The Trip to Illinois: How We Did It

We’re back from our epic road trip to Illinois! I think I’m going to break this down into two posts, so it doesn’t get terribly long, and start with the actual road trip. (The visit at Mom and Dad’s has more pictures associated with it!)

So, the car trip to Mom and Dad’s is about 750 miles one way. It generally takes Andy and I 12 hours (and change) to drive it, but with Graham, we came in at just under 14 hours both times.  Not too bad, I don’t think.

Reasons for the extended drive times are obvious, I believe:

  • We had to make a proper stop for meals – eating anything substantial (or, if you ask some people, eating ANYTHING) in the carseat is a choking hazard.  We chose to throw caution to the wind (not really) and snack abundantly in the car, however.
  • Every pit stop = a walking around break, which took us between 15 and 20 minutes.

So, it took longer.  But how did Graham handle it all? Like a CHAMP, I tell you. Both the trip there and the trip home followed very similar patterns.

Start time:
We started early in the morning (one day at 8:00 am – when the kennel opened for Hugo, and one day at 6:00 am). I’ve heard a lot of differing opinions on this. Some choose to leave at night when the kids will sleep, but I believe this requires a kid who will sleep in the car.  Graham doesn’t, somehow, so we figured we might as well not make ourselves miserable in the process.

The novelty period:
Graham would spend the first 2 hours of our trip in his carseat chattering at us and staring out the window, happy to watch the world go by. Eventually, restlessness would set in, and we knew it was time for…

The movie period:
We packed two forms of visual media: the iPad and a little portable DVD player. Thinking the iPad would be the preferred route – it’s hands-free, the screen is bigger, brighter and crisper – I got Toy Story going on the first day and strapped the iPad to the back of my headrest. Graham immediately yelled, “NO! Little tee-bee?” That’s right, he wanted the little DVD player that he had to hold in his lap and crane his neck to see. Whatever, though, because we had that too.  We started off with a non-Yo Gabba Gabba feature presentation. Bambi was, by far, the biggest hit of them all. Graham would crack up in the backseat and say, “Silly am-mals”. Freaking adorable.

After awhile though, only Gabba would do. We popped on a disc of four (23-minute) episodes which, both times, got him all the way through Missouri. That is a mind-blowing amount of D.J. Lance Rock, people. But thankfully, the kid was amenable to headphones. (Bear-shaped headphones, no less.) There is a God, truly.

Practicing, the night before

The rest stops:
We planned for actual, good-quality stops this time. Overplanned, actually, which I HIGHLY recommend if you ever decide to plan out one of these trips. A drive is long enough without watching your intended schedule go to hell as you have to stop ONE. MORE. TIME. and feeling like you’re perpetually behind. I planned for an hour stop at each meal, a 30-minute stop in the morning and a 30-minute stop after nap.

Graham isn’t potty trained, which is a boon for this sort of thing, so when we’d stop for gas, I’d hop out and run to the bathroom while Andy started the gas-filling process. Once the nozzle was in place and running, he’d unstrap Graham from the carseat and change his diaper. I’m wicked fast, so I’d always be getting back out to the car when the diaper change was finishing up. Graham and I would then walk into the convenience store together and pull everything off the shelves stretch our legs while Andy made his pit stop. After that? Back in the car. Each stop was a solid 20 minutes. But AHEAD OF MY SCHEDULE. See how that works?

There was only one time, and it was on the way up, when Graham got antsy and *had* to get out of the car. Thankfully, there was a side-of-the-road rest stop, complete with playground, just ahead. (Thank you, Missouri taxpayers! Your rest stops are the awesomest!) We pulled into the parking lot just as Graham was saying, “Graham sad.” We pointed out the ‘park’ and he perked up and said immediately, “Graham feel better!” So cute.

"Graham feel better!"

The meals:
We stopped for meals, because eating in the carseat is a choking hazard. I mean, sure, we felt confident enough about pretzels and crackers and such in the carseat, but I wasn’t quite prepared to hand chicken nuggets over my shoulder and give Graham my blessing. He’s a walking choking hazard, so whatever. Call me overcautious. Plus.. he’s 2 and we counted meals as breaks to walk around. Lunch was always a better stop, mood-wise, than dinner. By dinner, both days, he was needing for things all go his way (and – understandably so, we were asking for quite a lot out of him), and meltdowns were close-at-hand for the times when any contrary tone was uttered his direction from either Andy or myself.

In a great mood at Steak-a-ma-Shake

Sleeping:
Graham did give up the ghost and slept a little in the car. I think an hour was the most we ever got out of him at a time, though. No massive power naps that would eat up the miles.

Consensus on the whole trip? He did fine. We did fine. I’d do it again. Not for 14 hours again anytime soon, but I’d do it again. Not too bad. (Ask me again when he’s potty-trained, though.)

A shot after our trip back home (only represents one way!)

P.S. The “max speed” award goes to yours truly. In case you were wondering…

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