Before digging into a day in our cross country lives, let me share the how’s and why’s of our general traveling approach. When finally deciding to drive cross country we considered many options – camping, renting an RV, renting a car or driving our own car. After realizing that we would only be spending one or two nights in each location, I took camping off the table. We don’t own a camper and I refused to set up camp every other night. The astronomical cost of renting an RV, gassing up every few miles and paying nightly for a place to park, eliminated that option. In the end, we chose to take our own car; our Toyota Avalon possesses a sizable trunk, offers plenty of leg room and doesn’t hurt my back on long trips.
With camping officially out of the question, we needed lodging. How in the world could afford four weeks of hotel rooms? I began imagining us sleeping in our car at rest areas along the way. However, God would save us from this peril. You see, this is where Doug’s economical skill and determination really shine! Through travel miles accrued on business trips, credit card rewards and hotel memberships, Doug arranged for 24 free nights of lodging. Out of 31 overnight stays, we only paid for seven! Another money-saver: our hotels have provided free breakfast on 22 days and free dinner on two nights throughout our trip.
So now that you have a general idea of our traveling system, how about a taste of life on the road with the Perreault’s. More than half of our days are real “on the road” days, meaning we pack up all of our bags and load them in the car. This includes a suitcase for each of us, toiletries, a traveling medicine cabinet, bag of shoes, laptop, various other electronics, my pillow, personal bags for the car (with books, activities, stuffed animals, etc.), souvenirs, a snack bag and more! Doug uses his gifting for geometric and spatial strategy to pack the trunk in such a way that everything fits and we can still reach the lap-top, water, sun-block and umbrella.
Then we either head for our free breakfast or hit the highway. Days without a free breakfast are especially interesting; one morning we didn’t have breakfast until about 12:30 p.m. and all we could find was a cupcake bakery. So guess what? Cupcakes for breakfast!
Overall, we are pretty good car travelers. Doug and I both like driving and riding in cars, though Doug prefers driving. In fact, he has probably driven 90% of this trip, while Jacquelyn and I share the other 10%. Thanks to an ipod adapter, we can listen to our various ipods in the car. We even compiled a cross country play-list. Some of our favorites are “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Life is a Highway” by Rascal Flatts, “I Ain’t in Checotah Anymore” by Carrie Underwood, “Mountain Music” by Alabama, “Walkin’ in Memphis” by Marc Cohn and “America” by Chris Tomlin. Major bonus: as country music fans, we are almost always able to find a radio station that we like; and we especially enjoy all the contemporary Christian music stations – something we don’t have at home.
Jacquelyn and Christina keep busy reading, coloring, texting friends, using the laptop and Nintendo DS (thanks Grandma!), or playing car games and chatting with us. They have both previously experienced multiple road trips, even as young children. In fact Christina went on her first non-stop road trip to Florida at 3 months old in a van with 7 other passengers. (How that happened is a long story for another time!) You will not be surprised that Christina acts as our game coordinator, though she has a penchant for changing the rules mid-way through a game. Formerly inclined to motion sickness, she has adapted well and has even tolerated reading over winding mountain passes! Everyone knows when she has been in the car too long because she gets as silly as we have ever seen her. Then we all share some good laughs. Jacquelyn is a great big sister, playing with Christina and helping out as much as she can. More often than not, she prefers to sleep in the car, but that is not always so easy. I know she anxiously awaits a night in her own room and a chance to sleep all day!
We typically need stop every two hours or so for a restroom and/or gas. We had a whole conversation the other day about all the various restrooms we have experienced. They range from the large, clean, automated bathrooms in rest areas along I-80 in the Great Lakes area, to the small, unmanned rest areas with no soap (weird), to the adventurous gas station bathrooms, to national park outhouses, to a 2 ½’ X 4’restroom fitted with a mini sink and toilet at Dirty Sally’s in Ten Sleep, WY, that we like to call the “Alice in Wonderland Bathroom”. And that is just a few – I could go on, but I’ll spare you!
Eating is a little different every day, but in an effort to save money and time we try to combine lunch and dinner. This means lots of snacking and we’ve probably had ice cream for lunch more times than I would like to admit. Before our trip, we cashed in credit card rewards for $500 in dining gift cards, which also helps us save on meal costs; even still, food is probably our biggest expense.
Upon arrival at our hotel, we unpack the car once again and carry everything to our room. We use a luggage trolley, whenever available, to save time, energy and our backs. Once all the bags are in the room, we immediately begin searching for outlets in which to charge our laptop, three cell phones, three ipods, Nintendo DS and batteries for four cameras. Nope, this is not an “unplugged” vacation! Then we hang up bathing suits, still wet from swimming at the previous hotel and either flop into bed if it’s late, get ready for that evenings attractions or go for a swim.
Traveling out west, we gained an hour every other day or so, but now as we head home we are losing an hour every few stops. While no one likes losing time, being only one time zone away from EST makes calling home a lot easier.
The best news of all is that, so far, we haven’t killed one another. You may think that I am setting the bar too low, but don’t be so sure. Being stuck in a car for even a short road trip can bring many a family to the brink of all-out war. But 32 days, in such close proximity, without a break – even the mellowest of people might struggle – and we, my friends, are not mellow. Even amidst all the challenges, I believe our joy has outweighed our difficulties. Experiencing our nation and God’s creation together is a gift we will never forget!