Thankful Journal Entry of a Florida Evacuee

September 2017

Hurricane Watch and Warning

I’m a native Floridian. It’s never occurred to me to evacuate from Florida for a hurricane. Being a Palm Beach County resident for most of my life it seemed that any time we had storm heading our way, it would inevitably turn away from us just in time. A direct hit from a tropical monster was always someone else’s problem. That was until early last week when Hurricane Irma became a category 5 at 185 mph out in the Atlantic Ocean southeast of us.

Suddenly it seems that living with 90-year-old grandparents and having three children under the age of 10 can change one’s perspective when it comes to the idea of evacuating due to a dangerous storm heading in your direction. From early last week my head began to buzz with the possibilities of major structural damage to an unknown amount of time spent in the sub-tropical heat and humidity without electricity—south Florida is uninhabitable in the summer months without air-conditioning in most homes today. That coupled with the mass hysteria that ensued locally with water and gasoline shortages helped me make a joint decision with my husband to leave Florida destined for the Chattanooga area of Tennessee.

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Pack? Bags Thrown Together

 The full moon had just come into view on Wednesday, September 6th and most of the gas stations along our major road had bags on the nozzles or a limitation on how many gallons you could pump. I went out to Costco to gather some more water for family and realized as I was driving around that my heart was not into “hunkering down” for the storm.

Our weather had been stifling on a daily basis and the idea of going without electricity for even only a couple of days was not appealing. Hurricane Matthew just over a year ago had skirted our area and yet I can still remember the way the older windows shook in the house.

I called my husband and asked him to pack a bag for our three children and myself. Funny enough, important papers were an afterthought as I had them in a small fireproof safe. What became paramount was getting out of the area as soon as possible. Upon returning home that evening I threw together a toiletries bag and a box full of school books and my address book.

My only regret is I wish I had left immediately as I had made the choice to do so that very evening.

Longest Peninsula Drive EVER

 My recollection is obviously a repeat of the countless media reports during late last week. As I heard and later read, ours was a Florida evacuation to go down in the record books for the largest amount of people leaving the state because of Hurricane Irma’s determined approach.

After reaching Orlando in 6 hours (normally a trip that took just under 2 hours from my area) I knew that we were in for a horrendous time to get out of the state. I glanced at my phone for a moment to see a friend texting me that we were welcome to evacuate at her sister’s house in Brooksville, Florida “if the drive gets to be too much”. Understatement, “too much”. Still, thanks to #Florida Governor Rick Scott for waiving Florida Turnpike fees and #Florida Highway Patrol for helping us along the way.

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Emotions? Tons of them. Most of Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms reverberated with similar thought streams. Some were paralyzed to leave, others grabbed flights out ASAP, still others like myself risked being stranded on the roads rather than wait in the forecasted path of a storm—Floridians and adopted Floridians alike had the same fears and were all reacting in our respective ways. Family and friends we may have not heard from in years were reaching out to ask what our plan of action was. Pretend Hurricane Irma is not happening? American or European model? Which doomsday track was worse for our area? In the end, the storm’s sheer physical size demanded our attention.

The scene along the Florida turnpike was surreal at times. Folks randomly pulled off the side of the highway to relieve themselves or their pets. Some people camped out in the back of their vehicle with their cigarettes after a particularly bad congestion area. I saw vans loaded with gas cans on top. We saw lines for a couple of miles leading up to rest areas. My eyes burned with tears as I looked at the forests we passed by, imagining downed trees or worse, flattened areas should the hurricane hit at a full category 5 strength. Sometimes the slower we went on the highway, the more restless I was to get out of the state.

The children and I had left home around 7am and it was now just after 7pm and I realized that a diet of pretzels and applesauce was not going to end well so I better just stop at Lake City, Florida as much as I wanted to exit Florida first. At the very least I was now north of my Alma Mater’s town of Gainesville.

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#Chick-fil-A, Lake City, Florida

 As I pulled off of Interstate 75, probably going faster in the exit ramp than I had for the past 90 minutes in our 25+ mph crawl, I noticed Chick-fil-A on the right hand side of the road. It was slammed.

