South Bend to Ohio and back --> South Bend to Duluth, MN and back --> South Bend to Ohio and back --> South Bend to San Diego --> San Diego to Dallas --> Dallas to South Bend --> South Bend to Ohio and back --> South Bend to Annapolis, MD and back 8,500+ miles in 118 hours or almost five full days of summer road tripping is over and done with. Amen.
Nearly every time we told someone that we were headed out to San Diego at the end of July, they would ask, "You're flying, right?" We'd go ahead and toe the line separating crazy and sane and confess that nope, we were going to drive! Sometimes the people would then ask, "But you have a minivan, right?" Nope. We went ahead and leaped onto the crazy side with our confession of only having our car. Our car with very spotty a/c and nary a DVD player.
We aren't brave. We just want to see our family. It's as simple as that.
And so we pulled out of our driveway after Chris finished summer school ... only to pull back in about two minutes later so I could prove that I could actually get rid of stuff out of the trunk and that I was not the worst packing pack rat ever (What do you mean a bag full of embroidery hoops rates low on the essential travel items list??). A few superfluous items lighter, our wheels started rolling once again until we pulled into a St. Louis hotel negotiated by William Shatner or something like that around the later side of the midnight hour. Poor Conor fell off the (thankfully low) king size bed that night.
My phone's alarm competed with "I'm hungry, Mom," until we were drowsily up, and Ryan was munching on a granola bar - a quick fix for the ever demanding toddler appetite. Then that whirlwind of motion happened - the toothbrush searching, diaper changing, shoe hunting, keys finding scurry that occurs while simultaneously marveling at the mess created from six hours in a hotel room with only one hour of being awake. It's a consistent conundrum, that whirlwind, but it came to a halting stop when Ryan's mouth opened and didn't close until his body had bid sayonara to his breakfast.
Poor guy. Poor, poor guy because that was actually the start of it, but oh, it wasn't even the start of it! I didn't even have any plastic bags for him; my packing was an ill-timed attempt at going green. We somehow made our way to a grocery store for plastic bags and everything disinfecting, but not before three more cookie tossing events came and baptized the car and the car seat. After we had collected ourselves this is how it went: console crying toddler, nurse crying baby while keeping one eye on the toddler who understandably couldn't give us fair warning of the next toss, breathe that it was all over, catch a whiff and realize why we were holding our breath, hear the slightest gurgle, lurch to hold the bag up before his stomach lurched, rinse and repeat, heavy on the rinse.
^^^ The state of affairs at a rest stop, toddler clothing long gone. ^^^
Fortunately for Ryan, it was the fastest bug we've ever seen. He was fine by noon and downing Oklahoma barbecue by dinner. All of us were very thankful for its speed. We wanted to forget about it as soon as possible, but it was a little difficult to forget when we would stop and then get back in the car-turned-oven full of the absolutely not pleasant scent of baked breakfast discards thanks to the hundred degree weather in Oklahoma.
^^^ A brief reprieve from the fumes. ^^^
The plan had been to stay with our friends that we miss so very much in Oklahoma City, but we didn't want to expose them to our little walking Petri dish so we decided to keep driving as far as we could that Saturday with the hope of finding a cheap hotel in New Mexico. We reached our pedal pushing limit when we got to Santa Rosa, New Mexico around 1am local time which was pretty late for our Eastern time zone bodies. I thought this was a good sign - helloooo St. Rose of Lima is my patron saint, right? Katrina ROSE Harrington. Despite that, no luck. Call us crazy (oh wait! you already did!), but Chris and I decided to spend the night in the car parked at a less than mediocre rest stop for free after being quoted $80 for a dismally dingy hotel room.
There was enough comedic nature about the night that I'm chuckling as I type this remembering the ridiculousness of it all. It was so bad, it made it good. Ryan was to have the passenger seat so he was tossed up to Chris who put the driver seat as far back as he could. But if you put Ryan in the same room, er car, as a sleeping parent, there is no way in heck that that boy will sleep anywhere that is not touching said parent. So somehow the two of them ended up on that crooked driver's seat with Ryan hanging half off of Chris, both sound asleep - well the depth of what sound asleep meant was all relative at that time. The point is, they were sleeping. As for me, I was up with this kid who seemed to think the dirty light casting a creepy glow above our car was a disco ball signaling that it was time to party hard.
I mean, he was onto something since the car did already smelled like a club full of people who just cannot handle their liquor. I unbuckled Ryan's car seat and pushed it on top of Conor's so we had two seemingly spacious seats that made a bed that was juuuuuuuust wide enough to throw a nursing party until 4:30am or so when I just couldn't pretend to sleep anymore.
We set our sights on Arizona with its glorious promise of family. Just in time for 12:30 Mass, our car rolled into a Phoenix church. Ryan was released from his buckles and he did not stop running, dancing, wiggling, jumping, anything moving until after we strapped him in once again after Mass. I normally don't prefer to stand in the back, but the restless boy ran around in circles for 45 minutes. The priest even opened his homily with, "I was so inspired by this little boy I saw dancing before Mass ... "
Brad's apartment (now Brad and Geena's!) felt like the most luxurious hotel to get some much needed rest in. We contemplated just finishing the rest of the trip off that day, but how often we will get to visit that ridiculously good-looking couple we are lucky enough to have as a brother and sister? Pizza, pool, Mexican (after a whole lot of indecision), some laundry and Euchre teaching and playing it was.
^^^ Red, white and blue; I took this photo to always remember the time B&G chose spades as trump when my hand looked like that. ^^^
(A little aside to point out that I felt like such a proud wife when it was Chris, the West Coast/London raised one in the relationship, who could explain that Midwestern card game of my youth way better than any of my attempts).
Early-ish the next morning, we started the final six-hour leg of the trip. Six hours! What a breeze. All was fine and dandy until I realized that I needed something from the trunk of the car. Chris pulled off at an exit, but it immediately lead to nowhere. There actually was no road. Chris tried to turn the car around on the dirt except the dirt turned out to be sand, and Ford Fusions are not exactly meant for off-roading through Tatooine
^^^ We were actually on the edge of the desert that was used for filming the scenes on the Star Wars planet, Tatooine. Ha! ^^^
Thankfully, our guardian angels kept the a/c running in the hot desert, and AAA quickly sent a tow truck. While our car was being pulled out via chain, the tow truck driver was kind enough to tell us that this happens often so hopefully he wasn't just being nice by saying that. The boys were happy for a chance to be wild and buckle-free.
We got back on our merry way to the tune of the Fight Song, Celtic Chant, March to the Stadium and Alma Mater every 1.81 seconds as requested by Ryan with a few I'm So Fancy playings thrown in there. A few hours later, we made it to sweet and sunny San Diego.
We will continue to check for cheap plane tickets, but once Conor turns two, it will always, always, always be road trips for us. That reality is a happy one for me. This past trip was a happy reality for me! It's not that I have an endless amount of patience. On the contrary, as I took a break from this post to scorch a couple of marshmallows over the stove top to a blackened and delightfully burnt crisp, Chris observed that patience does not seem to be my strong point.
Perspective does help. My Wonder Woman of a mother-in-law just completed the drive in a 12-passenger van from San Diego to Annapolis and back with a stop in South Bend to give Ryan, Conor and me a ride to Maryland. And I don't know how many times I told Chris in our many hours in the car, "Can you imagine how people in covered wagons did this?" I know, I have brilliant thoughts.
But, most of all, cross-country air travel being out of the budget for us means that I have children with Chris, and man, that reality throws an instant gild over less-than-desirable scents and sleeping arrangements. Pinch me. Or better yet for a trip like that one, pinch my nose.