Over the past 4 days my family traveled from Colorado Springs to Niagara Falls, Ontario. It took us over 22 hours to drive this distance, and it was grueling.
We decided to drive because flying four people round trip was going to cost like $4,000, and there was just no way. I don’t think ANY respectable middle-class family in this country can actually afford to fly anymore. I don’t know how people do it.
But this trip was important. We are here at Niagara Falls for my Grandma’s 75th birthday trip. Her birthday in in July, but this weekend was the best time for everyone to take a trip. Yes we are even doing the whole matching family t-shirts thing. Thursday also happened to be my actual 30th birthday, and I decided that nothing short of a natural disaster would stop me from making this trip happen for my family.
So we drove.
We decided to do 8 hours the first day to Kansas City, 8 hours the second day to Cincinnati, 4 hours the next day to Cleveland, and 4 hours the last day to Niagara Falls. My Uncle has a condo outside of Cincinnati, and my brother lives in Cleveland, so we drove shorter distances the last two days to visit and stay with family.
The general plan was to start driving at 9am each day, drive for 4 hours, stop for lunch, then drive another 4 hours and arrive at our destination around 6pm. Of course, I completely forgot that the time zones would be short changing us an hour each of the first two days.
We were driving and suddenly the clock changed; it felt like we time traveled forwards in time, and lost an hour of our lives. I would advise anyone planning a road trip cross-country to account for time zone shifts! And potty breaks! We certainly will be doing so in the future.
I was car sick the entire trip.
Of course I had planned to write for a good stretch of time on the road, it being Blogtober and all, but I found out very quickly that that was a bad idea. On Tuesday night I forced myself to write Feeding My Family Love and by the time we arrived in Cincinnati I was feeling like I would throw up and pass out at the same time.
This threw into question whether or not I really ought to be doing Blogtober. It was already only day 2 and I was feeling stressed, anxious, and sick over it. I think if circumstances were different – like if I was just at home and nothing else at all was going on in my life right now, I could spend the 3 hours per day that I need to write my epic blog posts.
I thought I would be able to do it, but I am just not okay with posting hum drum diary entry type blog posts for you all. You don’t want to read that. Fellow blogger Khan inspired me to take on this challenge, and he just announced that he is no longer doing Blogtober for these same reasons.
So I’ve decided that while I will still remain in the challenge, I am not going to be upset if I miss one day. I would rather miss a day than feel forced to publish something sub-par.
I Love Blank Paper
Mia and Lizzie brought their tablets for the trip, but we didn’t necessarily want our 6 and 7 year old to have 4-8 hours of screen time every day. So we limited the time they were allotted each day to 2-3 hours max.
If we knew we were going to be driving in the dark, we would have rationed our children’s hours of screen time to save some for nighttime, but our plans were to drive during daylight hours, so that wasn’t much of an issue. We did end up having a few hours of nighttime driving at the end of the first and second days, but they were minimal.
During the rest of the trip, they were going to have to be entertained somehow. So I packed my big Thirty One tote full of coloring books and picture books and activity books like our children’s Sudoku books. I brought our whole craft caddy.
And most importantly, I brought a whole ream of blank paper, lots of pencils, and pencil sharpeners. More than anything else in the world, our girls love to draw.
Unsurprisingly, almost none of the coloring books and picture books I brought got touched. The girls spent almost all of their non-screen time drawing on the blank paper.
Just as we were crossing the border into Canada, Mia said, “Mama, I am so glad you brought all this white paper.”
Next time we road trip I am not going to pack such a huge heavy bag of books and coloring books. They just got in the way and took up space. Next time I will just bring the tablets and blank paper and the craft caddy! There is an endless amount of fun that can be had from blank paper.
Actually, while we are on the subject, I’d like to say that I love blank paper more than most other material things in this world. I just said to Angela the other day that I am going to stop buying so many beautiful notebooks. I have a lot of them but they just sit around my house. I always just end up grabbing a stack of blank paper. Why? Because it is SO MUCH FUN to write on.
The way I write on blank paper is interesting. Sometimes I write straight across. Sometimes I write diagonal. Sometimes I write in imaginary boxes around the page, without really thinking about it. Sometimes I even doodle around my blocks of writing while I’m forming what to write next.
My husband José says it’s because I feel restricted by lines.
“Like Heaven and I haven’t Even Died.”
My uncle has a condo in a suburb of Cincinnati so we stopped there en route. His condo is absolutely gorgeous and we really enjoyed staying there. We arrived late but he generously offered us anything in his pantry. Mia and Lizzie ate dinosaur oatmeal, Chex cereal, apples, orange juice, and angle hair pasta with sauce.
I cracked up when Mia said, “It’s like Heaven and I haven’t even died.”
The next morning we went to Frisch’s Big Boy for breakfast. This is a local chain. We’ve lived in New York, Georgia, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado, and never lived near a Big Boy, so this was a novel experience for our family.
José bought a Big Boy piggy bank and said he’s going to put it above our bed so that when we wake up in the morning the first thing we see is his creepy eyes looking at us. Oh joy.
