We made it back home!
Final view of the trip counter when we got home (and yep, we were out of windshield wiper fluid by the end!)
Here’s a little glimpse into a pretty typical afternoon in the car during our recent 3-week, nearly 5800-mile road trip (I had Ashton type most of it up as it was happening.)
The twins are giggling and doing an amazing amount wrestling, considering they have their seat belts on and Eliza and Isaac declare that it should be quiet time so everyone can read but then Isaac starts tickling the twins.
Eliza: “Isaac, stop, I thought you wanted to have a quiet time!”
Isaac (to the twins): “QUIET TIME!”
– lots more giggling from the twins
Isaac: starts singing a song then Eliza does the same (a different song - serious cacaphony).
Isaac: Eliza, stop singing! I thought you wanted to have quiet time!
Eliza: YOU are the one who started singing!
Ashton: You guys, mom is having me type everything you're doing - just so you know. And you're being SO ANNOYING!
More giggling and wrestling from twins in back seat.
Eliza: No one will be quiet so I have to keep reading the same sentence again and again in my book. You guys, BE QUIET!
Isaac starts singing another fairly tuneless (and somewhat annoying) song.
Oliver: OUCH!!!! (crying)
Me: See, whenever you guys wrestle, someone always gets hurt. It's quiet reading time everyone, get out your books. NOW!
Eliza: Oliver isn't reading - he's trying to sneak time on the Kindle and he doesn't have enough points for any Kindle time.
Oliver: I can't read because Silas is reading the book I want to read and he won't give it back.
Me: Silas, you get to read until the clock says 3:30 then it's Oliver's turn with that book, OK?
Silas: But I only have 20 pages left in this book!
Me: OK, Oliver will you be OK with Silas reading the last 20 pages then you can have the book all to yourself from then on?
Oliver: 20 pages is FOREVER!
Me: Oliver, work on your workbook for a while and you can get some more points while Silas finishes reading, OK?
(While I'm trying to work out the book issue Isaac starts tickling Silas and Eliza complains that she can't concentrate on reading - the noise is getting worse, the kids are really bugging me, it's been 2 hours of these little squabbles....)
You get the picture. Only usually, Ashton's in the mix, throwing in his own issues to make things a bit more chaotic from time to time. Having him type up blog posts for me while driving seemed to help on many fronts...
And we had quite a few times when one of the twins suddenly and urgently needed a bathroom while we were in the middle of nowhere which wasn't all that ideal.
I had high hopes that the kids would sleep a lot more than they did in the car. With so many late nights, car time seemed like an ideal time for getting some extra sleep. But while Isaac and the twins took some pretty good cat naps in the car, Eliza and Ashton just don't sleep in the car much at all and times like this weren't as common as I'd hoped (note that he's keeping his candy close, even in his sleep!):
They must have been really tired to sleep like this!
But for the most part, the kids really were amazingly good in the car and we had some really great times talking, playing games, pointing out interesting things as we drove, singing along with the Road Trip Mix Ashton made of everyone's favorite songs, and reading. The points system Ashton wrote about here worked wonders most of the time.
Here's a stack of the books they read - some excellent children's literature (Charlotte Doyle, Phantom Tollbooth, Mysterious Benedict Society) and some just random books they begged for at the school book sale. Ashton read two books I love on the Kindle - Half Broke Horses and The Glass Castle - he loved them both and is now reading another book by the same author. We had some good talks about the books as we drove - fun having a kid old enough to read and discuss my favorite books with me.
Oliver, Silas and Isaac spent one entire afternoon in the car building a fort in the back seat out of sleeping bags - here it is:
When we stopped in Ohio to visit my friend Sarah and her family, they showed the kids how to make these awesome rubber band bracelets and gave us a little loom so the kids could make more in the car. They spent lots of hours making bracelets for themselves and all the cousins and friends they'd be seeing during the trip. GREAT car activity. Thanks Sarah!
Here's what the loom looks like (you can get it here if you want)
And in Kansas City, my friend Kristine and her kids gave us this great set of car games that made the last few days of the trip really fun. We especially loved playing "Two Truths and a Lie," "I have never..." and "Buzz" where you trade off saying numbers and have to remember that you have to say "buzz" in place of one particular number. So nice to have fresh car games by that point in the trip! (you can get this game set here if you want)
A big part of our long days of driving in the car was our stops at Subway for meals. I love love love that there's pretty much ALWAYS a Subway we can stop at when we're on the road and everyone can find something relatively healthy to eat. Everyone would buddy up with someone else and choose a 5-dollar footlong to share. The boys usually got egg and cheese omlet sandwiches with tomatoes and cucumbers and Eliza and I got a veggie delight on toasted flat bread with provolone cheese and lots of spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes on it with a bit of ranch and mustard (sounds weird but it's actually a great combination). You can't beat $15 for a nice healthy meal for 6! And thankfully, Subway gave us a $100 gift card so we were able to eat tons of meals for free. But we would have eaten there just as much even w/o the gift card. Honestly love love love Subway for road trips.
Here's the most interesting Subway we stopped at - in the almost-ghost-town of Unionville, MO. It was on the first floor of a building that needed some serious TLC and the building right across the street had just fallen down recently. At this Subway, three cute little old ladies called me over to their table to ask me if all those kids were mine and tell me that they were the cutest and most well-behaved children they had seen in a very long time. That made me feel pretty darn good (and I was glad they hadn't seen us at breakfast at the hotel that morning!)
