Next week, we are embarking on yet another marathon road trip. Last year our guts told us to Go West, young man (or woman, in this case), and this year we are urged to head east. Yes, friends, one poo-filled mountain vacation was not enough for this brave clan! We figure it’ll be some time before the Rocky Mountains wants anything to do with us again (especially after two scream-filled hours on the train to Pike’s Peak), so this year we’re heading for the Great Smokies. DollyWood, here we come!
Confession: I have had a life-long dream to go to DollyWood. It’s on my Bucket List. Whether this stems from the abundance of Dolly Parton movies that I was exposed to as a child or my love of all things kitsch, I’ll never know. All I know is that I NEED a picture with a bronze statue of Dolly and her ta-tas, or I’ll never feel like a complete soul.
But I digress.
Hopefully we learned a thing or two about driving sixteen hours into the mountains with three small children. In case you didn’t read last year’s blog, or have never been trapped in a poo-filled minivan with three tiny people, I’ll share those lessons here:
1: Bring a portable potty of some kind. Any kind. ANY KIND AT ALL. Do not find yourself in the middle of New Mexico, fifty miles from the nearest rest stop, with a three year old who needs to go.
2. Limit the amount of fibrous granola bars given to small children (and if you don’t, see Lesson 1).
3. Find a children’s DVD that you can bear to listen to for seven hours straight. Otherwise you’ll find yourself listening to a “Maisy” DVD on repeat, featuring Charlie the Moaning Alligator, because it’s the only DVD you can play that will make your one year old stop screaming.
4. Invest in headphones. Or you will be listening to Charlie the Moaning Alligator for seven straight hours.
5. Pack a change of clothes for the car for each member of the family. Again, see Lesson 1.
6. Do not overestimate the abilities of your children. No matter how many adorable activities you lovingly put into their adorable backpacks, within three miles of your home the entire contents of said backpacks will be strewn across your car. And later covered in bodily fluids of one kind or another.
7. Do NOT stop at rest stop bathrooms. Just…..don’t.
8. If you pack a picnic and plan on stopping to eat it somewhere between Houston and Amarillo, just plan on eating in the car. There is literally nothing between Houston and Amarillo.
9. Same goes for New Mexico. Pretty much the entire state. And Louisiana. And Mississippi.
10. Pack alcohol. You’ll really wish you had it by the time you get to the hotel.
Of course, this trip will present a new set of challenges. For one, we’ll be taking two dogs with us (one of which has just entered puberty. More about that later). Second, the children are older now and much more prone to whining. Finally, and perhaps worst of all, we’re no longer the wide-eyed innocents that we were last year: we know what we’re going into this time. We’re looking straight into the face of our nightmares and saying “yes, we are dumb enough to do this again”.