To be fair, I get along great with my father-in-law and mother-in-law. My father-in-law and I have formed a bond over the last umpteen times we've all vacationed together. We generally wind up on a deck or balcony outside our unit, away from the hub-bub, kids scrapping, and the women-folk wrapping themselves in retro-versions of the Snuggie. We share a bottle of wine each night and share something even more difficult to aquire - silence. Pretty blissful.
I have a fair relationship with my sister-in-law - although our conversations generally go something like this:
SIL: and then...yada, yada, yada...I'm poor 'cause I teach school...and my ex...and the kids...yada yada yada...but I only like hamburgers or chicken fingers...yada yada yada
TMC: uh-huh [yawn]...can I get another Dos Equis please?
This year's edition takes us to the Smoky Mountains area of Tennessee - specifically the redneck version of a quasi-Vegas strip-type area of East Tennessee better known as Sevierville-Pigeon Forge-Gatlingburg. Nine of us will be crammed into a single condo unit as tightly as a house full of illegal Mexican landscape workers.
Packing this year requires a different strategy. We traded my wife's Dodge Grand Caravan a couple of weeks ago for a Toyota Camry Hybrid. Gone is a paid-for, roomy van with reasonable gas mileage and plenty of seating and storage space. We now have a conscious-settling "green" vehicle with more options than a Shoney's breakfast buffet.
I have to admit it drives fairly well. And at my wife's insistence, we got the go-to-hell-on-Sunday (i.e. very cool) GPS / stereo system (tip to Ozzy Nelson for giving me this new adjective phrase). It apparently hasn't dawned on her - either before or after the purchase - that she only listens to a single radio station, doesn't care to load a variety of CDs, sees no reason to discontinue printing directions from Google Maps, and generally doesn't drive anywhere she or I haven't been before. So we'll likely have the sound turned down once her station turns to static, and she'll read me the "exit here" directions because we haven't programmed the GPS and I'm clearly to stupid to drive the approximately 200 miles to a destination I've been to many times before.
Because of the space needed in the trunk for the hybrid's battery and because its a sedan vs. the van, packing space in the trunk is at a premium. Now that I think about it, she wanted every premium offered. I'm surprised I didn't get an upcharge for "premium trunk space". Perhaps we should have gone for the Family Truxter.
But I digress...
The bad news is we no longer have the storage space, clothes hooks, and extra back seat we previously had. The good news is we now will only take the essentials and leave the "kitchen sink" at home (e.g. a winter coat for July temps, thick plastic hangers to hang gym shorts, boxes of cereal just like the ones that could be purchased at the near-by Wal-Mart). My SIL has already complained. In prior years, she and her kids have ridden with us to various vacation theme parks, restaurants, etc. - especially those requiring a parking charge. When she learned of our vehicle trade, she protested a bit. While not saying it directly, I think its chapped her that she'll have to drive her own vehicle this year and come off the hip for her own $5 to park.
So we're off. To paraphrase the great Clark Griswold, we'll be on a quest...a quest for fun. I'm going to have fun. They're going to have fun. The 9 of us are going to have so much friggin' fun we'll need plastic surgery to remove our smiles... I have to be crazy. I'm on a pilgrimage to see boobs (sorry, subtle Dolly Parton-Dollywood reference there).
The original (caution for the young of age, naive, or easily offended):
Likely destinations include Dollywood, a water park, go-karts, and the condo pool. Mix in some in-room food prep and daily laundry chores, and whoo-wee do I have a load of fun facing me this week.
But the 3 bottles of wine are packed, and I'm sure I can procure more if needed.
Subsequent anecdotes to follow I'm sure.