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Posts Tagged ‘road trip’

Day Two: And I Would Drive 500 Miles…

16 Jun

Well, actually, 506 miles. If anyone is counting. And believe me, I am. I want credit where credit is due. Today’s drive, while only 90 miles further than yesterday, felt much, much, much longer. A lot of contributing factors: starting later in the day, cruddy driving conditions (more traffic, people going under the speed limit in the passing lane, lower speed limits in general, rain later in the day, several accidents), not having any unexpected visits with friends to break the drive. The myriad causes melded together and made it seem like a long driving day. And to be fair, what I was expecting to take 7-7.5 hours ended up taking 9 hours. So, like I said, a long day.

But, this morning was delightfully lazy, even my early rising boy slept in some. Okay, okay, not many people would call 7:30am sleeping in, but believe me, for him, that was late! And as several of the crew were slow to rise, Avery & I headed out to take care of a little business, namely, filling the van with gas, picking up some plastic spoons (stay tuned, those feature prominently later in the story), and buy bagels for everyone. The bagels were legit. Though, when I asked for a dozen, and the lady said that meant I got 14, I was a but perplexed. I mean, I’m familiar with a baker’s dozen, but adding an extra on to that? One-up-manship? Or trying too hard? Whatever, they were delicious! And I had an opportunity for a little teachable moment when we were in Harris Teeter buying spoons (seriously, stay tuned). We went to use the self-checkout kiosk, and I immediately noticed that there was money in the “change” slot. As in $40 cash, money. I try always to do the right things, but I will admit that for the briefest moment that $40 “free” money was mighty tempting! But I only pondered it for a nanosecond, and then told Avery that we needed to turn it in to customer service, and hope that whoever it was that had requested cash back, and then neglected to actually take the cash, would realize their mistake and come back to ask about it. It was, in my opinion, the proper thing to do, turning it in, in fact, it was the only thing to do. When I got back to the house and explained what happened, Harper was indignant that I hadn’t taken the money for myself, after all, I had found it! And that’s really where the teachable moment came in, because Avery was immediately on board with the fact that it was never our money at all. So, I explained to Harper that if I had found the money on the street in New York City, and it wasn’t obvious who had dropped it, I would have absolutely taken it and been thankful for my luck. But this was different, for a lot of reasons, and turning it in was the right thing to do. At least maybe I’ll get some karma points?

Anyway, after some hanging out, and some delicious bagels, it was time to say goodbye to our friends, throw the kids and dog in the car, and set off for our next destination: Harrisburg, PA. Our first stop was 166 miles up the road, in Pulaski, Virginia. Which gives me the perfect segue for a travel pet peeve of mine; I think there needs to be some kind of law/ordinance requiring those blue highway signs informing of available restaurants/gas stations/lodging/services/etc to indicate how close said services are to the interstate. Because in this case, I got off at the exit due to the blue highway sign indicating a McDonald’s, only to find out once I was already off the interstate that said McDonald’s was 2.6 miles down a country road. Grrrrrrr….. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, an extra 2.6 miles wasn’t really that big of a deal, but it’s the principle of the thing. I like it a heck of a lot better when I get off the exit and see the follow-up sign that indicates my chosen service is only 0.1 miles to the right or left. But it turned out to be a worthwhile stop, as this particular Micky D’s had clean restrooms, and a shaded grassy area in which to walk Remy. Once back on the road an accident hd us slowed down a bit – two lanes narrowed to a single lane, that then had to perform a slalom between wrecked cars and large pieces of debris. Also on scene was a downed motorcyclist (thankfully on the on-ramp, so likely his accident didn’t occur at highway speed.) When we passed, he was on the ground being attended to, but he did raise his arm, so at least we knew he was alive.

More driving, and approximately 200 more miles up the road, it was time for our second stop, this one rather extended, as we all needed to stretch legs, use the restroom, refill water bottles, and procure fountain drinks/slushees. During the time that Beau & Harper were in the store (How much do you love Sheetz stores in the MidAtlantic?!), Avery and I finally got around to scratching off our North Carolina lottery tickets. That’s right, the Lottery Project is still in effect this year, though in a severely truncated form. North Carolina was our first outing, and it yielded a positive return – $10 investment, $15 return. Now I just have to remember to stop in NC to cash those winning tickets in on the way home! (Side note: Have put gas in the van twice so far – and both time paid $2.19per gallon. I think I’m getting off fairly well, seeing as though the tank of gas I started with from home cost me somewhere in the $2.33 range.

Later in the afternoon (early in the evening? What time exactly does it switch from afternoon to evening?), we encountered some rain in West Virginia. Ready for another product placement? Holy smokes do I ever love Rain-X (especially when it’s on the windshield of my Honda Odyssey! See what I did there?) But seriously, it should be required for every windshield. Perhaps then people wouldn’t have such trouble driving in the rain. The kids asked me why I bothered doing that, putting all that stuff on the windows, and today I could just point to the clear windshield, and say, “Exhibit A.” Fortunately for us, we were going northbound on I-81 today, because there was a major accident on I-81 South in West Virginia that had all four lanes closed. Like diverting ALL traffic off the interstate closed. It obviously affected the flow of the northbound lanes, and as we crawled by I saw a mangled tanker truck, and a great deal of sand that had obviously been purposefully spread on the highway. I’ll assume that was spill control, and the tanker was carrying some kind of fuel; I just can’t imagine the sand would have come out if it had been a tanker of milk. But even more sobering than the completely jackknifed and mangled tanker truck was the minivan sitting on a flatbed tow truck at the scene. It was the same topaz gray Honda Odyssey as mine, and I can only hope that there were no children in the third row back seat, because it was crushed. It was completely sobering to see that van, my exact van, in such a mangled state, because if it had been us in the accident, that back seat IS occupied by my two oldest children. And just seeing that wreckage made me shudder. I can’t find too much detailed information on the wreck online, but I did see there was one confirmed fatality. Again, I hope against hope that it wasn’t a child in that minivan. And for more karma points, I called my mother after clearing the scene of the wreck. I could just see this being picked up by some national news outlet – seeing as though the interstate was going to be fully closed for quite some time, and my mother seeing that mangled gray minivan, knowing that I was to be in the WV vicinity, likely on I-81 late in the afternoon, and just failing to see the southbound indication before flipping out. Better a proactive phone call, than a frantic, reactionary one. Feels like a potential bomb diffused.

