Monday, June 23, 2014

Many More Miles to Go

My best guess is that we have covered upwards of 2595 miles.  We drove from Missoula, through Billings, across Wyoming, cut across a corner of Colorado and covered almost all of Kansas before we ended up at our destination:  Middle America.  We have been crisscrossing the cross timbers for the past three weeks.

NO - we do not have a DVD player in the car.

I remember childhood car trips fondly: stopping at rest areas, state parks, singing, playing the road kill alphabet game (A is for Armadillo Soup,  B is for Broiled Beaver, C is for Crispy Coyote...  etc.), stopping at old graveyards to make rubbings of cool head stones, tents, campfires, fireflies...  I want that for my kids. I want them to know that a road trip is just as much about the journey as the destination. 

YES - I packed some books, markers, paper, a giant stack of CDs and a cooler full of food.

We purchased a luggage carrier and gave the kids room for their legs.  They are so much longer than when we embarked on our last 5000 mile road trip adventure. And we have the added luxury of competing this trip without a giant stack of cloth diapers.

Why this trip?  Well, to witness my beautiful sister getting married, to see family we never see otherwise and to check in with our ever growing family in Oklahoma. 

As we have traveled around the country I have paged through local papers and ran across an article on how to go on road trips with kids.  A two hour trip was used as an example and I put down the article.  Where we live a two hour drive gets us to the next big town and is hardly considered a road trip.  It took us three days to get from home to our first destination and upon reflection, there are a few things we try to do to make the journey more enjoyable.

1.  STOP FOR LUNCH - and no - I don't mean stop at a fast food joint, shovel food  in your face and keep driving.  Pack a cooler, take advantage of the rest areas and welcome centers that dot the American highway system.  Grapes, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, hard boiled eggs and sandwich fixings and a few treats are easy enough to pack and unpack. The kids stretch their legs, climb around, fill their bellies and when we get back in the car there has been a noticeable reset in the overall mood.  We can go on.

2. Maintaining the KID'S SANITY - choose one or two things of the usual routine to maintain throughout the routine.  For us this is reading bedtime books.  It can be 11 o'clock at night.  We can have just watched a movie.  We can be at grandma's or in a tent.  There will be a bed time book and in reality there will probably be two or three.  And, really, is there anything better than being cuddled up under a blanket in a tent reading by flashlight?
  • Bed Time Reading for Kids: (among other books) Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Bed Time Reading for Me:  Travels with Charlie in Search of America by John Steinbeck
  • Bed Time Reading for Adam:  which ever Game of Thrones book he is on now...  something with dragons in the title, I think.
 3. Maintaining the MY SANITY - let it go - (and yes, we have listened to both of the Frozen CD's on pretty much every drive longer than 3 hours) During long road trips we are perpetual guest in the homes of our friends and family and I have to let go of parenting ideals and routines that are true in our home.  So what if there is TV immediately after waking up, poptarts for breakfast (my kiddos both ate half of a tart before deciding they were too sweet), all the toys make noise, and they have watched a million movies???  We are not at home.

4. EXPLORE!!!!  There are things to see and do everywhere.  This is almost a comprehensive list of places we have explored during this trip.

It was drizzling slightly and I was afraid the kids would protest to walking...  but they loved this place:  they ran from sign to sign, from the first cave to the second and then the tepee.  That night, after our books, we told stories about the caves...


We arrived after dark, gathered firewood and ate a late dinner.  Sylvan was elated to sleep in our new tent. We awoke to more bird sounds than I have ever heard before.  

  • Public Library - a default location to entertain children in an air conditioned space.  There are books to read, toys to play with and often offer free story times.  The public library has served us well in Stillwater, Oklahoma, Aurora, Colorado and is a frequent destination to which I take out of town guests in Missoula. 
  • Never underestimate the fun that can be had in a back yard.  

  • Whenever possible - stick to the smaller highways - there is so much more to see.

5.  BREATHE!!!   Breathe deeply and practice patience.  The kids do get tired, overstimulated, under engaged and short fused...  and through it all I try to remember it is not my child's behavior that defines me as a parent, but rather how I respond to the current situation.  So I try to remember to respond with kindness and love and understanding and then we read bedtime books and go to bed.

Adam just finished the drive from Oklahoma and arrived at our house in Missoula.  The garden is lush - I told him to eat the radishes - and our chicks are almost full grown.  The kids and I will go on to our second leg of the journey by plane, further east, to visit more family.


  1. You are making fun childhood memories

  2. You brought happy memories of taking my children and then you and your siblings to many of these desintations. And you have total agreement here: Whenever possible, stick to the smaller hgihways. There IS so much to see. And so many interesting people to meet, I have found.