Saturday, August 30, 2014

The tale of the college road trip...

The hubby and I took Ellie to college in New York last week and we made it out alive. Barely.

Now you need to understand that in order to make it all work logistically, much planning had to be done. After all, what about Tess? Would she come? And if we brought her with us, how could we fit all of her stuff plus Ellie's stuff in one van? What about Oreo? Where would she stay while we were gone. It's not like she can stay with just anyone. She is too specifically trained and needs to be with people who know her commands, which basically left Charlie or myself and we were going to be in New York with Ellie!

Holy Dilemmas, Batman!

After a lot of consideration, I arranged for our faithful Sheila to take Tess. However, due to her deathly allergic reaction to dogs, a plan was still needed for Oreo. We decided to just bring her with us. Oreo is a bit high strung and we just knew that being away from Tess would be hard enough on her but if we left her behind without, well, me, she would just fall to pieces. Pieces that may never be put back together  again. Yes, she is that high strung... or "sensitive", as Jeremy from 4Paws would say.

This still left the dilemma of getting all of Tess's stuff to Sheila's plus having enough room for all of Ellie's things. What to do? What to do?

Okay, we would take BOTH of our vans. The handicapped one for Tess to travel with all of her stuff to Sheila's in, and the other one to load up with all of Ellie's things. I would take Ellie with Tess and me, and meet the hubby in Portland before ultimately dropping off Tess at Sheila's. Then Ellie, the hubby, and I would take the other van on to New York. Easy Peasy. Sort of.

Now we just had to get both vans off the island the same day. Alrighty then. In order to do that, both the hubs and I would have to get up at 5:30 the day before we wanted to get them on the ferry in order to secure spots for them on the boat. The day came, the alarm went off and both of us grudgingly got up at that disgusting hour to procure line numbers. I made out just fine and got the one I wanted without a glitch. The hubs on the other hand? For whatever reason, and I'm not saying he was doing anything wrong but once again, I got thru without any problems what so ever while he kept getting a busy signal and by the time he got thru, could only get an afternoon line number for the ferry which really just wouldn't do.  Long story short, my mother and step-mother had actually made us reservations for the ferry a while ago and there was never any need to get up to try to get line numbers in the first place. And I had totally forgotten. Oops. My bad, Charlie.

So we were not exactly off to an auspicious start but were not discouraged. Charlie left on an early boat to get the van we would be taking to New York checked out because the breaks were making and odd noise. Yippee. Nothing like the thought of a long drive to make you want to be sure your vehicle isn't going to try to kill you. Ellie, Tess and I went off on a later boat that morning with plans to meet up with the hubs at a hotel for the night in Portland.

As we were heading toward the mainland I noticed my dad hauling his lobster traps near the ferry's route. Coincidence that he had timed up those strings of traps to be hauled right when he knew Ellie would be going by on her way to college? I think not. So she hopped out of the car to wave to her Papa one last time and he was waving at her from the deck of his boat.

Papa waving goodbye

The first stop once we got to the mainland was to the Vets because our "sensitive" girl, Oreo, gets car sick and needed more meds to help control the mountains of vomit that were sure to happen without them. Good times.

Finally we were off and about and hour and a half later met up with Charlie at our hotel. Ellie still needed to do some last minute dorm room shopping so back in the van we went and headed to the mall. Mostly, the hubs, Tess, Oreo, and I just sat and waited for Ellie. But we did all troupe into Build a Bear to have Ellie make a stuffed animal for Tess with her voice recorded in it to have in Ellie's absence. Tess picked out a pink octopus with a polka dot dress. I wanted her to pick the super sparkly dress but no, that kid seems to think she has a mind of her own. Sheesh!

Ellie and Tess got to have one last slumby together at the hotel and the next morning we dropped Tess off at Sheila's where Ellie had to say goodbye to her and I promptly burst into tears like a total wuss. Ellie kept asking in a very disgusted tone, "What is wrong with you?!", and Sheila was laughing at me. It wasn't pretty. Or rather, I made a pretty big fool of myself.

We hit the road and got as far as Massachusetts before our first near death experience. The hubs was driving but I, being the thoughtful and responsible spouse that I am, was doing a great job at back seat driving doling out helpful advice. Like screaming out "BRAKE!!!!!!" as every car in front of us as far as the eye could see had their brake lights on while we were still putting the petal to the metal. Thankfully the hubs still has lightning quick reflexes and slammed on the breaks and swerved into the break down lane to avoid rear ending the car ahead of us as half the contents of the van surged forward on top of Ellie and Oreo. This type of scenario, minus the swerving and falling luggage, may have happened several more times so that by the time we stopped for lunch at some po'dunk little gas station in the middle of, "where the hell are we" and "I hope it's easy to get back on the highway"-ville, we were all a bit frazzled.

