As usual I have not updated in quite some time and as usual I accept the fact that I have very few, if any readers and this documentation is more for me than anything.
We just got home after an 11 day road trip with an almost 2 year old. I have heard the comments already, especially from the people who, before we left, told us point blank that we were crazy. I am so pleased to say that crazy or not, Andrew is a total trooper and born traveler.
Day 1: It started on Thursday the 15th of July. We spent the early morning packing and loading the car, A’s Prius, with all our stuff. We stopped at my mom’s house for Andrew’s swimming lesson and then we were on our way. Our first stop was Gainesville to go to the ever important Starbucks but then it was back on the road, headed north to the town of Moultrie, GA. Why Moultrie you ask? Well, don’t worry, I was asking the same thing. A’s company works with another company that is based there. While A had a meeting, Andrew and I checked out the Dollar Store and Walmart. Our trip was off to a blazing start :-/ Just when we had worn out our welcome in the toy department I got the text that the meeting was over. Can I just say that the Disney Pixar marking team has done a thorough job of placing Buzz and Woody on every single item known to man. Yes, thanks for that.
In typical A fashion the meeting was not entirely over so we killed 45 more minutes playing in the conference room before hitting the road again. By that time it was close to dinner time. I’d packed a cooler of fruit and sandwiches so we could avoid nasty fast food which we no longer eat. It was actually nice to keep moving and not have to really stop and since we were in the Prius, we really did not have to stop very frequently. That night we stayed in Savannah, GA.
Day 2: With the intention of spending some time sight seeing, we woke early the next morning and headed straight for the historic district of Savannah.
A and I visited there about 5 years ago when we were on our way home from the “Rescue Mission” (A getting out of the Air Force and moving home). We loved the city, especially a rather large candy store right along the river. We enjoyed chocolate covered marshmallows while Andrew had his first taste of chocolate anything besides cake. He got a chocolate covered graham cracker which is where I realized that traveling is a time for spoiling children and while it may not have been the best precedent to set, we sure loved watching him eat that chocolate with the biggest grin on his face!
Savanna is a beautiful city but it is definitely not stroller friendly, especially the historic part. There are no ramps, and many doorways were too narrow to push our not that big umbrella stroller. Plus, pushing a stroller over cobbled streets is next to impossible so we did not stay long in the historic area. After reading some less than stellar reviews, we decided not to wait for a table at Paula Deens restaurant. Instead we found a small cafe a few blocks away and had a delicious and much less expensive lunch. Then it was off to Charleston.
Trying on hats at a shop in Savannah (I didn’t have the heart to tell him these were not intended for little boys!)
In Charleston we drove around for a while looking for a place we’d been 5 years before. Turns out the art show we were looking for is only 2 weeks a year and we’d missed it. We ended up not doing too much sight seeing because it seemed that most shops carried the same merchandise. Dinner at Bubba Gumps and then we hit the road again. Although we did not travel many miles that second day, it felt like we were in the car forever. Andrew ran around for a while in the park along the river which is where I took these pictures. We stopped for the night in Lumberton, NC.
Day 3: We got up early again but this time, with the intent of driving straight until we reached Alexandria, VA. Having driven from Florida up the east coast now more times than I can count, I must say that Virginia and North Carolina are annoyingly long states.
(Side Story) One time while A was still living in NJ, I went up to visit him after Christmas for a week. We left very early in the morning and hit a huge amount of traffic on the way. It was pretty slow going but somewhere in the northern part of South Carolina traffic came to a complete stop. After going only a mile in 1 hour, we decided to get off I-95. We pulled off at a gas station where we were informed that the accident was in VIRGINIA. That’s right, traffic was backed up for about 30 miles in SC, ALL OF NC, and 12 miles into VA. Insane or what?
