We recently took a two-week, cross-country road trip. All five of us. In our Mazda 5. I know what you’re thinking…
But it was AWESOME. I mean, did we get sick of long days of driving? Sure. But the kids were absolute champs, we saw a ton of fun and interesting things, and I’m already brimming with ideas for the “next time”. In the now, though, I really want to share some of our stories and adventures…so those of you who feel so inclined can come along for the adventure, and so our family can remember the crazy 14 days we spent together.
Our route (roughly speaking) to North Carolina and back:
DAY ONE: (plan) Drive from MSP to Hannibal Missouri, see Mark Twain-y things, and sleep
We set off early Saturday morning for our first leg of the drive. After lots of days of prep, we found ourselves in a bit of a rush, as always, to pack the final things and set off. This was an even more stressful and uncertain time for us because just the evening before we left, our friend and cousin-in-law passed away after years of battling cancer. Joe’s mom was staying at our house, and in retrospect I don’t know what would have happened if she hadn’t been there, because when we returned home the few remaining dishes were clean and food had been stowed in the freezer that I know I hadn’t remembered to put in there. Departing for the trip was such a strange combination of anticipation of something so long planned and profound sadness. The pouring rain as we loaded up the car and set off seemed fitting, really.
It rained. And rained. And just when you thought, surely, after seven hours of driving the rain will stop or we will drive out of it–it continued raining. Sometimes it crashed against the windshield with such force that I thought Joe would have to pull over and wait. We never did have to stop, save for lunch and a few stretch-and-restroom breaks. As we got closer to Hannibal, I said that if it was still raining when we got there we would just go straight to the hotel and try to see a few things the next morning instead, which is exactly what we had to do in the end. And hotel swimming is in no way hampered by a little rain, so that seemed like a good idea.
Also, a lesson learned on our very first night of travel: if you are dangerously close to the hungry/hangry line, search Yelp for the nearest recommended Mexican restaurant. Chips and salsa immediately upon arrival? YES. PLEASE.
The boys slept rather fitfully on our first night together in a strange land. But after the first night everyone was so tired that we slept just fine. I was amazed and impressed by the flexibility of my children throughout the entire trip.
DAY TWO: (revised plan) See Twain-y things, visit St. Louis, drive to KY
We woke up to a gorgeous morning; good thing, because we had a full day ahead of us. The first of many rushed-and-chaotic hotel breakfasts under our belt, we hit the road back over the state line/river into Missouri and saw a few Hannibal sites. Everything was closed because it was too early, but we saw enough for this trip, I guess. I was the only one who was really bummed about it, anyway.
After all those steps, a few hours in the car driving to St. Louis was just fine with one and all. I had a destination in mind: The City Museum. And I must say, the pictures I’d seen online that sold me on going don’t do it justice, and neither do mine. In a few words: it is like a scrapper/recycler, an artist, and a playground enthusiast had a big, wonderful baby together. Which is probably the way it happened.
We spent two hours more than I thought we would at City Museum. I just couldn’t drag any of the four boys away from this place! I obviously also really enjoyed taking pictures there…so many interesting things to capture. I would go back in a heartbeat, and stay too long again, too…even if it meant we rolled into Cave City, KY at 10:00 (no, wait! 9:00, because WHY ARE THE TIME ZONES DRAWN IN ZIGZAGGY LINES THAT PANIC PARENTS) it was totally worth it to have so much fun. Even if our backseat looked like this:
DAY THREE: (plan) Visit Mammoth Cave and keep on drivin’ ’til we get to the mountain people
We woke up to another lovely morning in KY, thankfully with that bonus hour for sleeping in after our late-night arrival. Fortified by another chaotic hotel breakfast (seeing a pattern?) we were ready to check-out and head over to Mammoth Cave. National Park Service: you guys are seriously awesome.
We’d chosen the shortest (time AND distance) cave tour available because we didn’t know how the kids would do, honestly. It was a good call. While I might have enjoyed seeing more, the kids were pretty well over it by the end of our 45-minute trek to see the “dying” part of the cave, with the water making the stalagmites and stalactites grow the cave closed. Don’t worry if you want to see it before it “dies”…it’s going to take thousands of years. And if you’re a young person (or have one in your life), you can do some workbook pages and earn your Junior Ranger badge.
Cute related story…during the tour, Seth DID actually listen to the ranger as he talked. One of the pages Seth did to earn his badge asked the youngsters to circle things in the picture that wouldn’t be found in a cave. He knew to circle the snake because “it is too cold in caves for snakes; the ranger taught me that!” Then after posing for the proud Jr. Ranger photo, he took off running, trying to show his Ranger/guide his badge and thank him. Unfortunately we didn’t find him, but I thought it was the sweetest. Overall: a good side-trip with the kids, and the Niagara tour was very practical for an 11, 8, and 5-year-old.
Back into the car for many more hours of driving. I was in the driver’s seat, in order to stave off any potential motion sickness as we entered the mountains. Destination: Fairview (in the Asheville area) and the Craziest of Aunts and Uncles, Linda and Bill. Thank goodness we got there before dark, and I only hyperventilated a tiny bit trying to drive the car up their impossibly-steep driveway. Into the loving bosom of family we arrived, and in the next leg of the journey we reveled in the beautiful state of NC for a week. But those stories will have to wait for another day, because somebody (this girl) has homework to do. Whomp, whaaaaaaa.