Then it was just another 30 miles, and one quick, urgent bathroom stop later, before we arrived at our destination: Harrisburg, PA. I hear the downtown is really nice, and the state capitol is gorgeous, so we might have to make time to drive through town tomorrow morning on our way to our annual photo shoot in Hamilton Park (Weehawkin, NJ). But whether or not that happens, I am very pleased with the accommodations I secured for us. The Red Roof Inn isn’t going to win awards for swankiness, and their two doubles double beds feel really, really small (especially when facing the prospect of sharing with the starfish child – either spread eagle, or clinging to me in some contorted posture), but they are BIG dog friendly, and judging by the activity in the parking lot, every single person staying here tonight has a dog with them. Managed to back into a parking space directly in front of our room door, there is a large grassy area to walk the dog just across the parking lot, and there was a nearby convenience store, just a short mile or so drive away, from which to procure our dinner. (Here’s where the plastic spoons re-enter the picture.) Every year I allow one night of the road trip to be Ice Cream Dinner. And all we do, is go to a local grocery store, or convenience store, and procure vast quantities of ice cream, which we proceed to eat straight out of the containers. Of course we never quite finish it all, and it melts and goes down the drain, but damn is it fun to try to beat the forces of nature and down as much as possible of it before it changes form. So the children get adequately sugared up, and I seem like the coolest superhero of them all. I believe that’s what we call a win-win situation.

 

Day 2 by the numbers:

Miles driven: 506

Number of states traveled through so far: 8 (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania)

Number of times I’ve thought how lazy I am because I can’t quite muster the energy to re-read/edit these posts yet: 1,639,217 times.

 

Oh, and you may have noticed that other than mentioning the large-dog-friendly hotel, Remy didn’t get much play in tonight’s entry. And why is that? Because he is the super most awesomest, go with the flow, doggone road trippingest poodle that ever was. He hasn’t been restless or anxious in the car. He was super well-behaved at the Taylor’s house, he has been amazing on our stops. I am positively gobsmacked at how well it is going traveling with him. (Again, knock wood, we still have Manhattan to deal with – though I also have Xanax available should it become too much of an issue, so I’m still holding out hope!) But I really should thank him for shining a little light on the perspective that I indeed have more imaginary problems than real ones… Good dog.

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On the Road Again

23 Feb

Recently, I have had some rather unpleasant drama land unbidden on my doorstep. Uninitiated by me, but rather the result of some else’s selfish behavior and disappointing choices. I was not a willing participant. And, as such, I removed myself from the fray as quickly, and gracefully, as possible. But it has brought a certain kind of clarity that previously eluded me. And I am more grateful than ever for my true friends. Deeply appreciative of the people who care for me, and do not love me simply by half measures, or only when it is convenient or advantageous for them. I am reminded of the advice I recently doled out that life is hard, and being an adult sucks. That people will hurt you on purpose, and for no reason. But that life, if we pay attention, is also filled with unspeakable beauty, and moments of incandescent joy. So despite pain and disappointment, and people who suck, we must engage in our own lives. We must do it anyway.

The truth is, I need some peace in my life. So, to that end, it feels like the perfect time to actively seek it, or at least plan for the journey towards it. And nothing makes me happier than a journey. Recent home improvements may have curtailed the impetuous travel budget for a time, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go big this summer…

That’s right, after a discomfiting hiatus last year, it’s time for Crazy Momma’s Road Trip to make it’s triumphant return! Time to get started on the planning phase of CMRT: Summer 2016 – K9 Edition. Yep, because 1 mom, 3 kids, and a minivan wasn’t crazy enough, we’re throwing the dog into the mix! CMRT is undergoing a major overhaul. Instead of a slow, leisurely jaunt up and down the Eastern Seaboard, with bizarre and exciting stops along the way, we are making quick tracks for Maine, and staying put in Kennebunkport for two solid weeks of blissful Turbat’s Creek living.

Just typing those words put a smile on my face. Two weeks in one of my favorite places on earth, but with a twist. The house we rent is dog-friendly, and the beach at Turbat’s Creek is definitely dog-friendly, so I figured, why not complicate my life exponentially?! Yes, it means we’ll have to put in some hard driving days. And yes, there will be limited entertainment stops, at least of the museum variety. And the kids get that. They are so excited to stay in Maine for two weeks, and to have our goofy dog with us, that they barely batted an eye at how this will change our travel dynamics. Of course, it may also have something to do with the fact that after 5 years of CMRT, we’ve hit pretty much every roadside attraction within spitting distance of I-95. When I asked them if there was anything they really wanted to do on the drive up, keeping in mind our canine travel companion’s limitations, they said that they still wanted to drive into Manhattan. Because what’s cooler to some suburban Florida kids than just randomly taking your dog for a walk in Central Park? Nothing. And this little dream? Yes, kids, your crazy Momma will make it come true.

But, as well trained as our pooch may be, and he is a very good boy, I recognize that this will necessitate changes in our overnight locales. I’ll need to find a few (large dog) dog-friendly hotels for a few nights. And I will wipe the slate clean, not presuming that anyone who was brave enough to take on Crazy Momma & the Willim 3, wants to up the ante by adding a 55lb standard poodle to their guest list. If I’m wrong, and some of you are willing to take us on, we’d love to see you, and would be eternally grateful. One of the ways CMRT has morphed most pleasantly over the years is the home visits with friends, old and new. So, if you still want to stay in the line-up, please let me know. I’m in the initial route planning stages. Our Maine rental runs from June 18-July 2. I’ve already locked up a few nights in CT to start our southbound leg – it simply wouldn’t be CMRT without a visit to Chez Tison – but everything else is still up in the air.

