On July 10, Brendan and I woke up at 4:00AM to get ready to leave on our much anticipated summer vacation. More than a year ago, my mom and dad proposed a grand plan for celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary which was a milestone they met in May of this year. They wanted to take their whole family (myself, my sister and two brothers, our spouses and all of our kids) on a 4-night Disney Cruise. There would be 21 of us in all (10 adults and 11 children). And that early Friday morning we showered, got dressed, packed a cooler with various snacks, drinks and lunch items and woke our three kids up to get in the minivan to embark on a 20 hour drive to Port Canaveral, Florida.
We had never taken a road trip of this magnitude with our kids before. We were excited and a little nervous and giddy with the prospect of trying to make it to Macon, Georgia at a decent hour so we could get a good night's sleep and turn around and get back in the van to end up in Port Canaveral before dinnertime on Saturday.
The kids were excited as well. They have made many trips to Ohio, which is usually a 6-7 hour drive depending on the number of stops and traffic. So we knew they could handle the time in the car well. And they did. We ate cereal out of plastic bowls on the way and watched DVD's on our DVD player and played the ABC game where you try and find all the letters of the alphabet in order from license plates or signs along the way. We made our way through Indianapolis and to the Sunny Side of Louisville (southern Indiana). We stopped at the Southern Indiana welcome center to use the bathroom and stretch our legs. Ian decided to start a collection of pamphlets from each state we were going through and tried to find the 120 foot tall baseball bat that graces the entrance of the Louisville Slugger museum. We never saw it (we went through Louisville) but saw the stadium for the minor league Louisville Bats.
I packed some surprises to give the kids as we travelled to make the trip a little less monotonous. There were orange Tic Tacs, a new book, a coloring book for the girls and playing cards for Ian, and toys for each one. These seemed to make the time go by quickly and before we knew it we were through Kentucky and into Tennessee. We stopped at a beautiful wooded rest stop in Tennessee and took advantage of some hills to climb and some pretty scenery to take some pictures. Being from the midwest, we were all awed by the beautiful mountains.
We stopped at a Cracker Barrel for dinner (they have one at every exit on the highway from Illinois to Florida - that's no exaggeration!) and the kids gobbled up some pancakes and declared the CB syrup the best they'd ever tasted. (It came in a little personal syrup bottle that they kept.)
We pressed on past Atlanta and decided to call it a night somewhere near Macon, GA. We stopped at what we hoped would be a cheap hotel only to find every other traveller had the same idea. All they had left were rooms with a single king sized bed. Not going to work for us. There were two other hotels with a lot less car in the lot so we checked there. The first was too much money. the second, the Baymont Inn and Suites, was initially too much. When my husband balked at the cost, the proprietor said he'd give it to us for $69.99 and we said we'd take it. My kids have rarely stayed at a hotel, so they thought this place was THE BEST HOTEL EVER!!!!!!! There was a flat screen TV on the wall!!! and a fridge in the room!!!! and the chair was a pull out bed!!!! We got ourselves comfortably situated and spent the night well. (Did I mentioned the flat screen TV!!!!)
The next day we headed into Florida. The state welcome center was serving fresh, cold, FREE cups of orange and grapefruit juice. My kids thought this was heaven and that the juice was THE BEST EVER! (Are you getting the notion that my kids don't get out much?)
We made it to the Port Canaveral Radisson Inn where my whole family already was and checked in to an EVEN BETTER hotel. My kids changed into their bathing suits immediately and went swimming with their Michigan and Ohio cousins in a pool that had a waterfall that poured directly into the pool.
We all went to dinner at a Beef O'Brady's, where they treated us well. All the kids got a frisbee to take home after dinner. My parents sat with all 11 grandkids while the eight kids and kid-in-laws sat at the table one over. The kids all got Oreos in their kids meal, and my Dad joked that he wanted some. Zoe, my five year old, took it upon herself to tell the waitress that her Papa wanted cookies. He got them!
We spent the evening watching Wipeout with the nieces and nephews and generally just having fun with each other. The next morning, the real fun began!