By "we all" she meant her (uninvited) self, her (uninvited) husband, his two (uninvited) children, and their (uninvited) baby girl.

This wasn't what I had in mind.

The connection aspect between the boys would be nominally there, though now with the complicating dynamics of an army of others. (That one sleeps late, this one wakes early. That one wants to go to the waterfall, this one prefers hanging around the house, and the one over there wants to go but not so early. This one only likes macaroni and cheese, that one demands indigenous food only.)

The Rolling Thunder Vacation now had 10 people, far more than easy flitting allows. Either we rented a 10-person van (do they even make vans that big?) or we rented two cars or we didn't go anywhere.

Not going anywhere was the antithesis of what I wanted to do. My idea had been to spend, say, three days here, three days there, see as much as possible. But 10 people make for a mobility-challenged vacation.

While stewing over the turn of events, I received an enthusiastic e-mail from my friend telling me she had found the perfect accommodation. I went to the Web site she recommended. The perfect accommodation turned out to be a huge sprawling mansion on a cliff overlooking the sea. Perfect, right? Except that A) it rented by the week, which meant we were not just mobility-challenged - we were going nowhere, except for an occasional "day trip"; and B) just my portion alone of the one-week rental cost more than the monthly mortgage on my house.

This had ceased to be my trip. And I was angry.

My wife, son, and I traveled for a week before meeting up with our friends. On our way to our rented mansion on the hill, we stopped at a little boutique cottage overlooking the sea we'd heard about and had had our hearts set on staying in, back when I was the one making the decisions. It was magnificent. My heart sank.