Aaaahhh, the family road trip. There really is nothing quite like it, is there? There is just something so magical about stuffing your entire family into a small space with 80% of your belongings and enough food for an army for several hours on end. Wait. Did I say magical? I think what I meant was completely insane.
We are lucky enough to do this family drive across the country several times a year. When I married Bowser, he insisted we move to his home town. Which just happens to be about 800 miles from my hometown. The compromise? We have to make the trek a few times a year to see my family. No biggie before we had kids. Now, I think he may regret the decision. You see, my family lives in a beautiful, lush, green part of the country and we live in a lovely mountainous part of the country. In between, however, is the MOST BORING part of the country. Which makes for a long drive. Especially with 3 young goombas. Even in a mini-van loaded with treats and portable dvd players.
Here is how it usually goes down...
We like to start at 3 a.m. I know that sounds crazy, but after years of doing this, we have discovered that this really works the best. It takes about 12 hours of actual driving time. Each child has added about an hour of stopping time. So, it takes us around 14-15 hours to get there. If we leave later in the morning, we don't get there til late at night, which means wired kids that have dozed in the car all day. Not good. So, we leave early, get there at a normal time and everyone goes to bed at their regular hour. And now that I have used up an entire paragraph on why we leave early, let's move on.
We leave at 3 a.m. The van is packed the night before. Bowser and I wake up, get ready, put the last of the stuff in the van and then get the kids up. The plan is always to wake them just enough to go to the potty/change diapers and put them in the car, but usually they are so excited that they pop their little eyes open and are wide awake. We load up, get snuggled into our seats with our loveys and blankies and hit the open road.
About 30 seconds into the drive, I realize I forgot something. We turn around, I run in the house to grab what I need and we are on the road again. I put some soft music on the iPod to lull the kiddos back to sleep. Yeah right. Before we reach the highway, Mario says, "So, how long is this trip going to be?" We tell him 15 hours. "So, we will be there before the sun comes up?" Ummmm....No. Longer than that. Much longer. Then Luigi yells, "I want Booful!" This is his favorite song ("Your Beautiful" by James Blunt) and I have listened to it about 3 trillion times. So, I lie and say that I don't have it on the iPod. First tantrum of the day ensues. Around this time, Peach throws her bottle at the back of Bowser's seat and then screams because she doesn't have her bottle. I climb in the back of the van the first of about 10,000 times for the day. We are not even on the highway at this point. Finally, after about an hour and a half, everyone starts to doze off, including me.
Fast forward about 2 hours. I start to wake up when Bowser starts throwing sunflower seeds at me. I can't understand why, but he seems to be a little ticked off that I just fell asleep for 2 hours while he was driving. The goombas sense that I have awakened and immediately begin to demand things. "I'm hungry!" "I want a dvd!" "Milk, milk, milk!" "Donuts? Where donuts, Mommy?" "I dropped my Blankie." "He's touching me!" "Waaaaaaaaahhh!!!" I don't know why I even bother to sit in the front seat with Bowser. I am about to spend the entire day climbing back and forth over the seats in the van.
People tell me we should play games to keep the time going fast. The problem is, all of those games you play in the car, like "I spy," or the "Alphabet game" don't work. Because there is nothing to look at in the middle of nowhere-flat-grassy-plains-mid-west!!! So, we resort to dvd's and listening to the iPod. And I climb over the front seat and pick up a blanket. Then over again to grab someone a juice box. Then again to pick up Luigi's toy that Mario threw to the back. And then once more to get the sunflower seeds for Bowser. The again because Peach lost her paci. Oh, and again because...well, I'm sure you get the point I am trying to make here. Finally the kids settle in with their movies and things calm down for a bit.
When we stop for gas, food and potty breaks, we try to find kid friendly places where they can run around and stretch their little legs. This is not easy on this particular stretch of road. We are lucky if we can find a restroom without poop smeared in the walls and one of the toilets overflowing. Finding one with a changing table is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. Nearly impossible. We usually end up changing Peach's and Luigi's diapers in the van. Then I take Mario into the restroom with me where I scream in a strangled, high-pitched voice to "please for the love of all things holy, do NOT touch anything!" Then I douse them all in a gallon of Purell.
We play some stretching games, run a couple of relays, and pile back into the car. This part requires serious gymnastics and contorting of the bodies to climb through the massive explosion of mess in the van. Then it is back on the road and another round of climbing over seats, arguing over dvd's, throwing cookies and goldfish and Bowser ignoring it all in his happy little driver's seat.
Finally, after 14 1/2 long hours we arrive. Woo hoo! We all jump out of the car as fast as we can, and leave the doors and windows open. This step is essential. When you cram 5 bodies (2 that wear diapers) into a confined area for that long, you are going to have some serious smell issues coming from said space. Zaza and Papa smother everyone with kisses and the children run around like maniacs. Papa will thrust a glass of scotch into Bowser's hand and start in on some quantum physics thing like the "ham sandwich theory." (By the way, I just want to throw in the fact that my Dad is super smart. Probably one of the smartest men in the universe. Not kidding. He is like Stephen Hawking, only smarter. And, he totally didn't tell me to say that. I love you, Daddy!) Zaza says, "Sit down, rest for a bit," as though I haven't been sitting on my ass all day in a stinky, crumby, moving prison cell.
We always enjoy the next few days of eating too much, drinking too much and hanging out with Zaza and Papa. Then, before we know it, it is back in the van. We've usually had just enough time there for the van to air out a bit so that we don't choke on the noxious odor on our long drive home. And we do it all again heading the opposite way on the highway. For some reason, the drive home always seems to take longer. But, I won't get into that this time. I might still be recovering from our last trip. But, you know what? We are making some great family memories and I wouldn't trade it for the world. :)