Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The End of an Era

Sunrise on the Gulf coast
Many of you know that the reason I travel 18 hours by car down to the Gulf coast this time of the year is to visit my aging grandparents. Six years ago they decided they were too old to drive up to Iowa during the summer to visit family so we the family hatched a plan to go see them. We would drive down to the Gulf coast, rent a place where we could hang out on the beach and visit with them for a week and they didn't have to drive so far. It worked well for the first three years. The my grandfather's health declined to the point where I think he had just given up on living and so he declined to come on the fourth year and forced my grandmother to stay home with him. Of course the rest of us didn't know this until too late to back out of the rental so we all drove 18 hours to spend time with ourselves. The following year my grandfather started getting treatments and his will to live came back so on short notice, we rented another place since our usual place had already been rented out. So much fun was had that we decided to do it another year and we rented the new place again. The day before we left, we got the call that this time my grandmother didn't want to make the journey for health issues and so the Iowa contingent of my family again traveled 18 hours to spend time with ourselves.

We like the beach but driving all that way just to see it isn't really something we care to do when there are many other beautiful places to spend time much closer. So I think this was the last time we will head down to the Gulf for a family reunion. My grandparents are to the point where they are thinking about selling their house in Florida and moving back to Iowa where they can be close to family and assistance and make the final transition from apartment to assisted living to the great beyond. Hopefully this summer we can get all arrangements made for this but if not, perhaps next winter we will just fly to their house in Florida and stay in a motel nearby for our reunion instead of the beach.

Sunset on the Gulf coast
Despite not having the grandparents there, we had a good time on the Gulf coast with my parents and my brother and his family. It wasn't the location but the fact that we were all spending time together under one roof. The location this time was much different than the years before. This time it was very warm and wet the entire week instead of being cool and sunny. In fact, we saw the sun only for about 4 hours the morning after we arrived and then never saw it again. We still walked on the beach every morning though we struggled but more on that in the next post. We ate good food, played games, saw the latest Star Wars movie and spent lots of time drying our rain soaked clothes.

On the way back, we had genuine concern on whether or not we could make the drive since it carried us along flooded Mississippi and Missouri river valleys. We left at five in the morning to give us plenty of daylight before reaching them and we only just did. We got to the preceding edge of the flooding at dusk and the roads were just passable having been cleared as the water receded. At one point it was less than a foot below our interstate highway we were traveling on. As we continued over the flooded river valleys, it got dark so all we could see was the headlights reflecting off the surface of the water so we knew there was devastation all around. Fortunately, we were able to get through and make it to home much later that evening.

Daytime on the Gulf coast


Bob said...

Ed -- I was also on the Gulf Coast for a few days last week and over NY weekend. My wife and I arrived when it was warm and rainy, and then it turned cold. Our drive was much shorter - about 6.5 hours. Took a few beach walks, ate good food and read a lot. Glad you made it back safely. Happy New Year!

Vince said...

I suppose the need for the cars means you have the freedom to go as you'd like, and the costs of driving down is nulled by the cost of hiring more than one car.
Are the grandparents that much further south than where you go on the panhandle that it made it a real chore for them to tool up a freeway.
We've been getting a real dousing too. Major flooding in Ireland and the UK. And oddly in places that really can handle vast amounts usually.

Ed said...

Bob - I think the day we left was the day it turned cold or at least went back to normal temperatures. Happy New Year to you too Bob!

Vince - I would love to fly there but about the closest I could get to reasonable airfares means a two hour drive for me to get to an airport and then flying to Birmingham or Atlanta and still having a six hour drive after that. So for the price of plane tickets, car rental and still eight hours of driving, driving the entire distance just makes more sense.

It takes my grandparents about ten hours total to get from their house to where we rent. Much of that is just due to time spent in traffic jams and such along the way plus they are quite a ways south of Orlando about in the middle of the peninsula.

I suppose the heavy amounts of rain are due to the 'Godzilla' El Nino event that it going on right now. It usually means our west coast gets lots of rain as well which has been the case. In my area, we live on the dividing line between the much warmer south and the more rainfall area so an El Nino can mean a drought or a really wet season. Usually it is an extreme one way or another. Thus far it has been leaning towards being really wet as we just had our wettest December since 1895!

Bob said...

Ed this is probably irrelevant now, but just FYI if you ever want to head that way again and would want to consider flying, there is an airport just outside Panama City that, surprisingly, has pretty decent connections.

Leigh said...

I think it was splendid of you to do that for as long as you did. Family is so important. And all those trips lay a wonderful groundwork of memories and dedication to family for your own.

Kelly said...

A sad realization, I'm sure... but at least you've had some good times there and made some lasting memories.

It's been years since I've been to the coast (my husband and I aren't beach people), though my kids have all been a number of times. In fact, I think the last beach I stood on was Dover beach in the UK, more than a decade ago! We'd love to visit the WWII museum in NOLA, so maybe a drive down won't be too far in the future.

The thought of your drive home is very scary! Glad it was uneventful for you. So much devastation!

Ed said...

Leigh - Family comes first for sure!

Kelly - I always wanted to go to Dover when in the UK but never made it over there. There are a lot of places on my UK bucket list I still need to fill.