Only fourteen days until we embark on our 5th summer road trip and my planning for it has fueled my wanderlust. In the last few days I’ve been asked repeatedly one or both of the following: “Are you going on another adventure this summer?” Or, “Where are you headed?”
Then of course I get the typical head shakes, laughs and comments such as, “You’re crazy” and “I don’t know how you do it.” Honestly, sometimes I don’t know how I (we) do it. That first year was so scary, and now I can’t imagine not doing our trip. I panic at the thought that one day we won’t. I am so pleased when people get excited about our journey. I tell the kids, “You’re so lucky to do this.” Here’s what I love about being Road Warrior Momma:
1) No housework. I don’t have to make anybody’s bed, I don’t have to constantly pick up household messes, I don’t have to do laundry every day and there are no dishes to clean. Yippee!
2) I don’t have to cook. I get bored of the same ‘ol same ‘ol in the kitchen. Yet with six very different ideas about what constitutes a good meal, venturing outside the norm is tricky. I don’t like the prep work and clean-up, not to mention the grocery shopping. I very much like ordering from a menu, and leaving the mess on the table. There are no dishes to do and I can get up from a meal and not look back. Yippee!
3) I indulge in many books. You had to know this was coming. Road trips give me the opportunity to catch up on my reading (and listening). When I drive, audiobooks keep me sane. The hours spent on the open road (unless the gorgeous scenery demands my attention) fly by when I’m transported to one of my fictional worlds. History books (about places we’re visiting) also get me stoked about what we’ll see. When my husband makes a road guest appearance, he usually prefers to drive. No problem dear, let me just reach into my bag of tricks and pull out one of the dozen books I usually pack. When the kids frolic in the pool at the end of the day, I can be found lounging with a book – ditto for when they take over the hotel remote. I always save room in my bag for purchases. Vacations are a wonderful opportunity to explore new bookstores – and always support independent book sellers!
4) I have mastered the art of packing. At this point in my travel career, every bag has a purpose or theme and a place. The kids suitcases are color coded. Snacks, medical supplies and travel utensils are all in my Thirty-One large tote. Looking for a swim suit? Those would be found in the pink and white beach bag. Need a charger for your tablet? It’s in a labeled Ziploc bag in the side pocket of the faux black leather bag. Where are the bags located? Each bag has its spot, both in the car and the hotel room. Many a bellman has nearly lost his hand trying to help me load the vehicle. Back off son. Travel is the rare time when I feel absolutely in control of my universe. Why, oh why, this hasn’t spread to other parts of my life, I’ll never know!
5) The children are all mine. There are no pesky play-date requests. I don’t have to run out and buy any birthday presents for a child I’ve never met. I don’t have to rush Aud, Bear, Cammy & Hunter to any practice or appointment. I control the schedule. Guess what? Except for when we visit the Brown family or Auntie Kelly, there are no video games! There’s no reservoir of recorded kids shows on the Tivo and no plethora of On-Demand Disney shows. I actually get their full attention (somewhat) and their listening skills improve dramatically. It forces me to be a more creative parent, too. When they get on my nerves, I can’t just send them to their rooms – I have to actually think of reasonable solutions. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, this has also proven to be the bane of my road trip existence! I remember one night, in a deplorable motel room in Vicksburg, MI (with a view of the Wendy’s Drive thru), when I truly wanted to trade places with the woman who was asking, “Do you want fries with that?” And I had nowhere to run. I think we all cried ourselves to sleep that night. Guess what? The next morning was a do-over. New town, new adventure.
6) New adventures are the best things ever. I love, love, love seeing and exploring new places. We live in the greatest country on Earth, and it’s all here for exploration – to see forty-eight states all you need is a vehicle and some cash (amount varies). No passport, no tickets, no security lines. For a history buff like me, standing in front of something or someplace that I’ve studied in school is such a high. Walking the battlefield of Valley Forge was surreal (the oppressive heat that summer may have contributed), culminating when we entered George Washington’s headquarters – the very place our first president commanded his army. Similar feelings were stirred when touring Mount Vernon (and Monticello). I was astonished to discover how small the Alamo is – blink and you miss it. We walked through the fort in less than five minutes. The prairies of Kansas are beautiful, and there are no appropriate words to describe the awe we felt standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. We’ve sampled ice cream at the original Ben & Jerry’s; stood in line to pay homage at the grave of Elvis Presley; run the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art like Rocky; cruised the Tennessee River; and explored the caverns of Carlsbad.
Mount Vernon 2011
The Alamo 20111
To be fair, some adventures have turned into disasters! Hunter actually reached over the velvet rope and touched the Liberty Bell – if it goes back inside a glass encasement, you know whom to blame. Barrett played Chuck Berry’s piano at the Rock-n-Roll Hall of fame, which is not allowed. He also almost injured a woman when, out of frustration and boredom, he hurled my cell phone across a darkened theater in the JFK Presidential Library. Speaking of hurling, the majesty of the Grand Canyon was quickly erased when all four children succumbed to a vicious (and I do mean vicious) stomach bug. Two days of nastiness. Bear has ventured into the pools of neighbors of friends we’ve visited by scaling fences. The mother of all family meltdowns occurred in a small college bookstore in Madison, WI, the likes of which (based on the looks of others patrons) no one has ever seen before. Yeah, we’ll never return to Madison.
