(We missed a few welcome signs - naps happen.)
It sounds like it could have been exhausting. But on arriving home, I didn't feel the usual harried exhaustion from travel. I felt that I wanted that time to last longer. The five of us had logged 70 hours of drive time, and I kept wishing for more.
Months ago, when Hubster and I were able to have two weeks off at the same time over the summer, we knew that we had to do a great vacation. We threw around a lot of ideas: a week at a lakeside cabin, staying home and doing projects around the house, or a road trip to see parts of the country we hadn't. It didn't take long to decide that the road trip was the way to go.
When we told people our plans to spend all that time in our van with three children, the looks questioning our sanity were anticipated. However, all our boys are great travelers. Last year, Hubster taken the boys on a 3000 mile round trip to visit his family in Montana. We learned a lot about road tripping from that, and we were well prepared for this.
At some later point, I'll share my ideas for surviving days in the car with children.
But what I really what to share is all the wonderful memories we made on this trip. Images and feels that are currently so sharp in my mind that I must write them down to keep them that way.
From our home in Iowa, we drove east, stopping at Indianapolis, then driving down through Lexington to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We stayed for a day at the Great Smoky Mountains. From there, we drove down through South Carolina, through Georgia, to Orlando. Two days at Disney World, and then we were on to two days in Sarasota. From there, we went north, through Atlanta, Nashville, St. Louis, and back home.
We saw so much of our country we'd never seen before. We made amazing memories.
Stopping at the Indianapolis Speedway - after it closed.
Standing outside Churchill Downs, being so tempted to take a tour so we could see the race track, but being detoured by a small meltdown from Duck and the promise of putt putt golf in Tennessee.
Playing putt putt golf down a hillside.
Hiking to waterfalls through forests thick with blooming rhododendrons.
Catching salamanders in streams with Monkey.
Stopping at a cemetery in Savannah, the trees covered with Spanish moss.
Walking over powder soft sand and seeing my boys faces as they saw the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.
Bug and Monkey running out into the waves of the ocean, fully dressed, in their excitement to get in the water.
Arriving at Disney World and all the excitement associated with it.
Riding Space Mountain with Monkey and discovering his fearless side.
Our day at Magic Kingdom cut short by a torrential rain storm. That evening, going back to the park at 9 pm in our pajamas and staying almost until closing.
Watching Disney movies outside by the pool at our Disney hotel with Bug, while Monkey went down the water slide 61 times (yes, he was counting.)
The water, clear water at Siesta Key Beach by Sarasota, along with the amazing white quartz sand that stayed cool under our feet.
Bug attempting to snorkel to see all the fish swimming by us, while Monkey ran in sheer panic away from any fish that came close to him.
Seeing alligators in a muggy Florida swamp.
Warm dinners under palm trees.
Arriving in Atlanta with initial plans to keep heading north in the morning, but deciding that taking our time and spending a day at the Georgia Aquarium was worth extending our trip.
Not regretting that decision one bit.
Road side stand peaches in Georgia.
BBQ at a lovely park in Nashville.
Picnicking and skipping rocks at Land Between The Lakes in Kentucky.
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis.
Stopping at all the state Capitol Buildings.
Honking as we drove over state lines.
Handing the boys Skittles for memorizing state capitols and nicknames.
As we hit the Iowa state line and approached home, we were both grateful to at the thought of arriving home and sleeping in our own bed. But Hubster and I already had the road atlas out, dreaming up future trips and adventures. Looking over the maps, we realize that there is no way we can see all of it - and that just our own country. But it doesn't mean we shouldn't try.