Best-laid plans: when a vacation doesn’t turn out as you hoped

As my husband Mike and I headed out on Feb. 1 to begin a driving trip south, I stuck a virtual pencil behind my right ear … a reminder I wanted to write my next column about our vacation.

First up was spending five nights in Gatlinburg, TN, with our youngest son, Ben, and his family. After that, we planned a couple of nights in Hilton Head Island, SC, and then on to Florida to spend the rest of the month with three sets of generous friends.

My favorite Tennessee moment: watching our little granddaughter, Ellie Dawn, taking her first steps. Amazing how many times a new walker falls, gets up and goes at it again without complaint. Watching our last grandbaby grow and develop is a gift beyond measure. Ben chose a hike for us in the national park … word to the wise: a “moderate” trail in the Great Smoky Mountains equates to an “extremely super-challenging” trail in Brown County.

After bidding goodbye to the kids in Gatlinburg, we drove through the mountains to end up at by the ocean, settling into Hilton Head for a short stay. We found a restaurant to enjoy some good peel-and-eat shrimp and planned a long walk on the beach for the next day.

The next morning, as we prepared for the day ahead, we discovered there wasn’t any running water in our hotel room. The front desk promised to get it back on, but little did we know that lack of running water would be an ongoing theme during our stay there. But we put it out of our minds and enjoyed our day. I was touched watching several rough-and-tumble guys bow their heads and pray at breakfast. We walked on the beach and enjoyed watching busy little sandpipers scampering along the shore. We rented bikes. We ate more shrimp and watched college basketball on TV. Finally, we went back to our room and doused the lights, excited to be driving to our friend’s home in Satellite Beach, FL, the following morning.

Did I mention we lost water again two more times that evening?

I awoke at 4:30 a.m. the next morning not feeling well. I sprinted to the bathroom, where I perched on the ‘throne,’ and held a wastebasket in front of me … a position I kept for most of the day. We stayed one more night in Water-less World so I could (hopefully) recover enough from Norovirus to head on to our friend’s house. I got in the shower that afternoon, and yep … the water went off AGAIN. But this time, I was covered with soap.

The next day, we were done playing water-roulette and headed to St. Augustine for the night. I tentatively ate a piece of plain fish that evening and Mike wolfed down fish tacos. We texted our friends and said it looked like clear sailing ahead. Wrong. Mike barfed in the middle of the night and woke up with a 101 F. fever. He also had a slight cold, so decided to test himself for COVID-19. Positive.

We reluctantly called off our trip and headed back to Indiana. We have dear friends, but who wants two toilet-dependent seventy-somethings (including one with COVID) to show up on your doorstep?

Due to GPS operator error, we only made it 25 miles in the first hour of our return trip. We later survived the perpetual traffic jam of Atlanta without getting into a major argument. After 46 years together, we’ve experienced enough to know life doesn’t always turn out the way you want it to, even on vacation. But if you can puke together and make it through Atlanta alive — and laugh at your predicament — then that may just be true love.

Sharon Mangas is a Columbus resident and can be reached at [email protected] Send comments to [email protected]