We left for Virginia this past Monday. Because I've had little to no internet access on the road and/or no mental capacity to sit down and update my blog once we've finally stopped driving, I've been posting small updates on Twitter via our iPhones.
(It's amazing how those things work!)
Our first stop was Phoenix, Arizona to see Charlie's Dad, Alex and his wife, Kathleen. We had a great time. Fabulous time, in fact. Because Kathleen had called ahead and had hired not one, but two nannys. So by the time we arrived, after our seven-hour drive from San Diego, and the weather was 115 and everyone was hot and tired and feeling a bit punchy, the children were greeted by a professional nanny and carted off to a swimming pool in the backyard while Charlie and I sat back and sipped chilled wine and ate brie.
(I had to pinch myself several times to confirm I was not dreaming.)
The fact that Kathleen's eight-year-old grandson, Ian, was there to play with the children was just icing on the already AWESOME cake. And then, as if it could get any better (for them or us), the next morning, we went off to a quiet breakfast with Alex, while a second nanny came in and took the children to Chuck E Cheese for games, McDonald's for lunch, and then, more swimming. AND THEN, Alex and Kathleen sang, "Happy Birthday" for Henry and threw an impromptu birthday party where clothing for the guest of honor was entirely optional.
Everyone received the "royal" treatment, which helped offset whatever misery we might endure for the next 1,700 miles of being strapped in the car.
Thankfully, it hasn't actually been that bad. Although, I don't remember quite so much TALKING when we drove our 7,000 miles cross-country (and back again) in 2008. We're just a tad over 2,000 miles on this trip, with another 700 remaining to Virginia, and it's difficult to fathom driving three times that distance with the children at their current age.
Are we there yet?
How much further?
Where are we on the map?
Where are we on the map, now?
Is this Virginia?
Well how about now?
IS THIS VIRGINIA?
WHAT ABOUT NOW?
WHEN WILL WE BE IN VIRGINIA?
WILL WE EVER GET THERE?
We're taking I-40 most of the way, and thus far, we've traversed Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. The scenery has been spectacular, because we live in an absolutely beautiful country, but ever since leaving San Diego, it's been very hot and yesterday, we were swarmed and bitten by red ants at a picnic area just outside Oklahoma City.
Every day, we've been driving between 8 to 10 hours, which works out to 400-500 miles, except on Wednesday, when we stopped early in Amarillo, Texas so Charlie could eat at the World Famous "Big Texan" restaurant which is home of the 72-0unce steak that you get for free.
IF you can consume it (along with a salad, shrimp cocktail, baked potato and dinner roll) in less than an hour.
The world record holder ate it all in less than nine minutes. And some one who must be part wolf ate two of those meals in less than an hour. When we arrived on Wednesday night, Charlie saw some guy trying unsuccessfully to take on the challenge and once he could see just how big a 4.5 pound steak really is (approximately the size of our front door mat), he opted instead to split a 12-oz steak with me.
All that being said ... my advice to anyone attempting to drive long distances with children is:
1) Make sure you have lots of snacks, books and a portable potty chair;
2) Make sure you have a DVD player and a large selection of movies available; and
3) Make sure that you end each day at a place with a pool. Triple points if that facility also has a free continental breakfast, locks that work, convenient parking and toilets that flush. Also, if the toilets don't flush, it's best if the front desk staff doesn't gag and run away screaming - never to return again. (Obviously that clerk never had children.)
Nothing beats the monotony of a long car ride like a refreshing swim. We haven't had the best luck with choosing hotels on this trip and have managed to stay at a number of dives. Even so, the pools have almost completely alleviated whatever issues we have with the rooms, facilities or customer service.
Thus far, our favorite pool was at a hotel in Russellville, Arkansas.
We're currently at a rather seedy hotel in the middle of Tennessee, but they've got a huge slide in to the pool, so as far as the children are concerned this is (and I quote), "The bestest hotel ever in the ENTIRE whole wide universe!"
I genuinely appreciate that our kids are so incredibly easy to please. If only I could get past the unusual basement-like odor and odd stain in the middle of our floor, I might agree.