The Drive Back: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado

On the road again!

After a glorious farm wedding on July 3rd, we were back in the car on the 4th to start our trip home!

As you can see from that first photo, most of us were unhappy about this …

Actually, Chris and I went back and forth quite a bit about extending our trip. We had booked refundable places to stay on the trip back, exactly for this reason. Ultimately, though, we decided to keep things as they were. We had jobs and summer camp and track practice and a home to get back to, as much as we would have liked to have stayed for longer.

It was Em’s first Fourth of July, and she spent it in the car! She didn’t seem to mind 😉

The Long Road Home

Rather than driving straight through — like we did on the way out — we planned for three stops on the way back home. We stopped at a Comfort Suites in DuBois, PA, an Airbnb in Vandalia, Ohio and a Sleep Inn in Oakley, Kansas. We would also be making some touristy stops throughout, to break the trip up even more.

After saying goodbye to our family (we hope to see you soon!), it was a “short” four-hour trip to our hotel in Pennsylvania. Even though we arrived late, a super-wired Grace caught some fireworks at the end of the night with Chris. The next day we took advantage of the awesome indoor pool and grabbed some breakfast before heading out.

One of my favorite photos from the trip was taken at a gas station on our way to a hotel … go figure.
This random pic at another quick rest stop was another gem <3
We love hotels! (And are also very excited to be out of the car!)
I mean, look at this awesome pool!
So fun!
Naturally, I enjoyed from afar 😉
Fun with luggage trolleys.

After pool time and breakfast in PA, we loaded up the car again and headed to our next stop — a playground/picnic and then a splash pad, both in Ohio.

This playground in Ohio was so cute, and totally empty!
We only stayed here for a quick run-around and to have a picnic, but Emilia approved.
We drove about an hour from the playground to this random splash pad in Ohio. It was on the smaller side, but on a 90+-degree day, it definitely got the job done!
Splash pads and playgrounds really take it out of ya!
And we were off … again!
Thanks Ohio … we’ll see ya later!

World’s Biggest Things — The Stop We Never Knew We Needed

The rest of the trip — about four hours — to our Airbnb in Vandalia — was a bit rough, if I’m being honest. We were all pretty over the car, somehow both tired and wired, at the same time. Luckily, about an hour outside of Vandalia, we saw a sign for some of the Big Things in the Small Town of Casey, Illinois, and made the split-second decision to pull over.

Man, oh man am I glad we did … because how much fun are these?!

Who knew big things could be so much fun?!
It was late, and starting to get dark, so we couldn’t see everything, but what we did see was so. much. fun!
World’s biggest rocking chair! (Allegedly …)
This is the world’s biggest wind chime!
Next was the world’s biggest golf tee!
Then onto the world’s biggest mouse trap?! I don’t know, but we loved it all!
What would it be like to write with the world’s biggest pencil?
I don’t think this was part of the actual attractions, but at this point in our trip I sure didn’t mind seeing my kids contained somewhere I wasn’t 😉
Checking out the world’s biggest mailbox!
There was a fountain behind the mailbox where you could throw in coins and make wishes. Bet you could guess what my wish was! (Hint: Getting to our next destination quietly was involved …)
Such an adorable town, and definitely worth a stop on your way by it!

Coffee, Dragons and Arches

After our pit stop in Casey, we still had a couple hours to our Airbnb in Vandalia, but luckily the stop did what it was meant to do — wear the kids out! They all fell asleep on the ride to Vandalia and, luckily, this Airbnb was glorious. Three bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a fully stocked kitchen with drinks and snacks. It was exactly what we all needed after a full day of travel.

This cutest little drive-through coffee shop — Shimoji Coffee — on the way out of Vandalia was so lovely!
The Kaskaskia Dragon is easy to visit on your way out of Vandalia! You can grab some coins at the store across the street to make him actually breathe fire!
About an hour later, we were at The Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Chris and I visited the Arch on our drive out to Denver from New York when we moved here, but it has since gotten an upgrade to National Park status. The museum is amazing now, and the grounds have even gotten an upgrade. It’s definitely worth revisiting if you haven’t been back in a while!
The museum is so much fun!
There are a lot of fun things for kids to do and see, too.

After our Arch pit stop, it was back in the car for a few hours, until we stopped for gas and went for a quick detour for treats at the Ozarkland General Store

One of each, please!
After Ozarkland it was on to Topeka, Kansas, where we stopped for dinner at The Pennant. This restaurant was perfect, because it had games and bowling and plenty of run-around space for the girls. Plus, it was right downtown, which was fun to check out!

Downtown Topeka, Kansas fun!

After dinner we had a couple hours to our hotel in Oakley. We picked that particular hotel because it was just a few hours from there to our home in Colorado, and we needed to leave early Wednesday to get back.

Grace, exhibiting perfectly how we all felt waking up early on Wednesday to head home after our whirlwind trip.

And that, as they say, was that, friends! After countless miles, five hotels/Airbnbs and 11 states, we were back where we started! Being home felt lovely and completely odd, all at once. We are so grateful that we were able to have this experience, to see our people and to check out so much of the U.S.