So back to the story…. that day was an Elmo day. Thank goodness we were armed with 6 DVDs of Elmo’s World which if you’re not a parent yet I highly suggest you invest in these DVDs. They create total silence in a child and that’s a relief considering that Andrew literally talked THE ENTIRE DRIVE (except for when Elmo was on). He’s really progressed in his language skills and speaks in complete sentences a majority of the time. He is also understandable about 90% of the time so it’s fun but quite exhausting since he does not seem to appreciate quiet quite as much as his mommy and daddy do.
We finally arrived in Alexandria in the early evening after traveling over 1100 miles and watching 18 episodes of Elmo. We got the keys to the apartment and unloaded. It was a very nice place with 2 bedrooms and 2 large bathrooms. The only problem is– no TV! Now we’re not huge TV watchers but I do like to keep up with current events. Plus, we’d brought very few toys and I was hoping to get some relief letting Andrew watch a little TV but that was not to be found. We stopped by Target to pick up a few essentials and then found a great shopping/dining area within walking distance of the apartment. We ate at this fantastic restaurant called Delias. We’ll definitely be going back there next time– I highly recommend it!
Day 4: Was a very exciting day!! See, I have been part of 2 mom’s groups for quite some time now. The first was a TTC group (Trying to Conceive for you male readers) and the second was a Due Date group. I’ve become very close to several people on both groups and had the opportunity to meet one of the lovely ladies that I have gotten to know so well over the last few years. We were honored to be invited to her daughter’s baby naming ceremony. I was very excited to meet my friend in person but also to experience something new and different. The ceremony was absolutely beautiful.
After we left the ceremony, we headed back into DC. Now I’ll go off again on a little bit of a tangent but if you know me you know that I love living here in FL. This is my home and where I grew up and where I have always wanted to raise my family. But if I had to move anywhere else in the country and be okay with it, even happy to live there– it would be Washington DC. I developed a love for the city (and I know this is going to sound weird) because of my love for the TV show The West Wing. That show, so beloved we still watch it on DVD, made the city and the job of working in politics seem glamorous, romantic even. What was wonderful about driving directly through the city on a bright Sunday morning was that I felt we got to see it for what it truly is without all the people and hustle and bustle and there are few places in this country as rich in history and significance and beauty as Washington DC. So there we were, driving right to the middle part where all the monuments are and we stopped and parked and went to the Smithsonian where we met up with A’s childhood friend and his wife. I am always nervous about meeting new people but these two were totally awesome and I enjoyed their company instantly. The friend is from the area and guided us through the National Museum of Natural History like our own private tour guide. Andrew LOVED the museum from the start. What more could a little boy ask for than giant animals and dinosaur bones, plus, lots of opportunities to touch. And I felt this overwhelming sense of joy in watching him experience all of that for the first time. I see now how terribly important it is for a child to travel and see different parts of the world and I am certain, absolutely certain, that there is no better age to start than when they are young toddlers. Sure, it’s more work for you as a parent but my goodness watching him learn and absorb everything brought tears to my eyes.
Something strange happened while we were there though. Two separate people came up to us, said nothing but pointed their camera directly at Andrew and took his picture. The first time I thought the person was taking a picture of an exhibit but when I turned around it was just a door way. The second time there was no mistaking that the person photographed Andrew. Both of the photographers were Asian. After talking it over with my mom we thought that perhaps they just wanted a picture of an American looking boy and you can’t get much more American looking than my little guy. I guess I was just a little more shocked than anything, I mean, here’s this whole museum and you choose to take a picture of my child? I figure, they COULD have asked first… but maybe didn’t speak English.
After walking the whole museum we walked across the Mall to the Air and Space Museum. I have a memory of visiting DC when I was 13 and I thought I went to this particular museum but when we got there I realized I had been remembering something else. I still don’t know what we saw but we did enjoy the museum very much. We ate dinner at a lovely restaurant which, sadly, I do not remember the name. I’d recommend it, even though they did mess up my order– the food was still excellent.
