Our Great American Road Trip – Part 1

Well, we made it back from our trip all in one piece and we even still like each other. I know everyone’s dying to know how it went, just like watching a neighbor’s slideshow of her vacation. Here’s a recap of our journey.


By the Numbers:

Length of trip, in days:16

Distance of trip, in miles: 5,321

Number of states visited: 14

Nights spent in hotels: 2

Nights spent camping: 3

Nights spent crashing in homes of friends and family: 10

Number of host homes: 5

Number of detours for quick visits with friends: 4

Meals eaten in restaurants: 11

Meals cooked for us by friends: 16

Meals prepared and eaten in the car: 21

Visits to ice cream/gelato shops: 3

LDS Church history sites visited: 4

LDS Church history sites driven past: 3

American history sites visited: 2

American history sites ditched to hang out with cousins instead: 2

Cities named Rochester visited: 2

Percentage of photos ruined by boys making stupid faces: 97

Days my husband went without shaving: 15

Instances of car repair/maintenance issues: 1

Instances of car sickness: 1

Instances of potty accidents: 3

Number of teeth lost: 1

Number of birthdays celebrated: 1

Instances of poison ivy: 1

Number of mosquito bites: 27

Number of mosquito bites on the same boy who had poison ivy alone: 13

Number of deer on or near the road: 23

Number of deer in Ohio alone: 14

Number of highway patrol cars spotted: 21

Number of highway patrol cars spotted within a 90-minute period in Ohio alone: 11

Number of “World’s Largest” items seen: 4

Number of Frank Lloyd Wright Homes seen: 9

Number of children’s museums re-visited: 2

Number of hours oldest played Dungeons & Dragons with long-lost best friend: 7

Number of new best friends youngest made: 6

Number of instances of old friends not recognizing me: 6

Number of reunions, memories and hugs: HUNDREDS



What We Saw : We saw rolling hills, spacious skies, amber waves of grain, rocks and rills and a house in Missouri with a zebra and a camel in the front yard. We saw waterfalls and Fallingwater, the George Eastman House and the Corn Palace, Valley Forge and a DCI Drum Corps competition. We saw mountains shooting up above us and canyons dropping down below us. We saw the Missouri River, the Erie Canal and Lake Michigan. We pet cats and dogs and cows, we caught fireflies and toads, and we avoided raccoons and deer. We saw fireworks in Ohio on July 2, in Wisconsin on July 3 and skipped the fireworks in South Dakota on July 4.



What We Ate: We tried Colorado Mountain Pie pizzas in Colorado, Kansas City BBQ in Kansas City, Zweigle’s White Hots in Rochester, deep-fried Oreos at a carnival in Ohio, and in Philadelphia, obviously, we ate Shabu Shabu.


What We Endured: For the most part, our trip was disaster-free. It rained on days we were  driving but never on nights we slept in a tent. I did have to drive right over a large metal ladder on the freeway because there was nowhere I could swerve, but the car appeared to be unharmed. We had a few scary moments driving in pelting rain through standing water, but the only damage was to my husband’s nerves. Aside from the aforementioned potty issues, really the only other potential disaster happened when we stopped for ice cream to visit a friend in Oak Park, IL. My youngest said he felt sick to his stomach so we walked a few blocks down to a very posh neighborhood filled with Frank Lloyd Wright homes, including his own home and studio. At one point, our friend showed the rest of the family around the outside of the home while my six-year old laid down on the lawn out front, rolling around and moaning, “I shouldn’t have gotten two scoops!”

“I shouldn’t have gotten two scoops!”

Tips for a Successful Road Trip

Don’t Bother: First of all, the four hours I spent on Pinterest gathering ideas for games and filling binders with printables were a complete waste of time. Nobody was interested. The binders just got stepped on, no one in the back seat could hear the rest of us when we tried to play games, and I spent more time working on finding license plates from different states than any of my kids did. And those cute workbooks I got as prizes to keep boys busy? They’re nearly all empty. My youngest found a spring in a parking lot and played with that for hours, but didn’t use any of the activity books. One website I found recommended bringing a cookie sheet for kids to use for drawing, playing card games, and even eating. Nobody used it but it seemed like no matter where we stashed it, it always came flying out, crashing to the ground every time we opened the back of the van. Also, refillable water bottles are great at Disneyland where there are cool, clean fountains for refilling. But when you’re stopping at grungy gas stations, it seems much safer to just use bottled water. We used our refillable bottles the first day and spent the rest of the time tripping over them in the car.

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda: We forgot to visit the Grandin Building and the Basket Building and we forgot to take enough pictures with friends. We should have gotten my husband’s phone’s GPS fixed and we should have gotten better car chargers and kid headphones. I wish I hadn’t underestimated how much candy I would need to stay alert while driving and I really should have made some mix CDs because there are some really long stretches with no data signal so Spotify and Pandora playlists were useless. I listened to a lot of radio and heard the same playlists in every state, sometimes the same songs played in the same order. (Also, what’s the deal with all the songs on oldies stations with men singing about young girls? Maybe they didn’t realize how creepy that was in the 60s but you’d think by now we’d be aware enough to stop playing them over and over.) The thing I really regretted was that I didn’t just spring to replace our old car DVD player that will only play when it’s held closed with tape and will only pipe into the speakers if you angle the aux cord just right and don’t breathe on it at all. It held together alright until we really needed it those last few days driving through South Dakota and Wyoming. Oh, that I hadn’t been such a cheapskate!


Nailed it!:

-My uncharacteristically OCD packing system with each person’s outfit for each day in individual giant ziploc bags: a lifesaver.

-My husband’s detailed research to find the nicest possible campgrounds in Missouri and Ohio: an unmitigated success.

-Buying a family membership to Discovery Gateway in Salt Lake City so we could use the reciprocal passes for free and half-price admission to the Strong Museum in Rochester and COSI in Columbus: paid for itself.

IMG_1192 (1)IMG_1074

-Buying one big tent instead of a second smaller tent: genius.

-Buying Korean BBQ pork jerky at Costco: looked weird, tasted magnificent.


-Having plenty of gallon-sized Ziploc bags handy to store opened snacks, clothes after potty accidents, and carsickness puke: so necessary.

-Buying candy Lego bricks to keep the youngest busy: a lifesaver.

-Staying flexible with plans and schedules to allow for exploring and enjoying the moment: delightful.


For the most part, we got along, weren’t miserable, and didn’t miss the comforts of home. We got used to the long drives and rest stops. If we had to do it again, we totally could. But probably not any time soon.


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