It took 15.5 hours to get to Oklahoma (split among Tuesday evening and until dinnertime on Wednesday).
And it took 17 hours (done in a single day) to return home yesterday. (Plus we lost an hour coming home, so it was that much later getting in.)
But we survived our 32.5-hour trek in the car.
We actually did more than just survive it. It went really well.
We left immediately after work and got into St. Louis on Tuesday night around 10:30 p.m. local time, checked into our hotel (thanks for the recommendation, Sarah! It was perfect!), and crashed for the night. (I keep telling everyone this, but I was floored that the St. Louis Arch is shiny. I always thought it was made of white concrete or stone on the outside and looked much like the Washington Monument [which I have seen in person and I know is not shiny!]. My whole sense of everything I know about the world has been shaken up by this discovery!)
We got up early on Wednesday morning, grabbed breakfast for the road, and got back to it by 7:30 a.m. We had packed a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches for all of us so we wouldn’t have to make (or pay for) a lunch stop on the way, and we finally made it to my sister’s house at 5:30 p.m.
We were there to visit my sister, her husband, and my two nieces, one of whom is three months old and we had never met before. The other will be 5 years old next month, and she and Baby B were thick as thieves after mere minutes together. (This wasn’t their first time together; they had met back in January.)
We enjoyed pizza that night and then the older girls took a bath together before it was time for stories and getting ready for bed. We visited with The Sister and The Brother-in-Law for a bit after the kids were asleep, but it had been a long couple of days, so we were in bed by 10:30 p.m. that night.
On Thanksgiving Day, we spent most of the time around the house, with the exception of all of us girls going for a walk during the afternoon (they had gorgeous weather while we were there: upper 60s/low 70s and sunny) while the boys watched a boy movie. I helped The Sister prepare our Thanksgiving dinner, and we enjoyed a nice meal together, thankful for the time we were able to spend together.
We did have a bit of a nontraditional moment when we all left the dinner table to go outside and watch the space station fly overhead. It was amazing to watch because there were two lights to see this time — because the space shuttle was docked with the space station as it was flying overhead! What a unique thing to see. It was awesome to see these two lights flying fast overhead, probably a hand’s width apart if you held your hand to the sky, giving you a sense of just how big these objects really are. We also watched the space station again on Friday night — and there was just one light this time because the space shuttle had landed earlier that day. Anyway, Thanksgiving dinner was nice, and we all went to bed with full bellies.
I didn’t really expect us to do much on Friday, so I was pleasantly surprised when we found enough to do to fill up the whole day. First we got a driving tour of their area, then we went to Lake Murray and drove around and took some pictures since again it was a gorgeous day.
Then we went to lunch at Braum’s, a local chain of burger and ice cream restaurants. (My only rule for going out to eat when traveling is that it can’t be anywhere that we have at home.) We went to a local park to let the girls play on the playground, then The Brother-in-Law suggested we go to Turner Falls, so we agreed we were up for it. (Baby B didn’t take a nap either day we were there — we didn’t even attempt it and she was fine — though probably more about that later in the week.)
Turner Falls was a very pleasant surprise. We weren’t expecting a $15 admission fee (total for the seven of us), but we learned it was well worth it when we found castle ruins to explore and a beautiful area around the waterfall itself. We even stayed long enough to watch the sunset over the falls, which was spectacular. I think everyone really enjoyed our trip to the falls.
We headed to the house to eat leftovers for dinner, and then we put the kids in their pjs and we went back to the park we’d been to earlier, which has a great Christmas lights display — for free (donations accepted) — that we drove through. That was very fun and something good to do that was seasonal.
Unfortunately, we had to hit the road early on Saturday morning, and we left their house by 7:30 a.m. We took turkey sandwiches to eat the road to save time, but we decided to picnic at a rest area in Missouri so we could let Baby B stretch her legs for a bit on the playground there. We also stopped for a sit-down dinner so we could take a good break and recharge for the rest of the drive home. So, I think we could have cut some time off our 17 hours yesterday, but I’m glad we made the stops we did because it made the drive much more tolerable for everyone.
Baby B was amazing in the car. Just wonderful. On the way there, we had a two small moments (one when she needed to go to sleep on Tuesday night and one when she needed to nap on Wednesday) where she was crying for about 20 minutes out of frustration, but aside from that, she was awesome. On the way there, The Husband sat in the backseat with her for a couple hours, but on the way back, she was alone in the backseat the whole time and managed to entertain herself.
Here is a great illustration of how good she was. I’m not really a fan of resorting to DVD players in the car for kids. I think there are plenty of other ways for kids to entertain themselves, and it seems like it’s a crutch for the parents in many cases. But since we had such a long drive, The Husband borrowed a DVD player from one of his coworkers, just in case we wanted to use it. I was glad we had it as an option and would have used it if needed, but I didn’t want to have that be the first thing she did in the car.
Well, the DVD player never left the trunk. On the way back it didn’t even occur to me that we had it until Baby B was already asleep for the night.
So how did she entertain herself so well for all that time? She spent a lot of time “reading” her books. She becomes so engrossed in those and totally immerses herself in them. But mostly it was to our advantage that Baby B is fully in the “why” and question stage, so she was constantly asking questions and asking follow-up questions and asking follow-up questions to her follow-up questions. Or we would start asking her a series of questions that would lead who knows where! It really was a lot of fun, and reminded me a lot of the car trips we used to take when I was a child.
The Brother-in-Law gave us their unused, spare GPS to have after he heard me talking about them when looking at the Black Friday ads. (They had bought one and then very soon after bought a car with built-in GPS, so they didn’t need this one. And no, I had no plans to shop that day; I just like to look at the ads.) GPS is one of those things that is like the video baby monitor: You don’t need it, but it’s a nice tool to have. This is a very basic model, but it got the job done, and it helped make our trip a little more fun too. We’ve named her Maggie (since it’s a Magellan brand), and Baby B quite often would say, “Good job, Maggie!” after she would give us directions.
It was a fantastic trip, and even though I wish we’d had more time there to visit, I’m glad we had the chance to go for the little time we had. It was a long drive, but well worth it. I love that we don’t shy away from difficult trips with Baby B, and I hope eventually it fosters a love of traveling within her.