Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Where's the Candy Shop?

I travelled to the state capital last weekend hoping for some homemade pie, but all I got were crumbs.

{Wedding decorations look like gumballs falling from the sky}

I was ecstatic when I discovered that Katie's Future Problem Solving (FPS) Annual State Bowl was the same weekend as Austin's International Poetry Festival (AIPF). At first I planned on tagging along with the school group. I could go to the festival during the day and spend time with Katie in the evening. How hard could it be to slip away for a few hours to attend a workshop or poetry reading? A week before the trip I was asked to chaperone, which would cover the cost of my hotel room. Of course, being the Little Ms. Economical that I am, I said yes. How hard could it be to share a room with my daughter and two other twelve-year-old girls? Then just two days before the trip, a parent I had never met or even seen before called me and asked for a ride. She would pay for half of the gas. Hmmm... I had to think about that one for awhile before I said yes. Before I could turn around, the weekend had begun.

Unfortunately, I did not make it to the poetry festival. Knowing that this gathering of famous poets from all over the world was going on somewhere within the depths of Austin away from our teeny tiny little corner of state-wide problem solvers was treacherous. Imagine taking a child to the Mall of America and not letting her go into the alluring candy shop where a vast selection of goodies awaits. That's how I felt. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the shopping trip; but I missed out on the sweet treats I had been dreaming of. Friday night we ate at the Cheesecake Factory, and I didn't even get a piece of homemade pie (it was after 11:00 and we were tired, full, and needed to get to bed). That thick slab of caramel chocolate cheesecake haunted me the rest of the weekend almost as much as missing AIPF.

I really could have used the sugar after my sleepless nights. Fortunately, I was blessed with a room full of sweet girls. In fact they were the cream of the crop. Girls will be girls though, which means a whole lot of talking and giggling. The chatter boxes opened each night at bedtime and continued until who knows when? Gab, grab (snacks), gab, grab; no wonder I was a crab. And the time they spent in the bathroom getting ready was preposterous! I could have made a trip to the candy shop and returned without them even knowing I was gone.

Speaking of trips, the drive was quite an adventure in and of itself. The lady who rode with me turned out to be a teacher and we got along, thank goodness. I felt sorry for her, though, because she had to put up with my trailing the school buses and stopping at nothing to keep up. I was flying by the seat of me pants, for I had no clue how to get to Austin. I had not visited since my crazy college days. I did have my GPS, but you know how I feel about those things (if not, click here).

On the way there, one of the bus drivers got a ticket. We had to stop and wait while the state trooper cited her for not changing to the far left-hand lane when she drove by. He was giving out a ticket on the highway's shoulder and didn't like the warm breeze, I guess. While we waited patiently, the other two bus drivers shocked us when they stepped away from their steering wheels and took a smoke break beside the buses. Great role models, huh? This hold up put us behind, as did lunch. As a result, we wasted time trying to save time. Out of nowhere, the school buses veered off onto a toll road that was not in the itinerary. They were trying to make it to the planned tour at Inner Space Cavern, but serendipitously discovered it was rush hour on a Friday evening. All the time we wasted driving around and keeping up with Old Yellow was merely a circuitous lap through the mall... ~sigh~.

So on the way back Sunday, I was not about to follow those darned buses; our daughters were belted safely in the backseat which meant we could drive at our own pace. There was one minor problem, though; all I had was the GPS, and we were not leaving from the hotel. We were leaving from a huge auditorium that was off the beaten path. We were somewhere on the outskirts of Austin when I punched the Home button. In seconds, the GPS told us which way to go, and we followed its instructions. The highway was a dirt path being worked on, with no mode of entrance. So we had to take a wee little detour. The road it took us down was deserted. We couldn't turn around. I felt panicky, and my guest was extremely nervous I could tell.

"I'll just call Pete and have him Google this. He can tell us if we're on the right path," I offered. She just looked at me.

Pete did not seem too surprised to hear my voice. After a quick computer check he told me that we would be okay, but we were still in the middle of nowhere. It was like something out of a horror picture, I tell you; driving down a deserted one-way dirt road with no signs of life or reassuring images on the horizon. To top it off, the GPS was telling us to turn around as soon as possible, but there was no way to do that. I kept chugging along on a hope-filled promise that we would soon reach something. And we did finally reach a little town. After the GPS readjusted, it told us the drive home would take eight hours, when it should only be four or five. That's when we got out the road map from my glove compartment and turned off that stupid thing.

Eventually the lady felt comfortable enough to doze off. The girls were napping, too. Without someone to talk to, I found myself falling into a dazed haze. Luckily I discovered a bag of sweets, but only cookie crumbs were left. I poured them into my mouth and prayed they would help me stay awake. They did. I replayed the weekend in my head as I knocked out the miles. I had a wonderful time with Katie, got to visit with my nephew and his wife, witnessed an outside wedding, and observed many strange occurrences and human foibles. I may not have attended the AIPF, but I sure did collect a wide assortment of pictures and writing/poetry prompts and ideas. I was happy with my box of chocolates.

We finally made it back to town four hours later; exhausted, but alive. There really is no place like home. I'm still coming down from my sugar high.


Jeni said...

wow... I'm sorry you didn't go to the poetry conference. Sometimes things like that need to be planned all on its own. Peaceful poetry time - I kinda don't put kids and Peace in the same sentence. hehe.
sounds like you had fun though and that's all that matters -xox

LKHarris-Kolp said...

Thanks, Jeni. I was pretty bummed out about it, but my children always come first. You're right peace and kids...?