To put this in perspective, you must first understand how we fit in to the three types of car travelers: Road Warriors, The Casual Family, and Griswolds.
Griswolds will take the longest route. They will tackle a 14-hour drive in a cool 36 hours, stopping at roadside attractions such as the Dinosaur Museum just off I-65 in Tennessee (NOTE: Or was it Kentucky? Is there a difference?). We are not Griswolds.
The Casual Family will stop frequently to dine, preferring sit-down restaurants where you wait for a table, wait for your food, wait for your check, and add 90 minutes to your drive time because you stopped for lunch but forgot to get gas, requiring another stop 15 minutes later. Then they will stop again 15 minutes after that because the four cups of coffee and/or iced tea they drank while waiting for their meals will come a-knockin. They may even stay at a hotel, splitting the 14-hour drive across two days. We are not a casual family.
We are Road Warriors. We don't start looking for a gas station until the light comes on (NOTE: My kids are convinced that once the light comes on, you can only go three more feet before you run out of gas. The panic in their voices can be quite entertaining.) We pack a cooler of food and determine our rest stops by the strongest bladder, not the weakest one. We have a Honda Odyssey with a DVD player and headsets for the kids so we don't have to listen to their movies, and an iPod adaptor for the radio so we can out-sing our favorite bands for hundreds of miles.
We made it to Destin in just over 14 hours, meeting up with my in-laws, who arrived the week before. The first few days the weather was ideal...about 80 degrees and sunny. In what may be the biggest display of irony I have ever witnessed, Ohio actually had slightly better weather than Florida, reaching into the mid-80s, leading me to the obvious conclusion that if we ever move away from Ohio, it will immediately become a tropical paradise.
The kids were the only members of our party insane enough to swim in the cold waters of the gulf, but I did enjoy the beach time by trying to make sand sculptures. The white sand of the gulf beaches has a different consistency than the dense sand of Hilton Head, and I had many collapsed frogs. I did make a swimmer, and while it's not my best work, it was a satisfying way to kill an hour.
When the gulf winds kicked up and blew at 25 MPH for three days straight, making kite flying dangerous and Smashball damn near impossible, we spent time in the pool, which was heated and somewhat sheltered from the winds. When the clouds came in, the ladies went shopping and the boys when to the Air Force Armament Museum by the Eglin AFB, which was totally cool.
We made the 14-hour drive home in 13.5 hours, because we are awesome. We were amazed to see that spring had indeed sprung while we were away...trees and shrubs around the house were sporting buds, flowers, and leaves, and my lawn had opened its doors to every manner of weed known to man, which should provide fodder for some fun blog posts about yard work in the coming weeks.