When Joe told me he’d like to go from Miami to Lake Placid by car I did not jump up for joy. Then he added, we could go camping in North Carolina to break up the trip. I like road trips, and I have learned to embrace camping, but we were heading North because I was racing Ironman Lake Placid (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 run) on July 26. I wouldn’t call our road trip ideal. Driving for hours with two active boys two weeks before my race sounded like a nightmare.
However, the way I looked at it, my family put up with my training which at times kept me on my bike all day long. Also if I decided to race in Lake Placid, determining that would be our summer vacation, the least they could do is decide how to get there.
Deal. I was on board and made a commitment to not be a nervous wreck and ruin our vacations because of what I had to do for Ironman, or because I was afraid of bored children.
We left on July 8th and didn’t come back until August 3rd. We lease a minivan and figured out it was cheaper to pay for the extra mileage on that car instead of renting a new one just for the trip. We invited our friend Charly from Spain to come with us, squeezed everything into an over packed trunk, and headed North on our great American adventure.
Our stops for more than one night included: North Carolina, New Jersey, Vermont, and New York with a lot of excitement in between. We had “driving days” where we all knew we would be in the car for a while just to get from point A to point B. You need those to make it up and down the East Coast. We travelled a total of 4,861 miles. In the next few weeks will be a series of posts and tips on road tripping.
But let’s start on top five reasons why going on a road trip with your children is a good idea:
- Forced conversation: Especially on driving days, there comes a time when everyone is just a little bored of watching a movie, listening to music, or (gasp) playing on an electronic device. What is left to do? Talk. My boys are young (ages eight and nine) but we spoke a lot, many times about nothing. At no point did a profound conversation occur where I learned a truth about my child I didn’t know before. We spoke a lot about gas, farts, and other bodily functions, there was laughter and an endless supply of inside family jokes. I know that’s important too.
- Live learning: Not everything we talked about was about smells emanating from small bodies. We were driving South to North during an important time in our country’s history. We happened to be passing through South Carolina the day their Senate voted to take down the Confederate flag from the State Senate grounds. Since we were near by, we stopped in Columbia to see the flag, the reporters, the protestors from each side. We explained to Charly what was going on and the experience launched us into a study of the Civil War. Joe downloaded an ITunes U course from Yale, and when the boys were watching movies, we listened to a series of fascinating lectures. Armed with some basic knowledge, we were able to talk to the boys about the war, slavery, states rights, flags and battlefields as we travelled around the South.
- No time like the present: We weren’t in a rush, so if someone had to use the restroom we stopped, if we wanted to spend an extra day somewhere we could, if we thought we could push a little further on a day we did. It was nice not to have to deal with airports, planes, and timelines. We woke up whenever our bodies felt it was time, and went to bed the same way. Day after day of this letting go led us to a general atmosphere of going with the flow and enjoying the moment, wherever it took us. We had time.
- Adventure seeks you: There were only two dates we had to keep as we had lodging reservations, but otherwise the free wheeling gave way to some adventures. One night we could not find a place to stay in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The towns were few and far between and when we finally found a Motel it looked like the one Psycho was filmed at yet there was nothing else to do but sleep with one eye open. Not really, the place was fine, but we sure built up the story for the kids. The next morning, there was no place to eat at this town, so we went to one nearby and discovered the fabulous town of Spruce Pine. Definitely a place I could spend some time in. Who knew?
- Detours welcomed: As we drove somewhere, if we saw something that looked interesting we detoured. On the way up to New Jersey we drove through Pennsylvania and saw signs for Gettysburg. Since we had been on the Civil War theme we decided we would take an extra day and go a little out of our way to check out the battlefield. It was a fantastic experience where we physically saw what we had heard about on the Yale course.
- Back to basics: We did not have unlimited space, nor did we want to pack and unpack the car every night we slept at a different place. Therefore, a lot of planning was put into what went into a suitcase. We each got one and if stopping at a hotel, that was the only thing that came out. We learned to live simply. Instead of being annoyed of living out of a suitcase, I loved it. It made life simple.
So if for a weekend or a season, don’t be afraid to hit the road just because you think your kids might get bored in the car. They might, but that may turn out to be the best reason to do it at all!