Somehow, there was an open parking spot right in front of the entrance that was NOT reserved for the handicapped. As any anxious parent traveling alone knows, this was a golden moment not to be taken for granted.

As I unloaded the kids, my two oldest went in together immediately to go to the bathroom. It suddenly occurred to me what rock stars these sons had been to not have asked to use the restroom until literally the last hour of our 12-hour trip thus far. My youngest had a diaper to assist but this would create a rash of a problem for the next couple of days—literally.

The scene inside of the Chick-fil-A was hectic at best and claustrophobic at worst. Yet I was pleasantly struck with one consistent characteristic of this particular restaurant with its iconic red emblem and fried chicken aroma. Their staff was incredibly attentive, concise and a few were moving quickly in and out of the dining area serving its customers food/drinks and attending to any requests.

My body was stiff and still shaking from the drive. Hunger was an after-effect that was swiftly depleting my body and fueling a very painful migraine. The Chick-fil-A staff here in Lake City impressed me so much in that moment of recognition that I had to call one of the young ladies by her nametag and asked to give her a hug to thank her for taking care of all of us.

I met other parents near the play area who like me let our kids in there and didn’t care that they were moving about like pinballs in all sorts of directions—we all had similar stories of leaving Florida to get out of the way of a possibility that was not worth us staying for to see its conclusion. For us that had the means to leave we knew it was a blessing to do so and our prayers were with others who were staying either by choice or by inability.

Thank you #Chick-fil-A in Lake City, Florida. You made our evacuation easier with your kindness and sustaining food!

#Go Fish Education Center, Perry, Georgia

 My stopover late Thursday night/early Friday morning was Warner Robbins, Georgia. As I cruised into town after a 30mph stint on the interstate, I made the choice that I would drive by night the next leg up to Chattanooga-Signal Mountain, Tennessee where my final destination awaited. I fueled up before I stopped at our family friend’s home and shivered in the 30-degree drop along with several other Floridians who like me were at the very least relieved to be finally north of the border.

Friday, September 8th. I was so grateful for the way the children had traveled the day before that it was important to me to take them out for a treat and to help tire them to sleep well during my night drive. Go Fish Education Center had been a memorable hit a couple years ago so we decided to try it out again.

Upon entering the parking lot at Go Fish I ran into a family from Tampa who was also evacuating and was taking a break from the highway. They reported that the place was fun for their three kids; we swapped stories and wished each other well on our respective evacuation routes.

Once we got inside to the reception area the lady at the desk asked if we were evacuees and once we confirmed were told that the entry fee was waived. I was at a loss for words but most grateful. We spent the next couple of hours meeting other small families traveling with young children and had fun catching fish both virtual and real outside in their catch and release pond.

While there we also got to witness the staff at Go Fish rehearsing a practice electricity loss in preparation for the possible effects from Hurricane Irma. A sobering reminder of one of the many reasons most of us present were leaving our homes in Florida.

#Go Fish Education Center in Perry, Georgia, thanks for helping so many of us Florida parents and guardians of children take a break from a tiresome evacuation by road. Your gracious act of waiving the entry fee meant so much to us.

Run for the Hills, Run for the Mountains

 It was about 2am Saturday, September 9th when I left Atlanta area proper, I had already been on the road for a couple hours averaging 20-40 mph and was so happy to be hitting 65-70 mph now nonstop. Very thankful to #GDOT for waiving the fees to the PeachPass express lanes so that Floridians could get through the area quicker.

I felt my Ford Expedition’s engine rev as I began to climb what seemed to be small hills and now were turning into small mountains. As I entered the Chattanooga area, my heart finally relaxed knowing that I was close to my goal of reaching family on Signal Mountain safely. It was just after 4 am as I drove up the mountain itself, parked our vehicle and took my sleeping children into a cozy and welcoming home. The evacuated grandparents were also securely asleep in the same house. I laid down to rest and felt that we were safely “home” again.

*It goes without saying how grateful I am to our family who sheltered us and others during this storm.