Day 5: First day on my own. A met up with some of his business associates and they drove him where he needed to be that morning. With no toys and no TV, I loaded Andrew in the car and drove out to Reston, VA where a friend from my mom’s group lives. I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to get together but I figured it was as good a place as any to bring Andrew. We started at the Barnes and Noble where he played with the trains in the kids section while I figured out how we would spend the rest of the day. Then we went and ate lunch together and I realized that he’s very good company and will be even more so when he’s just a little bit older. After lunch we went to visit my friend and her two beautiful sons, the oldest is only a few days older than Andrew. When we arrived he was sleeping but Andrew sure enjoyed playing with his toys. Later when he woke up, the boys were introduced and they seemed to hit it off pretty quickly. We went to another Air and Space Museum out near Dulles International that was much less crowded and provided plenty of space for the boys to run around and imitate each other which was hilarious to watch! Both mommies tried in vain to get a picture of them together but these two are very active little boys and did not stop or slow down for even a second.
Around 5 it was time for us to head back and I got my first true taste of Beltway traffic and quickly reconsidered my desire to live in the area. If it weren’t bad enough that it was my first time driving there, AND it being on the Beltway, AND most of the lanes being under construction and the GPS not being quite so clear with the directions but there was also a torrential downpour that made it next to impossible to see out the window. The whole time I prayed, “Please don’t let me die, Please don’t let me kill Andrew”. It was white knuckle all the way. I’m sure it took a few years off my life. We finally made it to where we were picking A up from work… all the way from Reston, VA to Clinton, MD took us nearly 2 hours. It probably should have taken about 45 minutes but what time of day that would be possible exactly I am not sure. Maybe 2am? Dinner that night was at a place called PotBellies which had pretty good sandwiches but nothing to write home about. The chocolate chip cookie however was AWESOME.
Day 6: Was a day I was most looking forward to. The plan was to visit a place called At Play Cafe with four other August Mommies. I was so excited!! Up to that point I had been nervous about meeting so many people I’d never met before. There is always that fear that the person you expect to meet will be totally different but my fears had been eased the day before after meeting E who turned out to be every bit as sweet and awesome as she comes across on our board. E and three other mommies were there and they were all just the sweetest people. Their children are SUPER cute too! It was SO neat to see Andrew interact with all his age mates. They played at this little cafe while the moms had coffee and watched them play. Andrew has never experienced anything like it but he did wonderfully well, checking about every 15 minutes to see that I was still there and then running off the play like a kid in a giant toy store.
After the kids were worn out, 3 moms and 3 little ones went out for a pizza lunch. It was hard to leave that day because it was simply so enjoyable. Thankfully, we left a little earlier and the traffic was not as bad as we made our way across the Beltway again to Andrews AFB. Dinner Tuesday night was at the apartment because A had a business dinner to attend. Andrew and I read books and ate PBJ sandwiches and after he went to bed I had my first crack at a computer in 6 days and it was, well, like crack. Ahhh computer!
Day 7: Wednesday A needed the car so Andrew and I decided to brave the metro. I had studied up on everything the night before and planned our route. I felt fairly confident we could find it. The plan was to meet J, who’s baby naming we’d attended the Sunday prior. I packed the backpack with everything we could need, loaded Andrew in the stroller and set off for the Metro station. I hate feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing but worse, I hate LOOKING like it. I’m afraid it makes me an easy target and it made me even more nervous having Andrew with me so I went slowly and tried to make it look like I knew what I was doing. Thankfully, A did a good job of describing the ticket machines so I figured it out without looking too clueless. On to the train and we were on our way.