Liberty Bell 2012
Driving across Kansas 2011
Grand Canyon 2013
Philadelphia Museum of Art 2011
Carlsbad, NM 2013
7) Visiting museums, libraries and historical sites has provided learning opportunities that we just can’t get from school or the History Channel. I don’t think you can fully comprehend how hard it was to cross the Atlantic in the 1600’s until you have stepped onto the replicas of the Mayflower or one of the three ships at the Jamestown Settlement. When you walk the hallowed floors of places such as Independence Hall and the Nation’s Capital or cross the North Bridge in Concord, MA – you are transported in time – and you start to get it, to really understand the history of our country.
The Mayflower 2012
Washington DC 2010
The North Bridge @ Concord
Concord, MA 2012
8) When we’re on the road, I kind of check out from the real world. I don’t watch the news, and I’m only on the computer to check email or write, so there are no MSN headlines to rile me up! Honestly, being oblivious about world events does wonders for my anxiety levels and my quality of sleep.
9) The escape from day-to-day responsibility gives me a much needed opportunity to recharge. Once I step outside of my routine, I gain a perspective on where I’m dropping the ball in my life. You’re probably wondering how in the world that I could possibly relax traveling thousands of miles on the road with four kids, with many of our venues being of educational and historical significance. But I do! We have fun, I assure you. We always schedule a weekend at the beach on our journey. We have pool time, baseball games, hikes, miniature golf and car sing-alongs – with the windows down and the sunroof open. I’m proud to say that each and every one of us knows every word to “On the Road Again.”
With Auntie Marcie, Sarasota 2011
Tiger Stadium, Detroit 2013
After being on the road together for weeks on end, there’s no better feeling than pulling into your driveway. Home cooked meals become a privilege, not a chore. Doing laundry every day is once again a luxury, not a nuisance. We have a new appreciation for waking up in our own beds and we find a familiar comfort in daily routines.
10) Everyday life can get hectic, with four kids attending three different schools, each with their own friends and extracurricular activities that often exclude their siblings. Bonding can be tough. The person who reaps the most benefit from our travels is Bear. Unfortunately, he can get lost in the sibling shuffle during the school year – a silent rider on our never ending extracurricular crazy train. But on the road, he’s one of them, and he knows it. He’s the first one in the car every year when we take off. Being in a car and a hotel room together forces the kids to reconnect and depend on each other for entertainment. With one bathroom and one TV, they get an opportunity to practice the art of compromise. No, it’s not all flowers and sunshine and it can get ugly at times, but eventually they do reach an agreement, (or they pout in the bathroom). They’re bonding by making memories that will live on in the stories they’ll tell for a lifetime. The summer Cammy’s grotesque foot odor practically gassed us out while we in car still produces groans and giggles to this day. There’s the time the hotel fire alarm went off and the kids watched a movie in the car, at 2 a.m., until we got the all-clear. The Uno games on hotel room floors, the elevator button wars and synchronized falling backwards into the pool. Road memories.
11) Visiting friends and family and traveling down memory lane. I have lived in many places, as has my husband. We have friends and family all over the country. Atlanta is not a popular vacation destination (although I guarantee you, you’ll have to pass through at some point!), so ultimately it’s up to me if I want face time with my loved ones – and I do. I love the fact that my kids are getting to know the children of my childhood friends. One of my kids’ favorite places to visit is Pittsburgh, where my girlfriend from my Fort Lauderdale years now lives. I don’t think either one of us ever pictured a day when our SEVEN (say what?) kids would be gallivanting in the fountains of Station Square along the Monongahela River.
The original reason for our first road trip was to take the kids to where mom and dad grew up – Washington DC/Baltimore and Cape Cod. It’s one thing to tell your kids about Grandpa’s house, but quite another to knock on the door and explain to complete strangers that your grandfather built their house – and then for them to invite you in! The kids got to actually see it! They’ve played on the playground of their dad’s elementary school and day-dreamed on the same jetties as I did when I was a child. All the moments are precious and chill inducing. Awesome.
West Harwich Beach on Cape Cod 2010
12) Writing material baby. My blogging career started with our 2010 Summer Road Trip. Everyone thought I was crazy and wanted daily updates – a blog was born! It is my favorite type of writing. Very little censorship, because it is written quickly and in the heat of the moment. Our adventures are almost documented in real time so you get the authentic deal, the good, the bad and the ugly. Unfortunately, you also get some sloppy writing and typos, as it is written at the end of very long days and without my editors readily available. My apologies for past and future crimes against grammar. My skills at story-telling far exceed my writing technique unfortunately.
2011 Road Trip T-Shirt
13) Memories. I know the kids are young, and I do worry they won’t remember all that we’ve done and seen. That is the reason for the blog and the pictures, which I compile each year into a huge Shutterfly book. But I’ve already been greatly surprised by the recollections. They talk about the road trips all the time, swapping stories in the car and at the dinner table. They fight over who gets to design our road trip t-shirt and as they get older they offer suggestions on where to go and what to do. I love how excited they get and they all sleep together, like on Christmas Eve, the night before we leave.
I hope you’ll follow us this summer. I’ll be posting my regular old school travel log blog on Road Warrior Mamma, but will provide edited highlights here, at least twice a week. We leave in thirteen days and I cannot wait!
This post was written for Mama Kat’s Writers Workshop.
What do you love about vacation? Do you take road trips? Where do you go? What’s your favorite destination? If you’re not a road warrior, why not?