“It’s really about the anticipation of the trip - not the trip itself,” I overhear the tired mother tell the eager insurance salesman over coffee. He nods his head and says something about a pricey trip to the ocean, thousands of dollars spent and nothing remembered by ungrateful children. He’s trying to make a sale; she’s trying to be heard.
A few summers ago, I convinced my husband to join me, our rapidly growing fetus, and our two-year-old and ten-month-old boys, on a 3,500 mile, 13 day trek to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. This Canadian adventure was the very first of what has become our annual (sometimes semi-annual) family road trip, these unruly journeys that have cemented themselves at the very top of my favorite way to travel.
When you fail to learn a lesson, the universe tries again. After the unfortunate travel potty incident and subsequent sleepover from hell described in my last post, one would think I could have kept both my butt and my family at home for a while. Instead, I took us camping.
The past two weeks have been a lesson in slowing down. Like most lessons, this is not one I have openly embraced. In fact, I raged against it forcefully, as I often do, and the universe kept busting my chops until I finally conceded.
I haven’t showered since Jackson Hole. That was Day 4. This is Day 9. I am disgusting. My hair is slicked back into a disheveled bun using a mixture of sweat and dry shampoo. I am wearing glasses because my eyes rejected contacts this morning after hours of staring at the road. My armpits and breath compete for most offensive. We are somewhere near the bottom of Wisconsin and our energy reserves. Our youngest has been asking for home for the last two days, and it’s starting to break me.
We leave on a Tuesday around dinner and make it to North Dakota exactly two days later. The drive takes 19 hours, but with three kids, a business meeting, 27 potty breaks, a roadside picnic, three underwhelming fast food experiences, one temporarily closed water park, and a whirlwind tour of the North Dakota Heritage Center, two days feels right.
Instead of counting three little bobbing heads, bouncing along the edge of molten hot geysers and thundering herds of bison, on this trip, we will be counting six. Three blondes, one spunky ginger, a quick little brunette, and one semi-bald infant. I am pumped for this Chevy Chase brand of chaos. At least I was until all the signs that were pointing to "go" started pointing to "No!"
Everyone knows it takes a village to raise a child, but if your village doesn’t have one or two grandmas in it, you might want to consider moving. This became crystal clear to me over the past three-day weekend when our boys attended their annual Memorial Day campout with my mother-in-law. Camping is relaxing. Camping with kids under the age of 6 – not so much. My mother-in-law knows this and still smiles as we drop them off and drive away.
I love to travel because I love to eat, but when the hungry babies start howling from the backseat, I've learned to put my foodie preferences aside and make some concessions. Once we've arrived safely at our destination and everyone has had a solid night's rest, I can demand a farm-to-table house of kale complete with hipsters, their ill-fitting clothes, and all the pretentiousness. Until then, here's my list of "go-to" gourmet: