Road Trip Ramblings, Day 1 – Getting On the Road

I have cause to celebrate…I have the first day Road Trip journal ready to share with you and…

it is Bacon Friday!

Here ya go…

Wow! Can it really be time to make our Road Trip to NY to catch up with family? My mom will be my traveling companion for this part of the journey and she was not sure that I had my act together. She should be worried. The mental fog that often drifts in and out of my head throughout every day has sorta settled in. It’s not the packing that concerned her because summertime traveling is much easier than wintertime travel. She had tougher questions. Did I get the car serviced? Were the kids prescriptions filled and ready to go? How about my prescriptions? Was I stocked on diapers, wipes and bun crème? (I did not add that French accent to ‘bun creme’…the computer did it…but I like it!). Did I have enough prescription cat food for the cat sitter? (So she could feed my cat, not herself…)

I had to admit that these were really tough questions. Luckily, she had asked me early enough in the planning process so that I was able to regain some dignity and eventually answer “check” to all of those questions.

It is the last-minute packing that takes the most time, those things that you just cannot pack until the morning that you are leaving. And of course, by then, there is no more room in the car to pack all of those things that you had to wait until now to pack. I thought that I had really pared down the loot but, as always, it wasn’t enough. Eventually, I managed to get everything in and we were on the road about 8:40 am, which is not bad. Not bad at all.

We are leaving on Father’s Day weekend. Sad, I know. Or maybe not. I told my husband that my gift to him was that I was taking all of the kids with me – Happy Father’s Day! Peace and quiet 🙂 We celebrated Father’s Day last weekend so he did not miss out. It seems like there is always a holiday or an event on the calendar when I need to plan a Road Trip. Although I have a flexible schedule my traveling companions do not.

The theme for this trip, at least for Day 1 any ways, became quite clear very early into the trip… “bathroom issues”. We are familiar with that theme. It seems to be a common one with the three to going on six-year old age group, those who have a new awareness to potty training. We had just barely crossed the border into Illinois, only about 40 minutes from our departure time, and my daughter had to use the bathroom. We were near the first real rest stop on the trip. Less than half an hour later we needed to stop at the second rest stop on the trip for the bathroom. Sounds simple enough, I can hear you saying to yourself. Yes, maybe it is a pain to keep stopping when you have barely burned any rubber yet, but no biggie, with that behind you now you can make up some ground. I know that is what you are thinking.

Well, you would be wrong. Or “mistaken” as my husband is teaching my children to say. First, because there is always the “I’m hungry” addition to any stop. And even though I pack things to eat so that we can eat somewhat healthy the first travel day at least, the clock is still ticking as I get everyone set up with snacks. The young ages of my traveling companions requires that I provide assistance to the snacking on varying levels. I suppose if THAT were the only addition to the stop, we could please the troops and move on.

But the real kicker involves the advancement in technology that created automatic flush toilets and hand dryers in the bathrooms. My kids are scarred and there seems to be no end to the trauma that these automatic restroom accessories induce on my wee ones. They go into full panic mode, heels dig into the commercially tiled floors, hands spring up to cover their ears and the intestinal organs seize up. No matter how badly they had to go, which is the reason why we have stopped so early into the trip, and quite possibly for the second or third time, not a drop of any waste product is able to exit those little bodies. They are clammed up tight. My efforts to force myself to use sweet talk to coo it out have no effect. The fear that the toilet will flush while they are on the pot, in addition to all of the other toilets flushing with no rhyme or reason and hand dryers blowing willy-nilly thwarts any possibility of progress.

I am no stranger to anger and frustration at those moments but I have had to move on from those feelings because they do not solve anything when you have fifteen hours of solid travel time to log. And they certainly will not open up the flood gates so that my kids can then go to the bathroom.

A few years ago I started keeping a kid’s port-a-pot in the van. It has been a life saver and I really do need to add that as a gift idea on my blog. Seriously.

I keep the pot stashed with extra plastic bags and a roll of toilet paper. I have a procedure in place and it is a serious operation that is very fine-tuned. Yes, I guess I am a bit proud.

Needless to say, it came in handy more times than should have been necessary on the first day of the road trip. Thank you port-a-pot.

The sub-theme to this trip is “toddler intolerance”. That age group has a very limited capacity for giving you extra time to get to the stopping place that would really help the travel efforts the next day. Pretty much, when they start the serious complaints, you had better abort mission and find a hotel.

Again, I can hear you thinking, no big deal.

Well, you would be wrong, again. I mean, mistaken.

You see, when the moment hits that the toddler decides that they have had enough, you have just left behind all of the options for hotels. Now, you are traveling on a long stretch of highway with cow pastures on both sides of you and not a hint of a hotel on the horizon. When you finally start to see signs for hotels, there still may not be any available rooms and you may need to get back into the car and move on. This has gone many ways in the history of the road trip. At best, if you find a hotel in a reasonable amount of time and get a decent room you still need to unpack and get the bedtime-scene set up. Figuring out who will sleep where is the first challenge. Then it is time to do the actual set-up. Playpen (I guess they are called Pack n’ Plays now) erected for the toddler’s bed, lullaby CD ready to go, Dream Lites ready to help make it seem like home (yes, you can roll your eyes), pajamas unpacked and on each child, and the toddler fed – that is crucial. The older kids now have a better capacity to deal with being out of a routine but not the toddler. As you scramble to get all of this taken care of, you know that at any moment it can go south fast. The baby/toddler has always had their bedtime-scene set first.

I did, in the past, and especially when I had two toddlers in tow, always plan to stop around 4 pm and get a room and get set up no matter what. The trip then took three days. It never seemed to be any better because by the third day, no toddler was getting back into the car. They just knew nothing good would come of it so they were done traveling. Trying to force a plank-straight toddler into the car seat was akin to physical abuse. I went back to making the trip in two days come hell or high water because it was over and done with. Adding a third day, even though it was only for a couple of hours, was more than anyone could handle.

So, as Day 1 ends and bathroom issues, road construction, and toddler intolerance are behind us, my muffins sleep as I journal about the first day in the glowing light of the laptop in our dark room. Having done the Road Trip many times before, I still feel like all the preparation I put into the trip and the myriad tricks and treats up my sleeve did not ease the travel efforts. Thank goodness for my mom, the only other adult with me on this leg of the trip. On these trips, being in charge of any of the kids is like drawing “short straw”. They can all bring on their tough game at full strength and no child is any easier than another. For the most part, they are really good at this travel thing and in the scheme of things, it really isn’t THAT bad. All the same, thanks mom for making it through the first day with me!

She corralled my toddler at rest stops when he wanted to be on the move and in the hotel when he decided he did not want to be in the pool, until you took him out of the pool, and then he wanted to be back in again. After a few of those “in and outs”, he was involuntarily moved to another activity outside of the pool room and she ended up with toddler duty because my two older children decided that they wanted to swim on their own, with life jackets, for the first time ever. We have been working on that comfort level with them so I was not going to squash that energy. Mom drew “short straw” again. The bigger kids “swam” and were so proud of themselves. I was too. That was enough to make the day worthwhile.

It is time for me to go to sleep so that I have the endurance to deal with whatever theme that Road Trip Day #2 decides to dish out.

Good night, sleep tight..sugar plums and gum drops…

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Illinois has fabulous rest stops called “Oasis” and they are built over the highway so you can watch the cars and trucks whiz under you.

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