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#Creative Discovery Museum, Chattanooga, Tennessee

After a couple of days recuperating from the drive and enjoying some beautiful mountain trails, I ventured down with a good friend and her son with my children to Chattanooga. The Creative Discovery Museum has always been a hit with my children in past trips and since the rain was moving from the effects of Hurricane Irma, we figured this was a great way to spend the day.

Of course everyone in the area had a similar idea as we walked into a bustling museum full of adults gathered in groups along walls and benches while children of all ages darted in and out of the various areas. To describe the interior experience as a “swarm” would be too gentle of a word.

However, the tone was immediately set when we approached the registration desk and we were asked if we were evacuating from Hurricane Irma. After confirming this the lady checking us in let us know they were giving all evacuees a 50% off the admission rate for the day. As a mother of three children, any and every discount helps–including during a stressful, unplanned and unbudgeted trip!

Thank you #Creative Discovery Museum of Chattanooga, Tennessee for not only welcoming an enormous amount of people on a rainy Monday but also giving all Hurricane Irma evacuees a discount to give our children an educational and interactive experience after exhausting travel.

#Tennessee Aquarium One Broad Street

It’s been nearly a week since I evacuated with my children and slowly evacuees were starting to leave the area, including our fellow houseguests. Social media and texts were flooding in telling me about how difficult the roads were, gas shortages and overall troubles getting back into much of south Florida.

I decided that it was time to take a field trip for a day again and made the Tennessee Aquarium our destination—it’s iconic geometrical shape can easily be seen by the highway. Although we were tired from the trip, the kids were happy to take advantage of the open spaces and long ramps to take in some beautiful sights of salt and fresh water wildlife contained and in some cases protected within their walls.

Upon registering I was asked if we were in from Hurricane Irma. Again I confirmed this and was told discreetly that they were offering us all a 50% discount. They didn’t want it widely advertised but I must apologize for going ahead and sharing that they did this for us and other families that day. Once again, I cannot stress enough how appreciative we are for such kindnesses especially when on the road with children and during inclement weather conditions. Floridians are NOT used to 50 degree and rainy weather in early September, period.

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#Tennessee Aquarium Chattanooga, thanks for your hospitality, a taste of home in some of your exhibits and overall a fun experience and escape along with some extra cash so we could get some treats in your gift shop!

Epilogue: Power and Gas Dependents Are We?

 As I gather our belongings and prepare for the journey back to Florida, I’ve been reflecting on how dependent we all are on electricity and commodities such as gasoline fuel for our vehicles.

Although we joke that people apparently get really thirsty before a hurricane’s approach and start depleting local stores of water bottles, it is a true concern to lose electric power, cable, internet and phone services. That rectangular disk in your hand that you may be reading my writing with is something that you don’t like to lose use of in the end. Many would rather go without air conditioning than lose usage of their smart phones.

I will admit that this evacuation trip was a pleasant surprise in the amount of personal attention by people that renders any smartphone app irrelevant. It turns out we haven’t evolved to a place where human interaction is meaningless even if we seem to be impersonal at times with these devices constantly in our hands.

This experience for millions of Floridians may have reminded us that more than any federal funding or even a Red Cross campaign—it is the person-to-person relations that have helped us prepare and now recover in the wake of a natural disaster together.

Thank you all who have helped victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma this year. We pray and hope to be spared any other storms in this 2017 season.

RVSB+

 

 

 

 

The New Extreme Sport and Other MMBs

THE BIG THREE: 3 Mom Media Bites (MMBs)

As the mother now of two sons, both now 3 years old and 3 months respectively, I have been navigating this new season as a Northern Atlantic fisherman’s boat tries to keep from top-sizing in hurricane strength swells. The writer in me has been posting “tweets” of countless questioning thoughts and resulting conclusions to my mind’s running page but never on paper, or as in the case of this post, in digital form. So in my humble attempt to disperse some of this philosophical and reflective backup, here are a few of my latest ramblings for your entertainment or information:

