Half-Baked Plans

by on Jul.02, 2010, under family

So we’ve been planning a trip south to visit my family for months now – and by planning I mean we intended to come and we knew generally when we would do so, but beyond that few of the details were thoroughly worked out. In the end the main driver to our travel plans was the time I schedule as vacation (figuring picking some time is better than waiting for a fully-baked plan to come together). We debated many variants to the plan (camping either on the way down or on the way back, taking day trips to places while we are down here, etc.), but many were nixed through lack of effort, lack of planning or lack of enthusiasm. Sometimes just the trip itself is enough. And sometimes I make impulsive decisions that are not well thought through.

So we are packing and cleaning late into the evening on Wednesday when a ‘brilliant idea’ pops into my head. Knowing that the following day of travel would likely be long and arduous due to the combination of other early holiday travelers, various rush hour commuters, and my own children’s shortage of patience for long car rides, it strikes me that we can avoid all of the above by hopping right in the car that night. The loose plan was that we would drive as long as we could stay awake – taking shifts as needed – while the kids slept through the trip down. In the least, we get past the major cities and find a place to crash for a few hours until we can continue south. While my wife was hesitant, the kids were all about getting to their grandparents’ sooner and I was able to sway her.

So by 12:30 AM we are finally packed and ready to go (bad omen #1) and we get started. Grasshopper had already fallen asleep before we left so we just had to move him into his car seat. Cricket was awake still, but fell asleep within the first half hour. After 3 hours and a couple brief stops to refuel, I’m starting to wane. Unfortunately my wife (partially due to me being chatty to start off) hadn’t really gotten enough rest to take us much farther. We made it south of DC which was our main concern, but my wife was hesitant to stop at a hotel that would cost over $100 and I was too tired to Google one that didn’t, so we settled for parking at a rest area near Potomac Mills. My wife was paranoid about the kids developing some weird leg disorder I hadn’t ever heard of, so I had to convert the seats to beds they could lie flat in. We had pillows and blankets and were all set … in theory.

Grasshopper decided he had his second wind and kept trying to talk and play – which I mostly responded to with loud shushing and barks of ‘go to sleep’. After about an hour and a half he finally settled back down. Then an hour later I was awake and couldn’t settle back down (it couldn’t have been the discomfort of sleeping sitting up in a mini-van). After silently arguing with my wife about getting the kids re-situated for the next leg (where she conveniently through a good handful of sharp I-told-you-so’s she’d been saving up since I suggested the night drive), I finally started quietly shifting the kids back into sitting positions to continue the trip. They stirred and grumbled, but were back asleep within a half hour on the road. And we made the rest of the drive with little incident. Around 9 AM we stopped for breakfast and a driver switch, and I got a shallow nap for a good amount of the remaining leg.

After 11 hours we finally made it to our destination. In truth, even if we had left bright and early Thursday morning, it would likely have taken just as long between traffic and stops. So it generally worked out. But most of the ‘extra visit time’ we gained was spent either alternately napping or dealing with meltdowns from cranky, sleep-deprived children. But both of these are easily washed away by a normal night’s sleep for all … I’ll let you know when we get one of those.

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