Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Adventure Begins - Road Trip to TN & NC, Day 1, Will This Day Ever End????

Yes, it's that time again. Crazy Sue takes 3 children on a road trip adventure across the United States. This year we had to scale back a bit due to Sam's hip we only went to TN and NC. Okay...well maybe I didn't scale back a whole lot but I did make sure we had electricity and running water this year.

It takes me a couple of weeks to get ready for the road trip. I need to research where we are going and what I will need to bring to accommodate Sam or to keep the girls entertained. A few days before we leave I begin to stage things I will need to pack...meaning...I begin to put them out so I don't forget anything. When travelling with Sam we have medications, nutritional supplements, medical equipment, essential oils, special lotions, shampoos, body wash, special food and digestive aids and then of course the usual stuff like clothing, toys and swimming/pool stuff.

I never map out our trip before we go. I rely on God and our GPS and yes, this does make my mother worry even more about me, God Bless that woman. Speaking of our GPS, this year we got a new Garmin and I felt the voices were pretty sedate, mundane...alright BORING! I found the website and I decided to have some fun. I downloaded the equivalent of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow to surprise the girls.

We decided to begin our road trip journey at 2:00 a.m. so that we could get through Chicago at a good hour and we could make the trip down to Tennessee in one day. Yep, this is classic Sue..flying by the seat of her pants. Now according to my GPS it would only take about 12 hours to get there. Now I know a lot of you are already thinking, are you crazy? Who would want to drive for 12 hours in one day. This leads me to a very funny story and probably one of my parents more embarrassing moments at my open house when I was in elementary school. For our open house we were asked to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Many of the kids in my class went to the front of the room and read how they wanted to be doctors, nurses, teachers and even a lawyer or two. Then I got up...I walked to the front of the class and I read to everyone that I wanted to be a cross country truck driver. You could just see the pride...oh wait...maybe that was embarrassment on my parent's faces. Now keep in mind that this was the era of "BJ and the Bear", do you remember that show? The actor, Greg Evigan (not exactly hard on the eyes) was a cross country truck driver, aka B.J. "Billie Joe" McKay and he had a monkey named "Bear". Yep, he was my idol and I still want a monkey. I guess that taught my parents to pay more attention to my future writing assignments.

So, being a person who loves to embrace their dreams...I began these incredibly crazy road trips with the idea that I am showing my children and my niece the beauty of our country, the beauty of God's creation....hmmm....actually I think I might just be living in my childhood fantasy...still. I mean in all honesty, I still firmly believe that I haven't figured out what I want to be when I grow up. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

So, anywho, we actually started out at 2:30 a.m. because I forgot to wake up, but since Danielle and Brooke never went to sleep they were happy to wake me up and get us going. The van was packed, Sam was sleeping comfortably in his seat, as we had planned, by putting him in the van to fall asleep earlier in the evening with the girls. I turned on the GPS and Captain Jack Sparrow said "Steer this ship to the colored part of the map thingy". The girls cracked up and I looked forward to being led to Tennessee by the voice of Johnny Depp.

The girls settled in to sleep along with Sam and we flew through Milwaukee and headed out of Wisconsin. Illinois and Chicago were a breeze. Yep everything was going as planned. Yeah...that was until we hit Indiana.

We were flying along and then suddenly all the traffic stopped and remained that way with little to no movement for the next 4 1/2 hours. Oh, crap. We quickly figured out that our air conditioning does not work well unless we are moving...which we were not doing. Danielle decided to comment that she was hot and then proceeded to repeat this a few more times until I turned to her and said "And what exactly would you like me to do about that??" Maybe it was my look or my tone...but she didn't comment about the heat again. Even the voice of Johnny Depp coming from the GPS began to annoy me. We watched how creative people could be when put into this predicament. One man continually got out of his vehicle and paced, I would like to say he was praying...but it didn't look that way. Other drivers took this route...

Bahaing through the median strip to head back in the opposite direction. That's great if you don't have to get somewhere or if you know the area. I didn't think taking Grandpa Jay's van through the median strip was going to rank as one of my best decisions. Considering I have already replaced the brakes and alternator on the van during my previous road trips, explaining broken axles or something else going wrong was not really on my agenda.

When we finally began to move we came to the pull off and a gentleman explained that the freeway was closed due to a semi accident. Three semis had run into each other and burst into flames, one of the truckers died at the scene. I felt bad for the truckers involved, said a prayer and my frustration evaporated as we got moving again. It took us a while to get moving steadily again and unfortunately the stress had taken it's toll and my stamina was getting low so I suggested we pull off at a rest stop so I could take a power nap. I had already been driving for 12 hours by this time and according to the GPS I had 7 more hours to go. How can that be??? I know most of you reading this would say, good time to find a hotel but the cross country trucker in me wasn't ready to give up just yet. I have always been very good at listening to my body and it was screaming for a break. We pulled off and I crawled into the back. Brooke, Danielle and Sam probably got out of the van and 2 feet away and I was already asleep. While I slept for an hour, Brooke, Danielle and Sam kept themselves amused by going to the rest stop building, people watching, going for a walk, and then etching their names into a picnic table (not Mom/Aunt approved) while having a sing-along with Sam. I woke up, went into the rest stop and splashed my face with cold water. I stretched and jogged a little and then went to fetch the kids as they were singing another verse of "Mr. Golden Sun" for 7 more hours of driving. I did mention....crazy....right!

