Well, howdy! It’s been a long few months with a lot going on! Let’s catch up!
This summer, it was our family’s turn to visit extended family out west. Naturally, we considered the most efficient way to get there, which would be air travel. Eight-hour flight with cranky kids and strangers and germs (and hopefully not a seat right next to the bathroom) and you’re there! Um, no, thank you.
Not to mention the prices!! Holy smokes have airline tickets gone up! We were looking at nearly $2300 in fares for the four of us. And then we would need to rent a car to accommodate our two car seats and all of our baggage. And then we would be unable to travel the lengthy distances between friends and family in the huge state of Oregon due to mileage restrictions.
SPOILER ALERT: We ended up spending roughly $2500 total on this trip. That included exposing our preschool kids to 21 days of travel through 15 states; several national park visits; laying eyes on the actual trail marks of The Oregon Trail; hiking in prairies, rainforests, creeks, and rivers; countless learning opportunities, etc. This also covered all of our camping supplies (which we didn’t own prior to the trip), and all of our allergy-free (for us), organic food! It also includes the one hotel stay in Chicago and the two Wendy’s meals we had when we were in a tight spot.
This flying thang just wasn’t cutting the custard — or is it mustard? Whichever you prefer, I guess.
Too expensive, too restrictive.
I think that I’ve allowed my sense of my adventure to go to all-time lows after having the kids. I’ve just been focused on too many other things (read: the daily grind).
I’ve shared on this blog before that, as a kid, I spent every third or fourth summer traveling across the country in an RV with my siblings — both human and canine — and my parents. I have such awesome memories of that all-American, low-frills vacation style!
As a kid, Matt, too, spent lots of time camping/traveling with his dad for mountain bike races all along the west coast. He has some pretty great stories to tell about those days as well.
We want memories like that for/with our kids!
We both decided that 3 and 5 were great ages to get the traveling party started!
Master plan conceived!
We decided to jump in the deep end headfirst — 21 days on the road in our subcompact VW Sportwagen sounded just about perfect. We planned to camp in our tent at night to keep it fun and on the cheap. Go big or go home, right?!
Matt spent weeks preparing and collecting things for the trip. We needed EVERYTHING — bear spray for the Yellowstone and Teton Park visits, a tent to sleep in, a camping stove, a portable toilet, disposable toiletries, a cooler, a cargo box for the car, a small hatchet for firewood, food supplies that allowed for healthy eating and covered all of our many food allergies, etc.
Hold on. It’s all good, except for the fact that Matt works 65 hours a week and doesn’t really know how sweet (needy, bratty, demanding — love them to pieces!) our kids can be. I was a little nervous on how he’d handle 24/7 contact with the crazies for three weeks straight — shifting from the confines of a tiny station wagon to a tent in the middle of the woods. Could he really — did I mention no electronics for the kids, against the advice of personal friends and strangers alike? — deal with those no-escape apples?!
We’ll come back to that.
There were way more pros to doing this trip our way (geography, history, family bonding, camping experience, etc.) than there were cons, though. No contest. Daddy Dearest would have to suck it up.
So while Matt did the prepping of supplies, I read the kids this fabulous book almost daily to get them revved up for the trip:
We were ready!
(I kept a loose journal; and I’ll share some of the highlights in what, I’m sure, will end up being 10 separate posts over the course of the next two years, at which point we’ll be on another cross-country road trip! LOL)
On Saturday, May 21, 2016, at 8:00 a.m., we pulled out of our driveway to start the trek west. By 8:15, A.W. was asking if we were in Oregon yet. A.S. consumed a slice of pizza, a protein shake, brownies, and seemed to be eating out of boredom after the first ten minutes.
Not going to lie; I was scared!
We drove all morning. We talked about what we thought we’d see, what we wanted to see, and how lucky we were to have this time with each other.
We took advantage of rest areas probably every 40 minutes to go to the bathroom and stretch, but we still made great time!
Matt was still all smiles. I was mostly all smiles besides the 10 minutes out of every hour that the kids were bickering or throwing things at each other.
And then, of course, the constant snacking got to the kids. The horrid flatulence set in.
I handled cloth diapers and have just generally done my share of kids’ bodily function duty, so I was fine.
Matt, on the other hand, is not so well-versed.
This was Mr. Sew Old School’s biggest complaint of the trip. Honestly, even in PA cattle country, when the kids had an episode, he’d have the windows all the way down because he swore the cattle smelled better than our two little health-food eatin’ sweeties.
He spent a lot of time looking like this:
By 2:00 p.m., we were in Ohio and driving through their gorgeous industrial-meets-nature wind farms.
We drove through Indiana doing more chatting, rest stop stretching, window watching, and snacking.
Matt was doing fine with the kids, but not so much with the tolls. Turns out nowadays every state has a toll for every inch of their interstates?! (I think we paid $80 from PA to IL!) Sheer insanity!
By 8:30 p.m., the nice, quick pace we had been getting used to was gone. Welcome to Chicago! It was bumper-to-bumper well after rush hour. And we were ready to hit the sack.
The kids really got into the groove of riding on Day 1, but they were dead-dog tired. Twelve hours riding in the car would do that to anyone, I guess.
Rather than try to find a place to set up the tent, we got a cheap hotel off the side of the highway so that we could get right back on the road in the early morning. This would be the only hotel we would stay in for the entire trip. Good thing there were no frills, because the kids were out for the count as soon as they touched the bed. They wouldn’t have been able to go swim in a pool or play on a playground if I paid them.
And that’ll do it for Day 1 of our epic adventure.
Stay tuned for Day 2, where we ended up camping in an incredible thunderstorm in the Badlands of South Dakota…