive.
Because I don’t want us all to die.
I’ve only been in one car accident ever, when I wrecked the Congressman’s wife’s Volvo after someone rear-ended me in 2002. And that wasn’t my fault, it was a three car accident, I was the middle car. Otherwise my driving record is pristine.
My wife has been in like 432 accidents. All relatively minor, thank God, but all absurd when she talks about them. Her door got entirely knocked off once when she opened it.
How does this happen to anyone?
She hits pillars every time she parks in a garage. There are all these dinks and dings and different colors all on the sides of our car that only come from her.
My wife’s cars should come with bumper rails.
No way, no how is she driving.
16. Our Ford Explorer beeps to protect you from an accident.
In theory, this would be great.
Except it beeps even when you aren’t remotely close to the car in front of you.
This is the worst feature ever.
“This is the worst feature ever,” I tell my wife.
She does not respond.
17. My wife is holding the charger in to allow my seven year old’s iPad to charge.
This is the only way it charges.
She’s also unhappy that we don’t have a lunch plan. Meals are a big deal to my wife, she’s convinced if they aren’t planned they won’t happen.
In her defense, on the drive down we stopped at the worst McDonald’s ever. (It’s located in Greenville, Alabama, in case you were wondering.) Every lunch order we made was incorrect when we got our food after a half hour, but the service was so bad it made more sense to just eat whatever they gave you rather than complain.
My lunch plan on the return trip is relatively simple: stop somewhere and eat.
Just as I have never run out of gas, I have never starved either.
Pointing this out does not please my wife.
18. The kids are fighting.
For eight hours.
19. My four year old wants to know whether he’s going to get the Ghostbuster fire house.
He will ask this same question, conservatively, 123 times over the next eight hours.
At one point he yells, “Umm, I have a question,” to get everyone’s attention.
My wife says, “Is it about the Ghostbuster firehouse?”
My four year old says, “No.”
But he does not ask any questions.
20. We cross the border of Florida into Alabama.
My wife is complaining about when and where we are going to eat when it happens, we hit a Florala, Alabama speed trap. (Yes, the town, on the border of Florida and Alabama, is really called Florala. Even the town’s founders were dumb).
The speed limit is 35 miles an hour — having dropped from 55 in the space of a few hundred yards — and I am going 44 miles an hour. The speed limit sign has just switched to 45. You can nearly see the sign where the speed limit will return to 55 ahead.
The only place the speed limit is 35 miles an hour is at the bottom of a small hill.
An unmarked car — which wasn’t even stationary, probably because it had just finished pulling someone else over — has just pulled off on the other side of the road.
Yep, it’s a South Alabama special, the speed trap.
He puts his lights on.
“Unbelievable,” my wife says, pointing at the 45 mile an hour speed limit we’ve just pulled past, you were going less than 45.
21. A redneck local Alabama cop straight out of central casting approaches our Ford Explorer.
He’s wearing a bulletproof vest.
“I got you going 55 in a 35,” he says.
“No, you didn’t,” I say. “My wife and I were both looking at the odometer when we passed you. I was nowhere near 55. You’re lying.”
He turns a bit redder and takes my license and registration. When he returns with the ticket, I ask to see his radar. (He didn’t have his radar on, I saw as we passed him.)
“In Alabama we aren’t required to show you our radar guns,” he says.
Of course you aren’t.
So effectively in Alabama you can pull over anyone for anything and give them a ticket.
Look, let’s be honest here, I hate traffic cops. I’ve been clear about this for a long time. I think they are complete wastes of a job. This is a simple shake down of an out of state driver by a yokel dumb ass cop. This isn’t about making the roads safer or protecting anyone. It’s noon on a Sunday and I was going at most 44 miles an hour on a road with no pedestrians and virtually no traffic at all. The speed limit changes abruptly for no reason — before abruptly changing anew once more — and these cops know it and sit waiting to pounce on out of towners all day long.
In unmarked police cars no less.
They’re undercover traffic cops.
These piece of crap South Alabama cities have a racket going on where they pull people over for nothing and charge them hundreds of dollars for doing nothing wrong. All to justify their own salaries. They might as well have credit card readers in their cars. Hell, I wish they did, it would save time.
So when I get a ticket from them — as lots of you reading this article have as well — I figure if I’m paying a couple of hundred dollars I want them to recognize how big of losers they are.
So before I pull off I take one last shot at this podunk chump.
“I’m glad you have that bullet proof vest on,” I say, “giving out speeding tickets is dangerous work.”
20. My boys, both watching their iPads, have no idea we have gotten a traffic ticket for speeding.
Funny story, six years ago, when my oldest son was two, we went to Destin for the first time.