Friends, we’d love to see you, but I only recently got over the guilt of accepting people’s gracious hospitality, and I certainly wouldn’t expect you all to be onboard with the changes of CMRT – K9 Edition. So, I’ll start my planning, and maybe I’ll hear from you, or maybe I won’t; and that will be fine either way. Because I just can’t wait to get on the road again…

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Day Sixteen: Our day in Haiku

23 Jun

Drive Stop Eat Potty Drive

Traffic Traffic Drive Traffic

Crazy Momma Done

 

Total miles driven today: 356

Number of hours it took us to travel the distance that should have taken around 6 hours? 8.5 hours

Number of states traveled through: 5 (wake in CT, NY, NJ, DE, to bed in MD)

Amount of time spent in stop & go traffic today: approximately 97 hours (Truly. That’s what it felt like.)

Only funny thing I saw today? The panhandler working the traffic getting onto the George Washington Bridge was holding a sign that said something along the lines of “Homeless. Hungry. Anything helps. God bless U.” That obviously wasn’t the funny part. The funny part was that he was texting on an iphone held behind the cardboard sign. Ah, well, at least I credit him with the intelligence to attempt to hide the phone.

Tomorrow: Breathing life into the lyrics of “Tom Burleigh’s Dead” by Eddie from Ohio

There was a town by the name Harpers Ferry
A small border village, a beautiful sight
One day John Brown and his band of men merry
Came into town and were lookin’ to fight

 

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Day One: Symmetry

08 Jun

Seems like today was a day of symmetry. At least that seems to be the theme as revealed to me while sitting mentally and physically exhausted in my hotel room at the end of the day. But I actually started to notice it the instant my rear hit the driver’s seat bright and early this morning. The starting odometer reading? 23,235. I liked that. The 23, 23, and then the 5, which is, of course, the sum of 2+3. Yes, that’s totally the sort of thing I notice. Yes, that’s the sort of thing I internalize and comment on, at least mentally. And yes, I realize how much of a dork that makes me. But moving on… As I sit here at the desk in my hotel room, tallying our totals and remembering our relatively easy travel day, there are other instances of symmetry.

Total number of states traveled in today? 5 (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia) Total number of stops? 5 (of varying lengths)

Total number of miles traveled? 616. Total amount of time on the road? 11hrs, 16 mins

Room number at the hotel? 224 (get the addition there?)

And perhaps the coolest incidence of symmetry today? Seeing the Gray family! (A quick visit on the first day, and their Richmond Hill, GA home is the final destination before our return home.)

Cool, huh? Well, I happen to think so. And the truth is, there isn’t much to report about today. It truly was a relatively easy travel day. Which is exactly how I like that first day. The long grind north. I could be happy if it had absolutely no adventures at all. But, actually, today did have an adventure. When Katie Gray commented on my post that CMRT had officially begun she mentioned that there was a great Dairy Queen at exit 90 off I-95 in Georgia. And I thought, cool, that’s actually an achievable goal to aim for as our first stop. In fact, it’s a little further than we usually go before our first stop, so I liked the idea of pushing it, getting a good two hours under our belt before stopping. And it took a little while to sink in, but I suddenly realized that exit 90 was the exit for Richmond Hill! That was *her* exit! So I called and the Gray family was gracious enough to come up and meet us. Sadly, the Dairy Queen didn’t open until 10:30am and we arrived at exactly 10:00am, but no worries, we’re a flexible lot, even if we’ve promised ice cream, so we ducked into the Kroger grocery store right behind the DQ. They sell ice cream, too! A box of plastic spoons and a few individual servings of ice cream later, and we were in business for a sweet visit. It was fun to see them, have a simple, casual visit, and then get back on the road. Everyone was relaxed and happy. Our day was definitely off to a great start.

Of course, the luck couldn’t completely hold, so our sunny sky turned gray and devolved into a terrible rain storm. A downpour. The kind that dumps so much water on the highway I watched a car in front of us hydroplane and fishtail slightly before they regained control. The kind of downpour that has traffic slowed to 45mph at times because visibility and road conditions were that deteriorated. It was frustrating, and required an enhanced focus and readiness, which is, frankly, mentally exhausting. The only good thing that came of it was that the kids didn’t want any part of getting out of the car, so our lunch stop was achieved with a quick run through a Wendy’s drive-thru. That helped to make up for the time lost in our hour and half of slooooooooooow, rain-filled highway driving. Thankfully, in another show of symmetry, the sky eventually cleared, and it once again became sunny and dry.

In another bit of luck, gas in South Carolina was an affordable $3.35/gallon! And speaking of luck, the 2014 Lottery Project is off to an okay start. We’re behind, but not as bad off as last year. The $10 investment in GA yielded a $5 win, and the $10 investment in SC yielded a $7 win. So, the Lottery Project is at an early deficit of $8, but this time last year I think we were already $40 in the hole.

I’m calling today a win. I only had a few moments of driving fatigue, but they were fairly easily overcome. The kids were well-behaved (other than a single gas station squabble over candy, which I shut down quickly). It’s not quite 9pm and we’re in our hotel, everybody’s teeth are brushed, and we’re ready to get some sleep. Tomorrow morning: DC Mall – Smithsonian National Museum of American History…

 

Total states found in our license plate game: 37! (New rule this year: plate only counts if it’s from a state other than the state we’re currently in) And to answer your burning question, no. No, we did not see North Dakota.

 

 

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This.

05 Jun

I’ve been delaying writing this post. No particular reason other than it’s been difficult for me to get my head straight these days. More so than usual, anyway. But the time is now upon me. I am currently wearing a pair of my B-list shorts. Why? Because my A-list shorts are already packed, of course! That’s right, it is once again time for CMRT. What’s CMRT, you ask? (Well, you don’t if you know me even tangentially, or if you’ve been reading along for more than a year, but for the greenhorns among you, I’ll indulge the question.) CMRT = Crazy Momma’s Road Trip. That wacky annual road trip where I pile my three children, and pretty much enough electronic devices, snacks, and additional assorted detritus for us to survive being stranded for a month, into my minivan, and point it north. We make the trip from Florida to Maine, and back again. Staying a week in our favorite Maine seaside retreat, and visiting friends and having adventures along the way. Me, three kids, our minivan, a little over three weeks, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,500 miles. Good times, good times. See how the “C” came to be?

