When Clark's sister, Jessica, announced her engagement this past winter, we knew we'd be headed to Utah in June. We just weren't sure where we'd be coming from or how we'd be getting there (courtesy of life in limbo). As it got to be spring, it became apparent that we'd be driving the 25 hours from Michigan to Utah. Cue panic mode.
25 hours is a really long time to be in a car with 2 small children. A really, really, REALLY long time. I was intensely worried about it, so I turned to the Facebook brain trust for help. They did not disappoint. I got oodles of advice, and most of it was put to good use.
Would you like to know how it all went? Well, let me tell you.
The trip out there was great. We did it in 2 days, with an overnight stop in Lincoln, NE. Day 1 was like a dream. It went better than I could have ever hoped for. We got up at 3:30am and were out the door just after 4. The goal was for girls to fall back to sleep and we could get a few solid driving hours in. No dice. But they were very quiet and restful (just not asleep) until sunrise. The day went very smoothly, with no potty accidents or major whining, and we arrived in Omaha at 5pm. We decided to take a long break there, see the Mormon cemetery, drive by Clark's parents' old houses, and take a quick tour at the Winter Quarters Visitors Center. Then we headed toward Lincoln, stopping at a McDonalds along the way for dinner. We basically got to our hotel, and went to bed. Getting up at 3:30 made it easy to fall asleep at 8, which meant no sitting in the bathroom, waiting for the kids to fall asleep (always my favorite part of traveling with kids!).
Day 2 was still good, but not as dreamy. We were all sort of sick of the car at that point, and it turns out Nebraska and Wyoming are both really large and quite boring. BUT. We managed to stay sane, had a nice stop at Little America for 50 cent ice cream cones (and a real playground, where Ella said [multiple times] while going down the slide, "My bum is shining!"), and got to Utah at 7:30, mountain time. (For those keeping track, we are in the eastern time zone, so we gained 2 hours.)
The trip back was long. Just, long. I think we were all SO READY to be home, and it's awfully depressing when you finally make it through Wyoming, only to see that you have 400 miles of Nebraska to get through before the end of Day 1. Julia was sick at the very beginning of that long trip home. I'm not sure if it was car sickness (we were going through a canyon) or lack of sleep or what, but I was grateful we had packed some ziplock bags in the glove compartment. SO so grateful. Also, we hit some nasty traffic around Chicago, which delayed us quite a bit. And we lost 2 hours with the time change. So we came home exhausted, but happy.
And what did we do in the car, you ask? What didn't we do, I say! Because I had been so worried about this adventure, I was ultra-prepared for the car ride. I wrapped dollar store gifts (though it was hard to decide when to give those out. You can't do every hour, or you'll be out $50! Every state means you get 2 gifts on day you go through Wyoming and Nebraska. In the end, I think we packed about 7 things per girl and doled them out as we became desperate.). I printed out Mad-Libs, which Julia got a kick out of - we're talking hysterical laughter in the backseat. I had coloring sheets, coloring books, workbooks, and a map of the US for each girl, so they could track our progress. I had Harry Potter on Audiobook (Julia loved it! Ella did NOT.), and numerous chapter books to read aloud. We had Scripture Scouts (BIG hit). Peter and the Wolf (they are obsessed with it). Music. Lots of snacks and food. And the piece de resistance: the DVD players. This was crucial to our sanity.
Best piece of advice I received? Print out all the rest stops that are along the way. This was wonderful to have, especially in those long stretches of nothingness. It made planning our stops a breeze. Side note: Rest stops in Illinois/Indiana/Iowa are WAY nicer than rest stops in Wyoming, and Utah for that matter. It must be that they get used more.
All in all, the girls did great with all this driving. And so did we, thank you very much. Details about Utah will have to wait for another post, this one is entirely too long already.