Road-Tripping with Tots: The New Extreme Sport

About a month ago, I embarked on a road trip with my sons that included stops in three different states. The goal was to make it to a very important event for one in my closest circle and it became an opportunity to visit other friends and family along the way as well. I did consider the plan ahead of time and certainly realized there were many calculations to be made in order for this trip solo with the boys to be successful. An energetic toddler and an unpredictable newborn were quite the duo to consider, mapping the actual driving route was the easiest consideration. In retrospect, I was best able to explain the trip as an “extreme sport”. I had to make clear plans like what time of day to depart, how to ensure that total driving time each day wasn’t more than 4-5 hours and coupling nursing stops with bathroom breaks, et cetera. At the same time I had to continually accept the fact that I needed to allow for unexpected delays, stops (especially with a nursing infant) and changes in plans of activities or driving. For instance, there was about a 2 hour stretch in the middle of nowhere-Georgia land that I just had to keep my cool with a few factors pulling at me including the fact that I missed a turn and was on a country road where there farms and churches but no gas stations. It ended up being a 10 day trip that went relatively smoothly and I was exhausted upon arrival home but felt that my relationship with the boys had actually hit some great milestones.

Weiner-gate and Foley Redux

In recent weeks the cable news and print media has had the gift of a story that keeps giving in the reporting of soon-to-be-resigned U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner’s revealing photos being “tweeted” via Twitter to women other than his wife. Last week I was able to watch some of the coverage and came to the Fox News channel that had Mark Foley in an interview with Sean Hannity. I hadn’t seen my ex-boss on national television in an interview since his political fall from grace in the fall of 2006 and it was a little jarring to my system. Couldn’t believe the sheer irony of it all—here was my ex-boss who had his Congressional career crumpled by his misuse of time as a Florida representative with the AOL instant messenger service and here now is Congressman Anthony Weiner “tweeting” photos of himself actually IN his Congressional office to his countless lady friends while married to a high profile government aid. Sadly, many of us are still surprised that history evidently teaches us nothing as in the case of Mr. Weiner. I thought that what Foley was punished for was seared in the minds of active politicians; a stern warning to stay off of the digital highway whether by personal computer, laptop, cell phone, Ipad or whatever is next when it comes to the personal indiscretions. It seems that the more we advance in this information age, the more impulsive our actions become that truly blurs our decision-making. In the case of these two gentleman and countless others, we’ve forgotten that privacy is not insured when communicating through cyber/digital hardware—we ought to assume that everything could at any time be posted on the screens in Times Square in New York City.

The Beach: Still the Best Village to Raise Children

Living in South Florida affords me the luxury of going to the beach often and I never take it for granted after residing in other states for several years. What I love about the salty air and sticky sand is that there is a general lack of other stimuli. Most people who routinely go to the beach are there to enjoy the raw nature of two major elements of our planet coming together: land and sea. It is also the thrill of that ebbing dance that draws me to bring my children there a few times a week. I hope to teach them about their environment while also giving them the freedom to run, dance, shout and becoming caked with sand and salt ruthlessly. Running into other parents and their children has also been refreshing and disappointing at times but I’m grateful for the experiences regardless. My children have the opportunity to interact with others, they learn to share and when to walk away. The parents get to small talk and swap ideas on raising children without any commitment to follow-up. I have also met some of my current friends at the shoreline (both Pacific and Atlantic) and strengthened existing friendships there that help enrich my life and thereby my children’s lives.

R.V.S.B.

Bilingual Education: A Two-Way Street of Learning

When people ask me what language I learned first as a child, I find that question difficult to answer one way or another.  The fact is both my parents had recently left Europe when I was born a mere few weeks later in the United States.  I assume that I heard them speak both languages (Greek and English) and just used English more during my scholastic years.  It actually wasn’t until my early twenties that I had a renewed interest in speaking more Greek among my peers when I joined young adult groups through the Greek Orthodox church.  I was thankful that my mother had instilled a basic vocabulary in me so that I could build on it.

After I found out I was pregnant with my son back in 2007, I knew immediately that I wanted to speak to him in Greek.  When folks would ask me if I would I answered them affirmatively.  Then I realized that I did know a little bit of French from my school years and would also like to share that language with him while also learning more myself.

The first year of my son’s life I found it quite easy to settle into speaking Greek to him when home alone with him.  Usually my words were simple and sentences short, I figured this would be easier than I thought. How silly right?