At the end of the day, we wouldn’t have done anything differently … except maybe pay more attention to the rules of Dramamine earlier on in the trip. Sorry, Grace!

The Details

Here’s a quick look at all the places we stayed, visited and ate at during this leg of our trip:

The Finances

Now for the super fun part … the money! We likely would have spent less money on this trip had we flown, even factoring in the cost of the flights. Gas is incredibly expensive right now, which was one factor. We also decided ahead of time that we didn’t want to scrimp on this trip. After not traveling for more than a year, we wanted to stop where we wanted to stop, eat what we wanted to eat, and stay where we wanted to stay.

And it worked out because, like I said, we wouldn’t have changed a thing. Here’s how our finances broke down. We spent:

  • Hotels: $1581
  • Gas/Tolls/Parking: $770
  • Food/Groceries/Entertainment: $1112
  • Miscellaneous: $250

The grand total on this trip was almost $4,000 which, of course, is a lot of cash. Considering everything we did, though — including places stayed, food ate, things visited — for five people, it really wasn’t all that bad.

Plus, as the kids say, YOLO, my friends … YOLO.

And that was our trip! I hope each and every one of you — who has made it this far in this post! — has something equally as adventurous and amazing planned for the summer. Until next time, friends … bis bald!

From the Archives: The Road Trips Of My Childhood

On the Huffington Post today, Millie Kerr faces her impending 30th birthday with a look back on her travels over the years—and specifically on what she calls the “never-ending road trips” that she and her family would take.

Millie’s own memories got me feeling a bit nostalgic, as well as a bit sad.

When I think back to all the “never-ending road trips” that I took with my own family, I can’t help but wonder how the rise in gas prices may be depriving Americans of something they might not even have considered—the epic, memorable family road trip. While the majority of my “adult” traveling life has been engineered by boats and planes, my childhood was peppered with family road trips that included little more than the four or five of us (depending on which family it was), the car, some good books and toys and music, and the open road. We never headed too far—Boston, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and the Jersey Shore were all favorite haunts of ours. But it wasn’t even so much the destination (although don’t get me wrong, those were amazing as well) as it was the journey and the shared experiences that kept us packing it in the car for more every year.
There is something to be said about waking up at the crack of dawn and piling your bags by the trunk of the car in the driveway so that your dad or step-dad could systematically load them in, or sleeping under one blanket with your sisters as your dad or stepdad continues the drive through the night.
There is something to be said about sitting, elbow to elbow, with your sisters in the back seat of the Dodge Caravan or Subaru Outback, verbally sparring for more room, but secretly not minding too much.
There is something to be said about the miles we traveled while writing stories to ourselves in our notebooks, belting out lyrics of songs we listened to over and over again in our Walkmans, and then our Discmans, or looking out the window at the countryside rolling by.
There is something to be said about the pit stops along the way, the fast food you ate that never quite tasted the same when you weren’t on an epic family road trip, or the snacks that your mom and stepmom packed for you for the hours-long ride.
When I think about my future and having kids of my own some day, I’m saddened to wonder if I will be able to afford giving them the same kind of memories. How much money would an epic road trip like the kind we used to take cost now that gas prices are topping out over $4? What will the vacations of my children’s futures look like?
I’m saddened to think I might not be able to give them everything my parents gave me on those bumpy, windy journeys we took years ago—with the windows down and the wind blowing in our faces.
I think they gave us more than they may even know….

An Epic Road Trip Plan

Road trip (much, much) up ahead

As you may or may not know, I am a person who is not happy to settle with dreams of just one or two travel destinations planned—I must always be thinking of the next. And while I’m super excited to learn more about Projects Abroad adventure opportunities for me at the open house I am attending next month, and while I’m ecstatic about upcoming Cancun, I have something else on my mind today—an epic cross-country journey.

Don’t get me wrong—I’ve loved, loved, loved the international travel I’ve done over the past year or so. But it just gets me thinking every time, there is so much of the U.S. that I haven’t seen. I’ve never done anything mid-West, and really nothing on the West Coast (Vegas is as far as I’ve been, not counting Hawaii). I’d love hit up New Orleans, Texas, Seattle, Cali, Montana, Colorado….there’s just so much great stuff to see here!

So Chris and I have come to a conclusion. When/if we ever get our acts together enough to decide to move from Manhattan (gasp!), we will first plan and go on our own little epic road trip.

This excites me for many reasons (the least of which involves spending massive amounts of time with a loved one in a small, cramped, yet-to-be-puchased car. Any advice on that one?). Besides the aforementioned lack of U.S.-related travel (at least past the East Coast), I envision myself meeting all kinds of people and learning so much more than I currently known about this great place called the United States.

Of course, there are tons of questions that still need to answered (Will we buy a cheap car and dump it in Cali? How much money are we willing to spend? Who do we know who we can stay with along the way? And where, exactly, will we go?!). But for now, dreams of an epic road trip play over and over in my head as I plug away at work and prepare for what is truly coming up—Cancun.

Bis bald, friends!