Well, CMRT: Summer 2014 Edition is a mere three days away from departure. And that part I said about wearing my B-list shorts is true. The part where I said the A-list shorts were already packed? Not so true. Nope, not finished packing yet. This is my 5th annual CMRT. Usually by this point in the game everything is already packed. Every bag is zipped shut. Every list has been checked. Every game plan prepared for execution. Not this year. Is it hubris? I am, after all, already a 4 time CMRT veteran. I know what we need, what we don’t need. I know what goes, what stays, what should stay, and what we’re going to take anyway. I’ve battled the shifting temps. Leaving home at 90 degrees with 99.9% humidity, arriving in Maine with lows in the crisp, cool 50s. I’m not new here. But I don’t think it’s that. I’ve just lately been feeling distracted, out of sorts, knocked off my game. But it’s time to step it up. Get cracking. Fold the laundry so I can finish my packing, and begin to wait. That’s right. Wait. Sigh.

So here’s the thing about this mega road trip. Yes, there is an intense amount of planning involved (Overnight lodging secured for all nights, rough plans of days activities, even some tickets pre-purchased for an exhibit in NYC. Check!). And there is a rather intense amount of organization that goes into the packing –  not just making sure we have the necessary accoutrement, but also in the plan for packing the car to facilitate easy transitions into friends’ homes, to nights in hotels, etc. But then there is the cleaning of the house. Dusting, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, mopping the kitchen floor, putting clean sheets on everyone’s beds. Because is there anything better to coming home after an extended absence to a clean house with fresh sheets on the bed and not a speck of food on the kitchen floor? No. No, there is not. But ever hear the quote “cleaning with kids in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos”? Yeah, it’s like that. So I wait. Wait until I can shoo them out of the house to their dad’s on Saturday. And then I spend the last day before my extended road trip, the one where I am trapped for up to 11 hours a day in the minivan with my three children, cleaning my house. Sigh. But I can’t do that yet. So I’m in limbo. My to do lists for Friday and Saturday are exceedingly long, but it’s still just Thursday. And other than finish packing, there’s not a heck of a lot I can do that will be beneficial, and not have to be repeated in two days anyway. So, maybe that’s why I delayed the packing. To give me something to do today other than twiddle my thumbs. Yeah, that must be it.

But here it is, my final post before the adventure begins. CMRT: Summer 2014 Edition departs bright and early Sunday, June 8. I am once again going to attempt to chronicle our adventures on a nightly basis. We’ve made a few route changes, have some new plans, will be descending like locusts upon old friends – some of whom are CMRT veterans, and one new family who is probably cringing wondering what they signed up for (Hi, Tapleys! I promise we are clean, polite, wonderful people!) This year our “Southbound” leg actually starts with us heading north for an overnight in Bar Harbor – the furthest north we’ve ever been in Maine. On the way up we are actually spending a night in midtown Manhattan! (The lights, the city!) Sometimes it’s fun to turn traditions on their head. Take risks and chances. But at the heart of it, CMRT remains the same. The idea is to share adventures and make memories with my children. Indulge my wanderlust and foster it in my kids.

My 9 year old son, who is whip smart and esoterically genius, is not the hugest fan of school. So when he looked at our calendar for this week and shouted, “Woo! HOO!!” I just laughed and said, “Excited to see the ‘Last Day of School’ written on Thursday?” He wrinkled his brow as if confused, and replied, “No, I was looking at this. This is what I’m excited about.” And there was his not as small as it was last year index finger pointing to the words, “CMRT Departs.” And suddenly, the enormous cost, the occasional aggravation, the trials and tribulations leading up to, and sometimes accompanying us on this trip, they dropped away. “This is what I’m excited about.” This.

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Day Twenty-four: North Dakota, I rebuke thee!

16 Jul

Well, here it is. CMRT: Summer 2013 Edition has officially come to a close.** And, as always, it feels utterly surreal to be back in my own home. Which is kind of a weird thing to say. I know that. But I can’t even begin to tell you how strange I feel right now, how my head is absolutely being messed with, just by proximity to my own things, my own bed, my own space. It all feels like one gigantic step through the looking glass. As if the past 3 weeks or so (24 days to be specific!) might not have happened. Like maybe it was all just one massive brain episode. Did I imagine it? Nah, my imagination isn’t that good. And I do have souvenirs. But I can tell you that it’s messing with my kids’ heads, too. They haven’t been in this house for 26 days. That’s a long stinkin’ time to be away from your Legos and snuggle friends. And let us not forget, Tivo! We all have some adjusting to do. But for now, the kids are sleeping soundly in their own beds. The van has been completely emptied, and the beautifully clean & totally organized house that I left over 3 weeks ago, is now crowded with bags to be unpacked. Blerg.

But that’s not why you’re here now. To hear me blather on about my malaise at the ending of CMRT. You’re here for the low-down recap, the final accounting – CMRT: By the Numbers. It’ll be brief, because, man, am I knackered, but here ya go…

–> We’ll start with the most important stat, our findings in the license plate game. I really thought this would be the year. We had such a promising start. But, alas and alack, I must hue and cry, North Dakota, I rebuke thee! Yeah, you guessed it. The only state we missed. North Dakota. We got D.C. and all the other 49 states – yes, including Hawaii and Alaska. Even multiples of hard to find states such as Wyoming and South Dakota. But no North Dakota. And we’ve been sitting in that position since our week in Maine. Did we lose focus? Were we not vigilant enough? Has the luxury of our built-in entertainment system made us soft? We’ll never know the answer. Oh, so close, and yet, so far…

–> This was the first year that the CMRT: Lottery Project was a failure. And my oh my what an abysmal failure it was. The past two years have been winners for the CMRT: LP. Okay, nothing grand, but we walked away from the fun both entertained, and in the black. By less than $10 each year, but still it was like being paid for our own entertainment. This year? Not so much. We definitely still had fun, but came to realize that winning was much more fun than losing. And losing is what we did best this year. We were definitely in the red. Way in the red. Didn’t lose it all – started with $100 – but we lost most of it. CMRT: LP 2013 had a deficit of $74. Yes, we had the entertainment along the way, but lighting 74 $1 bills on fire individually would also have been entertaining in a way. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. All cash invested in CMRT: LP is strictly for entertainment purposes, and playing the what would you do if we won the big one with this single scratch of a coin game is pretty fun.

