When talking about how to get our family out to Connecticut in (eep!) 1 1/2 weeks, multiple options were discussed. We could ship the van and fly out. We could drive the van and not fly. We could do other things that I cannot now recall because all these conversations happened weeks ago and it's all I can do to remember what I said yesterday.
In the end, we decided to drive the van out, all five of us, 1200 miles.
At first we thought we'd try to drive 9 hours a day for two consecutive days because it's actually only 18 hours from here to there, not 24 or however long it was from where I lived in Kansas when I had to drive out years ago. Benefits to this included the fact that Derek would have to take fewer days off work, we'd be able to dive into the work waiting for us at the house in CT more quickly, and, well, only two days on the road.
However, I told Derek that although I knew this was going to be a tough journey and that most if not all of it would be tinged with melancholy, I did not want this to be our family's Trail of Tears, just a van full of sadness hurtling down I-80 over two days. I wanted to somehow redeem this journey, find a way to make positive memories over those miles.
We decided to add a day to the trip, building in some stops and taking our daily travel time to just six hours. We'll be passing through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut. Whew! We will not be stopping in each state- sorry, New York- and the stops we do have planned depend at least a bit on nice weather.
Here's the plan:
The closing on our house in Iowa is on Day One, hopefully first thing in the morning so we can get on the road immediately following and at a decent time. Adelaide has requested to stop at Casey's one last time before we leave the state. Casey's is not a hometown store or local watering hole; it's a gas station chain, which makes all of this sound way less poignant. Casey's headquarters are a scant 15 miles down the highway, however, and their locations are so abundant around here that we have two in our town of 3,500 people. They also make surprisingly good pizza, and we nearly always stop for road trip snacks before heading off on any journey longer than a few hours. This trip will apparently be no different.
Our first stop beyond the boundaries of beautiful Iowa is in Illinois, at Lagomarcino's Confectionary. We'll be eating at their old fashioned soda fountain, although how I'm supposed to choose between a malt and homemade chocolates, I don't know. Question: what's an egg creme and do you think I should try one of theirs?
Stay at a hotel in Indiana. It was vitally important to Atticus that each hotel had a pool. It was vitally important to Derek that each hotel included breakfast. Indiana is supposed to deliver on both. I'm hoping it's not too much to ask to also find no bed bugs. Strike that: no insects of any kind, please. I'm picky that way.
Our plan is to stop at Marblehead Lighthouse in Ohio, where hopefully we'll be able to frolic and scamper to our hearts' content at the state park by the lighthouse, and maybe tour the lighthouse itself. This will be our family's first exposure to one of The Great Lakes! At least... I think it will be? Definitely our first time at Lake Erie, anyway.
If it's raining Marblehead wouldn't be an ideal stop, so our backup plan is Seneca Caverns, self-described as "the caviest cave in America," which is probably what landed it on a website I love, Roadside America, which highlights the kookiest roadside attractions by state. Derek and I toured Fantastic Caverns in Missouri in college, and I remember it as being, well, fantastic, but also pricey. Seneca Caverns looks similarly expensive, so it's definitely our second choice, but it would allow us to stretch our legs and move our bodies around a hopefully pretty cool place (ha, "cool" because it looks neat but also because it's a constant 54 degrees in there please don't leave I can't help the way I am).
Stay at a hotel in Pennsylvania. Pool. Breakfast. No bed bugs.
Our PA plan is to look at rocks! This has been a hard sell to the kids as I've presented it to them in just such a fashion: "Pennsylvania = rocks! Yessss!" The Frontier Rock Formations really do look beautiful, though, and since one of my personal priorities for these stops is being able to move and walk around after hours in the car, this could be a good one, but again, we need decent weather. We do not currently have a foul weather plan for PA, and so far all the attractions I've found on Roadside America, although neat sounding ("Green Mannequin Aliens and UFO," "Skeleton of Old Coaly the Mule"), all appear to be outdoors. So... pray for clear skies, I guess? Also on the docket for PA: wave to Carolyn! Oh, wait, and I think in Illinois I wave to Ernie!
Hotel in CT not far from our new house. Closing is first thing the next morning, after which the moving company will hopefully be there and ready to unload all our junk/treasured possessions into the house. Goals for the hotel are same as in previous nights/states: pool, breakfast, no bed bugs.
What else? We've been on enough long trips with our kids to know that something will go wrong. Flat tires, locking my keys in the car (while in Kansas City, pregnant with Caedmon, two small children in tow- that was an interesting day), sick kids, sick adults, screaming kids, sleepy drivers, road construction, scary weather, etc, etc, etc. Something will go wrong on this trip. It is inevitable. I will attempt to be like bamboo, bending but not breaking. This is difficult when you are from Kansas where the state tree is the Cottonwood; flexibility is not one of its characteristics.
I'm also bracing myself for the sadness. We are trying to make memories on this trip, but one of those might be crying into our old-fashioned sodas in Illinois. We may just end up infecting the eastern half of the United States with our feelings along this journey. Sorry, U.S.A.
Congratulations. You made it to the end of the longest post ever. Go have some chocolate milk to celebrate- that's my celebration drink of choice because it's delicious, and... I'm a child?