Now as my son has barreled past his 2-year-old birthday, I have begun to realize my limitations.  Reading his English books have become a little more complicated in Greek, explaining things around us like a mini-lecture series for toddlers has also become dicey in Greek.  In fact, I’ve been humbled by the fact that my vocabulary is limited in Greek and now I need to learn more.  So together I’ve sat with my son through Greek video or computer programs.  My mother-in-love sent us the Rosetta Stone for Greek.

As my son T.A. spouts out words in both English and Greek everyday, my husband and I find ourselves going to “school” at night with our educational assistance.  It turns out that teaching your child another language benefits yourself as well.

I still share some French with my son and am blessed by the fact that there are loved ones in his life that also know French like his great Aunt and music teacher.  I have asked these ladies to let loose in French to him, I suspect it’s also been great practice for them.

Then there is the peer exposure.  My son and I have started a friendship this summer with another mother and son–the mother is from Slovakia.  She and I continue to chat in English while we also speak our Greek and Slovakian to our sons together.  We have noticed how the boys have swapped some words with each other and use them in their limited toddler conversations.  “Kok” means kick in Slovakian and my son says it repeatedly now when we go swimming in the pool and ocean.  I get a kick out of the fact that my son is speaking even one or two words of Slovakian without me even trying to teach him.

If you haven’t begun another language for your child or children, it’s never too late.  What’s better is if you participate in their learning process, even if you have a foreknowledge of the language.  I believe there are only benefits to knowing another language or two or three, et cetera. 

Many in the U.S. will pick Spanish as a second language to teach their children, that’s not a bad thing but it’s also not the only language you need to consider.  Try to pick something you and your partner in parenting will both be enthusiastic about so that the child(ren) will sense that this is something worthy to know and speak.

There is so much I can say on this subject but I just wanted to get the message out that teaching your kids more than just English is really a great idea and promotes extra-curricular education for both you and your child.  We have so many resources at hand now, like children videos, computer software and even classes for little ones pre-kindergarten.  If you have older kids, pick a country/region you would really like to vacation to one day as a family and make it a goal to learn that language on a conversational level.  Bilingual education is most effective when it becomes an activity involving the entire family, not just sending the kids to a language class in school.

RVSB

ROAD TRIP: A mini-guide for road travel with little ones

I’ve been absent from writing on my humble website as my son T.A. have been away for 10+ days on a road trip originating from West Palm Beach, Florida through Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky and then back again. 

We were able to stay and visit with various friends and family as we traveled and we also treated ourselves to one night at the Gaylord’s Opryland Resort where we explored their multi-faceted atrium complete with a little riverboat ride

In an effort to share what pros and cons I’ve encountered in road-tripping with my son since he was 5 weeks old-I’ve compiled a fun breakdown of the word ROAD TRIP in sharing some tips:

Relax, Overnight Bag, AAA, Diapers and Toiletries, Technology, Reveal New Toys/Remind Old Toys, Inquire with Locals, Point Out to Yourself and Your Crew

RELAX

Relaxing may seem pretty impossible when embarking on a road trip with one or more children.  However, I have found that it’s helpful to focus on enjoying the actual journey and new experiences together and try to avoid obsessing over details like how well or not well your kids are eating during the trip.  Early on in our journey I immediately noticed that my son was snacking much more and eating less at sit-down meals.  He sometimes avoided the food served to him entirely, thankfully I pulled myself from the ledge as the days wore on and found it liberating to let him splurge on things I otherwise wouldn’t allow back at home.  When he was cranky and tired, I would try to just listen to my music and look around at the sights while driving. 

There was one instance where we were sitting at a T.G.I.Fridays in Chattanooga and T.A. had a level 4 meltdown after the meal was served.  It was at that point I calmly picked him out of the high chair, kissed him and then put him in his jogger stroller, reclined the seat, pulled down the sun shade, made sure he was secure, had a blanket draped and told him he needed to take a nap.  While he railed in the stroller I then summoned the waitress and ordered a Coors Light and proceeded relax accordingly as within a few minutes my son gave in to his over-stimulated exhaustion and I enjoyed my beer followed by coffee and an ice cream brownie drizzled with Bailey’s Irish Cream (no worries, we were walking around downtown for hours following that lunch).

