Saturday, July 21, 2012

Road Warriors, Part One...

For the past four years, my husband and I have taken our youth group to camp in Tennessee.  With all the inevitable stops, it takes us 10 to 12 hours of travel time. One thing that has amazed me each year is how the students grumble and groan about the road trip.  In talking with them, I learned that most have never taken long car rides anywhere but camp which shocked me!!  They have either stayed close to home or have simply flown if travel took them more than a few hours away.

I guess the reason it surprised me so much is that I grew up taking road trips.  Every single year our family drove from Maryland to Florida to visit family.  Most years we would also attend a church conference that was in a different state each June, and we would drive to that too.  I remember loving those trips!  My brother and I were both avid readers and we would stock up on new books before we left.  My mom would pick us up new activity pads filled with crossword puzzles and the like, and we would load our car or van and be off for our adventures.  Each stop along the way seemed like one to me, but there were times I didn't want to stop because I was so engrossed in my latest Babysitter's Club or Nancy Drew book.  These were the days before strict seatbelt laws, so we would lie on the seat or the floorboard and read and take long naps.  I remember some good sleep happening as we made our way down I-95!

I remember many stops at Cracker Barrels.  We didn't have those at home and didn't eat out much, so getting to order off the country menu was fun to us, as was picking out a piece of old fashioned candy in the shop!  As my brother and I got to be teenagers, we would beg to go anywhere but Cracker Barrel - but my parents were insistent that we would get a balanced meal on the road, and not give in to our pleas for fast food and the like!

We would drive until night then stop at some roadside hotel or motel.  My mom would make sure it was a clean one, and we would unload all our stuff in the dark and rest for a few hours.  These were decent hotels, but certainly not fancy ones...however in my little eyes it seemed so exciting to stay in a hotel!  I would sit by the phone and play secretary, and collected many pens and notepads emblazoned with hotel emblems through the years!

When Madi came along, we wasted no time taking her on her first long road trip.  She was born in April and in June I was booked to speak to a group of ladies at a conference in Springfield, Illinois.  My parents were going also, and the five of us crammed into a van with all sorts of baby gear and made our way from Maryland to Illinois, stopping at a wedding in Virginia on the way and making a stop in the Chicago area to see family on the way home.  I was still nursing every two to three hours during the day at this point so you can imagine how many stops we had to make!  But we laughed and slowly made our way to our destination.  The next summer she learned to walk on a road trip to Daytona Beach for the same conference.

When Trevor came along and I had two littles under two, we drove to Florida twice - once to visit, once to move.  The next year we drove to and from Maryland for a wedding of close friends.  A little over a year after that we made a road trip from Florida to Chicago to visit family.

And last week we made yet another road trip from Florida to Chicago.  With stops it takes a minimum of 22 hours to make this trek.  When people found out we were driving, so many thought we were crazy.  But when there is no money for flights and rental cars, you do what you have to do!  I remember the days when Jimmy and I could snag $99 flights to Chicago all the time, but those days are long gone.  So we packed up the same van that has now seen over 100,000 miles, woke up at 4:45, and were off and running while it was still dark outside.

The kids had slept in comfy clothes so they didn't have to change and I thought they might stay asleep - but they were wide awake with excitement as we pulled out of our driveway!  Our sweet friend Miss Sandi had surprised them little travel bags filled with goodies.  That was so thoughtful of her, and Madi and Trev loved everything in them!

My parents had surprised each of them with a new movie.  They loved this new American Girl movie McKenna so much that they watched it a total of four times on the trip!  I must admit it is nice having a DVD player in the van.  I know I would have enjoyed that on all our journeys through the years!

It was sweet to see my children getting so excited about the little things on a road trip like I used to.  After a few hours on the road we stopped and got them McDonald's pancakes (a huge treat for them; they love them dry, no syrup or anything) - they were thrilled!

Then at lunch time, we stopped in Georgia at Truett's, a place we had spotted on the way to camp.  It is a Chick-fil-A (our favorite) but it has both a quick service area and an eat in diner.

It is so cute inside - we loved that the name of the city where we met in college was on the wall!

Trev was wide eyed with excitement over the train that was traveling around the top of the restaurant...

And I was equally excited about my burger that I ordered from the quick service menu!!  I just had to try a burger at Chick-fil-A.  And let me tell you, it was delicious!

A huge hit was that they let kids use the ice cream machine for a free cone.  My two thought this was the best thing ever.  After many hours on the road, this was the perfect stop!

After lunch we made it through Georgia...and Tennessee...and Kentucky...and actually didn't stop for the night until Indiana.  The kids were being so pleasant and the sun was up so long that we were feeling good and kept going!  Madi drew pictures of things she saw out of her window in her notebook from Miss Sandi as we went along.

We watched the sun go down as we made it through the last of Kentucky...

And we learned an important tip for traveling on the road....stop at the welcome center and pick up hotel coupon books.  We saved close to 40% on our hotels by doing this, and it also gave us options to look at and consider.  Since the kids had taken a good nap and been on the road for nearly 16 1/2 hours, we wanted to let them burn some energy.  We got a steal on a nice little hotel with an indoor pool that was open until 11:00, so they had half an hour to swim hard before settling in for the night.  I remember getting to swim at night on some of our stops in my childhood road trip days, and remember what a big deal it was.  Madi and Trev thought it was the coolest!

They swam until the pool closed, then we showered up and (drumroll) let them get something from the vending machine.  I know.  This is huge when you are 5 and 7!! And since we have never had cable, the kids get the biggest kick out of watching the Food Network when we stay in hotels.  After their shower and snack, they watched Cake Boss until about 12:30, then we finally all fell asleep.  Needless to say we didn't rush them out of bed in the morning.  I set the alarm for 8:45, just in time to make sure we didn't miss the free breakfast.

And then we were on the road again!


  1. Ah, the joys of a hotel with a POOL and a VENDING MACHINE.I remember those being so exciting. I'm also a sucker for vending machines at rest stops!

  2. I still get excited about the vending machine at a hotel! :-) Great fun!! My boys and I are getting ready to go on a little road trip of our own to Ohio..only 5-6 hours, but fun all the same!! So glad you had such a wonderful trip!

  3. Loved this post! My family took lots of road trips as well--usually from Maryland to Iowa. I also enjoyed swimming in the pool at night- so special :)