I’ll combine the last two days, because it was not a super complicated road trip, apart from traffic. The plan was to hit the road after breakfast, and make the 10 hour drive (plus fuel stops & rest breaks) to our already-reserved hotel room in Richmond. It had been a long week, and while I entertained a 3 hour detour through Shenandoah National Park and the famous Skyline Drive, everyone wanted to get home. It’s understandable.
I’m glad we didn’t go ahead with the detour because we hit so much traffic, it would never have worked. The entire northern stretch of Florida leaving Orlando, the entire length of Georgia, and parts of South Carolina was 30 MPH. Traffic, traffic, and more traffic. Rather fed up near the Georgia – South Carolina border, Nums navigatedus along a local route in order to recoup some time. Despite lunch while driving on the road, the gas stops, and maybe two stretch breaks, the unexpected traffic added three whole hours to the trip.
I will take a moment to comment on a Georgia rest area with visitor center we stopped at briefly for a restroom / stretch break. It had couches (with tv!) and a life-size cutout of Daryl from The Walking Dead. Funny.
By 9:30 pm, we were still 90 mins away from the hotel, and hungry for dinner. We stopped into a CiCi’s Pizza for the first time ever to eat before they (and most other restaurants) closed by 10 pm. I gotta say, those CiCi tv ads (pizza buffet?) really make their pizza look like they taste good. In reality, they reminded me of cafeteria pizza. It’s quantity over quality. Then again, as the well-being adage goes…. when you’re hungry, any pizza buffet in a storm.
Around 11 pm, we had mapped our route to the Garden Inn in the “Richmond South” area. While the number of restaurants and other establishments seemed greater than I anticipated, maybe I remembered it wrong. Unfortunately, we parked, happily unloaded the car, walked into the lobby, and the Front Desk couldn’t find out reservation. Turns out, we mapped it to the wrong Hilton property. We were staying at the Hampton Inn Richmond South, not Garden Inn Richmond South.
Exasperated, we loaded the car back up, and drove 15 mins north to the Hampton Inn Richmond South. Not as nice a hotel, not as nice a neighborhood. Lesson learned – next time on a road trip, if we’re just planning to stay at a roadside hotel, we don’t need to book the hotel in advance. We all would have gladly stopped hours earlier and checked into a hotel along the way. We grabbed one suitcase, checked in, and quickly got to bed for some much-desired sleep.
I woke up 7 hours later to a very loud alarm and watching Lily slamming anything on the night table between beds trying to shut off the alarm. Why was the alarm clock so obnoxiously loud? Who set the hotel alarm clock anyway? It was no alarm clock – it was the hotel fire alarm. With no idea what time it was, we dressed (I grabbed the car keys) and stumbled downstairs and outside.
It was around 8 am. Not as early as I thought but we were all a little delirious. We sat in the car for 20 mins, watched the police cars and fire trucks arrive. No fire, somebody was smoking apparently we learned later. Now awake, we went back to the room to get ready, have breakfast at the hotel, and get home.
Thankfully the drive on Saturday was smoother and less eventful. We grabbed lunch at a Waffle House in Maryland, and arrived home around 2 pm. What a long week it was!
Overall, we had a good time. The drive was probably slightly less expensive than driving, but we haven’t done the exact math on that yet. I liked that we had the car to use freely in Orlando. I also liked our pit stop in Charleston, and a unique opportunity to celebrate Easter so far from home.
We had a fun time hanging out with the Winters as much as we did. EPCOT was my favorite day because we got to see and do so much more than at the other parks. I was personally a little disappointed in Hollywood Studios as it didn’t offer as much as I hoped. I don’t know if we would do Universal again without the Express Pass. It’s either that or try to go back during non-peak season. Next time, we have to see Cape Canaveral.
Another successful Ipe vacation!