Pursuit of the Road — Memories, Part I

This family loves a road trip, and it’s been way too long since the last one.  (Neil was just 4 years old, and now he’s about to start middle school.)  Discussions of another trip have reached a fever pitch, so I’m trying to figure out how to make it happen next summer.  In light of that, I thought I’d re-post my original ramblings from our trip with my three kids, brother Ryan, and SIL Sheri.  What follows is a summary of the “first leg” of our trip from Georgia to Michigan.

(Day 1)
So we survived the first part of our two week road trip. We left right after lunch and used some free tickets for Ruby Falls in Chattanooga. I hadn’t taken the kids there before because of the walking involved, but it worked out fine today. Everyone had lots of fun, and Bryan even wanted to know when we could come back. They do a cool thing for Halloween so you never know…

After that, we went straight on to my youngest brother’s house in the Nashville suburbs. We ended the day running around outside, playing on the playground, and playing Donkey Konga. Everyone should sleep well tonight! 

(Day 2)
We started the day off with a homemade breakfast. (Thanks Michael!) We filled up the car with some “cheap” ($3.91) gas and got on the road. Once we got to Kentucky, we stopped at the Welcome Center for maps and potties. Then it was back on the road until Louisville, KY. We stopped downtown to see the world’s largest baseball bat. We also saw a giant vampire bat a few blocks down. We parked at the scenic marker of the Birthplace of the Happy Birthday song. We went down the street and had some awesome pizza for lunch. The drive through Kentucky was beautiful with all the rolling hills. Plus, the bridges right at the border of Kentucky and Indiana were amazingly cool.

Then we entered Indiana. We, of course, stopped at the Welcome Center for maps and potties. Indiana was pretty, but monotonous. I believe they grow all the corn in America here as that is ALL we saw. We had about four hours of long roads surrounded by corn fields and the occasional string of power lines. We attempted to find the world’s largest rocking chair in Franklin, IN but the country road names didn’t match the maps or GPS directions. However, we filled up with gas (now $4.13) and, you guessed it, used the potty. 

Part of the interstate was closed near the Indiana/Illinois border, but “Lori” (the GPS) got us around safely…however, we missed the Illinois welcome center. Oh my…the trip was ruined! 🙂 We headed out to Navy Pier in Chicago and had a wonderful time once we found somewhere to park. (That wasn’t cheap either!) Bryan wants to come back and spend a week at Navy Pier; that’s how much fun we had. We had a great meal outside along the pier at a BBQ place. We rode the carousel and the ferris wheel (Bryan was terrified to go on it, but afterwards he wanted to go again). We walked up and down the pier looking a boats, birds, water, and people. We watched the power of clouds blowing through Chicago and rounded out the evening with some ice cream. Unfortunately, through all the fun, we missed the memo of Neil having to REALLY go to the bathroom until we were back to the car. We figured there would be somewhere to stop once we got out of downtown. No such luck. He was a trooper and held on until I finally pulled off to a beautiful bush in an office park. Better the bush than my mom’s van 🙂

We raced the Chicago transit most of the way down the interstate and finally arrived at our hotel about 9:30pm. It was a long day with mostly fun events and very few problems. I’m thanking God right now for the GPS, a DVD player, and Nintendo hand-held games!

(Day 3)
Six Flags Great America was a total blast. It was also quite large (think about all the walking you do at Epcot, and that should be pretty close). It is basically a “regular” Six Flags in addition to a “White Water” type park…all in one. We got there about 10 am and left around 8:30 pm. We spent about half the day in the water park and half in the theme park.

Despite the numerous water slides and such, my kids still loved Skull Island the best. It’s a bit bigger than the one in Atlanta…but is basically the same premise. Bryan was quite content to just stand under the bucket to have water dumped on him every 3 minutes. I finally coaxed him onto a mini water slide; he said he loved it but went right back to the bucket! Calliope and Sheri rode quite a few of the basic water slides while Ryan and Neil rode a bunch of water slides that you ride tubes on. Everyone but Neil enjoyed riding waves in the “ocean”, and we all loved the lazy river (it was over a 30 minute loop…that’s how big this place was).

In the theme parks, we mainly enjoyed the kid or family rides. Ryan, Sheri, and I rode a few thrill rides and coasters though. It was obviously a light day for the park because we barely had a line for anything, so that was great. We spent an obscene amount of time in Wiggles land but everyone was enjoying it (yes, even Ryan)…part of the joy came from the play pirate ship and the octopus water sprinkler. Neil’s joys came mostly from the “barrels” (that’s what he called the log flume ride) and the train (of course). He had so much fun that he bawled after every ride…because he wanted to do it again! Calliope loved the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine. I’m not sure Bryan had a favorite in the theme park area. This is mainly because all the kiddie stuff he wanted to do had a height limit and he was too tall. He was mostly terrified of anything geared for his height. He did seem to have fun anyway and enjoyed the water type things the most (log flume, raging river, etc.)

