Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What I Learned on My Vacation

3000 miles. In a minivan, with 4 kids. 11 days gone - 6 of those 11 days were spent driving.

Lots of "family togetherness"!

I learned a few things on this trip.

1. My kids are awesome travelers. Really, really awesome. Even the Monkey! 10-12 hours driving a day is not "fun", but they managed to make it much more enjoyable.

2. Be careful what you collect - Cookie Boy collects playing cards. He buys a new deck of cards for every new state he visits (or sometimes I get him a deck when I travel). The decks have to be State decks or represent the special place he is visiting - he is looking for unique, fun, commemorative cards.

 Apparently, finding playing cards is a hit-or-miss type of thing. 

We visited many, may gas stations and souvenir shops. Want a dinner bell? No prob? Shot glass - easy, peasy. Collectible spoon - everyone has them.
Playing cards - not so much.
However, he did manage to get 7 new decks this trip - Arkansas (the only ones we could find were Razorback cards, but it works!), Tennessee, Virginia, Annapolis, Maryland; and the Cape May/Lewes Ferry for Deleware. We also got him special cards from Graceland and the National Shrine in DC.

Mission accomplished!

3. Weather - we saw lots of weather on our trip. Storms lit up the sky while we drove from Memphis to Nashville, TN last week. It did not rain on us then, but we watched in awe as the lightning forked the skies, mainly jumping from cloud to cloud. It was awesome.
We went through many showers and downpours. We even had fog and low clouds on mountains.
Awesome clouds in Virginia

No one seemed too impressed. But I was!

Cool and windy - but sunny - on the beach

Weather! Clouds!!! Rain!!!!!

It made me think - the weather in Texas is pretty uniform - sunny and warm or sunny and hot. If it is not those things, it is apocalyptical, end-of-the-world stuff. Not much in-between.

rainbow cloud!
I loved looking at the clouds, rain, lightning, wind, sun, moon, stars.

Blurry, but you can make out the clouds on the mountain 

4. We really need to get out more. I am pretty sure I spent more time with my husband on this trip than I have in the past two years. Being trapped in a van for 3000 miles will give you time to talk.

5. I found out my husband only reads my blog "occasionally". Sigh. Nothing like feeling supported, although he is encouraging in a general, "go, you!" kind of way.

Sad face.

6. We are raising our kids right! Musically, anyway.

I am very eclectic in my musical tastes. My kids were laughing at my iPod as it played in the van. Queen followed by Lady Antebellum followed by the Tallis Scholars singing chant. Yeah . . .

The Monkey had his favorites. It was cracking us up to hear him sing:
  • Another Bites the Dust - Queen
  • Don't You Want Me - The Human League
  • Day-O - Harry Belafonte
  • Don't Stop Believing - Journey
  • Can't Touch This - MC Hammer
  • Hey, Soul Sister - Train

7. I learned a new way to pack. I read this blog about packing a family up for vacation, but I dismissed it. The day before we left, I decided to give it a whorl. The blog suggests using bins to pack. I only had a few, so I only packed some things this way. Next time, everyone is getting their own bin. It saved SO MUCH SPACE! It was awesome.
We have a minivan, but it is a very small minivan - a Mazda MPV. There is very little trunk room.

Packing 6 people for 11 days, for the beach, when the weather will be 100 degrees some places and 65 in others - it was daunting. But, the bins made it all better.

ArtGuy and I had all our clothes together in a 58 Qt bin. Plus some shoes and other things. Cookie Boy and Romeo each got their own 15 Qt bin. We rolled the clothes up nice and tight (helps reduce wrinkles, too!).
Things got more messy on the way home, but hey! The driver can see out the back.

Love the bins!

In addition, each boy received a shoe-sized bin for their in-the-van stuff. They have backpacks, but it gets very squished as we travel. These bins held sunglasses, earbuds, iPods, Nintendo DSs, pens/pencils/markers, and other small items. It helped them to keep smaller stuff together, and they were able to trade places a lot more easily. (The blog I read recommended shoes in these, too, but I am guessing the lady has some small children, not boys with giant feet!)

I also had a shoe sized bin for the front seat that had Mom's-heroic-moments-type stuff. Need a tissue Ta dah! A wipe for sticky hands? Here ya go! Fingernail clippers? Ibuprofin? Travel sized laundry detergent? Sunscreen? A Sharpie (you have NO idea how much that Sharpie came in handy)? An extra grocery bag for trash? Got it!

We also packed a separate small suitcase (in the future this will be a bin, too) with our "hotel" clothes. Since we were staying at hotels overnight both ways, we only had to unload that suitcase and a couple of smaller items, and not the whole van.

I packed our toiletries and charging cords and other miscellaneous items in a small red carry-on.

Everything stayed pretty neat and organized.

Lesson learned!

8. 11 days is a long time to be gone. 3000 miles is a lot of traveling. Not everyone was nice on the road or in stores or at attractions. However, ArtGuy and I noticed that while not everyone was nice, most people were nice.
We were amazed at the number of nice, friendly, mannered people we encountered.

Sometimes you forget or just think no one cares. And then the world shows you there is goodness all around.

9. People in Virginia need extra help? I guess? That is the conclusion I draw from these handy signs on almost every entrance ramp on Interstate 81 in Virginia.

It made me wonder - why????? Before these signs, were people getting on the freeway and making random left turns?
"Well, Bob, I am going to get on the Interstate and then I am going to turn left. Makes sense. Oh no! Wait! Oh, man! There is a sign that says 'no left turn. Dang it."

10. Some things cannot be shared.

On our final jaunt last night, we crossed back into Texas. The sun began to set, throwing gorgeous color into the sky. The sun hung big and low on the horizon, a kind of peachy-pink-sherbety orange colors. It cast an orange edge to the clouds, and threw orange, pink and blues across the sky. It was utterly lovely.
I love the beach, I love the mountains, but I love my Texas more.

I tried to get a picture, but I couldn't. Maybe it was the bug-encrusted van windows, maybe it was trees in the way. Or maybe, some things cannot be shared, but can only be experienced.

It made me sing this song to myself. (Sixpence None the Richer, but actually from a project of Rich Mullins called Canticle of the Plains). So pretty.

A million things in my head, swirling around. So much to do.

But I am not getting back in that van today, if I can help it!


David Alcott said...

Hi Christine, great post, and nice seeing you in Delaware. Our trip was rough, so kudos to you guys going even further and keeping your sanity. We will have to try the bins idea, those would probably ride on the hotel luggage carts nicely as well.

CJArtguy said...

For the record, I DID read this post! But yes, I have a little catching up to do. Love you!

Christine Alcott said...

Dave, we have a few years on you! We have been parents 15 years (almost 16), and this was our first "easy" road trip. It WILL get easier as the kids get older.
As far as our sanity, I am not making any claims there . . .