–> Number of states we drove through: 15 (counting Florida). Number of different states in which we rested our heads for the night: 9 (ME, CT, NJ, PA, MD, VA, NC, SC, GA). Number of times I reminded my kids that they had no idea how lucky they were to travel so extensively, and that they have, in their short lives, visited more states than many people see in a lifetime: shockingly, only 1.

–> And now for the big reveal. The total number of miles I personally logged behind the wheel, the sum total of all travels for CMRT: Summer 2013 Edition? 3,309 miles, on the nose. Forgive me, but I like to write that out longhand, too. Lets me savor it a little longer. Three thousand three hundred and nine miles driven. In 24 days. Wow.

Phew! Okay, so that’s it. It’s all over except the unpacking. No more updates. No more snark. Hopefully, no more rocks off the interstate. Though, to that end, I did make arrangements to drop my car off at the body shop tomorrow to get the damage caused by that rear-end collision in Philly fixed. Which means I get a rental car. The guy’s insurance company arranged for me to have a full size from Enterprise. Fingers crossed for the Dodge Charger! Because if my days of long driving are over, I might just need to jump over a lake or two… (“Straightnin’ the curves, flatnin’ the hills, someday the mountain might get ‘em, but the law never will…”)

 

** Applications for inclusion in CMRT: Summer 2014 Edition are now being accepted. Please kindly allow 6-7 months for a response. And understand that to be eligible for inclusion as a CMRT host family, you, too, must be completely crazy.

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Day One: Just Drive

23 Jun

Phew! Day One of CMRT: Summer 2013 Edition is in the books! Was it exciting? Not really. Do I have much to say here? Not really. Am I going to write about it in excruciating detail anyway? You bet! I’m annoying like that. And guess what, I’m not even going to proof read. At least not tonight. So this will probably be full of errors, of all varieties. Here’s hoping the typos are at least amusing…

Let me start by saying it was a surprisingly great day. Not going to lie, I thought it was going to be a miserable slog. Something I just had to grind through, and survive. But it wasn’t like that at all. The kids were well behaved, we didn’t have to stop very often, and when we did it was relatively efficient. Surprisingly no one fell asleep even once. Except me. Okay, not really, but there was this one point right in the middle of the day where it felt like I might, thus necessitating our second stop of the day for blood flow/caffeine-reloading. And considering how well the day went, I find it utterly inconceivable that approximately 12 hours ago I was in my own home, and right now I’m in a crappy La Quinta Inn on the southern edge of Richmond, VA. Feels shockingly bizarre. As ready as I was for this trip to start, even 600+ miles later it feels strange that it has.

Alright, from the beginning. Last night the kids spent the night at their dad’s house, which was a total blessing. It gave me the afternoon & evening to finish all the last minute preparations (like packing my laptop & Beau’s daily medication), clean my house (I was going to say it was a half-assed effort, but to be honest, it was more like a quarter-assed, or possibly even eighth-assed effort), and just relax. Take advantage of the opportunity to store up some restful good feelings before departing on this epic adventure of closeness with my kiddos. It was nice to get a brilliant night’s sleep without fear of being awakened in the middle of the night. And it was excellent to pull up to their dad’s house this morning where they were waiting outside for me, roll down the windows, and ask, “Anyone want to go on a road trip?” Their loud, joyous chorus of “YES!!!” was awesome. They loaded up quickly, and we pulled away at 8:05am. Only 5 minutes behind my originally scheduled departure time, and off to a great start.

As always, my rule is no movies until we cross the Georgia state line. Seeing as how we live in extreme north Florida, that’s really only the equivalent of a drive across town. And since I do allow them to play with their handheld electronic devices (DS & LeapPad) from the second their cute little butts hit the booster seats, they are immediately happily ensconced in their own personal cones of silence; which means I get to listen to my favorite mix cd, and in less than an hour we’re in the next state. But since I don’t exactly point out the We’re Glad Georgia’s on Your Mind sign, I keep driving, just trying to put miles under our belt before we move on to this additional form of entertainment. Today I managed to get 100 miles in before someone says, I know we’re in Georgia by now, can we start the movie? The original plan the kids had concocted was to watch the Jurassic Park trilogy, but when it came time to start the first movie Beau was so happy playing with his DS (probably because it’s forbidden unless we are on road trips over 2 hours long) he said the girls could watch whatever they wanted. First up? Mary Poppins. And here’s where I sing the praises of my new mini-van and it’s Rear Entertainment System. I have no words for how brilliant it was to pass back the wireless headsets, and then start the movie, all from the comfort of the drivers’ seat, and without having to get off the interstate. There was no break in rhythm, no break in flow. And best of all, those wireless headsets meant that I didn’t have to listen to their movie (though I do love Mary Poppins!) Instead I got to listen to my book on tape (yeah, yeah, it’s on cd now, and I’m supposed to call it an audio book or some nonsense, but I will persist in calling it a book on tape because I’m a dinosaur and I like it that way!) But there we were, churning out the miles, everyone happy, and we didn’t make our first stop until we’d already been traveling for 3 hours and 7 minutes, having covered an impressive 227.3 miles. Only hitch in the stop, it was one of those annoying exits that promises a restaurant, and then when you get off the signs tell you it’s something like 2 miles away from the interstate. Grrrr. Not that 2 miles is more than a drop in the bucket on a day like today, but I prefer 0.2 miles, and for some reason that kind of highway interchange trickery annoys me. But a quick 35 minute total lunch break at a shabby Mickey D’s and we were back on I-95 North.

