Once upon a time a boy and a girl met. They fell in love. They got married and moved to a state five to ten hours away from family thereby relegating themselves to a life of road trips. Idiots.
Yes, Dave and I are no strangers to road trips. In the early days of our marriage we enjoyed our journeys. We would idyllically talk talk talk while sipping coffee and enjoying the scenery. The five to ten hour drives flew by with ease and minimal stops.
Then we had kids.
Our first road trip with a baby occurred seven weeks after her birth. We packed up the car and our little bundle of sweet joy and set out for grandmas. It didn’t take long to realize our perfect angel was no traveler. She positively refused to fall asleep and screamed her fool head off the entire trip. THE ENTIRE TRIP.
As new parents we weren’t quite sure how to handle this. We tried feeding her, we pulled off to change her diaper, we stopped at a mall to walk her. But she would not be consoled. We rolled into grandmas driveway like a couple of vacant-eyed zombies.
Things haven’t changed much. Our kids are all allergic to sleeping in the car. We’ve tried everything – driving at bedtime, skipping naps, Benadryl (this was a doctor’s suggestion so don’t judge), whiskey, Ambien….ok, kidding on the last two. We tried driving overnight once but that just meant they were ALL awake when daddy got pulled over for speeding at 3AM. He didn’t get a ticket but he DID get 50 questions from the kids about why he broke the law.
Of course no one EVER has to pee until we pull AWAY from the potty stop and/or we are on the south side of Chicago. One time it took us 14 hours to make it to Michigan because someone had to go every 30 minutes. Eventually we got smart and just kept a potty and some extra water and wipes to clean it out in the car when we travelled. We still had to stop but at least we knew the restroom was safe.
Earlier this week I took off for Wisconsin once again with my two youngest kids. My dog yacked four miles into the trip and I had to pull over in a small town to clean it up. Being early morning in a small town, there was nowhere to wash my hands so I made do with some old dried out baby wipes, trying not to think about the residual smell. Two hours later, while barreling down HWY 94 with “Love is an Open Door” blasting my eardrums and wishing I could open my door to air out the stench of dog vomit, I realized I had forgotten my three year old’s favorite stuffed animal. This meant on top of a harrowing road trip I was guaranteed a nightmarish non-bedtime. I almost turned around.
The little locusts ate everything I had packed for them within the first ten minutes of the trip. Thirty minutes later they were howling with hunger and petitioning to go potty so I reluctantly pulled into McDonalds. The perky McDonald’s worker asked if they had no school that day. I glanced over at my disheveled daughter who hadn’t brushed her hair in about a week. Meanwhile my three year old, who was wearing pajama pants inside out and backwards, was banging on the happy meal toy display like it was a vending machine. I smiled and said they were homeschooled. She raised an eyebrow and quietly rang up our order.
Somehow in the chaos of getting back into the van, taking the dog to go potty, and keeping him away from their food I forgot the crucial step of buckling the three year old back into his car seat. I didn’t notice this until we were back on the freeway and he was enjoying his unrestricted mobility. Of course there was no exit for ten miles.
While buckling him back in on the side of the next exit ramp my daughter announced she had to go, unbuckled, and dashed off into the woods. I couldn’t stop giggling, hoping no one would drive past, because she wasn’t as hidden as she thought she was.
By the time I reached Madison, the dog had puked again – and this time I just left it. My daughter was horrified at this decision and had her hand over her mouth screaming, “Mooooommmmm! It smells so gross! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!”
We are so used to these car adventures we are almost numb to it all.
Here are some of my favorite memories . . .
- Dumping out poopy from the toddler potty in front of an appalled onlooker at the gas station.
- Frantically pulling off the freeway for an emergency potty stop and unloading the kids only to realize I’d pulled up to the adult superstore not a gas station.
- Traveling eight hours home from Chicago with two puking children.
- Realizing after two hours on the freeway that we had forgotten to buckle our baby nephew’s carseat in. (This one was my sisters fault.)
- After 14 hours in the car, needing to stop and nurse a screaming infant fifteen minutes from home.
This is what we do so we can see family. It is worth it to us. I know we aren’t alone in the car trip catastrophes. Lets commiserate. What are some of your favorite memories of road trips?