I was half-excited, half-dreading our road trip east, knowing that 2 hours in the car with my children can be a major drag (see Grand Rapids), let alone 12. But believe it or not, the kids were pretty good until the very last 35 minutes in the car.
We left Oak Park at 4:15 on Thursday, right after picking Z up from her last day at Eco-Rangers day camp and depositing her tropical plant and cactus at home. Literally 10 minutes before our planned departure time, UPS dropped off the headphone splitter we'd ordered for the trip and Oscar the cat came inside. Positive signs, both. [For those wondering about Oscar's health and wellbeing during our absence, fret not: a friend of our next door neighbor volunteered to stay at our house and care for him while she waits for her Oak Park-area apartment lease to start.]
We spent the first hour on the road in traffic, but things were pretty smooth sailing after we made it into Indiana. We had a delicious pizza dinner at Rocco's in South Bend. An extra large cheese pizza, a salad, 3 meatballs, 2 lemonades and a glass of wine for under $40, including tip.
We drove on, the kids in the back playing with stickers and coloring books until twilight. Then, after they finished watching the Wiggles on our portable DVD player, the car was completely dark and they finally conked out.
And Josh kept driving. Our goal was to make it halfway to Harrisburg on the first day, and we accomplished that, checking into a Red Roof Inn outside of Cleveland at midnight. Spoiled by the nice places I get to stay when traveling for work, I don't ordinarily stay at truly budget motels, but the TripAdvisor reviews for this particular Red Roof Inn reassured me that it was secure and spotlessly clean (if possessing no other merits). It was a fine place to pass 8 hours, sleeping and showering and moving on.
Friday we hit up a Caribou Coffee for caffeine, muffins and oatmeal, which we enjoyed in the car. The kids kept themselves busy with Road Trip Bingo, stickers, iPod Touch games and yet more DVDs. The kid-sized animal headphones we purchased for them to use with the iPods and DVD player were worth every penny because Josh and I could enjoy our tunes instead of sound bleed from The Princess and the Frog.
We had lunch at a truly mediocre Mexican restaurant in Somerset, PA (yeah, I know) and made it to my high school best friend's parents' house in Harrisburg just after 3pm. Our kids ran wild together until dinnertime, but they were so over-excited and over-tired that clothes were coming off and faces were getting kicked.
We left and drove over to our hotel, a Candlewood Suites unit I'd booked online and pre-paid. They "upgraded" us to a King suite (with a handicapped-accessible shower), which boasts a separate bedroom with a king-sized bed for me to share with my children while Josh sleeps on the pull-out couch in the living room. There is also a full kitchen, free wireless and laundry, a gym and an indoor pool. Altogether pretty nice for $112 a night.
Today we're going to tour the Turkey Hill ice cream factory before meeting up with Josh's aunt and uncle (who live in Harrisburg) and his parents, who are driving up for the afternoon.