Tag Archives: family vacations

Road Trips and Rain Man

1 Jul

Road trips make or break a family, whether it’s an hour escape to the beach, three-hour drive to Legoland, or a longer one across state lines. They often remind me of Chevy Chase’s quest to have a great vacation for his own family.

So when I recently packed the car, filled up the gas tank, and took off, I went with fingers crossed that I wouldn’t have to stop the car and resort to my “mom” voice. Road trip adventure. Definitely a Bucket List item, but one I feared. Road trips. I love them and hate them. I hadn’t taken the kids on a road trip this long, four hours had been the maximum, so when this unexpected trip happened I wondered whether we’d make it up Highway 5 for six hours. I remember taking road trips in the 80s, when my dad would pile us in the brown station wagon, no computers or Game Boys back then, just hangman or sleep.  Three hours back then seemed like forever, but now I was on the verge of a six-hour adventure.


And whenever anyone goes on a road trip, some memories stand out more than others. I enjoy the pictures, some of them help me remember things that belong in The Jar of Awesome. Everyone has different highlights of their family trips and some end up being spectacular National Geographic photos, while others get sent to the recycling bin. I get lucky and take one awesome shot from time to time. But this was more of my Rain Man adventure.

I love that movie. I’ve seen it hundreds of times, and Dustin Hoffman rocked it. I still have it on VHS and I crack myself up that I still own it this way.

Anyhow during the movie they go on a road trip and Rain Man documents the trip with a camera. He takes pictures of important things and then pretty random things. He’s taking it all in. His pictures come out at the end of the movie when the credits are rolling. Some of the pictures that my kids took reminded me of  that scene. Landscapes. Sunny faded out landscapes. It brought a smile to my face and helped me remember the different points along the road.

The pictures reminded me to keep things slow, that sometimes random moments are good ones, that patience on a road trip is essential, and most of all unplug myself from the world when I can, which in truth comes fairly easy because the Internet and social media aren’t really all that important. Netflix and mobster movies … well that’s something else. And you can’t really blame me either, I mean Rain Man could not even unplug himself from Judge Wapner. Five minutes to Wapner. Five minutes to Wapner.

Buen Camino my friends!


The Beginning … sort of.


 … of our long windy road …



running into multiple farms on our way …



… taking our best Rain Man photos …



… on our five-six hour journey up the highway …


… with a couple of pit stops on our way …


To our final destination …






A Three-Hour Tour … A Three-Hour Tour

4 Apr

 Ever feel the need to kick your spouse, boyfriend, or partner out of the car while you’re driving long distances on the freeway?


It occurred to me as we made our trek to Legoland.

Legoland California

Legoland California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was supposed to be a joyous occasion and it was in the end … but the beginning tested my patience and we were in what my friend likes to call “silent mode”.

I felt like I was in the car with Gilligan on a three-hour tour … a three-hour tour!

As a mom, I can understand I’m a little neurotic. But there’s a reason for that craziness. Everything I do is for a specific reason. And no … it’s not so I can hear myself talk or give my dude a list of things to do. It’s to avoid THE MELTDOWN.

When you have kids and you’re on a journey that lasts more than one hour in a car your mission becomes avoiding THE MELTDOWN — when your kids lose it, when they cry because of boredom, when they cry because there is no television or video games, when they cry for a ridiculous reason, when they cry in general, when they cry because it’s nap time, when they cry because they’re hungry, or when they cry for no reason.

You do your best to avoid it.

That was my entire plan on a trip that the GPS stated would take an hour and forty-four minutes. However that approximate time did not include meltdowns and unforseen detours.

The park opened at ten and I wanted to get there around that time, give or take fifteen minutes, so my son could thoroughly enjoy all the attractions. Last year we failed to anticipate how long the drive would be, so we arrived after noon, where he was cranky because he didn’t sleep in the car, and the park closed at five. We felt bad about cheating my son out of the full Legoland opportunity, so I vowed that wouldn’t happen this year.

