Ah, the road trip. If you could sum up my adult life with two words, I think they would be “road trip.” From moment I said “I do” to my tall, dark and handsome guy until this very moment, road trips have taken up a significant portion of my life.
And I am not complaining. These journeys have purpose. We see family. We explore new places. We visit friends. Hey, we even put up signs on road trips. I love traveling.
But there is one scenario I am not particularly fond of… sleeping in a car. And yet, this situation keeps popping up in my life.
The first was on our honeymoon. That’s right. Our honeymoon. That time where we get to luxuriate. We had just finished up a busy day in Washington D.C. and were foolish enough to think that we could drive straight through to Wisconsin.
But we weren’t. And we were in The-Middle-of -Nothing, PA. So we found a truck stop to sleep at. Except, it wasn’t a Flying-J or a Loves or Road Ranger. Nope. It was a poorly lit weigh station miles off the highway. Like something you see in a horror movie. No, I am not exaggerating.
We put up towels in the windows and went to sleep. Well, Stephen slept. I was wide awake all night with the bright lights of the semis appearing every few minutes. And the fear that a murderous trucker would break the window and pull us out to our deaths at any moment. Like I said, Stephen slept well….
And that was just a glimmer into our future together…
Sleeping in a wayside is creepy. And uncomfortable. I am a light sleeper, and Stephen will sleep through the zombie apocalypse. So guess who gets NO BENEFIT from sleeping in a car? That’s right, me.
The catch-22 is neither of us is terrific at night time driving. I get blindness and Stephen just falls asleep… cause that’s what you do at night. If you are not a zombie.
So the privilege of sleeping in our vehicle has happened several times through the years. We do our best to book a hotel or whatever is necessary to avoid rest area slumber parties.
The next incident would come at another vulnerable time in our lives. I was two and a half weeks post-partum with our beautiful little Meredith, heading down to spend Christmas with the family. Excited to introduce our precious girl to her grandparents, aunts, uncles…
Stephen miscalculated again. So we stopped at this beautiful rest area in Tennessee. It really was lovely. Just not at 2 in the morning. With a newborn and a 2 year old. Okay, the nursing momma didn’t help either.
I nursed the baby after we stopped. Stephen fell asleep. Natalie was asleep. Meredith soon fell back to sleep. I thought, “This just might work!” Aaaannndd…. then Natalie awoke. Most of you know, a 2 year old in a car seat in a car going nowhere is akin to waterboarding. She was utterly awake and protesting the barbaric conditions she was being exposed to. I didn’t blame her.
Poor Stephen, knowing that he would get no sleep otherwise, drove to his grandparents in SC. I was asking him if he was still awake every 5 minutes.
We have grown wiser in these later years. Hotels are considered a necessity to our success in getting anywhere more than 10 hours away. We usually find something along the way, and in the age of Trip Advisor and Trivago, we have no problem finding decent places to rest.
This year, we were going to celebrate Stephen’s grandpa’s 90th birthday. It’s a pretty big deal.
I checked into hotels a month out, just to see what we were dealing with, and noticed they were booking up fast.
“We might want to consider planning ahead this trip.” I said.
“I’m sure we will find something. We always do.” My dear husband said.
A month later, we are off. This route is a very common one, so we have favorite places to stay. I checked on my phone.
“ONE ROOM LEFT!!”
“5 ROOMS BOOKED THIS HOUR!!”
And the dreaded red line.
Prices were steep.
“Keep looking. There’s got to be something more reasonable.”
“There was… a month ago.”
Stephen kept driving like a trooper. Midnight rolled around. He was exhausted, as was I. We started calling any hotel available.
Nada. All booked up along the I75 corridor. And it’s 1 in the morning.
Guess what our next stop was? That’s right, our home away from home… The Tennessee Welcome Center Rest Stop.
Now, for those of you who are unaware, every last one of my children is very tall for their age. My 11 year old is the size of an adult, and my 9 year old is not far behind. This is very different than a newborn and a two year old. And even though we have the luxurious space of a Honda Odyssey, reclining is still a challenge. No, it is nigh impossible. Especially for children who have been stuck together in a car for ten hours.
“Get off my leg!”
“You are NOT sleeping there!!”
“That was my spot!”
“I have to go to the bathroom… who’s coming with me?”
“SHHH!!! You are going to wake up the baby.”
At this point I was informed by my free-spirited spouse that I had lost my sense of adventure. I informed him that it was removed over the course of five labor and deliveries.
And alas, like an alarm clock, the baby awoke. Because, that is what must happen. And now it is 2 in the morning.
She’s not tired in the least.
So out we go. Fortunately, there was a trooper in the welcome center all night long, so it was a relatively safe environment to let the little squirt get her wiggles out. At 3am, she was showing no signs of slowing down and the room of brochures was becoming a stumbling block.
And let’s be honest. My spiritual state at this time was not stellar.
Around 5 I was finally able to doze off and on for two hours. I awoke to a beautiful mountain sunrise and a happy husband.
“Isn’t this a beautiful view?”
Yeah. It was. But two hours of sleep do not make one inclined to gratitude. And Sophie had just turned 8 years old in a minivan. Happy Birthday!
We decided breakfast would improve our morale, so we entered IHOP. The waitress asked, “Did you travel all night?”
I’m sure we looked like a hot mess with blood-shot eyes.
“In a sense….”
By the time we arrived at Grandpa’s party, we had found a place to sleep with real beds, gotten showered and resembled humans again. But most importantly, we were still able to laugh. And yes, once again, we sat around with loved ones we came specifically to see and shared our tale of another trip gone awry.
Because nothing comes easy? It passes through the generations…