Our daughter had yet to see mountains. Almost seventeen months in this world and she’d only known the flat Florida terrain which gave me the idea of renting a car and driving north until there was elevation.
This worried my Love Interest. Our longest sojourn to this point had been two hours away to Ft. Myers. On that drive our daughter had behaved admirably sleeping all the way through. But there had been other nightmares like the time there was a bridge closure on Miami Beach and the drive from Aventura which should have taken thirty minutes was close to two hours of deafening hysterics.
I promised her this drive would be different. We would have the open road and plenty of time and if there was the slightest whimper of discontent from our daughter we would pull over and let her run around and explore the new terrain.
So I rented a car which was the first complication. Renting it was easy, I went for the cheapest option as always with unlimited miles. Only this car was small enough to fit in your pocket, so after we packed the car I had to return it and get a larger one for a larger price. Which also meant having to put the car seat in two different cars. After resetting a car seat several times I am now an expert, but it has taken blood, sweat, and creaks in the back to get to this point. And so we hit the road at close to noon rather than ten am as I had hoped.
But we were the masters of our destiny, with no boss except our crying daughter who screamed and screamed until she fell asleep and rewarded us with one of the longest naps of her tenure on Earth. We got all the way from Fort Lauderdale to Daytona Beach before she awakened whereby I kept my promise and pulled off of I-95 to an exotic Publix supermarket.
As happens to every vacationer once you get away from your hometown everyone seems nicer. It might have been a coincidence as we did happen to get our few groceries bagged by the store’s employee of the month, but our first kindly interactions made us feel good about the world and bad about Miami.
Besides the setbacks from the rental car it looked like we would make our first stopping point before dark. Outside Brunswick, Georgia was a the hostel in the forest, a place I had visited a couple times in college nearly two decades earlier.
But first there was trouble. There was Jacksonville, Florida which believe it or not is the largest city in the United States (area wise) and was gridlocked to all Hell. And our daughter doesn’t like Hell. her patience was thinning, the sun was setting. It was like Florida was doing everything she could to make sure we didn’t leave her boundaries.
Finally, we reached Georgia and our exit. On the unlit street it was difficult to find the entrance to the hostel. Even though I had been there before I almost drove past the dirt road. I slammed on the brakes and pulled us in where we had a half mile of bumps and darkness. “Turn the lights off so we can see how dark it is” said the Love Interest. It was indeed dark.
We grabbed our possessions and walked toward the geodesic domes. It would have been smart to have a flashlight, but I’m not always smart. We were greeted with a hug by the bearded Hippie who checked us in and were given the lowdown of the hostel. For fifty bucks a night we could sleep in one of the treehouses and munch out on a delicious dinner.
We ate well and slept. The one downside of the place that I remembered from years earlier were the chickens running around. With chickens there are roosters who like to cock-a-doodle-doo way way before morning. But as the sun rose we had a great view from the treehouse of the forest and a little rock labyrinth. There was much development to the place since the 17 years I had last visited. There were many more treehouses, a library was built that housed many instruments and a homemade ping pong table. There was also access to a crystal clear lake that was the perfect temperature. It was so perfect that my Love Interest said “Why should we keep driving? Let’s stay here.”
It was hard to argue with that. It was peaceful and we were having a great time even if there were no mountains around, but on our second night nature took care of our decision. The hostel as great as it is for me is not for everyone. If you saw Return of the Jedi and did not think living with the Ewoks seemed like a good idea, this was not the place for you. Instead of flush toilets, there were outhouses that you were supposed to pour sawdust down the hatch after you take care of business for composting purposes and that second night when we walked up to our treehouse after munching out on vegan cornbread we saw we were not sleeping alone. There were roaches scurrying on our treehouse floor which caused my Love Interest to change her mind.
The next morning some time after the roosters crowed I was loading up the car for North Carolina.