Friday, April 28, 2006

Part 2....On the road...

Our route: I 94/294 E-I 55 S- I 44 W- I 40 W-I 17 W
As I said, we set off bright and early at about 5.30 am(Central time). Our route looked simple. We took I94 and from then on got onto the I55 toward St. Louis, Missouri. A couple of hours on the road and we took our first break at a rest area with the Vermillion River flowing behind it. It was a beautiful sight early in the morning, although the river itself was no more than a trickle. Soon we were on the road again going towards St. Louis Missouri. The kids were hungry and restless by now and I pulled out my stash of snack size packs of dry cereal(Apple Jacks, Froot Loops Coco Puffs and many others.) These are great for the road as they can double as breakfast and a snack for the afternoon. Baked cheese snacks are pretty good too as are Ritz crackers. Hubby and I also enjoyed these with the kids. We had also packed plenty to drink, water, sodas and for the kids Hi C. This is where the stow-and-go feature in our van came in real handy. We had plenty of room in the van as all our belongings were, you guessed it, ‘stowed’ away.

At about 11.30 am we reached St. Louis. We saw the Mississippi river and the bridge over it on our way there. The famous Arch at St. Louis was visible from quite a distance and we marveled at its splendor as we got closer. However, we did not stop here as we were intent on getting to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for our night stop.
We stopped for lunch soon after at Burger King, the kids love their French fries. I had some of the food that I had made before we left and we ate that with the fries. I don’t know what it is about the outdoors, but food always seems to taste better. We had an impromptu picnic right beside Burger King (okay, if you must know, in the parking lot…), but nevertheless, we enjoyed it.
Our ETA at OK City, OK was 8.00 pm. We drove through the afternoon as the kids watched a movie on the portable DVD player that we bought for them before the trip. This one buy was worth the two hundred odd bucks we spent on it. Also my younger one had a travel activity book and my older son, who is quite fond of sketching had his sketch pad on hand. They also brought along plenty of CD’s to listen too. We had a backpack full of things just for their entertainment, which they had a great time packing themselves.
We were quite excited to arrive at the OK state border, which meant we were close to our half way mark. We reached Tulsa at about 7.00 pm and from there on it was just about an hour and half to OK City. It was a pretty long hour and a half with “are we there yet?” coming from the back seat every 2 minutes. We reached OK city by about 8.30 pm and checked into the Waterford Marriott. I would recommend this hotel over any other. It has a quiet ambience and the service is great. Best of all, the beds were comfy, the bathrooms clean and the towels fluffy! On our way back from Glendale, we booked a different hotel(God alone knows why)and had a very interesting experience which I shall explain in detail in another post. We had more of the food I had carried with me and we had this for dinner. I have learnt that keeping a little extra can save you the trouble of trying to go out and find food when the whole family is tired and just about ready to eat each other. After dinner and showers, we collapsed thankfully into bed.
Once again, we left early the next morning(6.30am-CT). This was going to be the longest part of the journey and most tedious. We had to cover just under a 1000 miles, with almost 800 miles on one straight road, I-40.
We entered the Texas state border at about 11.00 am. We only had to drive across the northern tip of Texas. As we drove out of OK and into Texas, we saw the huge cattle ranches with hundreds of cattle roaming and grazing. Another thing we noticed in these two states were huge windmills. The weather was undoubtedly better than it was back home in Illinois. The kids would look at the little screen showing the direction we were driving in and the temperature outside and get all excited. “Mom, look, it’s 60 degrees, now its 62, yippee, and it’s getting warmer.” When you live through the winter here, 60 degrees does sound balmy and warm.
We stopped for lunch at a Diary Queen in a small town in Texas called Vega. The food was good. They made us some good veggie burgers and we ate with gusto. One thing we learned on this trip was that we can save time if we stop for food and gas at the same time. Also it would be good to include a pit stop too. That way, we were not stopping for different things at different times.

We soon entered the state of New Mexico and moved from Central time to Mountain time zone. Now, the state of New Mexico is fascinating. Fascinating, because I have never seen so much land with nothing in sight for miles and miles all around. It looks like a scene from an old Western, with hills all around and not a soul in sight.I could almost hear the theme music of 'Good, Bad and Ugly'(anyone remember that?) in my mind. There were a few trucks on the road along with our van and a few other cars. In the distance, we spotted a cargo train, which seemed in no hurry to get to its destination. The kids dozed off after staring at all the nothingness around them. I tried to keep hubby company, but found myself catching a few zs too.
There was road construction at several places and traffic slowed to a crawl at times. We reached Albuquerque, NM at about 4.30 pm(mountain time, 5.30 Central time), a little later than we had hoped for. Our destination Glendale AZ was a good six hours away in the best traffic conditions. The kids were tired by now and were getting on each others nerves. We took a quick break so they could stretch their legs and some fresh air. We soon reached the AZ state border. It was about 6.00 pm(mountain time) Arizona is in the mountain time zone until the onset of daylight saving, when they switch to pacific time. When we passed the Petrified National Forest, it was starting to get dark. All of us were, by now, ready to call it a day and get some rest. But we still had a long way to go.

