It’s hard to know how much stuff you’ll need when you’re traveling for 6 weeks. You make assumptions and hope for the best, but there’s that nagging feeling that you’re probably forgetting something. The trip timing also aligned with our decision to trade in our minivan and purchase an SUV which has a bit less storage, so we already felt like we weren’t going to be able to pack everything we needed.

Well, by the time we arrived in Nashville in our second week, not only did we not feel like we weren’t missing anything, but we felt like we needed to shed lots of things that we didn’t need and were hauling because we might need them (or small things we’d purchased along the way). So we shipped them home, 55lbs worth.

And it was a great feeling. We don’t miss them, we didn’t really need them, and we’re realizing how little we actually need to get by. We’re living quite comfortably out of what can fit in our GMC Acadia. We each have a couple changes of clothes, we do laundry at most hotel or Airbnb stops, we stop at grocery stores every couple of days, and we’re perfectly happy.

One thing we haven’t trimmed back is our collection of electronics. I’m not sure what to say about that.

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(Not pictured: My phone, Maggie’s phone, the actual camera, Dylan’s camera, numerous chargers, baby monitor, car AC adapter.)

At the entrance to the playground in Memphis. Buffalo. Obviously.

When we left Washington, DC we were ready to leave the city. DC is an amazing city, but the anticipation for the outdoors was building. We couldn’t wait. We hit the road early. This is what we saw.

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And all we saw. 3 hours into our drive we had made it 38 miles. After a total of 5 hours of driving, peppered with car sickness and brief thoughts of abandoning the first night in Shenandoah and staying in a town called Culpeper (which only had 2 hotels that were both full, “there’s a wedding in town this weekend”), we made it. And it was worth it.

What followed in the next day and a half were some of the most breathtaking natural sights we’d ever seen. We hiked (a small patch of) the Appalachian Trail. The boys took part in a Junior Rangers program. Maggie cooked a mean camp stove dinner.

As we drove along Skyline Drive through the park, we pulled over at a half dozen scenic overlooks. If you know me well you’ll know that most of the time I stood at a safe distance taking photos while Maggie took our children TO THE EDGE OF THE WORLD.

It’s hard to describe how grand this all was, especially on very little sleep (Isaiah is having a hard time adjusting to hotel living so we had a 4:30am date driving around Knoxville, TN this morning).

We were sad to see Shenandoah go, but we had a lovely view on the way out.

Most of you may not know much about what led up to this trip, and the story will be told in later posts, but in the months preceding Maggie spent countless hours planning destinations, accommodations, sights to see, clothes to wear, packing bags weeks in advance. All while homeschooling our 4 kids, cooking for the family, making our house a home and a haven every day and so many more things impossible to list here.

She is an amazing and wonderful woman. Our kids couldn’t possibly have a better mother, and I wouldn’t dream of traveling this road with anyone else.

There wasn’t much pomp or circumstance today during our travels, but I wanted to publicly recognize the fact that we’ve got the best mom and wife going.

Babe, this family loves to you no end. Happy Mother’s day.

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We’re a bit late posting after our stop in DC as our next stop was Shenandoah National Park where cell signal and wifi is at a premium (i.e., nonexistent). But more on that later.

The first full day in our nation’s capital included a stroll through the sculpture garden at the Hirshhorn Museum, a visit to the Air and Space Museum, relaxing at our hotel, work, and food trucks, delicious food trucks.

Our second day brought us to the Museum of Natural History, more food trucks, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

Dylan and Lucy also made a quick friend in a woman who didn’t speak English and whose husband asked if they could take a photo of my kids and his wife. Nice to meet you, tourist lady!

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It didn’t look like a moon rock. It was black and flat and sharp. Then mom said “It’s a volcanic rock,”. I thought she meant that it was just from an earth volcano. I said “Oh,” in a rather disappointed voice. But then she said that it was a moon volcano, which made it even cooler!

But, the result turned out great. Basically, I touched the moon!!!

Made it to D.C. safely. Had a very close call with an unexpectedly detached and suddenly tumbling toward us steel bumper from an 18 wheeler. Clearly, the prayers for our safety are an important part of our journey. Don’t stop.

Highlight of the day: Discovering that our hotel is directly across the street from NASA’s headquarters.

By early evening we took a walk to the National Mall, and in the distance you can just make out the Washington Monument. We’ll get closer tomorrow.

First leg of the journey; RI > NJ

Estimated drive time: 3.5 hrs.

Actual drive time: 5.5 hrs.

Total time kids were bickering: >5 minutes.

Total crying time: none.

Fun activity for the day: sidewalk chalk in the hotel parking lot.

Musings from the back seat:

  • “I’m so happy I could burst from joy.” – Dylan
  • “This is the craziest thing I can think of: sliding down a pole with laser chickens!” – Eli

Off to a good start.

Yesterday, two days before we leave, we felt like we’d bitten off more than we could chew. It started with a small realization that we needed more packing space in the car. Within an hour it had spiraled into buyers remorse, homesickness (we hadn’t left yet), and general paralysis as we laid on an inflated air mattress in our living room thinking maybe we should just forget the whole thing and fly to Disney.

Some of the thoughts that emerged as we stared at each other with desperation in our eyes:

  • I don’t think we can fit everything in the car. We should ditch the camping, leave the gear and only stay in hotels.
  • Should we be driving longer legs and staying in places more nights rather than shorter drives and more stops?
  • Maybe we should just put the whole thing off a few days so we have more time to plan.
  • Are we spending too much money?
  • Maybe we should just go to Disney. Epcot has all those countries we can visit.
  • Let’s go for even longer. Boulder is supposed to be beautiful, let’s spend a week there.
  • Amish country is nice.
  • I should go get some beer.

This is natural, I’m sure, but knowing that didn’t help to subside the sudden crippling fear that we were doing this all wrong. It also probably didn’t help that we were coming off of a stomach bug and were generally wrecked physically and emotionally.

Today, the sun was out, we finished the packing, we loaded up the car for a test run and the remorse and doubt has all (mostly) turned to anticipation.

Tomorrow we hit the road to the bright lights of… New Jersey. You have to start somewhere.