The hubs was rather tense with me and all of my helpful advice I had been shrieking out, Ellie was a bundle of nerves and was going into fits of hysterical giggles, and poor Oreo looked possessed as we straggled out of the van and lurched around as if drunk while trying to appear as if we really did have our shit together.

I took Oreo to go potty and told Ellie to go locate the rest room while the hubs put gas in the van. Ellie came back and informed me there was no restroom. Um...huh? This was a mini mart gas station. Rather dumpy and remotely located but surely there was a restroom. And yes, right as I went in, there were signs above pointing right to them. I made Ellie take not of the signs and with just a smidge of sarcasm in my voice, advised her to store them in her memory for later use as knowing what the universal sign for restrooms was was bound to come in handy while living in the city. I know, I'm a good mom.

After a very long day and a trip thru the Bronx, we made it to our hotel on Staten Island. Huzzah!

The next morning we hopped in the van to get Ellie moved into her dorm at Wagner College. It was really well organized and some Wagner students unloaded everything for us and made sure it all got to Ellie's room but we still had Oreo to contend with. Ultimately, the hubs and I took turns waiting in the van with her while the other was with Ellie helping unpack.  Did I mention I was wearing cute sandals? And did I mention that we had to park across campus, at the football field and that Ellie's dorm was the farthest one away at the bottom of a hill? No?

It was torture. My feet got so bad that after about my fourth trudge back up that hill to the Union where I needed to go get something in the bookstore and which, once you got it had steps to get in, I actually said rather loudly, "Who puts steps at the top of a hill to get into a building?!?!" And some man going in the opposite direction looked over at me in what I feel sure was total solidarity and said, "That hill's a bitch, isn't it?" I think I fell in love with him just a little for understanding my pain.

My feet got so sore (and bloody with blisters-gross, I know) that I finally made Ellie give me her flip flops and put on my sandals. She wasn't too happy about it but I let her know in no uncertain terms that she could either give me her shoes or I was going to flag down the next security guard going by in a golf cart and make a scene that would most likely result in her total embarrassment. She gave me her shoes.

Late in the afternoon was the family BBQ which was the last event before the families all said goodbye and left. By this point we decided that Oreo could come with us as it was out on the grass and we knew she would behave. We put her service dog vest on her and she instantly went from a normal dog to what I can only assume was a unicorn based on the kids' reactions to her. It was like they had never, ever seen a dog in their entire lives. While Charlie and Ellie stood in line to get our dinner, I met kid after kid via Oreo the unicorn dog. One girl actually told me that meeting Oreo had, and I quote, "Made her entire life". Ooookaayyyy. But the kids were pretty funny and it did help pass the time and made me feel a little less of a loser standing all alone in a crowd of people.

At one point the Dean of Nursing came over to me and introduced herself. She then asked me if she could get me anything. I said no thanks, I was all set but she asked again and seemed really concerned for my overall well being. After she left I was thinking about it and it dawned on me that she just might have gotten the impression that I was....blind. I mean think about it. I was standing in the same spot for close to half an hour without moving because my feet and back were killing me. I had a service dog with me and, get this, I was wearing dark black sunglasses. In retrospect, I must have made quite the picture standing on the Sutter Oval. Sigh.

See those dark glasses? Yeah...

We finally said goodbye to Ellie and I did not shed a single tear. It was hard because she looked pretty overwhelmed but I knew she would be fine. We needed to get back to Biddeford to get Tess because Sheila had to work first thing in the morning. Garmin said we should be there by 11:38 pm. Any guesses on what time we actually picked her up? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

1:45am. Got that? ONE FREAKIN' FORTY FIVE IN THE MORNING! Oh my god! It was just unbelievable Between the traffic (we actually went thru the city on the way out) and the weather, it became a quest to get to Sheila's. Almost like in a movie where the hero and heroin meet every obstacle possible and then some, yet must overcome them all.  It literally felt like the road was playing on a loop and it kept rewinding. Like the closer we got, the further we were away. It was almost comical in the absurdity if it all.


But we did make it and lived to tell the tale.

This tale.

You're welcome.  ;)