As well as Subway, we visited a LOT of gas stations for restroom breaks and fill-ups (and let me just say gas prices vary WIDELY across the country - everything from $3.49 in Missouri to $4.79 near Chicago!). At most gas stations, the kids gleefully picked out the candy or other treats they'd earned through reading and writing and doing their workbooks in the car. And at one gas station, the twins found these signs that they really really really wanted (Oliver's obsessed with pugs and Silas absolutely adores chiuauas) but luckily they didn't have enough points to buy these (I just couldn't quite see them in our house...). They were happy with just getting a picture with the signs.
Although I cleaned the windshield at pretty much every gas station , our windshield was pretty darn covered with bugs:
And the front of the van sported an ever-increasing bug graveyard:
I loved the scenery we saw as we drove along. With no working DVD player in the car and just the one Kindle for everyone to share, we all looked out the window a lot and pointed out beautiful things to each other. I loved that. And I think we all got a great appreciation for the expanse and varied geography of our country.
A sunset in Nebraska:
Beautiful rolling hills of West Virginia:
Beautiful wildflowers all along the roads in Pennsylvania:
green, green, green farmland in rural New York:
Indiana trees and farmland (we kept thinking shadows on the horizon were mountains - weird to not see mountains on the horizon for so long!)
The more stark beauty of Wyoming:
And this became our favorite road trip song ("Everybody" by Ingrid Michaelson):
So with all else in motherhood (and in life), I guess I'll go ahead take the hard stuff (the squabbling in the car, the discomfort of driving and sitting so long, the emergency pit stops, the uncomfortably close proximity for hours on end) because it comes hand in hand with the very good stuff (the bonding, the good talks, the scenery, the laughs, the creativity, the singing along to our favorite songs, not to mention the exciting sites we saw and people we visited). It's all part of the package. And it's a package I'm so very grateful for.
What an epic adventure! One you and your kids will never forget. Fun to see all the little details along the way. Thanks for sharing.
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LOL! Plus LOL! Thanks for sharing this amazing adventure! You should take this person up on this. You would win for sure! :)
Thank you or sharing your adventures! It has given me lots of ideas and has made us all excited for our trip!
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We leave on Monday for our cross country trip. My kids love the fort idea in the backseat (how did you get them to keep their seat belts on?)! We are furiously packing today...
They could reach the sleeping bags on top of the bags in the back and string a rope between the handles on the ceiling above the windows w/o taking their seatbelts off. Then they hung out under there, reading and playing, all afternoon. I did have to tell them to lower the rope holding up the sleeping bag so I could see out the back window easily!
Hey Saren! Thanks for sharing your trip posts and ideas. I'm glad to see I'm not the only crazy momma of 5 trekking her kiddos cross-country. We leave in a couple weeks! I'd like very much to hear from you re: Priceline and booking hotels. I'm leary to book days in advance incase things pop up like flat tires, etc., so tell me please, does it work to find a hotel and book it on priceline in the early morning hours (say 6-7am) and based on your experience, successfully check-in in the early evening? Email me directly if you wish! firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks!! Kati
In response to your question about hotels Kati, we found that it worked beautifully to book a hotel via Priceline or Hotwire shortly before we actually planned to stop for the night. We usually were't sure exactly how far we'd get each day so it was great to just hop on the mobile Hotwire or Priceline app on my phone once we were in the vicinity of where we'd ended up for the evening and see which nearby towns had what "express deals" for that evening. With the Express Deals, you get to see the number of stars and what amenities a hotel has (swimming pool, free breakfast, free internet, free parking - these were four things we always looked for and always found in a 2.5 star hotel) and a price but not the hotel name. Each evening, we'd look on a map for what mid-size towns were coming up that would be about the distance away that would work based on how tired we were and how far we needed to get that night, then look for the 2.5 star hotel with the best price and highest reviewer scores (we liked to get something with at least a 7.5 on reviews - on a scale of 1-10) in Express Deals. We found a good place to stay every night and paid much less than what seemed to be typical had we booked in advance. It seemed like late afternoon to early evening was the best time to get good deals w/o hotels running out of inventory (they give the best deals on rooms that haven't sold late in the day - better for them to get some money than no money for an empty room!). Including taxes and fees, we paid from $65-110 a room for a nice 2.5 star hotel.
Once you book your room, it tells you which hotel you got and gives you the address and phone number. Every time, I simply called that phone number, told them I'd just booked a room on Priceline, and asked for a room with 2 beds. According to Priceline, they'll only guarantee a room for 2 adults with your booking but you're welcome to call the hotel and ask for a room with 2 beds or one bed based on what you'd prefer once you get the confirmation. Every time I asked for the two beds, they were happy to oblige.
Other than the one weird time where we crossed a time zone at 11pm (midnight in our new time zone) while making our booking and that caused our reservation to be bumped forward to the wrong day, things worked out beautifully! (see my post "Some Not-So-Good Moments" for details). Maybe I shouldn't have tried booking that late in the evening(but I did get a really great deal on a hotel room by waiting until that late!)
Thanks for your reply! I hope you don't mind a follow-up :) When I looked into booking on these sites, there was only "room" to input up to 4 kids. How did you get around this and were you charged extra for an extra person? Thank you!!
On Priceline, I didn't see an option for number of people staying in the room and since kids under 18 stay free as a general rule, there was no problem. I think some websites/hotels ask about number and age of children so that if you have kids over 18, you'll be prompted to pay for them. We brought along two sleeping bags so that two kids could sleep on the floor. There's really no other way to do it since neither the mom nor the hotel would be OK with children being on their own in a hotel room - they all have to be with the mom if the mom is travelling alone!
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