At first Andrew was in complete awe of this new experience. While walking up he immediately exclaimed “Monorail! See Mickey Mouse!” Well that’s a Florida child for ya, always thinking trains lead to Mickey Mouse. I explained we were not headed to see The Mouse but to see Pandas at the zoo instead. He did well on the metro but then came the tricky transfer which made me so nervous I was sweating and shaking. I grabbed the bag, the stroller and his hand so tightly I’m surprised he didn’t resist. There we were on this dark platform surrounded by gobs of people (isn’t that city EVER quiet?) and going up escalators, down stairs, all over the place until we found our next train. It was such a relief to get on and know we were headed the right direction only Andrew disagreed. He was not thrilled to be back on the train and started to yell “Get off train!” Thankfully we didn’t have very far to go. Little did I realize the zoo was another half mile walk uphill! Ha! We did make it and we met up with J and her tiny precious daughter. We explored the zoo and chatted about all types of things. Andrew had a ball looking at all the different animals. His favorite was the tiger who we found sleeping in total cat style on its back with its paws in the air. Andrew shouted “Wake up Tiger! Go swimming!” expressing his desire to see the tiger swim in the moat. I couldn’t stop cracking up over this. Needless to say, the tiger did not oblige.
On our way out we stopped at the store and I decided it was time to find Andrew something else to play with. I found some pretty nice quality little plastic animals and picked out the three he’d expressed as being his favorite animals– the tiger, the panda and the elephant. The entire way back– from the exit of the zoo all the way to the apartment, while walking and riding and transferring and riding some more and walking again he held that tiger so tightly in his hand you would have had to use some real effort to pry the thing out. I don’t think $4.99 has ever made him so happy!
When we got back we showered off the disgustingness of the metro and waited for A to get back so we could have dinner with K and M, two great friends from UF! Unfortunately, our plans went awry when the traffic was so bad that A had to cut through the city and took nearly 2 hours to make a drive that even at that time of day usually only takes 15 minutes. K and M drove over to us from Rockville and we ate dinner at a Tapas restaurant in Old Town. It was my first experience with Tapas and it was very good!
Day 8: Another day to meet new people! This time we headed out to Woodbridge, VA to spend some time with two mom friends from earlier in the week and a new mom friend who we had not met in person yet. K and her 5 amazing children including her youngest who was only 10 days old at the time, met us at IKEA and we enjoyed lunch. I was particularly excited to meet K because she is from FL and is a Gator fan! Plus, her daughter is named the exact same name that I hope to someday give to a daughter should I ever be blessed to have more children. I feel a bit like a broken record to continue saying we had a wonderful time but it was true. I so rarely feel such complete satisfaction when doing anything at all but it was a truly enjoyable afternoon.
That afternoon Andrew finally took a nap. Yes, if you’re counting this was the first real nap that was not in a carseat or stroller since we left Tampa the week before. Poor guy! We went that evening to pick up A and I took some pictures of Andrew in front of the sign that reads “Welcome to Andrews AFB”. It was there that I got the idea of doing Andrew’s future big kid bedroom with an airplane theme. The picture came out pretty cute too! I think I’ll use it 🙂
That evening we went back down to Old Town and had dinner at a little deli called Bittersweet. They had GREAT sandwiches and sweets and gigantic cups of lemonade! I’ll admit though that by that point, I was really dragging and nearing complete exhaustion.
Day 9: Last day in the city! We took the train again this time meeting the 11th and final friend on this visit. D and I met years and years ago but this was the first time we got to meet and I’m so glad that we did! She is super sweet and helped me brave the metro with Andrew for a second time that week. We did not have as much luck the second time though as we missed our stop on the train and ended up having to walk an extra couple of blocks which in the long run wasn’t that big of a deal except DC was having a MAJOR heat wave and I’m sure the temp was over 100 degrees! We ended up eating lunch at a place appropriately named The West Wing Cafe which was fun because we both share a love of the TV show. The place had deli sandwiches just the way I like them! We ate and made our way to the National Museum of American History. I’m sad to say Andrew did not enjoy this one as much as he did the others but I sure enjoyed it and I’m pretty sure D did too! Seeing things like Lincolns top hat and Michelle Obama’s Inaugural gown, along with Kermet the Frog and thousands of other things that make up our history was pretty darn cool!
An Original Dumbo
Andrew fell asleep in the stroller while we were walking around.
