Monday, 12 April 2010

Fasten your seatbelts; it's the great American roadtrip....







We are back. And now that I've made some inroads into the laundry pile, opened the large box of mail and sent various furious emails off into the ether regarding our London tenants (don't ask) I can breathe again.There is so much I could say about our roadtrip from New York to Florida and back again. But I thought I'd begin with some observations. First, the do's and don'ts of an American roadtrip with two small boys...
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DO take the Auto train. There is only one of these in the whole of the USA, from Washington to Orlando, and it cuts out about half of the driving. It is also a very comfortable experience, with a proper dining car, a 'hostess' who sorts out your bedding (putting French couchettes to shame), and even a free glass of wine when you arrive (hurrah!). The Littleboys were very excited by it all. Which brings me to ....

DO take lots of activities for your children on the train. One sticker book each won't cut it - as we realised after about 30 minutes. Thinking that they wouldn't need the portable DVD player and leaving it in the car was a Big Mistake, as they rampaged up and down corridors while we sped into the Southern evening.

DON'T fret when your car is virtually the last to come off the train (out of 200 cars) at the end. It is probably not a conspiracy, despite your husband being convinced that all the Hondas came off last.

DO visit Disneyworld, even if you only have time for half a day there. It may be the most crowded week of the year, the queues for rides may be horrendous, but the children will love it and even cynical parents will feel faintly excited as they exit the Monorail at the gates of the Magic Kingdom. Orlando itself is also an education, with a theme park virtually every ten yards. Our hotel overlooked the interstate. But somehow, it didn't matter.....

DO spend a few days in the same place, with no driving. In our case we were lucky enough to be beautiful Sarasota, Florida, where we stayed with my brother-in-law and family. An excellent and thoroughly relaxing time was had by all - Easter egg hunting, swimming, beachcombing, eating out and seeing flamingoes, alligators and monkeys at the zoo.

DON'T look too worried when the fisherman on the idyllic beach where you've just been swimming (see picture) catches what looks like a baby hammerhead shark. It's a BONNET head shark, silly. Totally harmless. Or so you are led to believe....

DO go to Savannah, Georgia. One of the most beautiful cities I've seen in this country, and certainly the most charming. Full of beautiful shady squares, fountains and trees hanging with Spanish Moss. Spring was the perfect time to see it, with the azaleas and blossom all in full bloom (see picture).
DO go on a trolley bus tour while there. Even if you have to bear the indignity of being one among many, many tourists wearing trolley bus tour stickers milling around the town. It is a great way to see the place without your children whinging that they are fed up of walking every two minutes.

DON'T think smugly that driving all day will not be a problem because your children are so good in the car. They may be good all day, and even sleep, but when you arrive at your destination they will turn completely feral, running up and down manically and screaming loudly in your hotel room or escaping to rampage the corridors (again). You will have to make them run around for at least an hour before you can even contemplate going out to eat with them.....

DO make your children visit the 'restroom' at each rest stop/meal. Even if they say they don't need to go. If not, after five minutes you will be frantically trying to exit the interstate and look for a place for them to wee. Or taking them furtively into Starbucks for a quick poo.

DO pass through North Carolina. There is pretty scenery there, and lots of history...

DON'T think you might be able to stop off for a coffee somewhere in rural NC during your afternoon's driving. The only places there will be dodgy looking half boarded-up shacks called 'Ray's Grill' where you fear you might never emerge from....

DON'T stay there and expect to find a decent meal that isn't fast food. You will get the gruff answer that the nearest family restaurant is an hour and a half away. Another local will tell you that one of the fast food places you saw is actually a 'proper restaurant, ma'am'. But it isn't. It still has polystyrene plates, a counter where you order and the only drinks are Coke and Kool Aid. At this point, you start to feel very grateful that you live in New York....

DO expect plenty of comments on your lovely British accent down here. You get the feeling you are a real curiosity, with a voice most people must have only heard in films.

DON'T panic when you are pulled over by a car with a blue flashing light, your husband having just performed a U-Turn on a minor road where you stopped for Littleboy1 to have yet another pee. The nice policeman just wants to know whether you are lost.

