Well, I’ve had several people encourage me to write a blog on our family’s road trip this summer and I decided to do it. Obviously. 🙂 It’s taken me a while, because I seem to write down every detail and as I was reading it, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t have to write down that we stopped to eat and take a potty break. That would be a given – eventually people do need to eat and such, right? Thus, it has been a work in progress, so bear with me. Let me start at the beginning.
My husband wanted to roadtrip 27 hours from where we live in California to my parents in Iowa. Not my ideal way to vacation, but my husband was very excited about the prospect, thinking it would be a big adventure. And it certainly was! It took a while to convince me, and finally 2 weeks before our date of departure I gave in. We added a hitch and rack to the back of our station wagon, so we would have more room in the vehicle. Which was a good thing or we would have had to leave a bunch of things behind. Namely, I don’t think camping gear would have made it.
But we were finally ready and at 5 am on a Thursday morning, we picked our 5 year old, 3 year old and 1 year old out of bed and put them in their carseats. Well they did not go back to sleep as planned. None of them. Not even for a moment. Sigh. Not a good start.
Well our first leg of the trip would be only 5 hours away. But the day did not go as planned yet again. Crying, fighting, complaining and lots of me turning around. Did I mention that curvy roads make me car sick? Especially when I am turning around. I believe we stopped 3 times in those 5 hours for a break, allowing the kids to run around and me to relax a bit. By the time we arrived at my brother-in-laws I thought this trip was going to be high stress and the 22 hours we had left to drive seemed an eternity.
We had a fun relaxing afternoon with family and the kids had time to run around and get their energy out. We had planned on leaving at around 6 pm to get a few more hours of driving in. Did I mention that my 17 month old had only taken one nap at 7am that morning and only for 1 hour? He was very very tired. This fit perfectly with our plan: Jacob would fall asleep and we would drive, the other two would be contented with books, etc. Well, we had to drive a couple blocks from the restaurant we ate at and grab our swim stuff we had drying at my brother-in-laws. Jacob fell promptly asleep and awoke as we were packing the stuff back in the car. Bummer. And then he proceeded to cry the next 15-20 minutes while we drove. Well, I think this was God’s providence that Jacob wailed for we were more tired than we wanted to admit from our late night of packing and early morning start. We had to turn onto another road 20 minutes down and road and a camp ground was right on that corner. Providence! So we stopped. And decided to stay. A rather easy decision. So we set up our tent and got the kids in their beds.
Thus our interesting journey continued, Jacob was in his playpen, (supposed to be going to sleep) and had to watch every move that anyone did. Daddy was outside the tent, and he would watch his shadow pass over the tent. Big brother or sister would sit up or roll over and he would watch. Oh, and Jacob would start bawling if I left the tent. So I laid down – in my regular clothes still, and tried to keep all the kids still so they would sleep. They finally zonked out, but maybe I did first? But the night was not over – and it wasn’t the kids who interrupted our sleep. Josh awoke to the sound of a growl. He went to the bathroom and a Sheriff ran up to him and told him to get back in his tent, there was a bear nearby. So Josh hurried in, wondering if we were really safe in our tent. Only a few minutes later the Sheriff told us the bear had left the are and it was safe again. We laid down to sleep again, but before Josh could fall alseep he heard rustling outside our tent. The bear was back. The Sheriff tore into the campground in his SUV and several other police cars were across the pasture by our campground shinning beams of light on the bear. The bear was big and it was only about 100 meters away. Well, after that there was no going back to sleep in the tent. We put the kids in the car seats, took the essential items and headed back to our brother-in-laws. So at 1:30am we finally could sleep in peace.
Josh read an article later that because of the drought in California the bears were coming down farther out of the mountains to find food. Josh’s brother, who has lived in that area for nearly a year has never seen a bear. It was very unusual, but I guess becoming more common! And we got a front row seat.
Morning came, we were refreshed and ready for the day. I decided to have no expectations – or at least very low ones. A couple low expectations were that Jacob is not going to take a nap when I want him to, we will probably take more stops than I would like, and we will not get as many miles in a day traveled as I would hope for.
Our main goal of traveling the evening before had been to miss the heat of the desert during the day. So now our goal was to get through the desert as fast as possible which means no breaks to run off energy. Unless we can find a fast-food restaurant with an indoor playground. We started off leg 2 with a stretch of road that had 140 or more miles between civilizations. So make sure you have gas! And our vehicle’s gas gauge only works sometimes – so we keep an eye on our trip mileage from our last fill-up. We got pretty close to empty. But gas was more expensive on either side of that stretch of road, so we were pushing it trying to get to a cheaper gas station.
