Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Christmas with the Griswolds… I mean Hawleys

If you know of the movies with the Griswolds, you’re familiar with how Clark (the dad) plans for an event/vacation and no matter how much preparation went towards the vacation there is always something that doesn’t quite goes as planned. Well this was how our vacation started. The original plan was to fly into Baltimore visit with some friends, and then rent a car and drive to Richmond the next day to be with my family before driving back north to Pittsburgh to be with Phil’s family. Well apparently God had a different plan for us. Instead, when we flew into B-more (via Southwest Airlines, which by the way really do love your bags and Phil for the first time ever had enough leg room!) we realized that the reason there was so much mid-day traffic in B-more was because the east coast was expecting a blizzard (not “snow storm,” but “blizzard”). Since many times the east coast meteorologists are way off, we decided to go on with our plan and go to our friend Katie’s house. We had a great evening at the Baltimore Aquarium, had dinner out, and visited with some friends from college in Towson, but around 1am the snow started. When we woke up at 8am, there was already 8 inches of snow on the ground and we could tell that there was more to come. We raced around Katie’s house throwing stuff in the car so that we could hit the road and try to beat the storm to Richmond; thank goodness Katie filled our car with snack because little did we know how much we would need it. We said a prayer and started driving our rented Lincoln Towncar (which is a story all in itself, but basically it was quickly obvious that Phil couldn’t fit into an HHR) towards Richmond. Thank God Phil is really familiar with how to drive in the snow especially with a rear-wheeled drive car without chains or spikes! I was so scared and praying the entire time that God would get us home safely and give Phil the wisdom he needed to get us home. We had to stop every 10 miles or so to knock the ice off of the windshield wipers, and every time we stopped I was scared that we wouldn’t be able to start back up. For a while we were counting the cars that were fishtailing, spinning out, and wrecking, until the snow go so dense that we couldn’t even see but a few feet in front of us. The white out was so dense that we couldn’t even read the signs on the side of the road to see where we were. The snow was about 16 inches deep at this point and we decided that after 4 hours trying to get to DC (only 50 miles) that we should probably stop but because of the white out we couldn’t even see if there were buildings on the side of the road for a hotel. We couldn’t take most exit ramps because either they hadn’t been plowed yet or they were uphill (there was no way our boat car could go up hill without spinning out). But it was getting really bad, so we prayed that the next exit that we came to would be the one for us. When we got to the next ramp it was a plowed flat exit ramp; praise the Lord! When we drove up to a stop light we realized that we were at Tysons Corner, a big shopping area near DC, which would have to have some hotels. We tried to go straight through the light but our car wouldn’t go an inch further. It was as if God was saying, Ok Hawleys, this is as far as I want you to go. We could vaguely see a building to the right of us but didn’t know what it was. When we got inside we realized it was the Ritz Carlton Luxury Hotel. Phil and I looked at each other and immediately thought: there is no way in this storm that they have a room available, let alone a room that we could afford. Well again, God was watching out for us because not only did they have a room but because of the situation they gave us a $800/night room, for $150 plus free parking!!! In addition, which we couldn’t see because of the white out, the hotel was attached to the D.C. Galleria so we got to finish our Christmas shopping and get some exercise! Praise the Lord for taking care of us!!! In our affordable and luxurious hotel room we got to do what I think is the best activity for snowy weather: observe its beauty from the inside! Next to the fireplace we had a lovely lunch and watched Christmas movies that we had been too busy to watch in the weeks leading up to the vacation. While our plans don’t always unravel as we had expected, sometimes God has something better in mind for us, and I have to say I did not mind spending my 25th birthday locked up by the fireplace at the Ritz Carlton with lots of shopping; no complaints from me!

The next day the 20 inches of snow had been cleared for the most part and we continued our journey to Richmond. The rest of the vacation was smooth sailing! In Richmond we visited with family, had birthday and Christmas celebrations, visited Ashland (the center of the universe & probably my most favorite place on earth), and finally got to meet beautiful Lexi (born in August). Two days later we were back on the road driving north through the gorgeous mountains to West Virginia. For Christmas we spent time sledding, watching “A Christmas Story” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and playing with our nieces and nephews. The funniest gifts we got were from Micah, our nephew, and Kellyn, my sister. Micah got Phil a rope so that he could “lasso the cows in Texas.” And Kellyn said that of everyone she has given this to as a “gag gift” I could actually pull it off because I live in Texas; sadly, I think she might be right. Kellyn got me a set of Bump-its hahaha! https://www.bumpits.com/?MID=538365

In our Christmas letter I mentioned that we were wishing for snow over the break. This became a running joke throughout the vacation because of how good at making wishes I am. In the future when I make a wish I will be sure to be more specific (i.e. wish for 1-3 inches of snow instead of 1-3 feet and not on days when we’re traveling). But to bring this all together, no matter how many curve balls were thrown, the Griswold family enjoyed their time together; the same was true for us. No matter how many things went totally against “our plan” it was awesome to be going against the grain together. I love being with my family and there never seems to be enough time during the holidays. We’re getting ready to face the long stretch until we see our families again so that will be tough. Though your plans may have deviated a bit, I hope everyone had as wonderful and exciting Christmas as ours!
Our room at the Ritz

Watching the snow come down outside and then looking through a glass door to see the accumulation.

Finally, home-sweet-home in Richmond

Me goofing off in front of the tree & with santa (clearly I'm never serious for too long).

The snow in WV and Phil ready to go sledding.

xoxo Darby

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