DON'T worry about carting unsuitable items such as Easter eggs and butter around in your hot car. Your husband has devised an ingenious system involving Thermos flasks and insulated coffee cups for their safe keeping....

DO bear in mind that four days on the trot in different motels is about as much as little boys can take. And DO expect an endless stream of 'are we home yet?' on the final day of the journey.....


















15 comments:

Iota said...

I'm glad you're getting out of New York and seeing other bits of the country.

Doesn't your car have air conditioning?

Potty Mummy said...

Sounds like a great trip - despite the conspiracy theory about the hondas...

TheMadHouse said...

how cool to be able tp do this

Metropolitan Mum said...

French couchettes? You are not necessarily applying high standards here, are you? I remember being bitten by flea on one trip. Yuck!

Nota Bene said...

Helpful advice in any language...and a nice policeman who pulls you over to see if you're lost? You must be in Disneyland...
...now about the London tenants...

nappy valley girl said...

Iota - Indeed it does thank goodness(do any cars these days not?) but there is always that time when you are out of the car and the luggage is still in there heating up...

PM - I think The Doctor still half believes that. All the big SUVs and expensive Lexuses came off first, you see....

The MadHouse - America is a great country for roadtrips.

MetMum - I know what you mean. Not as bad as the cockroach we saw in the Vietnamese couchette though...

NB - the (former) tenants are a whole separate saga - eg. walking off with our bedroom curtains. Unbelievable.....

Almost American said...

Sounds like a great trip! I know what you mean about the kids needing to burn off energy - I remember getting to my brother's house in the UK after long flight and drive, dumping the suitcases and immediately heading out for a walk with the children because I was embarrassed at how energetic they were!

Lorna Harris said...

Savannah sounds lovely. We haven't explored any of that area. Sounds like a wonderful trip.

mothership said...

i'm so glad you did the lower east coast tour - so pretty! Now you have to gear yourself up for a WEST COAST VISIT (hint hint). Did you see much of DC? Did you like it?
A word re. London tenants. Try to let go emotionally of everything that is there and just take the money out of the deposit if you can. Next time ask for bigger deposits. I've been doing this now for nearly 7 years (gasp, can't believe I just wrote that) and it has been much better for me not to THINK ABOUT IT. Will just have everything NEW if/when we ever return. So sorry. It's maddening.
But see it as a running cost and raise the rent.
xo

Tanya (Bump2Basics) said...

Ahhh North Carolina "restaurants"...I visited one of these on a business trip to a University and needed to run to the loo halfway through my meal to be sick! And again at the end of the meal!

Glad you had a good road trip and got to see more of the US of States :)

nappy valley girl said...

Almost American - yes, there is no time for relaxing once you arrive somewhere, however tired YOU are....

Lorna - I would certainly recommend it if you plan to visit the South/East coast.

Mothership - We may do the West Coast our final summer here in 2 years - The Doctor and I did it pre-kids, aned loved it. So watch out! We didn't get to DC in the end but have decided to do it as a separate train trip. Thanks for your comments re the tenants - I know I shouldn't be emotional about it. My husband keeps telling me the same thing but I can't help it.....

Tanya - Glad it's not just me then....!

A Modern Mother said...

Great trip! Good for you getting out.

I'm with mothership on the tennant thing. We had horrible tennants when we were in California -- tried to sue us! That's a whole post on its own ... I think it's hard for women to rent their "homes" as opposed to just a property you buy to let.

Muddling Along Mummy said...

Sounds like a great trip - glad you enjoyed it

Welome back

The MADs said...

Hi

Just wanted to let you know that your blog has been nominated in the MAD Awards, as one of the UK’s best parenting blogs. You can find out more about the awards, prizes and nomination process at our website, www.the-mads.com, as well as downloading badges to encourage more of your readers to nominate you. Nominations close on April 26th, and we’ll then announce the 5 blogs in each category with the most nominations, who will become finalists.

Sally
The MADs

nappy valley girl said...

A Modern Mother - How horrible with the tenants. I hate the whole thing,I really do.

Muddling along - thank you!!

Sally - thanks for letting me know - that's made my day. I've been out of the loop while travelling but I'll add the logo to my site now!