We got to Las Vegas, the temperature of about 105 degrees or so (definitely don’t want to go outside and play in that heat!) We found an Inn-N-Out, which gave us the most wonderful service. They cleared the table for me (Josh had gone out to the car to do something necessary, I forget what now.) They held doors open for me (to the bathroom and out of the building) and gave all the kids Inn-N-Out hats. Maybe some people would say that is just great service, but I think that was God’s providence yet again. God knew I needed a little kindness, compassion and help. Oh, and did I mention, my kids did awesome while we drove now that I had moved to sitting in the middle bench between the two younger ones? Just a bit of attention from mom makes a huge difference!
We arrived at our campsite, after 8 hours of driving, just after sundown and some wonderful neighbors held their bright lantern for us as we set up our tent in the dark. The evening turned very cold, down to 50 degrees and the wind was so strong it pulled up some of our tent stakes. God’s mercy at work again – the wind stopped for a few hours around the time we arrived and set up camp. The kind neighbors said it had been windy all day and just calmed down. And only a short time after we were set up the wind began again. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to try to set up the tent with the wind whipping like it did.
I don’t think the temperatures would have bothered us too much as we had nice sleeping bags and blankets and such, except that the wind just whipped through our tent. We didn’t get a great night sleep. The noise of the tent material snapping in the wind woke up Jacob, who had a hard time getting back to sleep. The tent began to fall on Abigail (5 year old) and she ended up using 3 year old Isaac as a pillow. Oh, and my air mattress had a leak, so it became very squishy. But morning came, the kids ran around while Josh did some business-related work and I packed up our campsite.
Day 3 went pretty well as we crossed the Rocky Mountains to get to Denver. We did have a small hiccup when our cigarette lighter stopped working so we couldn’t charge our GPS. So we came down the mountain without directions, and entered into Denver looking for a gas station to fill up at and to get directions. It was really hard to find a gas station! We would have filled up earlier but either the gas stations had expensive prices or when I would decide to stop at the next little town, it didn’t have any gas stations to stop at! When we got to Denver I thought to go by the fast-food places, assuming gas stations would be by the food. Wrong. So after a bit of wandering and a couple u-turns we found a gas station. Josh charged the GPS a little bit while he used the bathroom so we each memorized a portion of the directions and shut it off, just in case we needed to use it later. So at 10:30 pm (the time change did not work in our favor) we drove into the yard of my college roommate. Glad she didn’t mind our late arrival. Whew, we made it!
Day 4 was Sunday, so it was really relaxing. We went to church and hung out around the little farm of my friend. Just before supper we left for a seemingly short drive of 5 hours (compared to the 8 and 9 hour days we put in the previous days!) to our next stop. We went to another campground, but got a cabin this time. It was much easier to throw the sleeping bags on the beds and hop into bed. We were now only 4.5 hours from my parents!
Day 5 would be a nice relaxing day. We stopped after an hour to spend time with one of Josh’s friends and enjoyed a playground and some frisbee golf. Josh noticed that there were storms on the horizon (using his weather app on his phone.) So we took our time so we would stay behind the storm as it was forecasted to produce good sized hail. The kids did not complain about the extra playground time!
When we were only 2 hours from my parents we noticed more storm clouds, and after a call to my dad we were informed the storms were likely to produce tornadoes as well. There was a storm in front of us and beside us. We turned away from the storm beside us, much to our relief, as that one was the more serious one. Unbeknown to us, that storm produced twin tornadoes that destroyed a town. As we drove away from that storm, only 45 minutes from our destination we blew a tire. In God’s providence we were only about 100 feet from town, and a nice local brought Josh to a tire place that was still open (it was nearly 6 pm!) While me and the kids were waiting for Josh to come back, two police cars stopped by and waited with me. The man who picked up Josh called upon his sister-in-law to pick up me and the kids to hang out at her house while we waited for the tire to get fixed. Did I mention that the serious storm was bearing down on us the whole time we waited on the side of the road, the county being issued a tornado watch? It was rather stressful. But me and the kids were soon safe at a house with a basement if it was needed.
God protected us in many ways – providing help to us so soon after our tire blew out, someone to open her house to us, a tire station that was open and had the rare tire size on hand, and the storm that passed to the north of town. We drove the 45 minutes to my parents and did not hit even a spot of rain. Minutes after we got our luggage and other essentials inside it down-poured. But we had made it, and by the grace of God we made it safely through it all.
Stay tuned for the continuation: the return trip!