In one of my previous posts, I mentioned that I travel with my son during the summers. Our goal is for him to see all fifty states before he graduates from high school next year. I thought I'd take you on a journey through our trips since some of you have asked me for more details. So, for the days where my schedule is routine, I'll share one of our trips with you. I hope you enjoy our journey.
My ex-husband and I divorced when my son was two years old. I was left with thousands of dollars in debt and a house that was upside down (the recession had just hit). It took me over seven years to get back on my feet, but I did. It took a lot of sacrificing and budgeting, but I made it happen. (Maybe I'll talk about the budgeting in a later post.)
My parents knew about my goals to see the fifty states, and they also wanted to see them. Unfortunately, I could not afford much of anything for those first seven years. My parents own two timeshares, so during those years, they would use one of them to rent near Disney World. As a military veteran, my dad was able to get a free 5-day ticket to Disney for himself plus five other 5-day tickets for $125 each. I'm not sure if that program still exists. So, every summer for the next five years, we would spend a week at Disney. We would have breakfast at the hotel, pack a lunch, and have dinner at the park or when we returned to the hotel. I was able to create memories with my son without spending a lot.
Fast forward to 2014... My parents didn't want to put off taking trips any longer. Since they planned to do the road trips anyway, they invited my son and I to tag along. They paid for the room and gas. I only had to worry about our meals and any activities we did. I am eternally grateful for their generosity because the memories we have created are embedded in my son's and my heart and soul.
Our first road trip was a 26-day trip from Miami to Niagara Falls and back. Our first stop was Jacksonville, Florida. For any of you not familiar with Florida, it is a LONG state. You can technically drive it in one day if you leave well before the sun rises and stop only to use the bathroom, but we chose to stop and enjoy a military base. We walked around the various planes that were displayed as my dad told my son about them.
Our next stop was Raleigh, NC, but we made a pit stop at South of the Border, South Carolina. There are signs for miles leading up to it. When I was a child, this was a must stop place. Now, it seems old and run down, but it was still fun to stop and show my son. One of my childhood best friends lives in Apex, NC, so we visited with her and took the kids to a science museum.
From there, we went to Virginia Beach, VA. We stayed on a lot of bases during our trips because my father was able to get better rates than at hotels, so it helped save money. We lived in Ft. Eustis, VA, when I was 10 years old so we knew all the great places to take my son. And we did! We went to Colonial Williamsburg where my son tried his hand at calligraphy and watched a reenactment of the revolutionary war. We also went to Busch Gardens where he rode every roller coaster, including the one that made me so sick that I swore I'd never ride them again - the Loch Ness Monster! He rode it five times in a row!
Our next stop was Washington, DC. We passed through Maryland, New Jersey, and Delaware on the way. We visited the Washington Monument, the Abe Lincoln Memorial, the White House (from the outside), several war memorials, and the Museum of Discovery and Natural History.
We stayed in Trenton, NJ, but visited New York. We went to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Central Park, and the Empire State Building. Throughout the whole trip, we had beautiful weather until we went to the Empire State Building. As soon as we got to the top, it began pouring rain. Because it was lightning, they wouldn't allow us to go outside. My son ate his first NY street hot dog, rode in a cab and a subway for the first time, and even got a hair cut from a NY barber. We also took a night bus tour through Times Square and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Our next stop was Niagara Falls. We stayed in Buffalo, NY, but we crossed over to Canada to see the waterfalls from that side. It was my son's first time in a foreign country (and it's the only foreign country he's been to).We walked a trail by the raging water and took a boat to the bottom of the falls. My son loved every minute of it.
We never travel back on the same roads, so our return home led us to Morgantown, West Virginia, which had the biggest spiders I've ever seen! (I'm petrified of spiders.) Funny (not so funny) story - we found a spider in our bed. We tried to change rooms, but there were none available, so I stayed up all night with the flashlight on my phone to make sure no other spiders got in the bed. That's how bad my arachnophobia is. Anyway, we visited Pricketts Fort, where we tried our hand at colonial living. Thanks, but no thanks!
Then, we went to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, one of my favorite places to visit. We visited Dollywood where my son rode more roller coasters. My son rode his first zip line. We went to the Forbidden Caverns. He and my dad caught fish at the English Mountain Trout Farm & Grill. Their motto is "You Hook 'Em, We Cook 'Em!" If you ever get to go there, please do! It's a great treat. My son went white water rafting for the first time in Pigeon Forge. We started with a class 1/2. He loved it so much that we immediate went back for a class 3/4. He handled it like a pro! We also went to a wax museum and Ripley's Aquarium.
Our next stop was Savannah, Georgia. We only stayed a night there, but I wasn't very impressed. I think it had been so hyped up that I expected it to be more than I saw. Then again, maybe there is more than I saw since we were only there one night.
Our last stop was St. Augustine, Florida. It's a great place to visit. We visited the oldest jail and the oldest school house and learned about the state's history. And then, we headed home! We did the entire trip in my dad's 2006 Honda Ridgeline. It's a great truck for a road trip, especially if you have a cover over the bed of the truck to keep the luggage dry like my father has.
My son loved being on the road as much as I did. I was impressed he handled it so well at 8 years old, but he had a great time. Thank goodness for that because there were many more road trips in his future. I'll leave those for another day. ;-)
Have you ever taken a road trip? Have you visited any of these places? I'd love to hear from you.