Say what you want about life on the road; for me, this trip was all about visiting loved ones. We sent out a notice letting people know they could invite us to our homes (I know, we're so well-mannered) and then connected the dots from my grandmother's house in Michigan back to Florida with all but one of the offers somewhere in between.
Because this is long, I will make it easy for you to scroll through by marking off sections with bold headings. Sections include: Semi-detailed Travelogue; My Favorite Parts; The Worst Parts; How Did the Kids Do?; Would You Do It Again?; Did You Include Any Photos In This Entry? and How About Video? If you don't like one section, scroll down to the next!
Our first stop was to see my grandmother and also pick up her car. So we flew to Michigan and then drove her car/now our car from then on. It was good to see her and visit with her, and also for her to meet my children. Her memory is not what it used to be, and I know my kids probably won't remember much of meeting her, but I will. Also, we managed to Skype my mom from her house so that my mom and her mom could talk to each other "face to face" for what may be the last time. It was very touching. My aunt and uncle were also there, and it was great to spend some quality time with them.
Our next stop was the Unruhs' home in Indiana. Larry and Linda lived next door to my parents when they were all in college and they were very close. In fact, Linda was the one who was with my mom when she delivered me. So it was fitting to spend my birthday with them. I hadn't seen them in more than a decade but they were just as warm and wonderful as I had remembered. We were lucky enough to be there during a family birthday party for their grandson, so I got to catch up with their kids and Stellan got some kid companionship.
From there we went to Niagara Falls. We hadn't originally included this stop, but our friend Jenessa informed us that we should not pass it up. She was right! Everyone should see Niagara Falls. It was breathtaking. We also stopped by Palmyra while in upstate New York to see some LDS Church history sites, including the Sacred Grove.
We got to see Jerry and Vivian and Levi in New Hampshire. It was so great to spend time with them that we stayed an extra day. And, in case you thought I had undercelebrated my own birthday, Viv and I enjoyed our traditional shared birthday party. Levi and Stellan got along better than ever. I wish they could hang out all the time. Skype is good, but in person is better.
We stopped in Cape Cod so Kevin could visit Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. He spent an incredible 4 hours being wined (OK, Mountain Dewed), dined and toured by engineers there; I spent a horrific 4 hours in a rain storm trapped in the car with my cranky kids. Totally worth it, though.
Once we got to the DC area, we had a few stops set up. We're lucky enough to have a glut of people we love living nearby, so we spent almost a week there. The Caulders let us stay with them for General Conference weekend; Stellan fell in love with their boys, their toys and their trampolines. Chantel and I got to catch up; she is one of those amazing people who remembers and loves you now just as much as she did 7 years ago. Every time I think of her I smile.
We also stayed with the Erbs, who are hilarious and perfect hosts. I have not had so much fun making peanut butter cookies in a long time - Katie had the kids sculpt with the dough and even gave them additional materials (marshmallows) to work with. Awesome!
Niki Nichols showed us around DC. We cruised the National Mall, played in museums, waited in line forever at a restaurant and then enjoyed it so much it was worth the wait. Well, to us grown-ups. Stellan might beg to differ. Loves to you, Niki!
We visited Matt Fischer, one of Kev's mission companions. That was a particularly memorable night; the 4 of us all crammed into the bedroom he lives in at a bachelor pad in Richmond. In the morning, I had a hard time convincing Stellan that a bunch of college guys would not like to wake up at 6:30 AM to the sound of a 3-year-old playing foosball noisily downstairs. Richmond is much cooler town than I had imagined. And the Science Museum of Virginia is one of the best science centers I've been to, especially for families.
We saw Matt Giles in Raleigh, NC. He's another companion of Kevin's. It was fun for both of us to see his mission buddies, because they are my buddies too. (We both served in the Texas Houston Mission, so we know lots of the same people and stories.) They had two kids almost exactly the same age as ours and a pretty awesome leather hide-a-bed. We were very grateful for the sack lunch they packed us in the morning, because we powered it back all the way to Dania Beach that day.
My Favorite Parts
It was so fun to spend time with Kevin. We have always loved road trips together, and though it's more complicated with kids, it was still amazing for the two of us. He is so awesome.
The museums! Originally, we weren't sure if Kevin was going to be able to make it on the trip, and I was thinking about doing a museum road trip, 1 museum every day from Michigan back to Florida. Since he came, I spared everyone my museum mania. That said, we did go to 5 museums along the way. The only thing I enjoyed more than visiting the museums myself was to help my son understand and appreciate the exhibits. We finally had the Big Talk. You know, the carnivore/herbivore dinosaur talk. Vital in the education of every little boy.
My friends! I love love love spending time with friends, especially if it's been too long. And it had been way too long for this set of friends. We also love friends who visit us, so if you're planning an epic road trip, stop on by!
The Worst Parts
Toll roads. Very expensive. Also, the only restaurant at most of the stops is McDonald's. I could go a long time without eating there again.
Strapping kids into car seats when they don't want to be strapped in. This goes double for not being able to unstrap them when they get hungry but you've just hit a huge traffic jam that will take you more than an hour to escape.
How Did the Kids Do?
For the most part, awesome. It was all about pacing. Since Rachelle had to stop to eat every couple of hours, we just planned accordingly. Once Stellan got into the rhythm, he knew that we'd drive for a while, then we 'd stop and he would get out and run around with Daddy while I took care of the baby. Then we'd drive again, stop again, etc. Since Rachelle was just baby and only wanted to lay there all day anyway, she was an angel. Stellan had some books and toys to keep himself occupied and also perfected the "why?" game on this adventure.
Would You Do It Again?
In a heartbeat! I actually feel quite a sense of accomplishment having actually done this. There were challenges, road blocks (literal and figurative) and some thinning tempers at times, but it was a fantastic experience. And perhaps one of the best parts is knowing that we've become the kind of family that would actually attempt something like this and come out of it happier than ever.
Did You Include Any Photos In This Entry?
How about video?