I did everything I thought I could to prepare, but the forces of destiny played tricks on me.

My plan included leaving early … just as the baby takes her first nap. Figured she would sleep all, or most, of the way there and we’d be cry-free for the drive, while my son played with most of the toys or books I packed.

What happened?

We woke up. 

We were supposed to leave around 8:30 a.m., but getting everything together in the morning took longer than usual. So I skipped breakfast, figured we could get some kind of sandwich somewhere. We made it out the door around 9:30 a.m.

Once we were in the car we thought about the coupon. It could have saved us sixty-two dollars. Now for some people, sixty-two dollars isn’t much, but when you have a family of four and you know there’s going to be ten-dollar popcorn and eight-dollar hot dogs, you try to save anywhere.

Did I mention the coupon during the week?


A few times?


Did it happen?



All he had to do was eat lunch at Denny’s, which is like 20 feet away from his work, and we’d get the free-ticket coupon.

But it never happened.

So he assured me we could stop by on the way there. No big deal, we would eat there. But before that ever happened we had to drop off one of his friend’s cell phones, which took about thirty minutes.

Was it in the opposite direction?


Did we absolutely have to drop off the phone that morning?


Could his friend have waited until the evening for his lost phone?


Did he?


Baby crying. Passed nap time. Son anxious and getting cranky. Mom frustrated, no food.  Hypoglycemic — just a nice way of saying bitchy because I was starving and had a headache.

We finally made it to a Denny’s, the one near his place of business, and the baby falls asleep. I suggested we take the food to go, so that the restaurant noises do not wake up the baby.

I got off the car and asked the hostess lady about the coupon special, she told me there were no more coupons. They ran out yesterday.


Forget the coupon, just leave. We need to get something to eat. I’m starving. I’ve got a headache coming and we’ve now been in the car for about an hour. My son’s patience is non-existent. I give him a snack, but he’s still in a crappy mood. He seems to be hypoglycemic too. He asks about Legoland again, for the hundredth time. Again I tell him we’re almost there, be patient.

About fifteen minutes later, my son gets a headache. He begins to complain about the headache. He gets loud.

Baby awake. Baby crying. Pacifier missing.

Baby’s crying intensifies my son’s headache.  We pull over and try to comfort my son and find the pacifier. He stretches his legs for a little bit, then decides he needs to use the bathroom.

After this twenty-minute detour, we get back in the car. Baby still crying. I move to the back seat to try to comfort and distract everyone. Baby settles down for a second, then starts up again.

Oh! There’s a Dennys right there. Driving too fast to make the off ramp.

There’ll be another one down the line.

Baby still crying. Son still cranky and head still hurting.

I continue my efforts to comfort and realize the baby has pooped.

“We need to stop the baby has a giant poop.”

“Can’t you just change the baby while I’m driving. Unbuckle her seatbelt, clean her and slip in the diaper.”

“Are you kidding me?


“Pull over.”

We exit. The baby’s poop made its way up her back and all over her clothes.

After changing diapers and clothes, we pile back in the car and drive.

I’m desperately searching the car for ibuprofen. My head is pounding. My dude decided to take another freeway so as to avoid heavy traffic. It’s a loop, but it’ll be faster than the current freeway we’re driving on. We drive the detour and encounter gridlock.

“Are we there yet?”

“No. Not yet.”

After waiting for all those cars to crawl out of our way, we drive thirty more minutes and see the sign: Legoland Next Exit.

Did you see that Legoland next exit?

We pass the exit.

What happened?

I thought you said next exit, not this one.

“Are we there yet?”

Baby cries.

It’s 12:14 p.m.

So envisioning  throwing him out of the car. Tuck and roll, dude. Tuck and roll.

Eventually we  made it to our destination, cranky as hell. But once I saw my son’s eyes light up as we drove into the parking lot, I was ready to rid myself and my dude of that nasty mood and of the three-hour tour … that three-hour tour.