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Our 12th anniversary trip last year to Denver, CO. 

Chris and I had only known each other a few weeks before we ran away and got married. I was 18, he was 22, and no one knew about it until after it happened. This meant that no one had the opportunity to object or the ability to attempt to intervene. We were young, wild and free! – until November 14th, 2003 that is, when we locked each other down for life. I would never recommend that anyone else do the same.

Even though our relationship was still in the baby stages, probably more lust than love at that point, our time together was so fierce and passionate and intense that I felt like I had known him my entire life. He radiated a sense of raw masculinity that I just couldn’t (and still can’t) get enough of. We had a similar sense of humor, we enjoyed the same things and when we were together there were fireworks exploding. Electricity. Magnetic draw. A desire so extraordinary that I cannot properly discern it. The entire world could have stopped around us but as long as we were together, we wouldn’t have noticed.

He and I were both coming out of some tumultuous times, and looking back, our paths needed to intercept when they did. We fell head over heels for each other and our lives would forever change paths, from two separate dumb ass kids on two separate paths to a team of two dumb ass kids who would navigate the path of life together.

In our very first year as a young married couple we spent a ton of time on the road together. The job he worked and I helped with / tagged along on required hundreds if not thousands of miles per week and hours upon hours, days upon days on the road, mainly in our surrounding states. This took place in the days of printed internet directions, and old school paper mapping, just ahead of the modern GPS devices. Thank goodness for modern technology – those poor trees!

I do remember bits and pieces of our life together working on the road that first year. A few times will stick in my mind forever, but for the most part it is a total blur.

Our first real road trip adventure together is a-whole-nother story, though. Allow me to recite it. 

I’ll never forget it. The year was 2004 – we had spent all summer planning and saving up for a 5 night trip to Myrtle Beach. This was a big accomplishment for us both, as I was only 19 and he had just turned 23. Social media was a thing of the future, and in order to find out about a place you had to actually GO and experience it on your own. In today’s age, I am able to find inspiration via gorgeous photos and videos of places and in depth blogs with just a few clicks of a mouse. Back then, when choosing adventures we went because it simply “sounded cool”.

The plan was to go in the early middle of August. We would drive our crappy old Ford Aerostar minivan and bring fishing poles, because he loved to fish. And we would bring alcohol, because I was too young to drink at the bars. We would buy a couple of disposable cameras, and we would drive off into the sunset together.

We were two dumb kids. We barely had any money, and didn’t even have valid drivers licenses (disclaimer – I learned my lesson and very rarely break the law anymore ;)) All that we knew was that we were young, wild and inseparable. To be honest, we were a force to be reckoned with.

The week we were to leave finally rolled around and low and behold there was a massive hurricane brewing in the Atlantic. Hurricane Charley. We watched the news closely that entire week, and the day before we were supposed to leave an emergency evacuation was ordered on the coast in South Carolina. Devastated, we began looking into other options. We knew that we would eventually get a refund on our hotel in SC, but we were out the money in the mean time. So, we looked for cheaper options.

Chris ended up finding us a room on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. This was back in the day before you had to have a US passport to cross the border. He booked the room, we printed our maps and went to bed.

The morning of the beginning of our vacation came and instead of hitting the road to Canada, we procrastinated our departure, packing the van slowly and watched the news closely. Just as we were getting ready to leave in the middle afternoon, the emergency evacuation was lifted in South Carolina and Charley had moved out.

We decided that even though we did not know the extent of the damage on the coast, we would go to Myrtle Beach. And just like that, we hit the road!  We knew we weren’t able to get the deposit back on the Canadian hotel, but we didn’t care. We were heading to the ocean for some shenanigans as a newly wed couple.

4 hours into our drive (we were about halfway through West Virginia) and our Myrtle Beach hotel called us. They were sorry to inform us that their hotel had suffered extensive damage and that they would be closed indefinitely, but that they would have our full room charges refunded within a week.

At that point it started to feel like we were hemorrhaging our vacation fund to random hotels with no intent of actually sleeping in them.

Chris and I just kept driving south, following our printed directions. We were young, naive and madly in love with each other. It didn’t matter to us if we had to pull our van up onto the beach and sleep there for 4 nights. This trip had been a roller coaster of emotion for weeks, and now that we were on the road and finally driving to the beach, nothing would stop us. Not even a category 4 hurricane.

The day quickly turned to night, and the miles kept climbing as we were finally entering the state of South Carolina. When we got within a half hour of Myrtle Beach we stopped at a crappy hotel for one night of sleep.

