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Car packed – FULL! Full, but not necessarily well done. For all the planning, the car was the least well thought out part. It was tough because it’s a rental so I don’t know every nook and cranny and where I can squeeze something in or not and because it was last minute (for me), and Mr. O likes to pack unexpected things, it was a little haphazard. I also forgot napkins, paper plates and plasticware – hopefully that’s all I forgot.
There was a severe weather warning for the entire day, for our entire route. Awesome. I seriously considered putting everything off a day, but it’s summer so we could conceivably have those any day. We were lucky and hit only a few patches of rain (sometimes heavy) on the road, and the really rough stuff started after we’d arrived at the hotel.
I used a site called Roadside America to find interesting places to stop along the way. They have lots of quirky attractions all across the US. If you’ve got to stop to rest, you might as well do it at the world’s largest candle, right?
Our first stop was at the David Wenzel Tree House in Nay Aug Park, Scranton, PA. We tried to find something “The Office” themed, but couldn’t. Bummer. The treehouse itself was very cool. More like a gazebo in a tree than a traditional tree house, but still fun. We brought a blanket and had a picnic. Apparently, that’s not what’s usually done because everyone else came down, took a quick look around, and left.
3 hours later we stopped at Dr. Doolittle’s Roadside Cafe, DuBois, PA. It was a cute little roadside stand with lots of fun things to look at and take goofy pictures with. The ice cream was pretty good, but we started laughing when we were told the price – so cheap!!! We thought for sure the girl left something off our order, but no. 🙂
We stopped for the night in Niles, OH at a Residence Inn. They’re our hotel of choice because the 1 bedroom suites allow us to put Miss O to bed early in the bedroom while staying up in the living area. It was a bit hard to find (hidden behind a mall and no signs on the road), but very nice rooms. Olivia settled in pretty quickly. We brought almost everything in so we could repack the car (grrrr), and tried to watch tv but reception was lost during the storm. It was probably for the best – we got to bed early and were ready for the next day’s adventure!
I’m not sure why, but we left late after enjoying the free breakfast (my favorite part of staying in a hotel). Though I hate to do it, we decided to skip Miss O’s nap and go to the Columbus Zoo all day rather than breaking it up. I think it ended up working better to just stay than the plan I had originally.
When we first arrived Miss O was super cranky and going into shy girl mode. She was clinging to us, not looking around and refusing to enjoy anything. Having been this kind of child myself (I still am, I just handle it better), I don’t like to force her to do anything. We went to the Farm section first thinking that she’d be more comfortable with animals she’s seen before, but she wouldn’t even look at the goats. I started to panic that the whole day was going to be a wash. Mr. O and I pet the goats and patiently waited for our girl to warm up. In the end, it was the honeybees, of all things, that caught her interest.
The zoo also has lots of play sculptures around for kids to climb on, which always peaks her interest.
As we went on Miss O found more and more that drew her in. She loved the reindeer – they reminded her of Sven – and couldn’t wait to see Simba. The zoo has a new section called the Heart of Africa that has a 40+ acre enclosure that looks like it’s straight out of “Madagascar”.
From there we went to the Polar Frontier where we saw a brown bear eating a rat (yuck) and one of the Coca Cola bears.
We took the shuttle to the other side of the park, which woke up a quickly fading Miss O, and found carousel. Bonus! And, as it turns out, it was Mr. O’s first carousel ride.
We found the penguins, a repeated request from Miss O.
Next stop, the Congo. Honestly, this was my least favorite part of the park. There were a lot of gorillas and other animals we were constantly reminded were not monkeys. It got a little repetitive, plus it was getting late.
We headed to the Australia section and saw koalas, and a very cool kangaroo enclosure. The area is open, so as you walk around you actually have to step around lounging kangaroos!
At about 4:45 we decided to pack it in. We hadn’t made it to Asia, but Mr. O’s knee was starting to hurt, Miss O was getting very close to a meltdown, and my feet were swelling like crazy. I was grateful when Miss O fell asleep in the car.
A 15-minute drive to the hotel took over an hour because of an address error, rerouted roads due to construction, and a missed turn. We had a quick dinner of leftover pasta, fruit, and hard boiled eggs and got Miss O down for a well-earned slumber.
Day 3 was… well, it happened. The day started with a heart attack (figurative, of course) and got marginally better from there. Our travel was delayed and I wasn’t able to get together with my friend and everyone was cranky and tired.
BUT, we got to my sister’s house and the day got infinitely better. Baby V is soooooo freakin’ cute! We had some yummy dinner and went to bed happy to be staying in one place for several nights.
A very chill day. It was great to hang out and catch up with my sister. She had a doctor’s appointment so Mr. O and I got to babysit and get a brief glimpse of life with 2 kids – how exhausting it must be! We walked to the park and had a generally good day.
Miss O was very excited to play with Greta and Lil’ V.
For dinner we went to a local haunt called Portillo’s. Miss O did a great Dracula impression in order to escape the attention of her uncle. It’s actually quite scary how much like me she is. In fact, the times when she’s most maddening are those when she’s behaving most like I would.
Mr. O wanted to get out of the house – apparently our gossip and stories from childhood weren’t as interesting for him as they were for us – so I found a local park with a splash pad. We considered going to the city to see Navy Pier or something “Chicago-y”, but we didn’t fancy the travel since my sister lives over an hour from the city by train.
Miss O was desperate to hold her new cousin by this time
In the afternoon the boys took over while my sister and I went to get pedicures. It was heavenly and great to get some time to talk without being constantly interrupted. For dinner we had proper Chicago deep dish pizza that was totally yummy at the time, but came back to haunt me in the morning. My sister had gotten a movie for us to watch that was… odd. It had something to do with an alien woman looking for men to suck into a deathly pool. Ain’t nobody got time for that! We ended up turning it off and watching Star Trek: TNG on Netflix.
We left for home Friday morning after a quick photo session, actually getting on the road early! That never happens!
We added a 7th state to our itinerary when we stopped for lunch off I-80 and discovered that the simple act of turning left brought us into Michigan. We found a local joint called Savory Family Restaurant for lunch and had what could only be described as the perfect waitress, the kind you’d expect to see in a movie or sitcom.
Miss O decided to try her hand at body art in the car.
For dinner we stopped at Cracker Barrel. It was honestly the only true request Mr. O had for the entire trip, so I made sure to stop at one of the hundred we saw along the way.
We crashed at a Motel 6 in the middle of nowhere for the night. Mr. O got kicked out of his bed and was replaced with a sassy little girl.
The last day was just a driving day. We left at 8 and raced home to return the car by 4 pm and pick up the dog from the kennel.
We’re home at last, tired and full of junk food. It was a great trip and I was so happy to see my sister in her new role as a mom. I doubt this will be our last family road trip.