Today, I’m answering a question we get very often here on Kelly in the City:
Why, in God’s name, would you ever DRIVE back to the East Coast?
When I first started writing this, my family and I had just successfully completed another 24-hour, 1,600-mile, back-and-forth drive home for the holidays. We’d eaten McDonald’s four times in single days, circled the radio dial for hours, endured Hap Palmer’s torturous “My Mommy Comes Back” song hundreds of times, stretched our legs at countless gas stations, and chugged at least two gallons of coffee and formula.
This is the kind of drive during which you can turn off the GPS for a while because the next turn isn’t for 450 miles. It’s the kind of drive during which you eat in the car because you can’t even fathom tacking on an extra 30 minutes. (And a few lost french fries into the “seat abyss” is worth it!) It’s the kind of drive during which you run out of things to think about.
Anyway, let’s dive in a bit deeper.
Here are a few things we’ve learned on these drives over the years:
- People at truck stops are incredibly nice and talkative, especially in Indiana and Ohio.
- Take5 candy bars will brighten the most dire of situations.
- A dash of hot chocolate makes gas station coffee feel fancy.
- Avoid clicking around on FM radio. It will drive you crazy.
- The Prius is a beast for road trips. It’s freaky how far you can drive without refueling. Kelly often has to beg for bathroom breaks, simply because the car can run for so long without us needing to stop. (Don’t worry: Pregnant Kelly didn’t have to beg.) I highly recommend the Prius.
- Sesame Street is hilarious and can fill a few hours on the road.
- Use Amazon Prime as your personal Santa Claus to save trunk space when you’re traveling over the holidays.
- Listening to movies over the car speakers works pretty well for entertainment purposes. (This past trip, we listened to Star Wars and Star Wars only. The Force was not with Kelly.)
- No matter the packing difficulty, never compromise on seating.
- The app “Overcast” lets you quicken podcasts to motormouth speed without “chipmunking,” allowing for auctioneer-style podcasting.
- Late-night gas station wine in crummy hotels can brighten the end of a rough day of driving.
We’ve also developed a “Rules of the Road Trip” playbook to make the drive less painful:
- Driver is in charge of entertainment. (For me, it’s podcasts. For Kelly, it’s “alternative country.” For Emma, it’s “My Mommy Comes Back.” Again and again and again. Although, true: she’s never behind the wheel. But she still somehow calls all the shots.)
- Passenger finds the next pitstop. (Fun fact: Kelly will offer to drive in an effort to get out of this. She hates using Google Maps.)
- The car keeps moving until Emma wakes up. This often means that Kelly ducks and rolls while I drive around rest area parking lots so she can use the bathroom.)
Despite all of this, the drive is a little painful. Each one starts with traditional midwestern boredom, as there’s absolutely nothing going on near the Indiana Toll Road. Ohio rest areas are dope because they have the best food, and Eastern Ohio gradually becomes beautiful just as the sun goes down. The next six hours of driving is a nightmare hellscape of horrifying mountain passes in the darkest pit of the night. Usually this is when a storm hits with an absurd, almost comical intensity. Most recently we faced a blizzard on the way to Philly and a tornado on the way back. (This is true.)
So, why do you drive?! What in the world is wrong with you, you maniac?!
I get it. We’re kind of nuts to drive to cross-country multiple times per year. But hear me out! I swear it makes sense.
^ I made that. Yeaaaah.
Driving takes one measly extra hour, but we save $1,000, are able to pull off the road whenever we want, and can make the decision to stay an extra day if we feel like it. We also have our own wheels when we get to our final destination, which allows us far more flexibility.
What’s it really like in that tiny Prius?
Kelly in the Car:
Kelly sings along to country music to the extreme in the car. She usually waits until I’m napping and it gives me messed up dreams of trucks and blue jeans and cowboy boots and stuff. That said, Kelly is a terrible driver so she doesn’t often get behind the wheel. She sits in the back with Emma while I chauffeur them across the country.
Kelly’s Car Snack:
McDonald’s! Large fries, strawberry smoothie, double-cheeseburger with no onions or pickles. If there are onions or pickles on that burger, she’ll throw it away. I kid you not.
Mitch in the Car:
I drive s-l-o-w-l-y. My friends and family make fun of me because of it, but I’m a middle-school math teacher. What do you expect? I drive a Prius and I drive it slowly. These things are true about me. I am who I am. (Kira?! Tom?!)
Mitch’s Car Snack:
With no Taco Bells at any rest area between Chicago and Philadelphia, my car snack is McDonald’s Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich Combo Meal with an Apple Pie booster. Shout out to Sheetz and Cracker Barrel for hooking it up when we can’t stand another McDonald’s stop.
Emma in the Car:
Emma’s life in the car is basically the same as Emma’s life outside the car. She sits, eats, reads stories, naps and watches the occasional Sesame Street episode when we don’t know what to do. Luckily, our car acts as a giant bouncy seat to lull her to sleep. That said, Emma does have the occasional incident. On our last drive, she pooped so much that it filled her socks and we had to throw away her clothing.
Emma’s Car Snack:
Emma can’t eat McDonald’s so she sticks with formula and teething toys. In good time, though, she’ll join the masses.
What are some of the most interesting things that have occurred during your trips?
1. I saw a black bear off the road in western Pennsylvania.
2. The aforementioned tornado. Kelly nearly had a heart attack. She referenced all knowledge she’d gained from watching “Twister” as a child, and I’m pretty sure tears were shed when she recalled the scene in the barn.
3. We strapped a kayak to the roof and it miraculously stayed there.
4. We crashed into a van on I-76 at 2 a.m. (Before we had Emma.)
5. Kelly got a flat tire on I-90 while pregnant and driving home for her baby shower. She ended up sobbing on the side of the road to a state trooper who undeniably wished he hadn’t pulled over to help. ;)
A 12-hour drive is a grueling affair, but I can’t say I mind it too much. Honestly, sometimes Kelly and I catch ourselves looking forward to it. It’s a break from our normally busy lives, and we’re able to talk and think and do something mindless.