Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Summer Flashback: The Long Road Home Part 1

Last summer I never got around to finishing the story of our great adventure to Michigan and back.  I joked that it was taking me so long it'd be December before I finished.  Well, clearly I shouldn't have joked because March is upon us and I still have stories left untold!

We resume our story as the 500 Babies and their parents prepare to leave Michigan and begin the long trek home to Texas...

We decided to take four days to drive home in order to travel at a more leisurely pace and enjoy some sights along the way.  Now I wouldn't necessarily describe the experience as leisurely and there were quite a few non-enjoyable experiences, but all in all we're happy with our decision to add an extra day of travel.

Day 1
On day one we learned that if you don't realize you're driving through a construction zone and an Ohio state trooper pulls you over for speeding and you tell him your toddler desperately needs a bathroom (he did), the trooper will be quite courteous in giving directions to the nearest rest stop.  He will also then proceed to give you a ticket.  Not the best way to start the day, but those things happen and then you move on with your life.

These first few shots are of our pit stop near Dayton.  Is Mikea grabbing Daniel's ear?  Silly girl.

Hmm...looking back through the pictures, it seems that at every stop along the way the kids always managed to grab sticks to play with.
 Poking a stick in a hole seems to be quite intriguing to Daniel.
 I'm not sure what he found.
We were staying the night in Louisville and had planned to make a stop at the Kentucky Horse Park, but we arrived later than intended and decided the admission price wouldn't be worth the amount of time we had to spend before it closed.  So we found a small, free city park instead and spent a few minutes enjoying the fresh air.
Joe was thrilled to find an abandoned football.
We were all enjoying ourselves when I discovered shards of glass littering the ground. Since we prefer our children not play with broken glass we quit the park and headed to our hotel.
The next day just happened to be Mr. Adrian's 1st birthday and because we had a full day of driving and sightseeing planned, we decided to celebrate the night before with dinner out and ice cream sundaes for dessert. (One good thing about the lateness of these posts is at least now I can share pictures with Adrian's face!)
We stopped at Wal-Mart to buy food for lunch the next day and also picked up a few presents for Adrian to open in the hotel.  Happy Birthday, big guy!

Day 2
We had BIG expectations for this day.  We were going to the Great Smoky Mountains and I had spent a great deal of time researching the park and figuring out how to maximize the few hours we would have there.  But we should have thought a bit more carefully about the logistics of traveling to and through the most-visited national park in the country in the middle of the summer. The bumper-to-bumper traffic heading into the park was our first sign that the day wasn't going to go as planned. It then took forever just to find a place to park and eat lunch.  Despite the parentals' increasing stress levels (we still had several hours' worth of driving to get to our stop for the night) the kids were just happy being out of the van and reveling in the beauty of nature.
After lunch we found one of the few stroller-friendly hiking trails that led to a waterfall.  But we quit about halfway to the top because #1- It was getting quite steep, #2- We noticed a plethora of signs warning that serious injury or death could result from falling off the trail, and #3- There were rumors about a bear sighting.  So we paused for a quick group picture to prove that we at least tried and then headed back down the trail.  The waterfall would have to wait for another day.
 Adrian was pooped out from all of the hiking riding.
At this point we needed to hit the road in order to make it to our stop for the night, Birmingham, Alabama. We could either leave the way we came and deal with the traffic and touristy nonsense of Gatlinburg, or take the longer, more scenic route up and over Newfound Gap.  We took a risk and chose the scenic route, and even though at one point we had to pull over because our brakes were smoking, we are happy we did - the views were breathtaking! (I'm talking about my handsome husband, of course!  The mountains were pretty nice to look at as well.)
The rest of the drive was quite scenic, but we were really tired and were hoping to get to Birmingham before dark.  But you can't just drive and drive and drive without letting the kids get out to stretch their legs...
We finally made it to Birmingham (well past dark) and sacked out in some very comfy beds.  Good night!

Next up:  The 500 Babies Take New Orleans!