Travelin’ Man

11 Aug

This is rare. 8:44 PM, the baby is “asleep” and I have enough energy to sit down and write out something quick.
It seems like our little family is always doing something; it seems that way because that is the reality. In fact, in all of the 18 weekends from May 15 until September 15 we will have spent exactly 4 of them at home. We are constantly on the go. From weddings to Vegas (but not weddings in Vegas) to just good ol’ family trips we go and then we go. Whether it be a quick hour-long jaunt or a marathon 11-hour cross-country drive, we relentlessly plow through the Mobil 1 and Wix oil filters. And gasoline. I chalk that up as job security.

In all of our travels, I feel like it is safe to say that we Dills have become very familiar with a few key pieces of any good family trip. And as we prep for yet another long roadie up to the Black Hills of South Dakota, I feel it reasonable to retrace some of the key learnings from our summer so far.

A) There will be a time when your child is not happy.
HAH! I meant to write “There will be only one single, solitary time when your child is happy”… silly auto-correct. Children and cars mix like Lady Gaga and normalcy. In what is one of the most ridiculous juxtapositions I have ever experienced, the car that was once the only key to getting a baby to sleep is now the closest thing to a penitentiary for a toddler. Nolan is a mover by nature, and so sitting still is seldom part of any day. Even while watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse he is doing the hot dog dance when he should be motionlessly singing “Oh Tooooodles!”. Strapping him into his car seat for any length of time is the equivalent to the most cruel torture you can dream up.

B) Oh THAT’s what Movies are for!
For the first year+ of his life, Nolan could care less about movies. And we were pretty fine with that because we felt him being active would be far better than just sitting in front of a TV. What a rookie mistake. We have quickly learned that a DVD is a great way to pass an hour and a half in the car. Nolan is short-term mesmerized, and while listening to the audio on repeat for hours and hours on end we adults have found many of the hidden humors in Finding Nemo and Madagascar. As a matter of fact, the other day in the airport I was quoting/singing some of Dori’s famous lines — “Just keep walking, just keep walking, what do we do? We walkkk!” — in my pitch perfect opera voice. The Mrs and I have also gotten quite fluent in whale.

C) Snacks. That’ll shut ’em up.
Another key part of any good road trip is the ability to provide snackage for the little squirt upon demand. A few years ago Taco Bell had an ad campaign going for the “fourth-meal”. I think it was really targeting drunk college students, and rightfully so. There is not much better than a quesadilla and some cheesy potatoes at 2:15 AM…..or so I’ve been told…. but in any case the fourht-meal should’ve been more of a campaign targeting how much food a toddler wants to eat. It seems like fourth-meal for the Nolanator is actually just every time period between established meals. Nutter Butters, Veggie Straws, and Cheese Puffs have saved our bacon on more than one occasion. And just like the whole “If you give a mouse a cookie” deal, don’t forget the juice/milk. Should you chose to ignore this advice, key learning (A) becomes much more unbearable.

Road trips with a child are an experience to say the least. It is rewarding to know that you are creating lasting memories, if not for him then definitely for everyone else around. I have said it before but I will say it again: it is awesome to watch your kid interact with their great (or great-great) grandparents. Or aunts. And uncles. Or chase his cousins around. Or eat rocks that you’ve mistake for goldfish. All of the trials that we encounter on the road are more than worth it when it comes right down to it. When people hear about how often we are packed up and ready to go, they often shake their head in what I perceive to be disbelief. I get it, we’re crazy. But we’re also very happy. And someday Nolan will both cherish and understand just how worth it a trip across that god-forsaken state of Nebraska is.

Here is the moral of the story: When it comes to making your road trip enjoyable and memorable, don’t listen to a word I’ve just said. You’ll find a way to remember them regardless.

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Feeding the fish with Mom

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G.G. and cousin Kait teaching Nolan the drums

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A rare car seat smile!

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