After two months and a half months of being apart—a time frame which is probably laughable to an experienced military spouse—I got a call from my hubby saying that we could join him for technical school in Texas. I was thrilled to see my husband again; we had never been apart for any stretch of time quite that long in our entire four years of marriage, but Texas? I had some doubts.
As a native Mainer, I enjoy a reasonable amount of snow and I’m a force to be reckoned with should the temperature ever rise above a sweltering 90 degrees. He was stationed in West Texas (basically no man’s land) and it was not somewhere I had ever planned on visiting—willingly—but there’s nothing I wanted more than to have my family together again. I recruited a friend and after only three weeks of planning, I sold two cars, rented my first Uhaul, packed up everything I owned and set out for a five-day road trip from Maine to the Lone Star State.
The biggest challenge of this trip wasn’t the fact that not only had I never driven an SUV before (my new ride), but I now I also had a wobbly Uhaul tacked onto the back of it. No, it wasn’t that. It wasn’t the fact that I had to make a pit stop in Pennsylvania to empty out a storage unit that had been rodent infested for what I expect was the entire two years it sat full of my little family’s possessions. Not that either. The most complicated part of a 35-hour road trip was having my three-year-old son along for a ride that I wasn’t sure I could survive.
I spent days combing through my son’s archives to find a few favorite stories that we should take. I went to local book stores to find sticker books and little travel-sized magnet boards with construction crews and pirate ships that might appeal to his boyish sensibilities. He picked out some new coloring books and I invested in new crayons. In truth, those were for me. Who doesn’t love new crayons? I picked out finger foods and things like applesauce in a pouch for mess-free snacking and stocked the back seat with about a million water bottles.
This thing has been planned perfectly. I felt like a champ. I was ready to rock. Everything was ready to go for a stress-free trip. Ha!
If memory serves me correctly, my son didn’t’ touch a thing that I had packed for him—other than the food of course. He spent that entire trip stuffed into a fully pakced car like a little sardine and played more Angry Birds on my Kindle than I’d like to admit. All three people in that car ate more fast food than should ever be allowed in a five-day stretch. After a 17-hour drive from Baltimore to New Orleans, I had considered calling it quits and just shipping everything the rest of the way to Texas.
My little group stopped for an entire day in New Orleans. We took a riverboat ride on the Mississippi and ate lunch at the Hard Rock Café on Bourbon Street. We waited in line FOREVER to get beignets at Café Du Monde. Covered in powder and filled with sugar, we walked through the lower French Quarter and danced along to the sounds of street musicians that filled the air.
One day in New Orleans was hardly enough, but our time exploring and relishing the electric atmosphere made the entire road trip worth the (extreme) effort. A mere eleven hours after forlornly leaving New Orleans in our wake, we arrived in sunny San Angelo, Texas. The road trip had been hard, but it didn’t take us long to settle back in to life as a family. It took even less time for my three-year-old to ask when we were going to hit the road again.
Shauna Armitage is a parenting blogger, a freelance travel writer and the co-founder of Pure Wander Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @CarpeCalamus