Well it's that time of year again. School is out, days are hot, and we are all thinking about vacation. I don't know about your families, but mine LOVES to travel. Some of us a little more than others, depending on the mode of transportation, but generally we are all usually down for a trip. One of our daughters, (Don't worry, I won't mention any names, Tori) is not a big fan of flying, so anytime she can talk us into going somewhere we can drive to she's all for it. We have our main vacation planned for later in the summer, with multiple branches of extended family, and we'll have to get on a plane for that one. So when we decided to take a quick little getaway now just to tide us over until August, it seemed only fair to not make her fly for that one. So we settled on one of our all-time family favorites--Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We've visited the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area a few times and have always had a great time. So we packed up all the kids, luggage, and a month or so worth of snacks and headed off on that classic all-American family favorite...the road trip!
I feel like most families have engaged in this activity at some point. Some probably have such a great time that they can't wait to take another one. Others probably vow to never get into a vehicle with their entire family ever again. Still others probably have figured out that they can actually use the threat of a family road trip as a preventative of sorts to deter bad behavior in the kids. I'm gonna say our family falls somewhere in the middle of all of those.
Now, some people will tell you that the most difficult road trips are taken when the children are toddlers. And while that for sure presents a certain set of challenges, it in no way compares to the challenge of a road trip with teenagers.
First of all, in this age of technology, small children can usually be entertained with portable dvd players or Ipads with games loaded on them. For older kids, you've got to either get really creative to keep them entertained, or resign yourself to them burying themselves under their headphones and not uttering a word until you reach your destination. And just let me warn you, if you choose the first option and try to include them in some type of on-the-road activity, or game, or--let's be honest--even a simple conversation, you're likely to get a response ranging from a grumpy, mumbled reply of 2 words or less, to a whole range of dramatics for bothering them. And Heaven forbid any of their siblings try to engage in conversation with them--that'll pretty much signal the beginning of the first battle. I say first because there are more coming. LOTS more.
If you're experienced in the road trip department, you know how to fight the battles you can win, and just silence the others into an uneasy cease fire. You know it's not permanent, but at some point you take what you can get.
Another crucial thing when traveling with older children, is the accommodations you'll be staying at when you reach your destination. This year we tried something we've never done before--we rented a huge cabin up in the Smoky Mountains. We've always stayed at various hotels before, so there were a couple of skeptics in our bunch about whether we'd like this or not. But I can happily report that it was a big hit with everyone. Everyone had their own bedroom AND their own bathroom, which was a HUGE hit, and the cabin was wonderfully furnished with lots of things to do plus 2 private hot tubs, and was still only a 5 minute drive from Pigeon Forge. So once we arrived and saw what we were actually dealing with, everyone's moods instantly switched into happy mode. Even the teenager's. And that doesn't happen often. I have to be honest--we were all so shocked to see what a good mood he was in that we tippy-toed around a bit at first so as not to scare it off. But basically, for the next 4 days, everyone was in great moods, the kids all got along like they actually liked each other (another rarity), and we had a fabulous time.
Unfortunately though, we eventually had to pack up, load the car, and begin the long drive home. At this point everyone is tired and ready to get back home, the car's a little more cramped from the souvenirs we purchased, the teenager has over-extended his amiability and now wants nothing more to do with any of us, and we're facing a 15 hour drive. So now comes the question, do we stop for the night somewhere half-way? Or take turns driving and drive straight through?
As luck would have it, Cody is an ex-cow hauler from way back, so he is no stranger to long hauls. He takes the first shift and I prepare to pick up when he gets tired, and we decide to drive straight through. Somewhere around the Texas line I can't believe he hasn't asked me to drive yet, but I'm definitely not going to argue with him--I mean, if the man wants to drive you let him drive, am I right?!
It's about this time that the teenager has had pretty much all he can take of being in the car. He's ready to get home and hang out with his friends, (because a few days away from the bros is just too much to handle) so he's now vehemently opposed to stopping for any reason. Not eating, not stretching our legs, getting snacks, none of that is a good reason to stop. Even stopping for fuel is borderline. And no dilly-dallying when going to the restroom either.
It doesn't help things that at some point it starts to become humorous to the rest of us and we start giggling at his grumpiness. Which sets off another round of fire back and forth between all the siblings, and the end of the trip basically can't come fast enough for any of us at this point. When we finally see the lights of Stephenville, suddenly the clouds part, rainbows appear, and all is right with the world again--he is free to go meet up with the buddies and the rest of us are free to take a breath and relax again.
Overall, fun times were had, memories were made, and we all survived the road trip to tell about it. Will we ever take another one? Of course--we consider ourselves road trip veterans of the Expert Level at this point.
But maybe we'll wait just a bit before the next one. Being Expert Level also means knowing not to push your luck too much. Got a long weekend kind of thing planned for July so...stayed tuned for more of our good ole summertime adventures!