It had been decided quite some time ago that we were going to make some holiday changes this year. We were certain that we wanted to do something new for Christmas and try to start a new tradition that had more meaning to our family. It was not long after we had come to that conclusion that we were invited out to CA to visit family for the holidays. Not certain that this would be a new tradition of sorts, but very certain that this would be the break we needed to create a future of new traditions for our family. We were eager to visit family out in CA as well as they have moved out there some time ago and we had not yet been out to visit and see their new lives out there. So the plan to travel started to unfold and we were eager to embark on a full-blown road trip from Chicago to L.A. for 2 weeks over the holidays.
As time neared, however, SBJ was getting wishy-washy signs from his employer that he’d not be allowed to take his vacation time at this point. We were thinking that he’d at least get half of this time off and fly back before us, however even that seemed to not be materializing. He was being told that his company had a retail black-out for all employees, and that meant he was not able to take any vacation time between xmas and new years. We were all super-duper bummed, and plotting our trip there was just not feasible at another time due to my work vacation as well. Likewise, we already had another trip planned back to Kalahari in January that we really wanted to keep intact, and that would mean him not going to CA with us.
Time was nearing for our departure and I had full intention of doing this adventure with the kids alone. It was incredibly hard to leave town without a pile of guilt and doubt mounted on top of me. People from every direction throwing comments out that hit to my core and shook my nerves and gumption. And leaving SBJ here to work while we ventured through the country was a little hard to digest as well. But SBJ granted full consent. He was really eager for the kids to experience this trip and realized how devastated they would be if we did not actually go after all of the mounting excitement. My only concern was that we didn’t make it…. OR make it but wear out our welcome before our time was up there ; ) Either way, none of those was reasons not go in my book. If we did not make it, so what!? And if we wore out our welcome, we could always go home! So… it was decided, we were to hit the road for this grand adventure.
As luck would have it, the day we are packing up to leave, just one hour before departure M falls from a jump off the bed and gets this big huge lump on her forehead. UGH! This reminds me instantly of last May when we were about to take off to OH for our waterpark retreat, and she knocked herself silly. (Read more about that one here.) I’m instantly in a panic b/c I’m reading more into it than necessary. “It’s a sign!” I freak myself out and try to remain calm as SBJ is applying ice to huge lump and I am packing up stuff and the car. I’m second guessing the whole time until a half hour later I see visible signs that the swelling is indeed going down quite nicely. I’m a little less freaked, but feel a bit foiled in my plan for her to sleep on the first leg of this trip! She’s already napped through the icing and ordeal and now worried that this could be a rocky start.
It’s 1:12p and we are all packed and ready to hit the road (on 12/22/2011). I can’t even believe that we are leaving on time (as planned) and that everyone is in great o’ spirits!
We had just had xmas with daddy the night before, so everyone had all their new gadgets and toys packed for the trip and eager for the adventure!
So off we head down LSD to 55 and of course….. 55 there is traffic. Ugh. I am just sitting there trying to make the best of it all because this really won’t be how the whole trip goes or we certainly won’t make it. Sure enough, the 55 traffic only lasts till about Midway or a bit beyond and then starts to lighten up and we are finally cruisin’ on our way! We pop in some music and the kids are eagerly plowing through all of the stuff they packed in their own bags. I’m pleading for them to take it easy as that stuff needs to be entertaining for at least the next 3 days : ) But it is what it is and we are having a great time thinking about the “what-to-comes” of our trip. The M-master falls asleep and I’m feeling even better. It’s about Cass Road on I-55 that we see this super tall/extended construction crane on the side of the road with a xmas tree well-lit atop the crane! It is a super cool site and it got me thinking that I need to document our cool findings and parts of our adventure to then blog about when we get home. So much of what you are about to experience in my entries is what I had jotted down in the quick seconds that flew by for me to then reminisce upon when we returned home.
We had gotten about 76 miles away from home when we saw this billion bird flight expose over a corn field. It quickly reminded me of this viral video that went around FB that had the same type of birds in flight set to music. It was a very fascinating yet eery sight and one I wish we had captured on some sort of film or photo, but we were just not quick enough. Iowa came up on us so quickly. It was about 4:30p or shortly before when we were crossing the Mississippi River and entering into Iowa. I remember the sensation that we were really doing fabulously and that there was hope after all : ) You see, I also did not know how traveling with a nursing toddler would be across country and so far it was going pretty darn well! I figured though, if day 1 went fabulously, I could be doomed on day 2. She could be sick of it by then and we’d all be done-for. It was about this time too that the sun was setting and I had this notion that each day we drove west we’d be chasing those sunsets over the horizon. I really came to love driving in the day and loved the sunsets, but dreaded the night driving.
