My husband has been traveling a lot for work…..A LOT! I miss him a ton and I’m not dealing with the kids very well with him gone for such long stretches. When the house deal fell through due to mold, and Damon had to go to Minot, ND for a few weeks for work, we talked about making a road trip to meet him and then us all driving home together. I wasn’t sure if the trip was even going to happen until May 15th. His job was projected to go longer than we could stay, but I decided to just go for it. I was tired of feeling cooped up and yelling at my kids all of the time. I was tired of them constantly asking to play video games and me just wanting to sit in my chair drinking coffee. So we packed up, loaded up the bikes and started driving immediately after I finished teaching my last Hypnobabies series and going to a friend’s going away party.
Our trip began in Nashville, TN.
Here was our route:
Saturday, May 17th: Paris, TN to visit my grandmother for the night.
Sunday, May 18th: We drove to St. Louis because Liam asked to go see the arch again. Blue Springs, Missouri because I could drive no further and had the end of a head cold going, my kids were screaming and I needed to stop.
Monday, May 19th: Omaha and Bellevue, NE to visit two friends, Mary and Jill. Mary was kind enough to let us stay in her home and we enjoyed getting to meet her whole family for the first time.
Tuesday, May 20th: Sioux Falls, SD was our next stop after I realized I probably should leave Omaha early so that I wouldn’t have a 10 drive day….with no stops. Our 7 hour drive days often would take us 12 because of the potty breaks, lunch breaks and me getting tired.
Wednesday, May 21st: We drove through Fargo, ND and then headed west. I saw buffalo off the interstate in Jamestown, ND. I was tired so we stopped and found a cute little museum called the National Buffalo Museum. There we saw white buffalo/bison in the distance and they had a gigantic concrete buffalo to take pictures with.
After Jamestown, we chugged along and headed north on county roads to Minot, ND. Finally seeing Damon.
Thursday-Friday, May 22nd and 23rd: We biked around Minot on Thursday. Surprisingly, with North Dakota being extremely flat, Minot was not and after a 13.5 mile bike ride with all three kids on the bike, I was tired. We found a fabulous little coffee shop called Sweet & Flour. I still am thinking about the dessert and Nutella coffee I had. They had the best coffee shop. Friday we went out to eat with Damon after he got off work. The Souris Valley Brewery served the best restaurant food I had on the trip and the Vanilla Porter Beer paired with the Black Bean Curry Burger and sweet potato fries was divine.
Saturday, May 24th: It was the holiday weekend and the work crew decided to all go home, so Damon had three days off. We headed to Dickinson, ND to their dinosaur museum. It was pretty cool, but small. We were very close to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and it was still early so we drove towards the town of Medora. I loved it. Quaint touristy town and we made a last minute decision to camp, as we had our camping gear in the back. We had no spare clothes with us, so it made the adventure a little more fun. We stayed at a beautiful little campsite that was within walking/biking distance to town where we ate pizza and had breakfast the next morning.
Sunday, May 25th: We drove through the national park in the morning, seeing bison, prairie dog towns and wild horses. We got in some light hiking with the boys too. Afterwards we went back into Medora for some ice cream and putt putt for the boys. Then we drove back to Minot, ND. Along the way we got to see some beautiful double rainbows.
Monday, May 26th: We hung around Minot, taking the boys to the park in the morning. I got an afternoon nap with Grant while Damon took the boys back to the splash pad and then we celebrated an early anniversary dinner at the Badlands restaurant. We then went and visited the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND to get a few photos.
Tuesday, May 27th: I hated leaving Damon, but his job was not going to be completed in time for us to get back by Sunday, June 1st. We drove by his job site before we left so the boys could say goodbye. My friend Leah had said that her mother grew up in Rugby, ND and since we weren’t in a particular rush to get to our next stop since Tuesday was driving day, we headed along a more northern highway to get to Minnesota. We stopped to play at a playground in Rugby and then headed towards Devil’s Lake. I wanted to see Graham State Park, but once we got there and the gps routed us the wrong way, I decided I didn’t care that much about seeing more of the lake I was already seeing so we headed towards Minnesota via Grand Forks, ND and Fargo, ND. We eventually got to St. Cloud, MN. I’m very thankful for Redbox as it allowed us to watch different movies along the way and I didn’t have to listen the nine movies that I had brought repeatedly.