I guess I was not the only one who was complete exhausted! Finally, we finished up at the museum and headed back to Alexandria. I’d packed, washed everything in the apartment to get it ready for its next occupants, and then showered us both. We loaded the cooler with more fruit and sandwiches and loaded the car with everything. The we headed north to Annapolis where we drove around the Naval Academy and took some cute pictures of Andrew at the place he’s “not allowed to go”.
Then we ate the most amazing dinner at a place called Chart House. I guess at this point there can be no denying that we had eaten out quite a bit. Back at home we don’t eat out nearly as much as we used to be having had several meals out during the course of the week we approached the host stand and Andrew starts his list… “Crayons? Paper? Highchair? Chicken? Broccoli? Apple Juice?” He had both of us as well as all 5 hosts cracking up as he placed his entire order right then and there. The restaurant was hands down the best meal we ate while we were there. The ambiance was delightful and the food incredible. A got the salad bar and gave Andrew his first taste of caviar which I think is probably another bad precedent to set but oh well! They also had this amazing desert that puts the Chili’s Molten Chocolate Cake (a former favorite) to absolute shame! It was SO GOOD! That evening we drove late into the night, making it to Hershey, PA right around midnight.
Day 10: I suppose after 9 fantastic days, something has to go wrong right? Well we slept in pretty late that morning before heading over to Hershey. It was much too hot for the theme park but that was okay because really what we most wanted to do was Hershey Chocolate World (another place we’d visited once before and liked).
Andrew loved the ride with the singing cows so much so that he is now the owner of his very own Hershey cow (in line with the spoiling of the child).
But we noticed he was starting to get sniffly. We really wanted to drive over to New Hope, PA which was another favorite place of mine but on our way back to the car, (in the 108 degree heat) we got a call from my sister in law that while she was at our house feeding the cats she noticed that the ceiling in our office was leaking and the dry wall was falling down. Panicked and exactly 1,078 miles from home we got in the car and all thoughts of New Hope vanished. We were headed home. Not the nicest ending to what had been a very nice trip. Turns out the cleaning service turned down our thermostat from 78 to 68 (who does that?!). It over worked the AC unit since it’s quite hot here as well. The coils froze over with enough ice that it filled the bathtub when they defrosted it. The ice melted and caused the leak. The water was splashing down on my desk and actually ruined one whole side of it as well as all my magazines that I kept under the desk. It also did damage to our world map of places we’ve visited which is not so much an expensive thing to replace as it is a tough thing to duplicate– A has been to so many places it’s really our only record. So anyway my sister in law and brother and mom worked to clear everything away from the leak and assess the damage and even clean up a lot of the mess for which we are so very grateful. My brother also waited for the AC repair guy who defrosted the AC and got it running smoothly again. By that point we’d calmed down but were too far south to really turn around and go back. We drove 12 straight hours that day and completely and utterly killed the portable DVD player (no more Elmo). Despite his cold Andrew still did far better than anyone could have expected him to do and I found myself thinking again and again how proud I was of him and how much I had enjoyed the entire experience despite the abrupt ending. We stopped again in Savannah for the night.
Day 11: Our desire to get an early start was sidetracked by the fact we arrived at the hotel at nearly 1am. I guess when you check in REALLY late they are more likely to give you the handicapped room which is pretty nice because we got it 2 our of 4 hotel nights and that room is substantially larger than a normal room. In any case we were not there very long. We slept and then hit the road again around 9am. We stopped for lunch at the Columbia Restaurant in St. Augustine which is kinda amusing because the original Columbia Restaurant is in Tampa. In fact my great grandfather who was a brick mason, built the bread ovens at the original restaurant. But we actually go to the one in St. Augustine more frequently. Another delicious meal and it was finally time for the last stretch home. We got in around 6:30 after driving over 19 hours in two days. Hundreds of pictures, piles of laundry, a hole in the ceiling, stacks of mail, grateful cats and tired parents sums up the end of our trip but the most important things I can’t leave out– the amazing memories, and an incredible learning experience for our little road warrier, all before his second birthday.