"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Trip - From NH to AZ

Day 1 - Departure

We planned to leave NH at 8:00 AM, and ended up leaving at 8:45. Not bad considering that it was a cold, rainy, dreary day. The first leg of the trip went incredibly smoothly. The boys slept off and on, and we rarely heard a peep from the animals. We had lunch in New York, and it was also somewhere in New York that I first noticed that our trailer swayed like crazy everytime a tractor trailer passed us. I vowed I wouldn't look back anymore, because it freaked me out, but of course it just made me look EVERY time. The drizzly sky finally completely opened up and poured on us as we entered Pennsylvania, and we all laughed as we ran through the rain into to PA Welcome Center. First overnight stop: Mifflinville, Pennsylvania. We got some sandwiches from Arby's, then spent the evening playing the bingo game that Paxton got in his kid's meal at lunch.

Day 2

We woke to freezing temperatures and snow. It snowed on and off all day, but thankfully never enough to delay our trip. We entered Ohio, and had lunch in Akron. There were tears in Akron too - lots of them - over where we were going to eat. A scene was made, and I think there's a distinct possibility that we won't be welcome at that Subway ever again. Ah, traveling with kids. Everyone felt a lot better after we ate, and we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset coming through Columbus. The boys broke out their gameboys after lunch, and I ate my way through a box of Junior Caramels while I read two more magazines and caught up on all my pop-culture news. We noticed a strange thump in the trailer, and couldn't figure out what it was. We were excited to see gas prices drop below $2.00, a very good thing since our 4Runner was barely making 11 MPG with the weight of the trailer. Second overnight stop: Dayton, Ohio. There was a Perkins right next to our hotel, so that fit the bill for dinner. We'd never eaten there before, but the boys and I were able to get pancakes, and Mike got some sort of meat, so we were happy. The hotel was NOT a four-star establishment, and I had to laugh each time I found something wrong.... a lamp that didn't work, a missing clock, a shower drain that didn't drain, and not even a single spare roll of toilet paper.

Day 3

This time we woke to the first casualty of the trip. My Christmas cactus, lovingly grown from a shoot from a plant that was originally my Grandmothers, was frozen dead in the truck. Our luck continued through the morning into Missouri. It was a boring stretch of highway, and a rough stretch of highway, so much so that I was starting to feel carsick. Everett was starting to get grumpy and bored, so I picked up a little chalkboard for him to play with. It kept him happily drawing for 20 minutes or so, until he found more creative uses for it, like bopping his big brothers in the head. It revived me a little bit to come into St Louis, and I took several pictures of the arch. It finally started to warm up a bit too, something that made us all happy. We played the alphabet game in the afternoon, and we got to "Z" just as we passed a Lake of the Ozarks sign. Third overnight stop: Lebanon, Missouri (at a much nicer hotel than the night before.) We rolled into the parking lot with less than a half a gallon of gas, checked in, and ordered a pizza. While we waited for dinner to arrive, the boys ran around the courtyard for a good half hour, waving their arms over their heads, shouting "We're freeeeeeeee!!"

Day 4

We had a rough, windy ride first thing in the morning, but it cleared up as the morning wore on. The boys played their gameboys, and I finished the second of the 4 books I brought with me. We crossed into Oklahoma, and had lunch in Tulsa. We saw our first official cowboy in Wendy's, complete with Wrangler jeans, cowboy boots, hat and silver belt buckle. The boys were excited at lunch because they got new prizes in their kids' meals (we'd already eaten fast food enough times that they'd gotten some repeats) The day was going smoothly, if long, and we booked our hotel for the night. We were about 60 miles away from our destination, and I turned to Mike to tell him what good time we were making, how happy I was that we were ahead of schedule. BOOM. Or bang or pop or whatever words conjure up a dreadfully loud and sudden explosion sound. In the ten seconds it took me to realize we weren't in fact being shot at, but had blown a tire out on our trailer, Mike already had the truck under control and was maneuvering it onto the shoulder. Unfortunately it happened on the one of the worst possible places on the highway... a barely-there shoulder, a tight curve, and a 75 mph speed limit. We just sat in the truck for a minute, looking at each other, while tractor trailers zoomed by fast enough to make our teeth rattle. We did have a spare, but neither of us were comfortable with Mike changing a tire by himself on that section of road. We wanted a professional, preferably with flashing lights. We called AAA, who sent someone out, and it took about 20 minutes for him to arrive. It was dark by this time, and 2 of the 3 boys were crying, exhausted and freaked out. It was a quick fix once he got there; and ten minutes (and $120) later, we were on our again, stopping at a closer hotel than planned. Fourth overnight stop: Elk City, Oklahoma. We were exceedingly thankful to get there safe and sound, and the hotel room - complete with its hot pink sheets - was very inviting. I stayed with the baby, while Mike and the older boys ran out to pick something up for dinner. I found Racing Stripes on HBO, and thought they'd be excited about that when they got back. They were.