The raging river (like Thunder River) was much wetter than expected, so we got soaked at about 8pm after the clouds (and cool temps) rolled in. Needless to say, we shivered our way onto the double-decker carousel at the front of the park and then headed home. We certainly could’ve had fun for another hour and a half, but we were all happy, so it worked out fine. We headed back to the hotel to eat a late dinner and then swam in the heated pool for about five minutes. Thirty minutes after that, there were three kids snoring. (And I would’ve already joined them by now if I weren’t waiting on wet towels to dry.)
Quite a Great American day indeed! 🙂

(Day 4)
Let’s Kick this Thing! Well, it was more like let’s go really slowly through construction and rush hour in Chicago, but that’s no way to start a blog off! In all fairness, we did start the trip out today listening to Slow Children at Play, the best ska band in the world, “Kick this Thing”. (It made us all miss you, Christian!)

Well, I know that no one will believe this, but my kids ALL slept until I woke them up at 8:15! (For those who don’t know, Bryan always wakes up, on his own, by 6 am.) So, we didn’t even leave Gurnee until 10am. I don’t know if we encountered rush hour, construction, or both, but it took over 2 hours to get south of downtown Chicago…can you imagine how annoyed Ryan was at this point?!? And I thought Atlanta traffic was bad! At least the kids were all happy with an endless supply of video games, movies, and such.

We had the joy of driving through Indiana’s numerous corn fields again, but at least it was only for about an hour this time. However, Michigan wasn’t that much different in the scenery department. Because of all the delays in our start, we didn’t get to visit the Wizard of Oz park or see the “eiffel tower” in Paris, MI. Instead, we just stopped at a Cracker Barrel and had the only sweet tea to be found north of Tennessee. (Thanks Debbie for the gift card…lunch for the kids and I was a whopping 78 cents!)

As we inched northward, we witnessed the temperature drop pretty dramatically. It was 90 degrees at a rest stop in Indiana, then it was 85 at the Michigan welcome center. When we stopped north of Grand Rapids it was 80, and when we finally arrived in Northport, it was 72. (The kids immediately searched for their jackets!) The other big difference was the sunset…which didn’t occur until well after 10pm. The kids wanted to argue about it being bedtime because it was still a little light outside. 🙂

The house we rented for the week is best described as quaint or rustic. Don’t get me wrong; there’s plenty of room inside and out and it’s nice enough. It’s just a mixture of the past and the present, if you will. It appears to have been originally built in the late 1800s and some of the house seems to be “original”. However, bathrooms, electricity, and some other rooms have obviously been added on over the years. Some of the other fixtures seem to have been updated in the 70s and 80s. Then there’s a few things that seem very new. The other odd thing about this place is that it is sort of stocked with household items. I don’t just mean dish soap and trash bags type supplies. There are partially used bars of soap, shampoo, razors, and even toothbrushes (no, not in the original packaging)…there’s also partially used peanut butter and other pantry items. I feel like I broke into someone’s house for the week! 🙂 

The most interesting thing about the house is the lack of air conditioning. (Ryan almost passed out when he realized there was no A/C!) Don’t get me wrong, the temperatures are nice so it’s not a big deal. However, it was so humid that we were chilly and “sticky” at the same time. (I guess this is why the place smells musty like a cabin or something.) The lack of A/C also had to bring along lessons on windows to my kids. Don’t get me wrong, we occasionally open the windows at home, but they have protective stops so it can be locked into position (so no one falls out on their head). I may have to bolt Neil to the floor if he doesn’t stay away from the windows…

On the plus side, we are mere blocks away from the beach, playground, and downtown area. We’re looking forward to a fun week here on the water and hanging out with Sheri’s family. (Although we may have to go buy more long pants!) If nothing else, we’ll enjoy eating lots of fresh cherries!

(Day 5)
New state motto…”Michigan — We like it cold.” I thought the air temperature was a little cool for July but the water temperature blew that away. The water (in Grand Traverse Bay) was a surprising 60 degrees! Bryan said his brain was frozen after just a minute, and we all noted that your feet lost most feeling after five minutes. Ryan told us to go under quickly to be inducted into the Polar Bear Club. The kids believed him and complied…I am no fool. 🙂

In all seriousness, the kids eventually got used to the water and had lots of fun splashing around. Of course, their little chins were shivering non-stop, but they had fun anyway. The water was a beautiful blue-green color and clear all the way to the bottom. (The kids insisted on taking pictures of their feet in the water.) It was also nice that the water in the swimming area there wasn’t much more than 3 feet deep. We enjoyed quite a few hours at the beach and playground.

Our adventures today also included a trip to a local farmers market. Naturally, we got some fresh sweet cherries (since we’re in the “cherry capital of the world”) along with some fresh baked cookies (with cherries) and brownies (with cherries). Of course, we also had to get the best treat in the entire world: chocolate covered dried cherries (yes, I’m saving some for you Thom). There goes the diet!

We ended the day at Sheri’s dad’s house with a cookout. We hung out with Sheri’s dad, her two brothers, her sister, and her sister’s kids. Neil and the little guy acted like twin brothers, playing together quite well. Bryan took to the little girl, as he seems to take to all babies. All the grownups and kids had fun playing ball until time to eat. Afterwards, we were going to have a bonfire and smores, but Calliope started feeling poorly and wanted to go back to the house here. It was quite late, so I think she was just tired from a busy day. I snuggled with her until she went to sleep so all seems well. I brought stuff home to do s’mores tomorrow…it won’t be the same as eating them around a bonfire under the stars, but then again, how often do you get to eat s’mores in the morning???

Tune in tomorrow for part two of the adventure!


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