OVERNIGHT BAG

This may seem elementary to most of you but for some reason I hadn’t quite gotten the hang of how to pack clothes and such for road trips even though I’ve done a few already with my son during his young lifetime- his first interstate road trip in the car being at five weeks old!  I often have found myself resembling some Biblical era nomad with tons of little bags and things.

So I finally figured out prior to leaving this time that I could pack a big suitcase for both of our clothes and have it act as a traveling dresser while I had a medium-sized duffle bag be our overnight bag that I packed prior to every stay at someone’s home or a hotel.  I found this to be liberating and much lighter for our helpful family and friends who were always asking to take our things to the designated room they had for us when we arrived.

AAA

That’s right, I’m plugging for AAA, the auto club of America, you can find them easily at http://www.aaa.com . If you are only an occasionally road tripping sort, then this is probably not a membership you necessarily need, although their roadside assistance benefits are worthy of consideration. 

I love AAA for the continuously updated travel software programs available to members such as myself.  Their TripTiks, for example, is very detailed and accurate in its directions and mini-maps, I prefer it over Mapquest or Google maps any day.  I also appreciate AAA’s tour books for all the different states that give you great travel info such as where are the best hotels to consider, what the main attractions in the different cities and towns are.  Those books also give you information in detail about the name and numbers of exits on the interstates in conjunction with various sites and attractions.  Between what signs I saw along my road travels and what information I had in my AAA tour books and maps, I always felt pretty well educated and prepared as I drove my son and myself through four different states.

DIAPERS AND TOILETRIES

Diapers are an obvious mention for those whose little ones aren’t potty-trained yet.  However, the toiletries portion also refers to the parent not just the child/children’s needs on the trip.  

Before I left town I visited some of my favorite places like L’Occitane and Aveda to pick up a couple of travel-size toiletry treats that made me feel taken care of as we traveled.  Things like a little bottle of sweet smelling hair spray and a Bergamot tea lotion mist from L’Occitane that was neatly packed in my oversized make-up tote that contained my staples like mouthwash, toothbrush, eye cream and lotions.  Having a small-scale but well stocked toiletry pantry in my overnight bag made the beginning and ending of my busy traveling days have a pleasant and energizing routine. 

For my son I had a small blue plastic container filled with one of his favorite bath toys, a small travel container of his bubble bath from home (we love Burt’s Bees!), his little toothbrush and toothpaste and his night lotion and butt crème.   This provided him with a familiar bin of his own that we opened together every morning and evening for his respective pampering needs that helped his days have a proper start and closure.

TECHNOLOGY

This is a fairly recent development as families driving through our nation as a mode of travel in the 1940s and 1950s would just stare in astonishment at the options we parents now have available to us and on average our American families containing less children than they had in those decades.

My friends and colleagues who know me well understand that I have an overall avoidance issue with most forms of technology.  For example, if I hadn’t married my husband I may still have lived without a computer in my personal home space.  Of course, I use them especially now as a mode of writing and communicating, but I still try to spend less than 5 hours a week on it as I used to have to spend WAY too much time on a computer when I was working in the government and corporate worlds.

However, I do admit that I carried a separate bag on this road trip of two particular items: a mini-DVD player and my iPod player with nano iPod.  The DVD player was NOT used in the car; I have a personal philosophy on playing movies in travel.  I feel they are okay for long airplane rides where one is restricted especially with small lap children.  But I believe that part of doing a road trip is to see the sights around you and usually you have the time to play with and stop whenever needed for extra distractions.  Plus, my toddler son has a short attention span so I was much happier to use the DVD player in our room when we would settle in for the evening so I could wash my face, re-pack or just generally take a break from his need for attention-why waste that in the car?

The iPod player was used only for the evenings when my son was washed and dressed in his pajamas and it was time to go to bed.  I always pressed play on my “lullaby” playlist that helped calm both of us down as he wound down for a restful sleep after some busy days during our road travel.