The next day,  excitement for our new adventure woke us up early and we wasted no time in getting back in the car and driving the rest of the way to the ocean.

The city looked like a ghost town. The sky was ominous looking with unrelentingly thick and dark grey clouds. Debris in the streets, palm trees overturned. Broken advertisement signs and a few downed lines. Most businesses had a few cars in the parking lots, owners and managers assessing damage and beginning the clean up.

I can vividly remember the first time that I knew we had arrived. I could faintly smell the salty ocean air.  There was no more background beyond the row of towering hotels. I felt a wave of building excitement in my chest and my eyes grew large, taking in everything I could. As we got closer you could faintly hear the waves as the frothy green surf swirled with the sand where the sea meets the land. We could see so far beyond that – just wide open air and water and the horizon far off in the distance.

We drove down the Kings Highway for a short time until we found a decent looking budget style hotel and pulled in. The hotel is still there – The Indigo Inn. We were delighted to find that the hotel was not only open but also extremely vacant. The woman working the front desk informed us that most people had left and cancelled reservations, so we would have our choice of room. She gave us a key to a room on the ninth floor and told us to take a look and decide if we wanted to stay.

We left the reception area and got on the elevator. I found that the 9th floor was also the top floor and pressed the button in anticipation. We navigated to the room and opened it up. I was instantly breathless with the 9th floor unobstructed view of the Atlantic Ocean. I walked straight to the sliding glass doors and out onto the balcony to get a better view. The pool was straight down, the sand in front of that, and nothing but beach and hotel as far as the could see down the left and right side. This was a mega score for us, as the room was actually a bit cheaper than the original hotel, and we had an ocean front room where as the other hotel was street side.

I made my way back in the room to take in the details. It was an efficiency style room with a kitchenette. Cheap, thin, dark, generic hotel carpet designed to easily hide the stains and a comforter on the bed to match. The bathroom was small, but not too small. The room was outdated, but it was clean and I was in heaven! Needless to say, we went back to reception and rented the room for the next 4 nights.

As the days passed the crappy weather cleared out and people returned to the area. Repairs were being made, and the city was quite enjoyable.

Chris and I would spend the next few days taking in all the sites, boogie boarding in the surf and sunbathing, jet skiing and fishing off the pier. We even went parasailing! When we weren’t doing that, we were in our room celebrating our impromptu honey moon.

Broadway at the beach was an especially fun time. I particularly enjoyed the Ripley’s believe it or not attractions, especially the Haunted House. The Ripley’s haunted house was the best haunted house I’d ever been to, and I still talk about it 12 years later. I hope to return to Myrtle Beach next summer, and experience the haunted house with my kids.

Two days before the end of our trip we discovered that the last of our cash was missing. We had been stashing our cash in a safety lock box. When we got down to the final couple hundred dollars, I put the cash in a cigarette box in my purse. While we were in the room I quickly cleaned my purse and when I felt the extra light cigarette pack I absent mindedly tossed the pack with my other purse trash in the can before we left.

Before we returned to the room, the housekeeper came through and cleaned everything out. Even tossing all of the hotel trash away in a dumpster across the street. And just like that, the last of our food and fun budget – our financial lifeline had been discarded with the trash.

With no money to do anything touristy, we got creative. We used the fishing poles to catch fish and cleaned them on the pier, and cooked our fish in our room. Our final day was quiet. We finished our alcohol and relaxed pool side and ocean front, taking it all in. Swimming and splashing and playing in the surf, getting one hell of a sun tan. When night fell we walked along the shore, admiring the lights from the strip of hotels and the saying hello to the occasional couple out doing the same.

I’ve always enjoyed the ocean the most at night. It really helps me to find a new perspective. You feel truly small at night, the expanse of water meeting an unreachable universe full of wonder. I will never forget forget the way I felt that night. The euphoric afterglow of an optimism fed honey moon adventure mixed with the uncertainty of what was to come, yet knowing that I finally had someone to to have my back and call my partner through it all.

The final day we woke up and slowly packed up to head home. Back to reality. Back to the American dream.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the basic recap of the beginning of #barnesroadtrip2Kxx. I felt that our anniversary was a good time for a trip down memory lane.

Chris,

13 summers, 13 winters, 156 completed lunar phases. Its been one hell of a ride. I am so proud of the man and father you’ve become and I find you more attractive than ever because of it!  I would not be the woman or mother I am today without your non stop encouragement, love, and support. Thank you so much for helping me to spread my wings and be who I am and for walking this journey with me. I’m stoked for the future! Totes my goats. All day.

Forever yours,

Patty.

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