I was so thrilled when we got to the "Welcome to Kentucky" sign. I couldn't get out of Indiana fast enough. Brooke continued to take a few more pictures as we entered Kentucky.

At this point the kids drifted off to sleep again and I would just look in my rear view mirror with envy. They missed our entry into Tennessee, which was beautiful, and considering the number of hours I had been driving I didn't think I should drive and take pictures at the same you'll just have to take my word for it that it was beautiful. The landscape went from flat farmland to rolling hills and then finally into the Smoky Mountains. After having seen the Grand Tetons, the Smoky Mountains were smaller beautifully green mountains, no snow covered tops but still pretty in their own way. I was counting down the hours and our destination was to the rental office...I was desperately hoping that our cabin wasn't very far away.

As we got close to Gatlinburg I woke up the kids and asked them to start helping me navigate the rest of our journey. More eyes are always helpful when you are in a new place...and you have been driving for 18 hours...and it's getting dark...and you are headed higher into the find a cabin...somewhere on a the dark. Praying and breathing, praying and breathing! We passed the strip and the kids were amazed by how many commercial attractions could be jammed onto a 2 mile strip. We continued on and got to the rental office at 9:45 p.m. after driving through a portion of the Smoky Mountain National Park...yep dark forest, lots of curves, and continuing to go uphill. What exactly was I thinking???

The rental office was closed, of course, but some lighting would have been helpful. I shined the van lights on the entrance and located the lock boxes. Trying to open a lock after driving 18 1/2 hours, in the dark is pretty interesting...but I got it open and pulled out what felt like a lot of paperwork and a couple of keys. I locked the box and scrambled back to the van to see what we had. I was also praying the cabin was very, very, very...okay 1 more...very close. From the directions it appeared to be just down the up a mountain.

We went down the road, found the entrance to the golf course which was curvy but doable and then we got to the base of yet another mountain. The road began to narrow and the only light we had was our headlights. It took us 3 turn arounds to get us on the right road. Now please...take a moment to appreciate...turning around a full size van, in the middle of the night, on a mountain, on a very narrow road after driving for 19+ hours with 3 kids. Are you feeling it?? I was driving on adrenaline, prayer and Dr. Pepper. We began to figure out these crazy roads and when we got to what we thought was the incline (more like driving straight up) to our place, I gunned the engine which skipped a little causing my heart to skip and me to grip the steering wheel even tighter and praying just a wee bit harder but rejoicing when we saw the sign that said "Misty View". We had finally arrived at our first destination.

I don't think I can even describe how good it felt to put the van in park, turn off the engine and come to the realization that I was done driving. We were here, we were safe and from what we could see this cabin was a whole lot better than the one we had last year in Maine that had no running water or electricity. I looked up, said a little prayer of thanks...who am I kidding....I screamed "THANK YOU, GOD"...I've never been very good at being subtle. I have to admit I was a little miffed at Captain Jack Sparrow for promising me a 12 hour voyage and ending up on a 19+ hour adventure, but when I thought about it...wouldn't that make sense for Captain Jack Sparrow. You naughty pirate!

As we got inside and started to find the lights, our spirits began to rise.

The first room we saw looked very nice. Then we made it to the kitchen and began to turn on more lights.

Sam quickly made himself comfortable in the first bedroom he found.

Danielle checked out the welcome book and started reading the comments of previous guests.

With the lights on we quickly realized this place was perfect. Warm, inviting and well...we were here! That's all I need to say.

Brooke and Danielle saw the loft and quickly claimed the upstairs bedroom as theirs.

They even had their own seating area, Jacuzzi tub and what looked like a beautiful deck outside their room. It was too dark to see what our view would look like but so far the inside was great.

We dropped our bags, locked the doors and went to bed. Good night, everyone!!! Stay tuned for Day 2, Exploring Tennessee and Day 3, Hiking while pushing Sam up a mountain!

1 comment:

  1. I love your travel posts! I also was a HUGE fan of BJ and the least until it became BJ and the Seven Lady Truckers and my parents wouldn't let me watch it anymore. When I travel with my kids, though, I don't like to drive more than 10 hours (and prefer to not drive more than 6 or 7) at a time. I can't imagine doing 19! We do occasionally do the trick of leaving at 2 a.m. It is a good one. Looking forward to more trip posts!