As a child we traveled a lot. We spent much of our summer weekends and vacations going to various campgrounds to camp. We’d pile into my dad’s pick-up truck with a custom-made topper for the bed that had a couple of benches and a table in the middle. Behind the truck pulled the pop-up camper that we slept so many nights in.
We traveled all over Minnesota. We’d go several hours from home to camp and explore. They are some of the best memories from my childhood.
At least a couple of times a year we traveled south to Missouri and Arkansas to visit my granny and papa and my aunt. I remember that we often left after mom got off work and drove all night to arrive for breakfast the next morning. Mom kept a CB radio in our van for these trips so that she could talk to the truckers to stay awake. Sometimes I’d get to talk too! And, being a farm girl, I had my very own handle – popcorn (my grandpa was the kernel!!).
I’ve taken many road trips in my adult life as well. My first was packing up my little, red, Chevy hatchback and traveling the 12+ hours away to college. Road trips back and forth to North Dakota were frequent until my family moved to Iowa. Then the road trips moved there and were thankfully much less of a drive.
I could drive the 5 hours from Illinois to Ohio in my sleep. I can now drive the 11 hours from Ohio to Iowa on auto pilot.
It was natural for me to be excited to take road trips with my kids. After all, they were GREAT when I was a kid!
We started when Eli was just a baby, 2-1/2 months old. We traveled the 4+ hours to the cabin for his initiation into cabin life. It wasn’t too bad traveling with an infant if you came prepared.
The cabin trips continued. When Eli was almost 1-year-old we braved a 10+ hour car drive to Tennessee to meet up with my aunt. All I can say is whoever invented pacifiers saved us that trip! We got caught up in a traffic jam a mere miles from the cabin we were staying at and it took an extra hour to get there. Poor Eli was tired of being on lock down in his car seat and was getting hungry. We had a minivan at the time so my honey was able to easily crawl to the back to be with him and attempt to comfort him. We vowed to wait awhile before going on another lengthy journey like that.
When Eli was 2-1/2 years old he and I traveled alone to Iowa to help my sister prepare for her wedding. The trip out there was seamless. He and I had such fun together! The trip home a complete nightmare. He drank too much water and wouldn’t go to the bathroom, either in his diaper or otherwise. I stopped at a rest stop about 2 hours from home and just held him and cried along with him. He had cried for a solid hour prior to stopping. I didn’t know what to do or how to help him. Finally I felt his body relax fully and his diaper fill. I changed him and he slept an exhausted sleep for the rest of the ride home.
I was fearful of any future lengthy trips with either of my boys. They were doing great with the cabin journeys because we took them at least once a month. But there was another trip to Iowa coming up. My honey and I decided to invest in a portable DVD player to get us through that trip. It was expensive but destined to be worth every penny.
When Eli was 3 and Keegan 18 months we took that trip to Iowa and we used that DVD player. Eli was potty trained which meant we HAD to stop every couple of hours for him to go to the bathroom because little bladders only hold so much. It was a good chance for all of us to get out and move around. It was a pretty ok trip with the DVD player. We decided we’d save it for just long trips. They didn’t really need it for just driving around town.
As the boys continue to get older, we continue to take more and more trips. We included built in DVD players in my current vehicle when we bought it so we’d always have it. However, we have found that after about hour #2 they’ve had enough of each other. They start to bicker, then they start to hit, then I start to yell and then everyone goes crazy. Something had to change.
This weekend we took a quick weekend trip to Indianapolis for my nephew’s birthday party. The party deserves its own post so it won’t be addressed here. Look for it in the next few days!
Anyway, we decided to leave after Eli’s therapy appointment on Friday. Therapy ended at 4:45. That put us on the road at 5pm and in Indy at about 8:30pm. We had to be prepared to keep tired little boys from getting too crazy, whiny, upset, etc. in the car.
We packed Leapsters and favorite games (they NEVER get video games in the car). We packed favorite books and books Eli could practice reading. We packed coloring books and crayons. We packed the beloved Etch-A-Sketches. We packed 2 Zunes with music and TV shows on them. We packed snacks and drinks. We packed a surprise, favorite dinner. We were set. Well, almost. We didn’t have the DVD players because we took our vehicle with 4×4 just in case we ran into any crazy weather. We were a little leery about the no DVD but we decided to wing it.
It was amazing!!!
The boys played Leapsters for about an hour – until it was dark enough that we didn’t want them to strain their eyes. We made one fast potty stop and then got back on the road. We ate their favorite food and they were delighted. We plugged in the Zune to the stereo and all listened together until everyone except me dozed off into dreamland. It was the most relaxing 3-1/2 hours I’ve ever driven (save for when I’m traveling alone!).
The trip home was much of the same. Because it was daylight when we came home the boys took more advantage of the books early on and then the Leapsters were in reserve for when the going got tough.
And during the drive home I came to terms with the need for technology. I realized that when I was young we didn’t sit for hours strapped into a car seat – or any other seat for that matter. On those trips camping we lazed in the back of my dad’s pick-up. We weren’t buckled. We could move anywhere we wanted. On the trips south we traveled at night so we slept through the entire thing.
It was a different era. It offered a freedom that I cannot offer my children today. So, I must offer what I can in order to keep my sanity as the driver and make our trip a memorable one in a positive way.
So, I’m giving in. I’m allowing technology to accompany us on our travels in any form of media that I can track down. If I keep enough fun up my sleeve then I just might be able to put off coloring the stress-induced white from my hair for a few more years!