Oh the way out that day I had a pregnancy craving I could not ignore. Millennials, you know those bagel sandwiches that Breugger’s Bagels has been selling since before we were born. Leonardo Da Veggie. They are so good. Like Oh.My.God. I needed to eat one so I routed us to a Breugger’s Bagels.
The first one ended up being in an airport, so I re-routed us to one downtown, but we ran into a “spaghetti noodle-i-ness,” as José dubbed it, aka a cluster fuck of like five overlapping streets that was maddeningly confusing. We took ONE wrong turn and the map suddenly jumped from ETA 3 minutes to 15.
He wanted to try again to make it to the downtown shop. No way José! Haha I married this man seven and a half years ago and that still hasn’t gotten old…
So I re-routed us yet again. Third time’s a charm. Needless to say, I bought two sandwiches. No way I was going to risk not being able to get to another Breugger’s Bagels the next morning… The things we will do for pregnancy cravings.
But I swear, these bagel sandwiches are worth it because they are like Heaven and I haven’t even died.
City Lights and Sights
My brother Ben lives in Cleveland, so we stopped there next. We actually did arrive at 6pm this time, ironically, after several consecutive days of planning 6pm and not arriving til past 9pm. Just when I’d become paranoid and told Ben not to expect us at 6 even though that’s what we were planning. I learned it’s just never a good idea to tell someone you’ll arrive at a certain time when you are coming from 4-8 hours away… you just never know.
My brother had some treats in store for us. The first thing we did was walk several blocks to dinner in downtown Cleveland.
Our walk ended at a local taco shop, Barrio. They have build your own tacos and a menu of taco creations that are out of this world delicious. I had two El Veganos, filled with lots of veggies, and sour cream on the side. So.good.
Then we walked through a very weird indoor strip mall, past some life-sized spinning tops, to Colossal Cupcakes.
This place was so cute. Everything was pink and sparkly. Fit for princesses of all ages.
I was expecting some really gigantic cupcakes, but in my opinion they were rather ordinary. Maybe slightly bigger than your average cupcake. But c’mon. That is not colossal. They were super moist, fluffy, and high quality though, so I will give them that.
I think the primary draw of this place is its cute décor and maybe the novelty of the cake shake, which is a milkshake with a cupcake put into it. I wasn’t able to taste it since I have a lactase allergy and can’t tolerate cow’s milk unless it’s from Jersey cows, but José and Ben tired it. They said it was good but overwhelmingly thick and sweet. Between the two of them they couldn’t even finish one 16oz shake.
We enjoyed the walk back to Ben’s apartment, soaking in city lights and sights. The kids had an absolute ball being kids. I loved watching them run joyfully through the fountain at Cleveland Public Square.
Ben and I agreed that it made us feel exhausted just looking at them, but it also made us realize that we only get to be kids once. I suppose I live childhood vicariously through my children because it gives me great joy to see them playing. Carefree. In love with life. Unfettered by the anxiety of adulting. Happy.
At the End of the Rainbow
On our final leg of the journey, we had only four hours left to go. Compared to the eight we’d travelled on previous days, four hours felt almost blissful. I drove the first two hours when I was nice and caffeinated, and José drove the last two.
When we got to the border, I was irrationally paranoid that something stupid would happen at the last minute and we wouldn’t be able to cross. I’d been fearful of it the whole trip, but now that we were sitting there, waiting in line in our car, my anxiety peaked.
Of course I had nothing to be worried about. We handed the guy our military IDs and our birth certificates, waited what felt like an interminably long time, and waved us through. 20 minutes later, we were at the Hotel Embassy Suites in Ontario, Canada.
The view from our hotel room on the 39th floor is breathtaking. The afternoon sun and the mist collaborated to create a beautiful rainbow. It was like a 30th birthday present from the Universe, literally wrapped up in a package of sunshine and rainbows.
Pictures never do these things justice, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that this actually was was more amazing in person. I feel truly blessed that I had the opportunity to be in such a magical place on a milestone birthday.
But the best birthday presents I got on Thursday came from my mom and grandma and Angela and my friend Sam, in their words. Words are my love language, and theirs brought me to tears. There is truly nothing better than feeling loved on one’s birthday.
Experience Without Expectations
We made it over twenty two hours in four days and it was rough, but it was rewarding. I still don’t know how I feel about doing this all over again for Christmas, but I know this trip has been and will continue to be worth it.
My parting advice for your next road trip:
- Expect that everything is going to cost money. Millennials know: it’s 2018 so it costs money to fucking breathe. Expect that everything will be way more expensive than you expect, and expect that you’ll need to buy and pay for way more than you expect. Don’t let it ruin your trip.
- Expect for everything to take way longer than it actually does in reality. It will, and it will feel even longer than that.
- Account for time zones. We were in Canada for 24 hours before I realized that my watch was still stuck in mountain time. 😛
- Pack blank paper. A lot of it.
José and I decided to settle our family in Colorado, and with three kids and most of my family living in New York, I think we just have to suck it up and accept and expect that road trips are just going to be an inevitable part of our future.
Overall it’s been an exhilarating, exhausting, entertaining, experimental and extraordinary experience. The trip here may not have been the highlight of our vacation, but making some of it enjoyable helped make the rest of it less deplorable.
Have you road tripped with a family before? What was your experience like?