Day 5

Everett woke up hot with a fever, but with no other symptoms. I felt bad making him get in the car for another day of driving, but knew that he'd get the sleep he needed to fight whatever it was off. And sleep he did. We drove around most of the morning looking for someplace to buy another spare tire for the trailer, but it was a difficult feat being a Sunday when everything was closed. Walmart's tire center was open but did not have the right size. We took the chance while we were there to grab a few things we needed... snacks, baby tylenol, another magazine, new magnadoodles for the kids. The guy at Walmart sent us to a truck stop, also open, also wrong size. We finally found a service station that appeared to be open. The guy who worked there, called in on an emergency repair for somebody else, was gracious enough to help us. We were back on the road by 10:30 AM, and finally crossed into Texas. Lunch was at McDonalds in Amarillo. The boys wanted an icecream after lunch, and were bummed to find out that their icecream machine was broken. After lunch we crossed the border into New Mexico, and it was just as beautiful as I remembered it from the first trip. There's just something about the miles and miles of wide open spaces, mountains, and red rock buttes that's good for the soul. I love the southwest; I always have. The difference between this time and our trip in June is that in June it felt like a vacation, and this time it feels like going home. Fifth overnight stop: Albuquerque, New Mexico. The kids made me smile when they walked into our rather typical $60 a night hotel room and said, with all sincerity "Wow, what a great room!" We had dinner at an interesting cafeteria-style family restaurant in a not-very-nice part of town. We'd promised the boys icecream.... and the icecream machine was broken there too. We headed back to our hotel, and to the McDonald's sharing its parking lot, for icecream and another night of much needed rest. We pulled out the US map as we had every night so far, and marveled at how far we'd come.

Day 6

Everett's fever was thankfully of the 36 hour variety, and he woke up cool and happy and his usual stinker self. The older boys however woke up with their own unique versions of impending colds... Paxton a hacking cough, and Spencer a flurry of sneezes. We'd set the alarm for 7, but not being used to the time change we woke up at 5:45, ready to get going. We had our first really good cup of coffee of the trip when I spotted a nearby Starbucks. Mike ran in for them, and came back swearing that he was never going to Starbucks again.... too many complicated choices for a simple cup of coffee. We enjoyed a relaxing drive through the rest of New Mexico, and I finished my 3rd book of the trip in between drinking in all the scenery. We crossed into Arizona before noon, and began the long stretch of desert highway. Exits were few and far between, so when we stopped for a bathroom break, Mike decided to fill up the gas tank just in case. He was already up to $40 before he realized that the gas was almost FOUR DOLLARS a gallon. We shed our jackets sometime around lunchtime, and enjoyed the warm air. Lunch was at Denny's in Holbrook, and we decided to call it a nice early day. Last overnight stop: Flagstaff, AZ. We stayed at a nicer hotel than the previous ones, in a two-room suite, which was fitting for our last night of the trip. We got their at 4:00, enjoyed a complimentary cocktail social hour, gave the kids baths, ordered room service, and vegged out in front of the TV.

Day 7: Arrival day

We woke up early again, and were lounging around in bed watching the local news. Mike got a weird look on his face when he heard that it had dipped below 20 degrees overnight. I just stared at him until he said "Paxton's fish." It had been so warm in the evening, we hadn't thought about the fact that we were in the mountains and that it might get cold at night. Paxton's fish - who'd made it completely across the country just fine - had been left in the truck in the cold, and didn't make it. We'd brought him into the hotel with us the nights we knew it was going to get cold, but were fooled by the warm Arizona evening. We felt HORRIBLE. Paxton was of course sad, but handled it better than either one of us would have expected. He seemed as excited as the rest of us that it was our last day of driving, and that we were only 3 hours away from our new home. We fueled up at a nice breakfast buffet, complete with belgian waffles, and let Everett run up and down the corridors while Mike loaded up the truck. We took it easy on the 2 hour drive down to Anthem, both because we didn't want to blow another tire and plummet off the side of the mountain, and because our overloaded trailer didn't let us do otherwise. The views coming down into Phoenix were, as we remembered, spectacular.

We got to my sister's house at noon, and it was like no time had passed between us.. certainly not 4 months. We chatted and visited, and the kids wasted no time getting down to the business of playing with their cousins. It was warm and sunny and happy, and it felt good just to be there. We called our realtor and set up a time to meet her at our house. As we drove down to Tempe, I was literally so excited that I thought I was going to hyperventilate. I had to keep telling myself, and the kids (who were nearly bouncing off the ceiling) to calm down. We underestimated how much time it would take to get there, and we were 15 minutes late meeting the realtor. The house was very easy to find off the highway, and the area was just as she'd promised - a nice, clean, beautiful family neighborhood. She promised we wouldn't be disappointed, and we were not. One misconception I think people have about Arizona in general is that everything is drab and brown, and it's just not. As we drove into the development there was green grass and palm trees, petunias and marigolds, and a whole bunch of gorgeous blooming bushes that I've yet to learn the name of. It was everything we'd hoped for... and if it hadn't been for the occasional crying, the fever, the blown-out tire, and the dead fish, the trip would've been too perfect. We made it safely across the country together, and it's all good.




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