When you are just a couple, a road trip is fun. You map out different places to hit before you arrive to your final destination. Your biggest decision is what you will be dining on, without having to consider what other people's palates. You can change your mind on a whim, stay up late, wake up late, skip meals if you want to.
But when you travel with children, even your mode of transportation and how you choose to make your way changes dramatically.
After dropping $350 before we even walked out (and were able to lock) the door, we were desperate to leave reality behind. After a quick pick up of the item we were to deliver to my brother in law, from my in laws, we were off. At dinner, John and I quickly decided that a night of driving was better than stopping part ways, unload the luggage and children, only to awaken at the crack of dawn to not lose a day of fun, vacation sightseeing. When we told the kids, they were thrilled. They know the drill all too well. We stop once before "bed" time to use the potty, and when they awaken, we are that much closer to our destination, not having had to listen to all kinds of ungodly whining, complaining and requests ranging from movie selection to bathroom stops. It works for us.
However, my husband is all too familiar with my typical "let's drive all night" routine. I will usually drive the first shift, eat dinner, continue driving until I get sleepy, usually within the hour of eating. As you can see, this is not the ideal.
This time, though, I was committed to staying up. After the boys had settled in for the night, John and I switched around 10:30 p.m. I was good to go. I had my iPhone loaded with upbeat, loud music and I was determined to be as caffeinated as legally possible. Around midnight or so, we stopped by a McDonalds and I ordered a Mocha Frappe. For some reason, I was mighty hot, even with the AC blowing, and the thought of having hot coffee was as inviting as going as the main meal in a cannibal convention. I had never had one, but, boy, was I hooked!
The hours and miles seemed to melt away. When John roused from his slumber around 3 am, the music was blaring and I was flying high on caffeine, sugar, and pure adrenaline. He could barely recognize the woman sitting next to him. We switched off around 4:30 am, and I tried to sleep a little before the boys arose. We stopped for breakfast in North Carolina and were off.
We rolled into D.C. around 11:30 am. Traffic was hellacious and we soon discovered why as we tried to find our hotel. We noticed that the local park was set up with seemly dozens of tents and signs welcoming the Boy Scouts of America. Yes, folks. Along with the 102 degree heat, it seems that we were going to be sharing the weekend with the Boy Scouts, as they celebrated their 75th Annual National Camporee. Jealous yet?
Of course, our car's AC seemed to be doing a fine job, although I was starting to wonder if the heat outside was too much for it. I did not give it another thought, as we pulled into the hotel's car port while John checked in, only to be blocked in by a taxi driver. I cannot tell you how many profanities came out of my mouth as I tried to get out of there without leaving the driver's side of the car on the car port's columns.
Regardless, we unloaded the children and all the luggage from the van, hauled it upstairs to the room and set out for the Mall. We had friends that were also in town but would be leaving back to Florida in the morning, so we met up with them and saw the National Aquarium and the National Archives, where my boys saw the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
As the day wore on, between the heat and the exhaustion of 24+ hours awake, John and I were closely resembling zombies. All I longed for was a hot shower, and a bed; food was optional. We parted ways with our friends, headed over to Chinatown, got some burgers (oh, the irony!)and went back to the hotel for the evening...I have never gotten three children and myself bathed and in bed sooner.
The following day brought lunch with a high school friend who we have not seen in fifteen years. She was our class valedictorian, went to Georgetown and is working for the State Department. Amber has loved in Gabon, Afghanistan, and Peru, among other places. Never married and without children, she can (I imagine) indulge in every whim, get up and go at a moment's notice. I was surprised that she responded to an email and called with directions to a nearby restaurant to meet for lunch. My friend has not changed too much in fifteen years. It was as though we hit a pause button on our last visit and resumed the conversation at hand, except that there were now three small kids in tow.
Lunch was wonderful, if you can call it lunch. I spent the majority of the time we were at the restaurant hauling Joshua to the bathroom every time he said he needed to go potty. Which was a lot. Like every 30 minutes or so, or when the conversation was getting interesting. Downstairs to the bathroom with my three year old in my arms, upstairs back to the restaurant with my three year old in my arms...the joys of motherhood will bring me fabulous legs, dammit. And a degree in hostile negotiations.
The next challenge came in trying to get him to pick something on the menu. It seemed he wanted his go to staple, macaroni and cheese. When it arrived, (after everyone else's lunch, since he could not be bothered with making up his mind) he was not at all impressed with the $7 kid's entree set before him. He wanted Matthew's chicken strips. So he got Matt's leftovers and I tried to pretend I was cool with the whole parenting thing.
Looking at Amber and hearing her stories of life overseas, I wondered where I went wrong. I wanted to pinpoint where I had lost my way from living the cosmopolitan life that we mothers invariably dream we could have had...when pigs fly.
We said our goodbyes in front of the White House, promised to keep in touch. If I didn't know any better, I would say she was hightailing it a little to get away from us...in spite of the unbearable, flesh melting heat that I have ever encountered...reaffirming to herself that serving her country is still way better than raising children...
We had seen the Museum of Natural History in the morning, so we decided to visit the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial. The beauty of the Reflecting Pool and seeing Matt and Andrew looking out at the breathtaking view from the Lincoln Memorial is something that I will remember always. What simplicity. What grandeur. What heat!
In the midst of all that, thousands upon thousands of Boy Scouts. Around 80,000, but who's counting? They were everywhere. In our hotel, in the Metro, in the Mall, in the museums...everywhere you turned, there were Boy Scouts; often being silly, taking pictures, being loud, being boys.
Now, my husband was an Eagle Scout, many moons ago. I endured many an Eagle Court of Honor in my day. And as much as I would love for my boys to experience the scouting phenomenon, I simply cannot take it on. Scouting should be something they share with their dad. Poor John's work schedule is as unpredictable as Joshua's mood swings, so we have yet to make that commitment.
There was something kind of hysterical about being in that kind of infernal heat, surrounding by that many pre-adolescent boys in uniform. I think I could feel my ovaries shrink, and I can't ascertain if it was from the heat or from the amount of testosterone flooding D.C....
So I did what any other self respecting female would do...I went to hide out in the Art Museum that had a Degas exhibition...and that did not bode well with my all male entourage...
To be continued...