Road tripping

There is no better way to test the strength of your relationship with anyone than to get in a car and drive for four days straight... rest... and then turn around and do it again. Luckily, my family passed the test with flying colors. We not only drove from Massachusetts to Texas and back, but we still like each other! Yesterday was Lucas's first day back in the office, and let me tell you... it was rough. I kept walking around wanting to tell him things. When the kids came down in the morning and asked where he was and I reminded them about the whole work thing they both pouted... 

In all seriousness, we had a wonderful trip. We visited with family and friends, took a tour of Hershey's Chocolate World, crossed the Mississippi, ate incredible Italian food outside of Knoxville, BBQ in Memphis, Tex-Mex in Texas, way too many sugary snacks in the car, saw long-horned cattle, finally understood southern drawls, felt WARM, visited a cavern and saw bats in hibernation, and so much more. We all learned a lot about our country, as well as each other on this trip. I thought I'd share a few lessons from the road I'd like to remember, as well as a few photos... in no particular order...

  • Drink more water than you think you need.
  • Take advantage of technology: hotels.com, Gluten Free Near Me app, maps, tourist attraction apps, tablets for the kids filled with movies for the endless highway in Tennessee and then Arkansas... 
  • Bring a yoga mat, but be okay with not using it often.
  • Don't push your agenda on your whole family.
  • Have no, or at least realistic, expectations. And if you have expectations, share them. 
  • Bring actual mugs (we didn't... but I will always travel with an actual mug from here on out. Thanks for the suggestion, Mom!)
  • Be present.
  • Look out the window.
  • Don't feel bad if your children use devices more than you thought (hoped) they would. It's a long drive. If it didn't make you carsick, you'd be doing the same damn thing in the passenger seat!
  • Snacks. Have a bag of goodies in the trunk, and only put what you need for the day in a separate bag within reach. 
  • Listen to people you meet, ask questions. Be open to learning about them, yourself, and your own prejudices. 
  • Stop often.
  • Pee every time the opportunity presents itself, even if you don't need to.
  • Read the room, or the car, and act accordingly.
  • If people are tired and hungry and have to pee and have been in the car for 10 hours, maybe don't force them to take a selfie... even if it's the perfect opportunity. And if you do, don't make them wait as you try to take five more pictures because you can't hold your phone right. Long will the Virginia is for Lovers sign at the Virginia Welcome Center live in our family memories... 
  • Always say yes when someone offers to take a family photo for you.
  • Neck pillows. Get some, or just steal your children's. 
  • Play music that moves you. Maybe cry when you listen to Frank Turner singing about how "love is about the changes you make and not just three small words..."
  • Yes, take reusable water bottles. But think about where you're going to refill them... and if you're not happy with water from fountains, stop every two days and pick up a big jug of water or two to refill your bottles with. Yes, you're still creating waste, but not nearly as much as a dozen plastic bottles of water a day... 
  • Check in with people to let them know you're alive, but don't spend your whole day texting. You can share about your trip later. You'll never get the time spent with your family on that very vacation again.
  • Silence is a good thing. 
  • Rowdy laughter and jokes and rambunctious kids are a good thing, too. 
  • It's okay to be homesick. It's okay to cry. It's okay to give more hugs than needed.
  • Buy a sheet of post card stamps before you leave home, and use them. Even if it's hard to find post cards, send them. It's worth the time. 
  • Keep notes on what you did each day, where you went, where you stayed, what you ate, what you saw. Nothing lengthy, just enough to jog your memory. By the end you won't remember what day it is, let alone when you went through Virginia or what that incredible restaurant in Tennessee was named. 
  • Remember that not everyone likes audiobooks... (no matter how much you want to like them, don't feel bad if they're not your thing)
  • When approaching Memphis, put on Paul Simon's Graceland album and sing your hearts out (especially if you ACTUALLY have a nine year old travelling companion in the car... and yes, we did!)
  • Do the longest driving day first.
  • Remember to say thank you when friends pick you up off the side of the highway, 20 minutes from home, as your car and husband drive down the road on and in a tow truck... and then thank the heavens you weren't in Arkansas when your car broke down!

Do you take road trips with your family? I think this is just the start of our road tripping days. Even with breaking down at the very end (darn spark plugs...), Lucas is already planning a trip to the South West, and I've got my sights set on camping in Shenandoah in the next year or two. When you can see the actual progression in landscape and the change in cultures up close, it's hard to imagine traveling any other way. And honestly, I've got a pretty incredible family to travel with who make just about any journey extra special, so why not hit the road?

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