Wednesday, May 28th: We went to the Mall of America…..me alone, with three kids. Yes, that was nuts. We went to the Lego store, bought a few Lego’s and the boys were begging to ride some of the Nickelodeon amusement park rides. I obliged and got some tickets so they could ride. It would have been a much better experience if Damon had been there since so many of the rides had height or parent ride restrictions. However, everyone got to ride a few rides and we enjoyed lunch after I was about to eat my own children due to whining and my hunger.
In the afternoon, we drove over to our friends home just north of MOA. Nikki and Adam were awesome hosts and treated us to dinner at Lake Nokomis after a family bike ride to the lake. Minneapolis is definitely a bike riding city. Nikki introduced me to cargo bikes over a year ago and it was fun riding with them and our kids along the local bike paths. Minneapolis was where I had my next two favorite meals. One was some indian bread thing with meat and other yumminess and the other was a cheese quesadilla made by Adam for breakfast. Delicious. It was also really fun to get to ride Nikki and Adam’s bikes that were electrified with a Bionix kit. It made the hills in their neighborhood so easy. One day I will save up for one for our bike.
Thursday, May 29th: Damon and I celebrated our 10th anniversary by chatting on the phone a few times while I drove towards Chicago. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go to Chicago as I thought it would just add more drive time. We drove through Wisconsin and eventually stopped in Janesville, WI. I had contemplated camping that night, but after Liam flipped out over mosquitos at the rest area in Wisconsin, I thought a hotel stay would be a much better idea. We had a nice night by eating dinner at Cracker Barrel and then Liam and I stayed up till midnight watching HGTV in the hotel while the other two slept.
Friday, May 30th: When I realized that we were an 1 hour and 20 minutes from my friend Susan, I decided I had to stop and see her. I contacted her on Thursday to let her know we were close. She lives in Algonquin, IL a suburb outside of Chicago. She invited us for lunch and I was excited to meet her in person for the first time. We have begun to be pen pals this year and we know each other through the website http://www.thebabywearer.com. We participated in a DIY baby carrier exchange a few times and we’ve made carriers for one another in years past. She treated us to a delicious lunch and a walk to their neighborhood park. We chatted and she offered to let us stay the night if we wanted to. I really wanted to see Chicago but wasn’t sure about driving into town on a Friday afternoon. I wanted to ride our cargo bike there, but after taking to her, opted to take the boys in via the train. So we rode in on a commuter train. The boys were so excited on the hour long train ride. They made a few people laugh and there were some very kind train riders along the route.
We arrived at Union Station. Fortunately, Susan let us borrow her umbrella stroller, without it, I don’t think we could have seen as many sites in the 3 hours we were in the city. I had Grant on my back and Liam and Nick alternated whining about who got to ride in the stroller. Masses of people were exiting the city when we arrived. We headed to Millennium Park because I wanted to see the reflective bean. When Grant saw it, he insisted on getting out and kissing it. After that we headed to the water, had more whining from the boys and I took in the amazing views. We stopped at Grant Park, because I have a Grant. Grant then proceeded to try and go into the gigantic fountain, running away from me through the fence that is supposed to keep people out. We caught the 8:40 pm train out of the city and headed back to Susan’s house.
She greeted me with offers of beer and dessert. I got the boys to sleep and enjoyed the best bread pudding I’ve ever had and drank two beers while chatting with her and her husband until 3am.
Saturday, May 31st: After hanging with our friends through the morning, they sent us on our way with sandwiches and snacks and we headed on the long drive from Chicago to home. We had a kind delivery man at Starbucks give the boys chocolate covered graham cracker treats and pineapple coconut water when Liam was flipping out about not wanting to get out of the car.
So what did I learn on this trip:
I miss my husband and don’t feel like home is home unless he is there with me.
I don’t know where we should live.
People are extremely kind, especially to a woman jaunting around the U.S. with three kids.
People help out if you do anything at a gas station like filling up a tire with air or having to add a quart of oil to the engine.
People gave out unexpected help and treats to make my kids smile.
I have really fantastically awesome friends that are all great cooks.
I learned that even though I would rather be in the passenger seat knitting, driving across the middle part of the United States was a lot of fun even through the meltdowns of three little boys.