To start, this was such an ordeal the thought of documenting it with photographic evidence didn’t even cross my mind. That in and of itself should give some indication of the drama about to unfold…
E, Meatball and I started our three-legged journey by driving from our house in VA to Jer’s parents place in WV. Smooth ride, no issues, and a lovely stay at MomMom and PopPops. My mom flew down to Jer’s parent’s house to do the next two legs of the journey (the second one being the longest) bless her heart. I can honestly say I’m pretty sure I would have had a mental breakdown had she not been there. I take that back. My mental breakdown would have been far worse had she not been there. Remember the old adage “slow and steady wins the race”? Ya, I didn’t take heed of that for our trip from WV to MA, and we did not win the race. We ended up outside of NYC instead.
I had the idea in my head that 95 up the East Coast on a Sunday afternoon from Jer’s parents place in WV would be a good option since, well, it was Sunday, so no huge amounts of rush hour traffic. Getting run off the road (literally, we nearly ended up in the grassy meridian) on 95 in MD should have been my first clue that this was not a good idea.
After our brush with death we stopped at the MD/NJ border for a bathroom break and to grab some dinner for mom and I. I had a PB&J for E, she hadn’t at this point eaten Fast Food of any kind, but that would soon change…
E had been a saint for the past four hours, happily sipping on water and watching Thomas (yes, I gave in to the DVD player for this 10 hour journey. I’m not a martyr). When I got her out of her seat, I realized just how much water she had been sipping on. She was soaked. Up the shirt, all over the seat, soaked with pee. One pee covered child and now pee covered mom entered what is apparently the only place people in that area can eat and go to the bathroom. Everyone and their friend was there.
The changing table was of course strategically located at the entrance to the ladies room, smack dab in the middle of the long line of waiting people, and 5 feet off the ground. Not at all intimidating for an infant or toddler, and oh so very easy to maneuver around. I’d have opted for the car to change her at this point except every square inch was taken by luggage and a Bulldog and the pavement of the parking lot seemed like a bad choice. After a good screaming/changing session, covering her carseat with towels, placing a now dry but unhappy E (enter Thomas) and eating crappy sandwiches in the car we were unsuspectingly on our way to one of the worst road trips ever.
After MD the ride was pretty smooth, a few delays here and there, but all in all as I had hoped it would be. We were doing 75 on the New Jersey Turnpike, and all was well. Thomas had gone to bed along with E, and were 3 hours away from my sister’s place where we would crash for the night, then head to the Cape from there the next day. And then we hit the George Washington Bridge (GW from here on out).
First came the toll booths. Gridlocked. Getting into the EZPass lane took an act of God, one that was pre-empted by near on collisions with an aggressive BMW and a clueless pick-up truck who just about got creamed by a semi. Once we got through the tolls we saw the hold up: a massive accident on the GW.
Three hours and 15 miles later, we were over the bridge, and onto more traffic. It was now Midnight and we’d been on the road since 2:30. My sister was OK with us arriving at dawn, so we kept on driving. Until we hit Stamford, CT. Construction with an hour or so delay. By now I was seeing double. And there it was, like a beacon of hope: a glowing La Quinta sign.
For whatever reason I knew that La Quinta allows dogs. I’d never stayed in one, I knew nothing else about them (other than that sign was the light at the end of the tunnel) but we were going. We pulled in around 1:00am or so, just as the bar crowd was leaving (just imagine the crowd that hangs at the local La Quinta till all hours). They had one room with two beds left. It was a smoking room. It could have been a nudist only room, I would have snagged it all the same. So up we went, to the 8th floor and the last smoking allowed hotel room in the continental US.
After taking Meatball out to do his business, a difficult task for an English Bulldog to do on the one square foot of grass in the parking lot, we settled in for the night. E and I took one bed (I had her sleep on her towels, there were cigarette burns on the sheets. Classy.) E thought it was quite the adventure, and that clearly we were having an awesome sleep over where we’d jump on the beds all night. She eventually crashed, and thank the Lord slept until a little after 7.
But just wait. It gets better.
So due to my mom’s back surgery, and her very real need to be close to where she’s going, she has a handy dandy Handicap placard. The handicap parking at the La Quinta in Stamford is located right by the front entrance. Which, the next morning (or the same day, given our arrival time) was under construction. The doors were barricaded off by cones and tape, and locked. We were told we could go through the Diner to get outside. Fine. We’d have breakfast then be on our way. Breakfast was actually really good, though you could have given me a Pop Tart at this point, any comfort food would do. Seeing my car covered in plywood while people used jackhammers to break up the sidewalk all around it mid-breakfast, not so good. And that was the last straw. I lost it. Tears and blubbering ensued. Exhausted, stressed by the start of Jer’s deployment, a few brushes with death, unbelievable traffic and now my car in the middle of a construction zone.
Mom moved the car, after taking out a few construction cones with her cane and some choice words to the crew.
And off we went, for what would hopefully be the last leg of this journey. We stopped for lunch, where E had her first taste of a McDonald’s Chicken McNugget. The Furby in her Happy Meal (which she has decided is an owl) was met with far more enthusiasm than the nuggets. Proud I am and “Owl” is now a regular crib companion. Thank you McDonald’s.
We finally arrived on the Cape Monday afternoon. Although the journey was eventful to say the least, at the end of it all we were safe. We avoided being run off the road, being one of the poor people involved in a major accident, and having our car covered in chunks of cement, among other things. I can honestly say I felt under attack, but given the outcome I can also say we were safely in the hands of God for that journey, and the less than savory arms of a sketchy La Quinta.
Some highlights from our first week back on Cape…
Definitely worth the trip.
I’ll go ahead and say “Thank You” for reading my long saga by sharing my newly learned tips on surviving a long drive with a toddler, under any condition.
- If your road trip is more than 5 hours, I strongly recommend having another adult with you. If a husband/partner isn’t an option, like in my case, check out Priceline.com for airfares and fly someone out if need be. If for nothing more than staying alert and awake (and sane) this is, in my opinion, a really good idea.
- Keep a bag of empty sippy cups, a large bottle of water, and many snacks at hand. Sippy cups will be thrown to the side, yet they’ll always be wanting one. The last thing you want to have to do is stop repeatedly on the highway to hunt for them.
- And on that note, ration out the snacks and the drinks. Hand them a bowl of crackers and they’ll eat the bowl and once again be jonesing for more. As I learned the hard way, the same can go for water.This is another instance where that second adult comes in. Give a cracker or two at a time, and you won’t ruin their dinner leaving you with a hungry tot in the wee morning hours, and they won’t be screaming for more an hour later after you’ve given them the lot, or end up soaked in their own pee.
- Your safety has to come before your limited TV policy. If keeping them occupied with a kid-friendly DVD will keep them calm and you able to focus on driving, then play on, dear Thomas, play on.
- Be prepared to stop for an overnight unexpectedly. Have overnight bags packed and ready for unexpected sleepovers. Carrying in all your luggage is a terrible idea at all hours of the night.
- If you’re embarking on a long trip, plan for the first day at your destination to be a low and slow one with little to do besides settle in and decompress. Stress is a lingering soul sucker when left to its own devices. Road trips with little ones are long and hard, so give yourself the time to recover mentally and physically. A week at the spa would work well.
Here’s to your next road trip to being far less eventful and far smoother than ours!
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