Family Travel: Road Trip!

Journeying overseas, and air travel in general, are my lifeblood. My spouse prefers road trips. It is Mother’s Day here in the United States, and my gratitude is with my wife Marcie and the joy she brings to our family travel, regardless of the destination.

My Own Way

Marcie is generally ambivalent to traveling, UNTIL we actually depart for our destination. I have learned that any travel to visit her family in the Midwest will be greeted with wholehearted glee. Other trips require more convincing, but will be eventually accepted. But once our plans are solidified and we are on the go, Marcie is all in!

Perhaps motivated by a childhood with very little money for travel, I fantasize about booking flights at least weekly. My mind wanders to destinations ranging from the exotic to the quaint. I carefully search the Internet for a spot and plan a date range. We have two children and the cost-benefit of family travel is first given due consideration.

Then, my marketing mode kicks in. “We have to go! Look at the price! It is NEVER this low!” “Well, let’s think about this,” is Marcie’s measured response. “No. Really! It always costs more than this! What if we wait a day? Then we can put the flight and hotel on hold, so we really have TWO days to decide.” Marcie: “I like the idea, but let’s just wait and see.” And so on and so forth.

As someone who engaged in matrimony relatively late in life, I have my own way of traveling and it has taken me a while to realize there are other, completely efficacious solutions. In short, my stubbornness can get the best of me.

Travel By Car

Oh, the family road trip. Either mocked—as it is in the Chevy Chase’s “Vacation” movies—or treasured, it is a part of American life. I feign hating road trips. They can be detestable, and they are certainly draining…or at least they used to be. You see, it turns out that Marcie has a knack for making them enjoyable.

To truly understand my initial skepticism, you must picture being told that you are not going to take a two and a half hour flight, but rather PURPOSEFULLY decide to use the family vehicle to drive 1076 miles each way. What? That is seventeen hours one way and eighteen on the return trip (there is a time zone difference.) This is divvied up over two days, as that seventeen hours does not include food or fuel stops. What?! Oh, and there might be ice and snow, because we will be taking the trip in time to arrive on Christmas Eve. What??!!

The Christmas Holidays Before Children

Knowing how connected my wife is to her family, I made a promise when we became engaged to be married. We would spend each Christmas in Illinois, but we would also need to live in New York State until my retirement, as my benefits require me to stay here. Nowhere in my mind did it occur that the family travel from New York to Illinois and back would be by car. Who does that?

Before our two children were born, we would take the relatively short flight, enjoy a week in her small hometown on the Mississippi River at Christmastime and be back for New Year’s Eve in New York. Wonderful!

Then we were expecting our first child. The timing was such that we actually stayed in New York for the Holidays because Marcie was too far along in her pregnancy to fly. The next year we also flew. Our daughter was young enough to make the flight on our laps for free. The ignorant bliss regarding our impending car travel left me exceedingly proud of our life-long Christmas contract.

We Will Be Driving

Then, when I least expected it, the truth came out. It was the end of springtime. “We are going to DRIVE to my parents’ house this summer.” What??!!! Why? Marcie: “I like it.” What???!!! My grievance was met with a friendly smile; and with her warm, loving visage, it is nearly impossible to continue any protestation for long. That was it. Discussion over. A month later we were headed west on Route 80 in Pennsylvania, one of my least favorite highways on the planet Earth. If there was a non-physically painful form of a slow death, it would be something akin to a non-stop, repeated drive on that dreadful drag of drab.

Truth be told, we had taken the drive to Illinois previously in the BC era (before children.) In my mind, the road trip was a quirky fluke. However, as a result, I knew the general route and our likely destination goal for the first night of the trip. The unknown was how our daughter would react to such a long drive. Pleasant surprise ruled the day. She seemed to enjoy the ride and even slept for long stretches. The biggest difference with her along was that we had to stop more frequently. Impressively, we could cruise a good four hours or so without much of a fuss. In my estimation, that is not too shabby.

A Change Of Heart

Nobody wants to read about the not-so-good trips. Let’s just say that traveling with two daughters doubles the chance of car sickness. It also increases the likelihood of crankiness-inspired stops that have made the journey to the quaint Mississippi River town a lot longer.

Back to Mother’s Day: I began by telling you the joy my wife has inspired during our family travel. That is where we stand now. Each trip, whether 1076 miles, or an hour, is fun. She enjoys getting in the car with me and the girls as much as I enjoy hopping on an airplane to Europe. Snacks and games are packed ahead of time and travel songs are at the ready. As a bonus for me, she loves to drive!

The Here And Now

During my life before marriage, family time was always a bit rocky. We endured, but there was more than a fair share of drama. Now, fortunate to have a strong marriage and two wonderful children, family time is delightful. It is, however, fleeting. With opposite work schedules, there is not much time together. Those moments are often during points of mutual exhaustion. Sometimes, we are frequenting events or tending to domestic tasks. In short, it is rare that the four of us are fully together physically and emotionally.

Marcie noticed something on our road trips even before the children were born. We were present with one another. That feeling is becoming more prevalent as our girls get older. And how beautifully heartwarming it is.

Make time to travel with your family, friends, and pets. Talk to one another or simply look out the window at the sights. Most importantly, smile inside about the time spent together. You will not regret it.

~Kevin

In My Unexpected Life, I will share stories, thoughts, and simple ideas to entertain and maybe even inspire others to engage with new food, travel, and more…no matter how big or small those experiences may be.

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4 comments

  1. Living in the UK, the concept of the road trip doesn’t exist in quite the same way. I drive down to visit my mum in Brighton two or three times a year, that’s a five hour drive each way and we think of that as a pretty long way over here! You make the road trip thing sound pretty compelling here, and it actually makes me re-think my approach to the Manchester-Brighton drive, so thank you for that!

  2. This post really made me smile, Kevin; specifically your reactions to driving over flying. I also have a similar reaction to highway 80, as I have made the trip from California to Michigan twice by myself. Brutal! But I love your feelings toward the road trip evolved and how you noticed the present nature of them. Very cool!

    Roger

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