We reached Flagstaff,AZ around 8.00 pm. It was a lot colder here as it is about 6000 ft above sea level. The route from here on was quite hilly with steep gradients. It seemed more tedious in the darkness. There were not many cars at this time of the night and it increased our sense of urgency to make this last leg as quickly and safely as we could. We drove on silently until I heard a loud scream from the back seat. My younger one was crying in pain clutching his ear. The change in air pressure had caused his ears to get blocked and he was in a lot of pain. We stopped for a minute so I could go and sit beside him and comfort him. I was just debating whether to give him some Tylenol when I remembered something about chewing gum or sucking on a piece of candy when there is a change in air pressure. I had tried this while traveling by air and it seemed to help in keeping the ears from getting blocked. I pulled out some hard candy that I had and gave him a piece. This seemed to help a lot and he calmed down soon enough.
We finally reached Glendale and pulled into the driveway of our cousins home at about 10.30 pm. The kids were tired and hungry and of course, so were we. We were welcomed warmly by our cousins into their home. I gave the kids a quick dinner and put them to bed. The tiredness seemed to go away as we talked and caught up with each others lives. We hadn’t seen each other for many years and there was a lot of catching up to do. But tiredness soon caught up with us and we decided to turn in. I can honestly say I have never slept better before.
To be continued....coming up....Sedona trip

Friday, April 21, 2006

Road trip to Arizona


I created this blog to share my experiences about our great American road trip and the adventures that go with traveling with kids. Hope you like it.

This is the first in a series. I call it...The Beginning.

Hubby and I have always been fond of traveling. We like visiting new places, learning new things and meeting new people. My kids too have a thing for traveling. Although my younger one would be more than happy to just stay home with his beloved play station 2 and his TV. Nevertheless, they always join in our vacation plans with great enthusiasm (at least for the first five minutes).

My travel travails have always been a source of amusement for my family and friends. I seem to have the weirdest, quirkiest travel experiences. Few vacations have gone by without something wacky happening. Well, this time was no different.

Once again, we made our plans with great excitement. We wanted to go to Glendale, Arizona. We have family there and have always wanted to visit them, more so after the birth of their first baby. Well, we called them, told them of our intentions and said we would get back to them with further plans.

I started browsing the internet for good deals on airfares. My eyes popped out of their sockets when I saw some of the prices displayed. And these were supposed to be the “great deals". Of course, we planned to take our trip during the spring break, so cannot be too hard on the travel sites. Well, after days of despairing over the airfares, hubby dearest came up with a master plan! “Lets drive, it’ll be fun”! Again, my eyes popped out of their sockets. “Are you crazy? You want to drive across the breadth of the country in our poor old Honda Civic?” Okay, I was just going ballistic now. You see we live in Northern Illinois. “No silly, we’ll rent a minivan.” “Hmm…still it’s an awfully long distance. The kids are going to be tired, not to mention the two of us, after driving all those hours. It’s about 2000 miles. You do realize that. I don’t think it’s such a good idea.” “Actually, it’s 1800 miles” he corrected me. And of course, just as always, the idea grew and grew in hubby’s head till he had it all figured out. “It’s brilliant, we’ll drive. It’ll be the best trip ever.” I was still mumbling and grumbling, but he had to have his way.

So he called the car rental, booked a minivan and then, of course, told me about it. I asked him how much the car rental was and yup, you guessed it, once again…the eye popping. My eyes were tired from doing that so much!! “We could have got air tickets for that much.” “Oh, but think of the fun we’ll have and the adventure! It will be amazing.” After much persuasion, as always, I let myself be talked into another of his wild schemes.

Anyways, the travel arrangements were all made. The hotel was booked for our night stay at Oklahoma City. Our cousins were told of our plan. They thought we were nuts too, as did our friends. But we had to do what we had to do. I began thinking about what food I’ll have to take and agonizing over thoughts of the kids getting sick or about us having car trouble. Well, I’m a mom, it’s my job!

We were all set. We had a week’s time to pack, get our stuff together, and do just about everything one has to do even if going away for a day. I kept telling myself, it would be fun and all would be fine. But I couldn’t help being a little worried. Like I said, my job!

“You know, you’ve always wanted a minivan. Instead of renting one, why don’t we just buy one? We’ve been wanting to anyway and what better time than now. This way we won’t have to rent the minivan, we can just drive our own to Glendale.” You guessed it, hubby’s thoughts after just a couple of days of booking the rental van. I must concede here, I did always dream of a shiny new minivan. So I gave into that one quite easily. We went shopping and soon enough picked out a shiny silver minivan. The kids were thrilled and so were we. We cancelled the minivan rental and started packing for the trip.

The day of our great road trip arrived. It was a beautiful spring(?)morning.If you live anywhere near Chicago, you know that Spring mornings are not that beautiful always. We just fantasize about beautiful spring mornings. We decided to leave bright and early so we could make good time. We dragged the kids out of bed, got them ready, had a hurried breakfast and were on our way, praying for a safe journey. be continued.