Of course what is Iowa without the tractors? There was just 2 hours into Iowa a stack of tractors, each in consecutive sizes piled up like a xmas tree with lights all the way up. It was quite comical to me, yet super cool as they were quite strategically placed ‘just so’. And no matter how many times I did see the “Kum & Go” stations on our trip, I had to giggle. Yes, the immature side of my shines through on that one. But who in the world would have named this huge company the Kum & Go and spell it in just that way? I mean I get it…. creative…. ok. But the spelling, really? I mean…. really.
We did just so awesome that first night. We ate from the food we had, pit stop only once and that was pretty far into the ride. We ate from the yummy food I packed and hit the road again. We made it all the way to Kearney, NE that night and dropped at the Quality Inn. I was quite pleased with just how helpful this strip was as I landed first at a Holiday Inn that seemed super-duper expensive and she directed me to a more affordable option. I tell ya, that AAA card **finally** came in handy this year. I think the discounts I saved on hotels across the country, finally paid for that stinkin’ card : ) Fortunately…. I did not need it for more than the hotel discounts!! I was constantly riding the assurance that if anything would happen we’d have the “trusty” AAA to back us up. And we did not need those services this time around. Lucky for us, it’s midnight, my eyes are tired, and the kids ready for a bed, and we find a great price on the Quality Inn for the night.
It’s great to find these great/affordable places to stay with a pool because they can wear the kids out a wee-bit more. It’s nice that they get to exert their energy in the pool and then have less of the pent-up feelings in the car. The morning of the 23rd we run down to grab a bit of the complimentary breakfast and then head to the pool for a dip. The kids have a blast!!! And in enough time to enjoy a good hour or more and get us back to dress and check out. We hit the road about 11:15am that day and I tell ya, not 15 minutes into the drive M falls asleep for a good couple of hours! Man, this baby can travel WELL!!! She’s just awesome. Not even a half hour into our cruise we see this awesome helicopter (statue-type) perched at the side of the road and it’s about this time I realize just how nice it really is to drive in the daytime. I try to make mental note to always keep to the road during the daytime hours but realize this just might not happen the way I fully anticipate. NE seems to be notorious for its road kill. I chuckle to myself that each time I see one of those caution signs for deer or large buck crossings that I somehow think they are lined up at the sign to cross the road : ) As if they too can read and know that “at that sign” they should cross for us crazy drivers. But through the rest of NE I see lots of deer mangled at the side of the road and it’s quite obvious those signs need to be taken quite seriously.
It was just before noon on our second day when we realized that we had the powers of true time travel. We were just driving along and my cell phone registers to a new time zone. I shout out, “We just gained an hour!” There was lots of confusion about this topic and we talked about it a bit, and really came to the conclusion that the hour we just lived we got to do all over again! Now how cool is that?! How often can you just cross over a time zone and have a do-over?! Got me thinking about the people who lived right in this region and might inevitably cross this time zone on a daily basis for work, school or what-have-you. I mean how does one do that on a daily basis and still keep track of where and what they should be doing?! I found it hard on the kids traveling across each of the time zones and keeping up just in these 2 weeks, but to live in an area where you could potentially have that as a part of life would be another thing. This part of NE where the time did change still left the western part of NE to contend with. So this idea was very well possible for many in that area. For us it was a very cool thing to contemplate, for others it could be a whole other thing.
We had an awesome pit stop and lunch in Sterling, CO. There was snow the ground in this area and the kids got to snow ball fight and run around till sopping wet. They had a blast and burned off some energy. Had some more of our yummy packed food, and I’m feeling awfully proud that we have been eating so well and have yet to eat out or purchase food. And that everyone is in such great spirits and loving the journey.
Leaving Sterling we spot some of those meat farms that you would see if you watched the movie Food, Inc. Wow, what a sight that was. Still haunting me. It’s one thing to see movies of these things going on, but it’s another to see the cows packed into these meat markets. The odor that you smell even before coming to the farm is more than I can even describe. D even spotted one of those chicken farms as well. I think each of us were touched profoundly by the sight and smell that we experienced that day through NE and CO that day. Not something you anticipate while cruising along, yet there it was. It really hit us too when we spotted those free-range farms where the animals were so free and able to move about at their will, grazing on grasses and not being caged. Then to compare to what we witnessed was incredible really.
It’s shortly after these sightings that we start to see mountain ranges approaching in the distance. It’s so exciting to see mountains for the first time, and they are eager to experience them as well. We found a wonderful Santa’s Music station on the radio and jam to some classic xmas carols as we watch these mountains growing closer and closer to us. As we approach Denver, we see a street sign, “Dahlia Street!” How cool is that?! But then our doom…. elevation sickness hits…. and there I stop. Check out part 2 to come shortly : )