Of course I got a speeding ticket in a middle of nowhere Alabama speed trap and we pulled off the side of the road in a junky Alabama repair shop.
My two year old, who had been told the next time we’d stop we’d be at the beach, looks up and says, “Is this the beach?”
21. Back on the road, my wife is obsessed with our gas situation.
And it’s a proven fact that if your spouse complains enough about something that has never happened, eventually you start to think it might happen too.
“Hey, maybe I really am going to run out of gas in middle of nowhere Alabama. Maybe I will have to hike on the side of the road for miles and miles to get one tank of gas so we can fill back up. Maybe I will fuck up so bad that I’ll do something that I’ve never, ever done before.”
So we pull off the main road, get gas with 14 miles to spare, and decide to eat in Opp, Alabama.
My wife calls from across the street to see if they are open?
She says, “Are you open?”
And the Pizza Hut says, “Yes.”
Then we drive across the street and the Pizza Hut is closed.
My wife calls again, “I thought you said you were open,” she says.
The man hangs up.
My wife points out that the Chinese restaurant across the street is open. “There is no way I am eating Chinese food in Opp, Alabama and then driving for five more hours,” I say.
So she calls Pizza Hut again and we order pizzas from their parking lot at 11:45 and wait until the restaurant opens at noon.
Welcome to Opp, Alabama.
We eat and then we get back into the car to continue the drive.
22. My parents text my wife and me.
“Exit 205 is a great place to stop,” my mom texts, in the most mom text possible.
My mom’s texts are very stream of conscious. What she is thinking, what’s happening to her, not necessarily connected to us at all. My phone will buzz, I’ll look down, and my mom will have texted, “Cranberry juice is good for your bladder.”
It’s ten in the morning on Tuesday and we haven’t talked about my bladder since I was eight years old.
Or, I’ll be in LA about to go on television and my phone will buzz with a text from mom, “When was the last time you got your moles checked?”
My parents have been at the beach with us, but they only drive to Birmingham and spend the night there with my aunt. We never stop on the drive because the only thing worse than driving long distances with children is driving long distances with children on two straight days.
23. My back is stiff and my chafed leg strawberry from the morning run is sticking to my underwear.
Somewhere in the last three years my back gets stiff when I drive.
This is another reason I hate to drive long distances.
So I’m leaned forward on the seat massaging my lower back with one hand while I steer with the other.
24. My four year old refuses to wear his headphones because, “They make his ears sweat.”
So he’s blaring out Ghostbusters 2 — a movie he’s watched hundreds of times — as we roll down the road.
“I have a question he says,”
“Is it about the Ghostbuster firehouse,” my wife asks.
“No,” he says.
25. We reach Montgomery, Alabama.
The interstate is in Montgomery.
I have never been happier to reach the interstate.
We try to persuade my four year old to put back on his headphones so we can listen to Howard Stern.
He won’t put his headphones back on.
26. My wife won’t let us listen to Howard Stern unless the kids have their headphones on.
I disagree with this parenting decision.
I think it’s never too early to learn about lesbians.
27. Around Huntsville my wife decides the whole family should go to space camp.
Which means I have to say, “I am not going to space camp.”
The only openings for family space camp are when we’re in Seattle on vacation and Labor Day weekend.
Thank God. I was this close to a week in family space camp.
Just shoot me instead.
I’d rather vacation in Florala for a week.
28. Just after the Tennessee state line, I slow down and pretend we’re going to stop at the Boobie Bungalow.
My wife doesn’t think this is funny as I do.
(Sidenote: I do want to go to the Boobie Bungalow some time, Who’s with me? We should have an Outkick field trip here.
Double side note: I wish this column was half as funny as the Booble Bungalow’s customer reviews on Google: https://plus.google.com/110681866444651039219/about?gl=us&hl=en)
29. I try to be optimistic so my wife might consider sleeping with me tonight and say, “It looked like we were going to hit some rain, but the sky is perfectly blue.”
Ten minutes later we are driving in the landscape of the movie Twister.
I’m not kidding, the sky is black, cows are flying by in the air.
Eight hours after leaving, we arrive home in a pouring rain storm.
When I get out of the car, my underwear is stuck to my chafed thighs and when I peel it off the skin rips anew.
After we have finished unloading the car — dad duty as well — my four year old comes up to me and gives me a hug and kiss. (This is a big deal because my four year old will only give me one hug and one kiss a day. That’s it.)
“I’m glad we’re home, dad,” he says, “I love you.”
My heart melts.
He steps back from me, the cutest kid on the face of the earth.
“Dad,” he says.
“Yes,” I say, overflowing with love.
“Since I was so good on the drive, can I get the Ghostbuster Firehouse?”