Here’s the part of the day where I expected someone to fall asleep. I just wasn’t expecting it to be me. I was hoping to churn out another 3 hour block of travel time, but I started feeling really road weary, and for safety’s sake a second stop after just another hour and a half of travel was a necessity. I had to get up, get some blood flowing, replenish my IV of Coca-Cola. The traffic in South Carolina was a bit heavier, and the going was a little slower, so stop two occurred at 335.7 miles in. This stop was a little longer than I would have liked, but I was still feeling good about the time we were making, and since it was imperative for everyone to use the bathroom, and for me to wake the heck up, it seemed a reasonable use of time.

Back on the road, feeling good, making time. That is until I needed to use the bathroom. It really is a vicious cycle. But we had put almost another 100 miles under the tires, and that urge coincided with needing to fill up with gas, so one quick 10 minute stop later we were empty, the van was filled, and we were back on the road. At this point we’re already in North Carolina, and I was amused to pass signs for Exit 61 – Wade. Exactly the sort of road sign my brother needed for his dorm room back in the day, if he had been the sign stealing sort of guy. Which he’s not, just to be clear.

We took our 4th and final stop at exactly 9 hours into our travel day. By this point we had covered 542.8 miles. Which is pretty damn impressive considering that indicates an average speed of 60 mph – including three previous stops, and I don’t drive that fast, at least, certainly not Jen Hughes Manley fast! Anyway, this meant we were only 75 miles away from our hotel for the night, which to my way of thinking meant we had earned a sit-down dinner. Okay, so Cracker Barrel isn’t exactly haute cuisine, but it’s pretty quick, and it cost me the same amount as dinner at any fast food restaurant. Plus it meant I got breakfast for dinner (a favorite of mine). What made our dinner stop drag on for over an hour was the additional stop – a little side trip to the Wal-Mart across the street. I had promised Beau a digital camera so he didn’t have to tote his years old Fisher-Price monstrosity that takes grainy, mostly unfocused pictures. Problem was that my old digital camera wasn’t at all workable (now I remember why I replaced it!), and my parents couldn’t find their old one. So, knowing they now make really cheap ones, I figured we’d pick up one of those. And I won’t have to be all bunched up about the way the kids treat it. Obviously I expect them to take care of it and be careful, but it won’t be mine. And if they break it, so be it, no more camera for them. Only thing I forgot? A memory card. Sigh. Now you know our first stop of the morning before we head into DC…

Anyway, we were back on the road at 6:12pm, and drove directly into our first stop & go traffic of the day. Encountered exactly 50 miles from our final destination. Another sigh. But it cleared quickly, and at 7:26pm we arrived at our hotel. With 617.1 miles traveled, and 11 hours and 21 minutes spent on the road. But it really didn’t feel like that long of a day. The driving was relatively painless, and the stops were unhurried and relaxed. I am amazed. I am grateful. I am hopeful for tomorrow.

As an aside, today was an epic day for the license plate game. Got a total of 36 states (including the elusive Montana), and the District of Columbia. And perhaps one of my favorite moments of the day? When Harper was looking at herself in one of the bathroom mirrors, and she declared, simply and in a completely guileless manner, “I never miss a chance to look at myself.” True, that. But another great moment? During that last hour to the hotel I was listening to music, the kids did not have a movie playing, and Avery, who is particularly excited about the addition of XM radio that the new mini-van has brought into our lives, asked very sweetly, “Can we please listen to the beautiful music of Symphony Hall?” Ah, yes. So, it was on classical music that we glided on home for the night.

 

Tomorrow: Museums of the DC Mall, and descending upon the Deppes in Maryland…

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In the immortal words of Willy Wonka

18 Jun

It’s that time of year again. Days away from the northbound departure of Crazy Momma’s Road Trip (henceforth to be known as CMRT), and I am definitely augmenting the crazy. This happens every year. In a rush to get everything ready, I get the kids packed with a week to go. Then we hurry up, and wait. And wait. And wait. And it is torture. It helps that I am not myself ready to go. The last minute to do lists are a mile long (Mow lawn at the last possible minute! Set a/c to 80! Pack the laptop & kids’ daily medications!) And I sure as heck haven’t packed my own clothes yet – Crazy Momma only has so many pairs of shorts that fit & since Florida is giving me a fine send-off of temps in the 90s, I can’t yet relinquish my entire A-list summer wardrobe to a suitcase. But this happens every year; I’m excited to go, I’m ready to go, I don’t want the trip to ever start. Wait. What?

The answer is revealed in the immortal words of Willy Wonka:

“The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.”

Have you ever wanted something to happen so badly that you plan and wish and dream, and then when it finally happens it is magical and beautiful and wonderful, but then when it inevitably ends you feel sad? Yeah, that’s what CMRT is like for me. It is indubitably the highlight of my year. It takes work, effort, planning, and a whole load of cash. But it’s worth it. Every red cent. Because we’re making memories here, people! It’s funny to me when people say I’m brave (guess they’re willing to leave off the other adjectives since I’ve self-admitted the crazy) for taking 3 kids on a 3,000+ mile driving road trip by myself. I’m not brave, I’m selfish. I will happily admit that CMRT is as much, if not more, about my own desire to travel than my desire to broaden my childrens’ horizons. Though that is a part of it. I want them to love travel as much as I do. I want them to see the beauty in the adventure, even if that adventure is just getting an earful of regional accents in a fast food restaurant in another state. And the truth is, my children are 100% better behaved on the road than at home. Don’t get me wrong, I have great kids. Truly. But they’re kids. They test, they torment, they turn their boredom into misbehavior at the drop of a hat. I’ve had trips to the mall with my kids that were more stressful than the entire 3 weeks of CMRT. And summer would just be too excruciatingly long without an epic adventure.

