Why I travel?

I was 25 years old with a pregnant wife and a two year old daughter. My wife was in the middle of a difficult pregnancy with twins. I was going to school, working two jobs and didn’t have two nickels to rub together. We had been told that a protein test had come back very high which could indicate that one of the babies had spina bifida, so when my Mom called and asked if we wanted to go with her and her boyfriend to the Bahamas on his sailboat we jumped on the idea. It took about 3 seconds for me to load up Lou and Ashlie and head to Florida.

We drove all night to arrive in Ft. Lauderdale at the address I had been given to start our vacation. My glee turned to concern when I saw the sailboat. I knew that my Mom and Jack had been living in the Bahamas as they worked to finish Jack’s sailboat. What I failed to realize was how unfinished the sailboat was. There was no mast, no safety lines and the galley was full of a stack of 4×8 sheets of plywood.

They had loaded the boat with provisions and were waiting for us to leave since the crossing would take about 12 hours. After hugs and kisses and Mom telling me that Jack had a cold we loaded on the sailboat and set sail, I mean, set motor, and headed out into the Atlantic Ocean.

The weather started to get worse and reality started to set in as the sun went down. It was dark, we were out of sight of land, I had a two year old, a pregnant wife, no safety lines and a storm was coming in. All of us were getting sea sick, so I can tell you, that was one miserable night.

As dawn approached we came into Cat Key. Cat Key is a very small exclusive island that has a few houses for the very rich, no cars just golf carts. Jack pulled into the harbor because all of us had been so sick during the night, but we weren’t the only one who was sick, Jack’s cold had gotten worse.

When we hit that dock I was ready to jump until Jack said we could not get off the boat until he got a custom official over to the boat to clear us. We waited almost an hour before Jack decided to sail over to Bimini. As we came into the dock at Bimini I never realized that I was landing on dock that would become famous later by Donna Rice and Gary Hart.

After clearing customs and our sea sickness it was time to start our vacation, except for one problem. Jack was still sick and Ashlie started getting an ear ache. We had a chance to enjoy a little bit of snorkeling but were in for another tough night with a pregnant wife and a sick two year old.

The next morning Ashlie was miserable, Jack was getting worse and so was the weather so we decided to take Ash to the doctor. After being told where the doctor’s office was we headed out. As we approached our destination I noticed there was a line of people going down the sidewalk. It wasn’t until we walked up to the building that I realized that the line was waiting for the doctor’s office to open. So we waited over an hour to see the doctor. After checking Ash’s ears he said she had a bad ear infection and gave us an envelope full of penicillin tablets.

Later that day my Mom decided that Jack needed to seek medical help and wanted to take him back to Florida. Taking the trip back across the Atlantic wasn’t an option so she checked out taking a flight back to Ft. Lauderdale. The weather was bad enough that the only airline that flies into Bimini, Chalks, was not flying but she was able to find a private pilot who was willing to fly them back to Florida. Yeah you are right I said “them”. The plane would only hold 4 people so there was not enough room for us.

Okay now I am stuck in the Bahamas with a half built sailboat, a pregnant wife (with twins) and a sick two year old. Mom told me to stay on the boat, when the weather cleared lock up the boat and take Chalks back to Florida and she would pay for it. Bye Mom.

We tried to make the best of it and had a nice dinner in the bar/restaurant that Ernest Hemmingway called home. The next morning the weather had cleared and we were up early waiting for the morning flight.

Now we find out there is no runway, Chalks uses sea planes that land in the bay and pull up on a parking lot. As we anxiously wait for the flight to come in we are the first in line when the pilots flipped the door open and a couple of passengers and the pilots get off the plane.

The pilot’s inform us the flight will be leaving a little late because they have to get some breakfast. Welcome to the Bahama’s. We waited by the door of the plane as a line formed and the pilots filled their bellies. When they came back we were right behind them as they boarded the plane.

As we got towards the bulkhead the plane shifted and the nose of the plane dipped and hit the pavement. The pilot leaned out of the cockpit and told us to move back so the weight could shift and they could put the prop under the nose of the plane. How could you forget to put the prop under the nose of the plane?

Our confidence in Chalks evaporated and our faith in God increased as that plane rolled off the parking lot into the sea and our window was half way under water. The pilot hit the throttle forward and now we were skipping over waves and Lou and I were praying.

Thank goodness it was a short flight and in short order we were coming into the port in Miami. We taxied up onto another parking lot and disembarked the scariest flight I have ever taken in my life. We cleared customs and then it hit me; we had sailed out of Ft. Lauderdale and had flown back into Miami and I had no idea where we were in Miami or where our car was in Ft. Lauderdale. So I called my Mom to see how Jack was doing and where the heck we were supposed to go to get our car back.

Then I got some really good news, Jack had been diagnosed with hepatitis. I had just spent 2 days on a boat with a pregnant wife and a two year old with a guy who had hepatitis. I was ready to get back home quick.

So we jumped into a taxi with a slip of paper with an address ready to get my wife and child back to our doctors. Unfortunately we chose a taxi with a Russian driver who spoke very little English. Anybody got gun?

After lots of hand signals, pleading, enunciating and praying we made it back to the house where we had boarded the sailboat. I made record time back to Greensboro, we all got hepatitis shots in the butt and everything worked out.

Why do I travel after the trip from hell? Because after we got back, I couldn’t believe the difference it made in Ashlie. Her vocabulary improved dramatically, her confidence and maturity had soared in 4 short days, so much so that we tagged her with the nickname that has stuck with her even today “Big” because after that trip she acted so big for her age. We realized that even for a two year old, travel is the best educator.

Today Big is 29 years old, an amazing kid who has done amazing things and yes travel is a huge part of her life. How did the pregnancy turn out? Jordan was stillborn and Dustin was the love of our life. We lost him in an auto accident in 2002 at the age of 19, which is when we decided to start Dustin’s GreenHouse www.dustinsgreenhouse.org.