Then there are the additional understood staples such as your cell phone and digital camera.  It’s a good idea to keep your chargers with you at all times during road travel and make a habit of recharging them at night and then throwing the chargers back into your overnight bag each morning so as not to lose them.  I will admit that on this trip I lacked a car charger—those who really know me well will recall my cell phone explosion in the 2004 car trip with my husband from DC to FL that gave us both 2nd degree burns, let’s just say I’m a little paranoid about those unstable lithium batteries in the car charging.

REVEAL NEW TOYS – REMIND OLD TOYS

This is a two-part approach that seems opposite in nature but its intentions are the same: the goal is to help your little road warrior(s) travel as comfortable as possible in the vehicle as well as in the places you lay your head each evening.

One of my good friends L.H. had given me the advice last year for traveling for a 6+ airplane flight that it is good to break up the trip with revealing new toys/books to my son.  It worked well and I have stuck to the habit ever since.  This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune or buy elaborate toys, it can be simple stuff really and just ask me if you need ideas.  As I planned this past road trip, I looked at when my longest drive segments were and planned accordingly with stocking a few new things in the back of the car hidden.  Also, for the older children, there is always the ‘souvenir’ option as you travel through attractions or various places.  Thankfully, lots of Wal-marts along most of our interstates these days!

Old things are also good to travel with: their favorite toy or nighttime reading, the security blanket or stuffed animal.  These familiar things help your child(ren) feel some security as they travel the unknown with you.  Remember that you’re not the only one enduring stressful emotions on the road trip, they go through their own versions and it’s good when they have their own fall-back items and habits to help ground and re-center themselves.

For example, when staying at folks’ homes, T.A. enjoyed being in the kitchen with the adults as they or I would prepare meals.  I had a canvas tote bag with his fond pot and lid with a small bin of plastic fruits and vegetables that he likes to play with at home when I’m cooking food.  So I would bring that in whenever he started asking to participate.  We still ate out as well but this was nice for when we were hanging out with our hosts while food preparation was in full swing.

INQUIRE WITH LOCALS

Although we have AAA, you may have Apps on your iPhone and our laptops with wireless internet capabilities, my personal experience is that I found the best eateries, major attractions, parks and stores with the help of a local resident’s counsel.

For instance, Chattanooga’s Sticky Fingers is a great place for ribs and smoked wings, I’m so glad that locals verified that choice and I highly recommend it if you’re ever passing through there. 

Also, there was one day about a week into the trip that I wanted to make a comfort meal for T.A. at my family’s house in Tennessee but I didn’t know where I could find my specialty ingredients.  While at a children’s discovery museum I approached a couple of mom’s and asked and they told me about a great fresh and organic market not far from there and it was the best! 

Technology and such is great, but nothing beats asking someone who knows where’s the best this-or-that and I’m glad I did in almost every state I hit.

POINT OUT TO YOURSELF AND YOUR CREW

This last one is a little silly but I found it to be truly effective for my little crew of my son and me during this particular road trip.  Sure, he’s young and perhaps this little trick will fade in its attractiveness or maybe we’ll just progress and evolve into more detailed absorption of what scenery we encounter.

Whenever we saw cow pastures, I pointed them out to my son and talked about them. He would usually respond with the sounds of the cows and his recent adaptation of “Whoa Bull!”  If I saw construction vehicles, trucks or boats (all of which he LOVES right now), I would also point those out and we would go back and forth about them in adult vs. toddler language exchange.  You get the picture?  What surprised me about this constant observation activity was that it helped my driving go quickly and I found myself being intellectually stimulated even though I was making simple statements to my son, I was expanding in my thoughts on whatever the subject was and therefore more thoroughly enjoying my travel with him.

ROAD TRIP

I had a good time with my little road warrior and actually look forward to more trips in the future.  We’ll still use air travel from time to time, but the benefits of road trips outweigh those of airplane usage to me since it allowed me to visit with friends and family in greater quantity than I’d be able to do if I had to pay for all the air, car rental and hotel stays required in that mode of air transport.

If you have a road trip in your near future with your family, I wish you safe travels and most of all hope that you have fun new memories etched in all your hearts.

RVSB

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"