CHICAGO–Our children are finally old enough to make travel no longer a completely excruciating experience requiring 45-minute stops every hour and a half for diapers and feedings, finding sippy cups and lost toys or juggling naptimes with breaks to rip and run at every McDonald’s play place that crosses our path.
We can actually travel, on purpose, for pleasure!
My Lovely Bride has some business appointments in Chicago this week, so work is paying for a few hotel nights. Plus, she has an uncle and cousins we haven’t seen since she was pregnant with our first child, who turns 7 next month. And I have a cousin who’s a primate researcher at the Lincoln Park Zoo, plus another cousin who’s a local trumpet player.
So this week, the B-More Dad goes from Charm City to Chi-Town!
Both sides of our family think we’re crazy for driving, but we can’t stomach plane tickets for four. And then there’s the aggravation of air travel with children of any age. Plus, it’s spring break in Baltimore, so we’ve got the time to spare for a road trip.
I credit my father for showing me America as I grew up. You wouldn’t expect a world traveler from a man who grew up on a Virginia farm. But an aunt living in Mexico invited my dad to stay for a month in the 1950s, and the travel bug bit.
By the time I graduated high school in 1991, Dad had taken me to most of the 50 states – often visiting the homes of his navy and college friends in places such as Hawaii, California and Indiana. Then he took my sister and me skiing in Colorado, West Virginia and New England. And as a boy scout, I went with my father for snorkeling in Florida and white water rafting on the Snake River in Wyoming. And then there was the annual family trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
I started thinking about traveling with our children when some friends in Baltimore took their kids, at age 2 and 4, to Amsterdam. I’m sure Amsterdam is a lovely city, but seeing it with someone in diapers sounds miserable. Yet I started thinking there was something wrong with me for letting my children interrupt my travel schedule. Then I asked my world-traveler and former college-president uncle (the primate researcher’s dad) when he first took his kids to Europe, and it wasn’t until they were teenagers. I figured that if his kids didn’t get that kind of travel until they were much older, neither should mine.
Now that our youngest child is 4, a new world is opening up to us. We survived driving to Atlanta for Thanksgiving, and then I drove them solo to Kentucky for a funeral last month. Driving 700 miles from Baltimore to Chicago doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea. (My wife drove the 700 miles back home from the funeral with me. Doing it in a single day was crazy.)
So we drove 380 miles Saturday to Cleveland in seven nearly pain-free hours. We doled out pieces of gum every hour or so, and packed lots of snacks and books. We made the kids wait until after lunch until we hooked up the borrowed DVD player, with dual screens that hang on the back of the front-seat headrests. Then Sunday’s 340 miles the rest of the way was five and a half hours as expected.
We made such good time that we were able to crash at the shiny new Palomar Hotel for an hour before zipping out to Skokie for dinner with my cousin. The rest of the week, we plan to visit a planetarium, an aquarium, the Lincoln Park Zoo and maybe even the Art Institute of Chicago, the museum immortalized in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
Even a year ago, with the children a year younger, this would not have been possible.
Looks like we made it.