Because 1/2 our earthly belongings must accompany us to Alabama each Summer, we've started traveling in David's truck. The cab is actually quite roomy. I'm not sure it's "Let's pick out our largest stuffed animal to ride along" roomy, but that's just what Tate did. So don't be surprised if his beloved cow, Kringle, makes an appearance in a few vacation photos.
Each year I get a little bit smarter about preparing for the actual car ride itself. For instance, so I wouldn't arrive at our destination with a body temperature of -7, I incorporated sweat pants into my travel attire. Therefore, when we finally reach the beloved family farm, I'll emerge from the car and greet family members I haven't seen in a year (or more) in sweatpants. Not to mention the humidity level in sweet home Alabama is 112%.
While the kids are occupied by books, electronic devices, and trying to sneak into the snack bag without getting caught, David and I have ample time to discuss our hopes and dreams with one another. Which sounds good in theory, only David refuses to carry on a conversation on road trips. I looked over a few minutes into our journey and he was already in his own little world immersed in his audio book.
Drue learned a valuable lesson for future travel: If you have the longest legs amongst your siblings, it's best not to lash out in anger and scratch your brother as the car is getting loaded. You will be banished to the dreaded middle seat as punishment for the first half of the trip.
David sweetly relinquished the front seat to Reese when it was my turn to drive. No doubt afraid I'd try to strike up a conversation. Reese's first order of business was attempting to kill a small winged creature. Her most expensive possession, her iPhone, was her weapon of choice and she proceeded to slam it down on the dash. I calmly suggested she find a different weapon, saying, "Are you crazy?!" Next, she grabbed David's hiking shoe and slammed it into the window. It was his turn to question her sanity, adding, "You're going to break the glass!"
We soon came upon a small town and the speed limit dropped to 50 mph. To avoid incessant teasing by my passengers if I were to get pulled over, I slowed down accordingly. "I can run faster than this," Reese declared. Normally I would just dismiss this type of comment as random teenage snarkiness, but because I longed for conversation, I entered into a lengthy debate with her about how that was entirely impossible. I even went so far as to throw in a math lesson telling her to divide her fastest mile time into 60. You're welcome, teacher friends.
Like David, Tate isn't a huge conversationalist on extended car rides. In fact, he's often so quiet I'll turn around abruptly and scan the backseat for him after stops. He could pretty much be the perfect traveler, if it weren't for the fact that when he gets restless he randomly lets out the highest pitched shrieks I've ever heard. I am certain this will be the cause of our demise one day if I'm at the wheel. "Tate!" I shrieked right back, "Stop. Doing. That. I almost careened right through that guard rail."
At least we got our timing right this trip. David and I share the driving and he almost always ends up driving the windy two lane stretch through Arkansas. He sets the cruise control and I have the grip of death on the door handle while I bargain with the Lord that if he gets us through the next few hours unscathed, I'll do this, that, and the other for Him.
The stars aligned and that particular stretch fell during my time to drive. As I was sliently thanking the Lord, I heard, "I'm hungry. When are we stopping?" Stopping? We go through about 15 towns with populations of 306. There will be no stopping until we reach Jonesboro. There's nothing to stop at. And just like that, I'm the one getting blamed for the lack of fast food places across the entire state. "Mom won't stop for us to eat. We're starving!"
Don't even get me started on picking a place everyone will agree on. A restaurant could have been Drue's absolute favorite yesterday, but if Reese is the one to suggest stopping there, Drue instantly can no longer stand it and won't even think about eating there.
After I made it clear I would only be stopping at one place, Reese said, "That's fine. Let's just go through the drive thru."
"Ohhhhh nooooo. Nope. Not happening. I refuse." Ordering for those three in a drive thru definitely makes the list of "Things I Don't Enjoy", right underneath "pull all my toenails out one by one." If they would just order simple things like a #1 or a #3 I'd be fine. But they each want to customize minor details of their order and it usually ends up sounding something along the lines of:
"Hi, I'd like a cheeseburger on a sesame seed bun, with just one sesame seed. And can you cut the corners off the cheese so it fits just so on the patty? And I'll take a Sprite, no, wait, do you have Cherry Coke? Ok, well would you mind running next door to the store and bringing one back to put on ice? Oh. Well I'll just take a Dr. Pepper, no just make that a Sprite then."
Nope. I pulled into the parking lot of Wendy's and kicked everyone out to go order their own bag of crazy.
I count it a successful road trip when we finally arrive and are all still on speaking terms with one another. Even if we're not on speaking terms, we'll put on our happy faces and pretend we are as we hop out of the car. I love the familiar crunch of the gravel road under our tires, that first smell of pine as we roll down our windows, and the hugs waiting for us at the end of the road.
I've already made a mental note for our next trip: Discuss with David beforehand what shirt he's wearing so we don't inadvertently wind up as this couple again.