The time has come for me to share with you the worst part of my 30th birthday trip.
In my posting about our stops in Georgia*, I left one little stop out…on purpose. It was a seven-hour car ride from Savannah to Miami and I believe it was the moment we got on the highway that we began to see billboards for Peach World. Now, I knew via the Official State of New Jersey website that we are 4th in production for peaches. So initially I thought, “Who the heck needs to go to Peach World? We got ’em in Jersey and apparently they’re good enough to make the top five out of fifty states.”
But the signs were relentless. I felt like I was in the I Love Lucy episode “First Stop”. In case you aren’t familiar, on their drive to California, Ricky refuses to stop in an effort to get more mileage. After seeing numerous signs for “Aunt Sally’s Pecan Pralines” he finally decides to give in and stop. The distance on the signs gets shorter and shorter from miles to “200 yards to Aunt Sally’s Pecan Pralines”, “100 yards”, “Just around the bend” and ending with, “You have just passed Aunt Sally’s”. To their dismay, they discover Aunt Sally’s to be out of business.
The signs won out and by “30 miles to Peach World” I was giddy with excitement for the wonders that Peach World might contain.
At first sight, I was ready to abandon the idea of visiting Peach World. It was much smaller than what the massive billboards had caused my mind to imagine. There were two separate Peach World buildings, about a five minute drive apart. The one we went to was off the side of a rather empty road, with a small stand outside housing baskets of peaches. As we entered the building, we were given a sample of peach cider slushie and immediately wanted some of this magical nectar to take home. When the girl who gave us the sample told us how simple it is to make, then added that we could spice it up with a little rum, we were sold. There were other peach treats, but we had committed our hearts and minds to the cider. We grabbed a bottle of peach moonshine reasoning that if the cider was so good, this would be even better.
There were two sizes of cider, however, both were in glass jugs. The smaller was around a liter and the larger was a gallon. I left it up to Lance to decide which one we would get, but in my ever anxious and worried mind I though the smaller would be the better choice.* Can you guess which one Lance chose?
That’s right. That honkin’ huge gallon jug.
*Remember, at this point we still needed to fly to Sint Maarten (four flights total) and then from Atlanta back home again.
We also bought a basket of peaches. I was prepared to deem them just as good as Jersey peaches, but, I have to be honest. They were the best peaches I have ever eaten. My teeth sunk right into these softball sized beauts. The skin wasn’t too thick or fuzzy. They were plump with juicy sweetness made from the Georgia peach gods.
We talked about getting bubble wrap to wrap around the cider before packing it in our bag, but it ended up being just talk. Our hope had been to leave the piece of luggage with the cider and all our other purchases at the “Bags to Go” kiosk in the airport. (Fort Lauderdale airport does not have luggage lockers. This will be a highlight in the complaint letter I’m writing to them in my head). In the event that they wouldn’t be able to take our luggage (their hours seemed rather fishy online), Lance meticulously wrapped clothing around the cider and moonshine.*
*This is an important place to note that everything in this particular piece of luggage were purchases we made from Atlanta to Miami including, but not limited to, three Paula Deen cookbooks signed by Paula. (All cookbooks sold in her store are signed.)
The Bags to Go station, as we feared, was only open during business hours, and would also not be open the day following our return. Hoping for the best, we checked the fated bag and boarded the plane.
We didn’t have time to worry about our bag during our connecting flight in San Juan. Our plane landed fifteen minutes before our plane for Sint Maarten was scheduled for departure and we had to race to make it. They were just about to close the gate as we were walking towards it. Once on board, I imagined our peach cider infused luggage being tossed violently to make it on this flight.
At the baggage carousel, we waited with fingers crossed. Our luggage came and appeared fine. It took us two days in Sint Maarten before we were brave enough to open the peach infused suitcase to discover if it truly had been safe. Much to our relief, it was in perfect condition. Lance double checked the protective clothing he had wrapped around the cider and moonshine, zipped up the case and let it be.
In the back of my mind, I kept thinking we had been lucky and that perhaps we should throw more padding into the case. But then again, if it had made it through two flights, who was I to question Hubby’s packing?
On our return home, in San Juan we needed to get our luggage and go through customs. When we picked up the peach infused luggage, everything seemed in tact. We imagined that if the jug actually broke, we would know right away, yet still peeked inside and everything was dry.
In Fort Lauderdale, the peach infused suitcase was our last to come on the baggage carousel. When you have three suitcases between you, waiting from start to finish at the carousel is unfortunately part of life. Even though the bags were all checked together, somehow they end up getting completely split up.
The fated suitcase came round on the carousel and for a moment, I thought everything was fine. Lance lifted it off the belt and I was ready to let out the sigh of relief I had been holding in since we boarded the first plane bubblewrapless.
Then Lance set it on the ground and it looked like a pregnant woman’s water broke. A pool of liquid instantly gathered around the bottom of the suitcase. Immediate action was necessary in this moment. We were only feet from the doors outside, and thankfully already had our other two pieces of luggage. Halfway towards the door, a kind citizen or a nosey busybody* called out, “Sir! Your suitcase is leaking.”
The look I gave certainly wasn’t Christian, but at least I only whispered my response to her.
*I prefer to consider her the latter.
Once outside we stopped and let the suitcase continue to pee out the remaining liquid on the sidewalk. Good thing Lance had his commonsense with him, because my immediate thought was to open the suitcase and get the leaking container out.
“Jess, it’s glass. We’re not going to open it here!”
We loaded onto the airport shuttle bus and I crossed my fingers that the airport employee standing in front of me wasn’t going to notice the slow stream of peach cider that was gradually making it’s way through the grooves in the floor.
Aside from the obvious embarrassment of having a leaking suitcase at the airport, the worst part of this entire experience was what happened once we reached our hotel. The hotel we stayed at was an adorable little slice of history. Victoria Park Hotel in Fort Lauderdale is a retro-boutique hotel that was once used to house a circus during their off-season.*
*When I realized this I was bug-eyed with excitement–I’m a little bit of a circus freak. Then I remembered we had a peach infused suitcase to deal with still sitting in the car and wanted to cry.
Instead of being able to enjoy the few hours of the night we had remaining, we spent them emptying the suitcase of glass, distinguishing between what had been tainted with cider and washing out new cider soaked clothes. For the most part, our purchases had been in their original plastic shopping bags and therefore were protected. It was somewhere between discovering the cider hadn’t broke when we arrived in Sint Maarten and getting the bag through customs that I thought I probably should have wrapped the Paula Deen cookbooks in plastic bags.
Hindsight really stinks, doesn’t it?
They ended up being the only things in the bag, other than the cider, that were completely ruined.
Lance spent hours cleaning and attempting to dry out cider soaked books and clothing while I picked glass out of the bag and tossed out ruined shopping bags.
I think we are at a place where we can laugh about it now. Had we not managed to schedule a last minute stop in Savannah before our flight home, that might not be so.
That story, and more, soon to come.