by Elizabeth Dengler
It wouldn’t be truthful of me to share that our road trips go off without a hitch. This one, not just being the farthest distance traveled, was the most unpredictable we’ve ever encountered. Part 2 of Road Tripping with the Denglers centers around how to be flexible and what there is to do beyond just ensuring that the car tabs are current and we paid the AAA membership.
One of our first surprises we couldn’t have predicted was that the state of Illinois would be closed to out-of-towners. We were rerouted via bypasses around all major cities and only local traffic would be permitted at exits with restaurants and Starbucks. It was peculiar to spend so much time speculating on Covid and we were curious to see how different states and people were handling it. We agreed that as a family if we couldn’t social distance we would wear our masks and that worked for us. We stayed overnight in West Des Moines, IA. The gal who worked the front desk (Jennifer) was just amazing. She was super engaging and friendly. When she asked where we were staying next, our reply was “Danville, Illinois”. And that’s when we found out about the state shutdown. Thank heavens we were able to make alternate plans. Here’s a hint, when you are in your city for the night talk with folks at the hotels, restaurants, etc. This is a great information exchange and also opened our eyes to what other travelers encountered and what people are concerned with and that allows for connection and compassion.
We also didn’t figure that rest areas would differ so much in availability state to state. We drove through a couple states with no open rest areas on the interstate. We did discover Love’s Truck stops and that was a huge blessing on this trip. They even have an app for your smartphone to show you where all the Love’s are located on your route. Their bathrooms were always clean and they had the best selection of grab-and-go food, including fresh fruit and veggies!
Sometimes our greatest intentions were completely thwarted by fatigue and poor planning. We bought 100 postcard stamps before the trip with the intention of the kids sending postcards from every state we stopped along the way. Illinois was the first to be forgotten, but we hadn’t planned where we would purchase the cards along the way. In Wall, SD it was easy. If you’ve ever been to Wall Drug, you’ll know it’s easy to get your hands on all kinds of postcards, but not every state has a Wall Drug. And your run-of-the-mill gas station doesn’t carry them. Not to mention complete fatigue had set in with The Hubbs and me by the time we settled into the hotel every night. We found we didn’t have the energy to see to it that the kids wrote out the cards. Every now and then we’d get to it. Fun fact, most people the kids sent cards to on our trip did not receive their postcards until after we had been home for a month. Postcards are not first class mail.
One of the biggest lessons we learned came about after a huge upset between The Hubbs and me. I’m a morning person, I didn’t used to be but kids happened and now I’m up early and I like my coffee and breakfast. My husband, aka The Hubbs, is a night owl, not food motivated and happy to have coffee from 7-11. Needless to say we had a very upsetting morning when my desires and his desires did not meet. BUT, this led to an amazing solution! Now, when I wake up in the morning at the hotel, I quietly get dressed and leave. Everyone is still sound asleep. I drive to get coffee, pick up hot breakfast (or make it), fill up the vehicle with gas, wash the windows, organize the vehicle and return to the hotel. Then we eat breakfast in the room, work together as a team to get the vehicle packed, and we’re off without having to stop for gas right away. If I get up early enough I go swimming for some good exercise.
Of all the events we couldn’t have planned for, was the death of my dad. Our grand road adventure was supposed to be capped with a visit to see my parents in Memphis after our family beach vacation. But Dad was called home and our trip ended with his funeral. But not just a funeral, it ended with a southern funeral and being with family and friends we weren’t going to originally see. We were surrounded by love, kindness and lots of church lady food. I said some of the hardest goodbyes on this trip. And on our drive home we were grieving. The Hubbs and our kiddos were so incredibly patient and loving as we made the trip home and we still had fun along the way.
We purchased fireworks in South Dakota and if you get a chance to be in Butte, MT on July 3rd you are in for a night filled with fireworks displays from big ones from the city to people setting them off at their homes until the wee hours of the morning. We, along with other travelers even set off fireworks in the parking lot of the hotel. And on July 4th, we drove through 4th of July pass. By the time we got home summer had arrived in the Inland NW. We had a slew of stickers to put on the Yakima Rocket Box and memories to last a lifetime.