But here I am, sitting basically ready, only days away from departure. I’m in the thick of the suspense. It is terrible. But I hope it will last. Because as eager as I am to depart – to watch those miles click over on the odometer, to have new adventures, to see old friends – I don’t want the suspense to end. Because as soon as the suspense ends, as soon as the trip begins, it starts to be over. The closer I get to the firepit at Joe & Tina’s house, the closer I get to leaving them for another year. The closer I get to “our” house & beach in Kennebunkport, the closer I get to having to pack it all up, and head back south. Though southbound is good too, because there are more adventures, more old friends to visit – but then we’re home all too soon. And this is just like me. To see the end before I’ve even reached the start. But that’s how it is with CMRT for me. I’m in love with the idea of it just as much as I am in love with the reality of it. I adore the sweet anticipation of knowing the fun I’m going to have, the crazy memorable moments that will occur, the spontaneous joy and sibling love that always seems to bubble over on our trip. All of that is going to be wonderful, but in three weeks it will be behind us. I haven’t even left home yet, and I’m sad that it will be over soon. But that’s Crazy Momma’s prerogative; I’m allowed to wallow in the suspense. Hoping it will last, knowing it won’t. And then feeling grateful every day after departure that I have these wild, beautiful, road warrior kids who give me an excuse to load up my van and head out on CMRT.

So stay tuned, dear readers, this Sunday morning marks the northbound departure of CMRT: Summer 2013 Edition, and I intend to bring you all along for the ride…

Go Bags - CMRT: Summer 2013 EditionGo Bags – CMRT: Summer 2013 Edition

 

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Take me with you?

11 Sep

Right now a friend of mine is on an epic trip to the Pacific Northwest – flying into Seattle, hiking around Rainier, a jaunt down to Astoria, Oregon (and if you know why that is significant, you too can be my friend). Anyway, I’m super happy for him, but also ridiculously jealous. I always have the worst kind of wanderlust, happy to go pretty much anywhere as long as I get to travel, but this is one itinerary I would have been happy to follow to the letter. I quite jokingly begged him to take me with him at the last minute. And for fun, in the spirit of making my case, I wrote the following list. Unfortunately, he wasn’t convinced. But I had such fun writing it, that I thought it might also be fun to share. So, if any of you are planning road trips with room for extra, please keep the following in mind…

 

Ten reasons I make an excellent travel companion:

(1) I love to travel. This may seem basic, but it’s not the case with everyone you meet. Even those who profess to love going on vacation. I truly love to travel. Even when travel turns into delays and snafus. I can embrace and find the adventure in a cancelled flight, or a closed road, or an unexpected detour. I adore people-watching, and the autonomy of airports. Simply put: I love to travel. A city away, a state away, a country away. Change in scenery delights me.

(2) I know how to read a map. Never underestimate the value of a trustworthy navigator.

(3) I’m always willing to take my turn at the wheel and share in the driving. With the added bonus that despite my gender, and the stereotypes accompanying it, I’m actually a pretty good driver.

(4) I’m always up for adventure off the beaten path. Literally: See my love of the woods. And figuratively: See my photos when driving cross-country with my brother. I embrace absurdity in all parts of my life, but especially on road trips. I revel in doing things like stopping to see the world’s largest concrete prairie dog (in South Dakota, I think), or randomly following attraction signs off the interstate if they seem sufficiently interesting (probably exactly how I ended up in front of a gigantic concrete prairie dog since I don’t remember actually planning that stop).

(5) I can pack light and I’m low maintenance. Jeans, t-shirts, shorts, toothbrush, I’m good. No make-up, no hair dryer, no clinging to elaborate routines and vestiges of comforts from home. No need for special mirrors (in fact I’d probably prefer if there weren’t any). But I can also throw in a little black dress & a pair of sandals, and be ready to mingle. I’d say I clean up okay, given my natural limitations.

(6) And speaking of ready to mingle, I’m great with the small talk. Meeting new people? Easy and enjoyable. My grandfather used to say that I didn’t know a stranger. I think it’s just because even as a kid I was interested in other people. I’m even more interested in them now. I love asking a local where to eat, or where the best view is, or what they think is truly worth seeing or doing.

(7) I have very eclectic taste in music. This is more important than most people realize. Believe it or not, I don’t talk all the time. No, really, try to contain your disbelief. I don’t. Music is an important part of driving to me. It’s horrible being stuck in the car with someone when you don’t agree on the music. My tastes are so eclectic, it’s easy to find a middle ground.

(8) I love hotels. I don’t really know why. Symbolic, perhaps? Just the idea of being away, going somewhere? And while I clearly prefer a 5-star luxury hotel with high thread count sheets and fluffy robes, even the Holiday Inn makes me giddy for some unknown reason. And I guess it helps that I’m not a total germaphobe.

(9) I give amazing back rubs. Really, it’s true. Amazing. I used to be famous for them. People would fight over who got to sit next to me on the bus ride to camp, or for those long rides to away games. I think it’s because I can combine my freakishly strong man-hands with a gentle touch. Been awhile since I’ve given one, but I’m sure I’ve still got the magic touch. At the end of a long day of travel or adventure, this skill is a very hot commodity. And what’s more, I actually enjoy giving a back rub, as much, if not more, than receiving one. True story.

(10) I respect my traveling companions’ desires. Want to go, go, go? Usually, me too. But if you want to do something I don’t want to do? Well then, go have fun and I’ll meet you back for dinner. You tell me about your solo adventure and I’ll tell you about mine. We don’t have to be joined at the hip to travel together. Kind of like a good relationship, I suppose. Occasional separate pursuits do not negate the weight of shared interests.

 

Okay, there you have it. Just 10 of the many reasons I make an excellent travel companion. Now… take me with you?

 

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7-6-4

16 Jan

Where does it go? Time, I mean. Of course I mean time. Because that is the thing that is constantly escaping us. It was just here a minute ago. My youth. My childrens’ innocent childhood. But it slips past me at such an alarming rate I sometimes have trouble catching my breath. “But, wait!” I want to cry. “Slow down. I have stuff to do here. Stuff. I don’t even know what it is, but it’s stuff I have to do. Now. Before. While the kids are little. While I’m young.” But it’s gone. In the blink of an eye. Seven years have passed. Six years have passed. Four more. They grow up. I get old. And all that stuff goes undone.

