So, now that you know how the idea came about, here is the story of the 874.3 mile trip up to Elkview, West Virginia.
The plan was to break the trip into two days and take our time, slowly heading north. We already had reservations in Elkview for Monday through the following weekend but nothing booked for our first night. The point of that decision was to allow for flexibility on our first day. If the trip was going badly and we needed to stop early, we could. If the trip was going great and we got farther along, we would stop where ever we ended up. I was hoping to make it to the border of North Carolina, but honestly, we were prepared to just stop whenever we needed to no matter where it was.
Papa suffers from arthritis in his knees so we knew that we would need to stop and stretch often and Laelynn suffers from being a toddler in a carseat so we would need to take it easy on her as well. To put it in Papa’s words, we were “taking our country time” and “we weren’t in no hurry”.
So how did we end up braving the entire 18 hour trip in one day? I’ll be honest with you, I have no idea.
All I can say is that there was an army of friends and family praying for us, and God was good.
We not only survived the drive, but we had a blast!
Here are a few tips that worked for us in case you ever decide to risk your sanity on an adventure like this:
It takes a lot of preparation to pack a family of five for a week, and even more work to get it all to fit into the car. We love using our soft-sided, car top carrier for our luggage so that the interior of the car can house the minions comfortably and allows more room for the snack and activity bags. We also had a separate bag packed with only the essentials for one night so that we wouldn’t have to completely unload for the first stop.
Know Your Crew!
Don’t listen to a bunch of people (like me) who throw out tips on what to bring to keep the kids entertained. Each and every little person is unique and has different interests. Try to tune in and personalize the activities and time-wasters to the individual. However, also try to have duplicates in case one minion inspires the other to want the same object. In our case, Haven loves to color so I bought each of them a new notebook and set of crayons from the Dollar Tree. Jonah loves to read, so I picked up a couple of new books and books with CDs for less than $5 on Amazon. Laelynn is pretty happy to just hold her stuffed Mickey Mouse and eat snacks but she also got some little fun things to keep her hands busy.
We also really enjoyed using headphones with ipods pre-loaded with books on tape. I was pleasantly surprised that it not only kept their attention for hours on end, but that it kept them quiet and focused.
Leave Before the Sun Comes Up!
The day before the trip, we didn’t take naps and I let them stay up late so that they would be extra tired through the night. Then, we planned to leave at 4am while they would still be sleepy enough to fall back asleep in the van. I dressed them in comfortable, casual clothes instead of PJs so that they wouldn’t even need to get dressed. Once Michael and I had the van loaded and ready, we just carried them out and buckled them in. They did wake up and stay awake for a short time out of excitement and curiosity but they all eventually fell back asleep and we made good progress before they were up and ready for a break.
Snacks! Lots of snacks!
Being bored makes people hungry so don’t force meals at the usual times, just be generous with the pre-portioned snacks and then offer protein at meal times if they want it. They have 51 normal weeks in the year to eat properly, taking 1 week to snack to their heart’s content won’t hurt them and it will make being in the car more fun.
If someone is feeling droopy and needs some coffee, pull over and let everyone stretch while you go into the store to get coffee. There’s no need to use a drive through and miss the chance to burn off a little energy. Use the rest areas and play tag with the little ones. The running will do you all good! Don’t be in a rush; pulling over to play for a minute will work in your favor because the 15 minutes spent will prevent an hour of fussiness from cabin fever.
Dramamine is your friend!
Typically, I am a drug-free mama. My kids don’t even get tylenol for fevers unless it’s really high and they are miserable. I prefer to go the natural route as often as possible with essential oils and probiotics and healthy eating. That being said, when you are going to be in the car for 4 or more hours, children’s chewable dramamine is your friend. Don’t forget to bring your friend. The benefits of your friend are twofold, you won’t deal with car sickness when you have a bookworm in the backseat, and it has a lovely side effect called “marked drowsiness”. I don’t consider that to be a side effect, I consider it to be side benefit. Your kids wont get crazy loopy or knocked out, it just takes the edge off their energy and makes them more content to sit still.
These tips are what worked for my family, but no one knows your family better than you do. So the best advice of all would be to follow your own instincts.
Our trip in total took almost exactly 18 hours. Michael drove 80% of it and I took the remaining 20%. We left our house at 4:40am and pulled into our hotel in Elkview, West Virginia around 10:45pm that night for a total of 18 hours en route. I never in a million years thought that I could handle that many hours of traveling (much less my kids or 86 year old grandfather!) but it was actually one of the easier road trips I have experienced. The relaxed pace made all the difference in the world.
So that’s how we got here…more to come on our WV adventure later!
Our first stop for breakfast in GA was at Hardee’s. Grandma always prefered to stop here for her sausage biscuit because she claimed they had the best ones and I think she was right!
My little road warriors, our captain and our navigator
A fun stop at the rest station to play tag and soak up some sunshine
Onward and northward…napping, reading, a break to find a geocache, a beautiful abandoned house, hints of Fall colors and another state line!
As we made it through North Carolina and headed into Virginia, we began contemplating continuing through and finishing the trip in one day. Papa was feeling good and insisted that we should keep going so we followed his lead and kept a steady pace.
My favorite moment in the drive up also happened around this point when we came over a hill and got our first glimpse of the mountains. Papa literally clapped his hands and declared “you can take the boy our of the country but you can’t take the county out of the boy!” and “whoopee! it’s starting to look like home!”
A few mountains and tunnels later, the sun began to set and we crossed the line into West Virginia! I had a few tears in my eyes as we passed the welcome sign. It was emotional to be there without my grandma but it also felt really precious to be able to be there with my Papa and my kids. I had dreamed about this moment but questioned whether or not it was going to be possible, and yet there we were!
The last couple hours were the hardest as everyone was getting tired but we made it to the hotel without any meltdowns or serious issues. The only problems we encountered during our drive was Haven’s paper cut while flipping through a book and one bathroom detour that took ended up taking us much farther off the main roads than we thought it would, lol!
They were out like lights in minutes…and so were the big kids!