I had already figured out where. I was Googling vacation ideas and found a vacation rental on Grand Isle Louisiana. Grand Isle is a barrier island about 100 miles south of New Orleans in Jefferson Parrish. The house, called the Milky Way, was owned by a couple named Lou and Belle (could you get a more southern name) Toups. I found them on a site called VRBO.com, which is associated with Homeaway.com.
The house looked perfect for all of us. It had four bedrooms and four full baths. Each family could have their own room and bath room. Each room had a queen bed and a set of bunk beds. We could bring the pack and play for Lorelei since she's not quite ready for a real bed only being one.
My original idea was to go somewhere to camp. With Lorelei being so little, I thought maybe not. Then I thought of renting an RV and bringing tents. This vacation was going to be in March on spring break. Tents might be a little cool to sleep in still. That left hotels. I looked at different travel sites, hotels were just not going to be a financial option. Four rooms a night at a decent hotel, way out of my league.
It was just by happenstance that I stumbled on the VRBO site. I can't remember how I got there. I found the rental house. I looked through the reviews and the photos. Then I closed out of it. A few days later I looked at it again, thinking how perfect it would be, closed out of the site again. I repeated this process many times for several weeks. Then I talked to Willie about the idea of doing this vacation for Christmas presents. He liked it, so with him on board, I looked at the site again, and again, and again. Finally, I texted the kids, asked them how they would feel about a family vacation for Christmas presents, and birthday and so on. They all loved it. I asked Alyssa when Kahlen's Spring break was, when she found out I texted the rest of the kids and told them to ask for the time off from work. It still took me a few more times looking at the site before I was brave enough to pull the trigger. Finally, I did. From that moment, until we reached the house and went inside, I was terrified it would be a dump and our money would be lost.
I had never seen an ocean before, and while the gulf isn't technically an ocean, it was within the driving distance at which I was looking. Remember, we are talking about transporting four children, ages 7, 4, 3, and 1, by car. I knew there would be a tolerance zone that I couldn't exceed. I also wanted to go someplace warm, but not full of crazy college spring breakers. I had texted the owners of the house a few times asking if they got a lot of college spring breakers on the island. She told me they really didn't, and the local schools weren't out at that time so we should have most of the beach to ourselves. That helped calm some of my nerves, but she could have just been saying what I wanted to hear to get me to rent.
I won't lie, for the 10 months between when I rented the house and we walked in the door, I was petrified what we would find. We had spent the night at my friends Dawn's in the St. Louis area to break up the trip a little. The Grandkids all got to help her pick out some new baby chickens. They helped her set up an area in the garage to keep them warm. I thought Kahlen just might sleep out there with them. It was a wonderful distraction from the stress of the unknown.
We got up early and left Sunday morning. As we drove down to Grand Isle, I could feel the nausea rising and the stress factor increasing. I had never planned anything on this kind of scale before. Especially not for 8 adults who all had their own ideas of what they wanted to do.
We stopped in Memphis for lunch and ate at B.B. Kings. That was a very welcome diversion. The grandkids danced around to the live music. Except for the fact that Willie decided he needed to stay with the cars, most of our stuff was in the back of his pick up with no way to lock it up, we had a lot of fun. I felt really bad that he wasn't in there, but when he said a few guys came around and were looking in all of the cars, I was glad he stayed.
The rest of the drive was uneventful and full of bathroom stops, and chances for buying snacks. We all decided to wait for supper until we got to the house so we wouldn't have the same issue with the stuff in the truck. As we FINALLY entered Louisiana, I could feel my excitement increase along with a sense of dread for what we would find. We skirted around New Orleans, and came to the bridge that would take us across the wetlands onto Grand Isle. It was dark and we couldn't see much. The bridge was long and had a crazy sharp turn that looks like a lot of people were not ready for, probably because there were no signs warning of it. The scrapes and gashes in the bridge barrier gave testament to that.
We finally got to the island and started looking for the house. Alyssa and Shane, in one car, and Willie, Josh and Caitlin in the truck, were waiting at a corner for Valerie and Joel and I. Apparently, I gave Alyssa the wrong address, and the house she pulled up to was truly a broken down shack. I'm so glad I wasn't with her to see that! I think my heart would have given out.
Joel took the lead, Josh and Shane followed, and we drove down LA 1 looking for the correct house. We reached the Milky Way, from the outside it looked like the photos. That helped ease my fears a bit. I walked up the steps to the upper deck, found the lock box, put in the code and retrieved the key. With everyone at my side, I unlocked the door and entered. I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders as I looked around and saw that it looked just like the photos.
There was a musty smell, probably due to it not being used most of the winter. We all walked around the house checking everything out and picking out bedrooms. Once that was done, I snuck out, walked over the berm to the beach, and took in my first look at a body of water bigger than I had ever seen.
I stood there watching the waves sparkle as they came in under the light of the full moon. I listened to the waves and the wind as they rumbled and sang their separate songs. I felt the wind blow my hair and smelled the aroma of the sand. Even though it was dark, It was magical. A place I never thought I'd ever be. I'd always dreamed about seeing an ocean, which, again, I know technically the Gulf isn't, but it may be the closest I ever get and it was amazing.
Soon the kids and grandkids joined me on the beach. The grandkids ran around in giddy excitement. Both excited to be free from the cars and struck with wonder at a site they had never seen. The week ahead seemed like a great adventure just waiting to be had.