Today is my middle daughter’s birthday. She, who is only 16 months younger than her older brother, and only 21 months older than her younger sister, is now 6 years old. Geez. How the heck did that happen? She already acts like a teenager, so I presume it makes sense for her to be creeping ever closer to an age when that behavior will be appropriate, if still not appreciated. But it boggles my mind to say it. I was asked several times today how old my children are. They’re 7, 6, & 4, I would say. Those ages just tripping lightly off my tongue, but inducing a mild confusion in my brain. Huh? They’re 7, 6, & 4?? Who is? My kids? Oh, yeah, that’s true. That’s weird though, I could have sworn they were a lot younger than that.

Because of the school holiday today and tomorrow (thank you St. Johns County public schools!), I decided that what we needed, far more than the requested Barbie-themed party, was a road trip to celebrate Harper’s birthday. Just a mini-road trip to take advantage of the long weekend without breaking the bank. Something we could all enjoy and remember far longer than a birthday party. (Point of fact, when asked what we did for her birthday last year, Harper could not remember. We had a birthday party. At Ollie Koala’s. She had fun, sure, but she couldn’t even remember it a year later. See why I wanted to avoid throwing money at another party?) Anyway, I’ve taken the kids to Orlando, and even as far as Tampa, for simple change-of-scenery overnights before, but this needed to be something bigger. A destination. The Orlando theme parks were out, even Sea World, because with a three-on-one child-to-parent ratio, riding rides is impossible. At least at this age/size where I’ve got two who aren’t typically big enough to ride anything without me, and most rides are only two seats across. So I needed an exciting destination, within striking distance of home, for a two night road trip.

Anyone else see the movie Dolphin Tale? Yes, the one about the dolphin who lost her tail and learned to swim with a prosthetic. Well, that is based on a true story. She might not have befriended a troubled little boy named Sawyer, nor been rehabbed by a sexy marine biologist like Harry Connick, Jr., but there really is a tail-less dolphin named Winter. And she lives at Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Florida. Clearwater is just a smidge past Tampa, so adding the extra overnight, I call that striking distance.

Today, Harper’s true birthday, we had a really full and wonderful day. Whenever we celebrate birthdays at home, I decorate the kid’s doorway with streamers and have balloons & cards at the breakfast table. Couldn’t manage the helium, but taking a friend’s suggestion, I brought along some regular balloons and blew them up after the kids went to sleep. Scattered those around the floor of the hotel room and even hung streamers between the beds and the sitting area. Laid presents and cards on the table in front of the couch. So when she woke this morning, Harper immediately got into the birthday spirit. Our first stop was Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure. A movie-based exhibit, including set pieces and props, in downtown Clearwater. It was cute and interesting, especially the videos and exhibits related to the role Hander Prosthetics had in Winter’s story, but mostly the kids were ready to go see the animals. So after a brief stop in the gift shop (where we, of course, purchased a copy of the movie), we headed over to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. It was completely packed! I guess going on a national holiday was not the brightest move, but it was my only option. And really the crowd was fine, it’s just that the facility is not meant for that kind of volume, so traffic flow is restricted and it can be a little challenging to keep track of three curious little kids. Since the popularity of the movie, their attendance rates have exploded. And good for them. They are, first and foremost, a marine rehabilitation facility. And these crowds are enabling them to make structural enlargements to the CMA, and expand their rescue and rehabilitation efforts.

Once we made it in the door, which was made easy by the fact I pre-purchased our tickets online and checked us in for everything at Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure, we went straight upstairs to see Winter. She was just swimming around in  one of her tanks. It truly is amazing. A dolphin with no tail. So odd. But you wouldn’t know it unless you looked at her backside. Or her peduncle – just a little dolphin vocab word I learned today, makes me sound so knowledgable, dontcha think? But while Winter is surely the most famous of the permanent residents at CMA, she is by no means the only one. We checked out the numerous sea turtles, manta rays, and other dolphins. Hope is just a baby, and we watched a rather unsuccessful training session with her. Panama is Winter’s friend and co-habitates in her tank, so we watched a very successful training session/photo op with her. And then we saw Nicholas, the only male dolphin at CMA, make a big splash with his jumps and frolicking behaviors. Of course, if you’re wanting a big choreographed show, then you should stop driving in Orlando and hit Sea World. But what these “shows” lacked in razzle dazzle, they made up for in authenticity. They truly were training sessions, and in the case of Winter, therapy sessions.

In addition to exploring the aquarium, we also took the Sea Life Safari Cruise. Just a little 90 minute pontoon boat ride, out and back in the Intracoastal. Not quite everything it was advertised to be, but fun nonetheless. They took us out to one of the spoils islands were the kids could run around collecting shells and soaking in the sunshine and salt air. They pulled a net, took some scientific notations, then walked around showing off some of the fish and crabs that had come up in the net. I was hoping to see some wild dolphin at play, but we had no such luck. Of course, nothing could have rivaled the wild dolphin show my kids were treated to the last time we were out on a small boat off Cedar Key, so I wasn’t too disappointed about our missing out today.

We rounded out our day by allowing the birthday girl to select a place for dinner. I’m not upset that she chose Maggiano’s. In fact, I’m feeling rather stuffed since we basically just skipped lunch today and snacked our way, unhealthily I might add, through the day. A true sit-down dinner was a treat. And when we finally made it to our hotel room, I let the kids kind of unwind, exploring the accoutrement of the room, before turning out the light. And as I was finally hustling them under the covers, I found the note that Harper had written, for her own gratification, on the hotel note pad. It simply said, “The trip has been amazing from so far.” I call that a birthday success.

Overall, I would have to give our trip to Clearwater a big thumbs up. My kids loved running around Clearwater Beach last night. The soft, sugar-sand is so different from our crushed shell beaches at home. And the huge dunes were just made for exploring. Add to that the amazing playground right in front of Pier 60 and you’ve got the recipe for some very happy children. I’m even wishing we had hit the beach a little earlier in the afternoon. At one point last night as we were on the pier looking out at the water, Beau looked up at me and said, “Do you wish you were on a boat far out to sea?” Sneaky little mind reader. I was, in fact, pondering how nice it might be, on that breezy night, to be out on a sailboat. As I took his hand and looked down into his inquisitive face, I smiled and said, “Yes. I would like to be on a boat far out to sea. But I’d want you to be with me.”

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