Before we left, Anjelica was in a whirlwind making lists and checking them twice, stocking up our house with bottles of water and other assorted drinks, dusting off our luggage from months of not having been used, and doing all sorts of other things that I didn’t really understand. I, on the other hand, was rushing to meet certain deadlines, writing like crazy, and when everything had been turned in, sitting around the house, watching mindless TV, just trying to relax for the long drive ahead. In between her meticulous organizing, every once in a while she’d come in and ask me when I was going to pack, to which I’d just shrug my shoulders and say al rato… we still have time.
Finally, when it was almost midnight, the night before we were set to leave, I decided it was time for me to start packing, and just as quickly as I decided to do so, it hit me just how much there still was to do. Till about three in the morning we stayed up putting together my things and getting them ready for the two week road trip we were set to take off on at 7:00 a.m. Obvio, we didn’t make that departure time, but by the time we did hit the road, at about 9:00 a.m., we were already feeling exhausted. The rest of the trip wasn’t nearly as chaotic, but just so that you won’t make some of the same mistakes on your road trips here are a few of our Road Trip Rules (recomendaciones):
- Plan ahead – I can’t reiterate this enough. From the very beginning, we made the mistake of packing way too much clothes for our trip. Instead of just taking a couple of changes of clothing for each day, we packed like we were moving to the Virginia area for two weeks. There were like two bags worth of shoes in the trunk of the car. ¡Par de Locos, ya sé! You’ll also want to have at least a rough outline of your stops along the way. We did pretty well with this portion of our planning. Before we even started to pack we had already agreed on which cities we each wanted to see on the way to the DC area.
- Go with the Flow – Despite all of the planning, however, there will always be the unexpected that throws you of course. En ratos, I’m not going to lie, there were moments when we all wanted to pull out each other’s hair, including the kids, because something was not going according to plan. For some reason, todavía no lo entiendo yo mismo, my plan was always to stop only at city or state line crossings for restroom and gas breaks. This didn’t work out too well because one of the three kids would always yell out “I need to go to the restroom!” just as we were less than 25 miles from the next border line. I’d yell at them to wait, they’d insist, and finally we’d pull over at the nearest rest stop or gas station. That’s how we decided to stop at every state’s Welcome Center to rest and let the kids out of the car. They loved it. Our unplanned stops at these centers turned out to be a very memorable part of our trip.
- Pack your Lonche – Depending on where you stop, feeding a car full of people can get real expensive real quick. Our goal was to save as much money while on the road so that we could have more to spend once we got to wherever our next stop was. That’s when all of the water bottles in our house before the road trip began to make sense. Anjelica had been buying them since weeks earlier to make sure we’d have enough to keep us all hydrated on the drive from Texas to DC. She also used the cooler with all of the chorizo to pack all of the fixings for a quick picnic in Birmingham, Alabama. It was a simple lunch really: roasted chicken sandwiches with chips, but it certainly did hit the spot after a couple hundred miles on the road. The other cool perk was that it allowed us to splurge a little more whenever we did get to a destination city along our road trip route.
- Dry Ice is your Friend – De no haber sido for the dry ice, our very important shipment of enough-chorizo-for-one-year would not have survived the trip. We barely made it in time to the Dry Ice store in Louisiana to purchase two 10 pound packs of dry ice for our standard sized cooler full of chorizo. I actually had to convince the vendor to open the door and sell me the ice. After that, we only added bags of ice as a precaution. Three days later when we finally made it to Virginia, the dry ice was still intact and had frozen the chorizo inside. To get it out we had to use a knife to pick it out. The next morning, and every morning after that, the chorizo was delicious… in huevo, con papas, con tortillas, YUM!!
- Never underestimate the power of Printed Maps – If you only take one thing away from this post it should most definitely be this one. Time after time, after time, especially in the mountains, our data service on our phones kept coming in and out whenever it felt like it. We’d be just about to get to our next exit and the GPS service would announce “GPS signal lost!” In every direction we’d point our phones trying to get them to reconnect so that they could tell us what to do. Most of the time they didn’t, and we’d have to resort to the US Almanac we’d bought in Houston before leaving. This was probably my single most important contribution to our road trip. I’d asked Anjelica to get the almanac at Walmart just before we took off.
- If you don’t know, ask – We did a lot of walking at every stop of our trip! And we also quickly realized that if we made a wrong turn we could easily end up taking dozens of extra and unnecessary steps, not to mention drive a whole lot of extra miles if we didn’t pay attention to where we were going. In the excitement of heading to New York, for example, we were so busy talking that we ended up missing our stop and driving 20 miles in the wrong direction. We ended up somewhere in the middle of nowhere before pulling over to ask an attendant at a gas station for directions. He was no help, but in that little span of time our GPS came back for a couple of seconds to confirm we were going the wrong way. Con razon llegamos tan tarde a la Gran Manzana!
- Electronics for the kids are Golden! – Another Golden tip, DO NOT underestimate the power of games and other electronics for kids. Before leaving we had gathered enough earphones to go around también. There were only a handful of times when the kids kept insisting with the question “are we there yet?” over and over again. The rest of the time they were busy playing alone or against each other on their PSP and DSIs, or watching movies on the portable DVD player, ever so often breaking into an argument, but not nearly as often as had they not had anything back there to keep them busy. When we got home and unpacked all of their electronics and ours it was kind of ridiculous how much we’d taken with us.
- Know the place your booking – In New Jersey we made the mistake of booking a hotel on Priceline a lo loco. Everywhere else we had coerced my brother in law to book a hotel room for us from Houston, wherever it was we had decided to stop by mid afternoon. This was a huge mistake because as soon as we drove by the motel we had gotten in New Jersey we knew we weren’t comfortable staying there. We canceled the reservation and looked for another hotel in New Jersey, even if it was a wee bit more expensive. So make sure and know where you’re booking your stay. Very, very important!
- Research, Research, Research – Nothing will make your road trip more enjoyable than researching where it is you are going and what there is there that you will want to do. Anjelica is definitely way better at this than me. Typically I’m the type that likes to go with the flow and discover things as they present themselves to me, but given our multiple stops and limited amount of time at each, it was great to just be able to turn to Anjelica and ask, what is there to do here? The cherry on top of the pastel in this instance was Great Falls Park in Virginia. It was a beautiful place and something completely different from all of the tourist destinations in DC.
- Have Fun!! – Whatever you do, despite all of the desmadre, make sure you have fun! This is a road trip after all, and that should be your number one priority. When it was all said and done, that was the one thing we were most grateful for, just how much fun we’d actually had together. So many memories are now a part of our hearts and minds.