It’s 12:30 pm and the kids are all still asleep, which is not surprising considering that their body clocks are set 5 hours behind. Athol has bravely fought his way out from under the covers and dragged his way back to work after bringing me a cup of coffee. This is the first time in the past month that I have had a couple of hours of peace and quiet and time with out another single soul about.
We have been back home almost 24 hours from our month’s road trip around the USA. It has been the most amazing month, I loved it all. All except the times we were stuck in traffic at the end of a long day’s driving in the dumping rain and the kids were fighting again about who had to sit in the hard and narrow back seats.
This is also the first time I’ve sat down at my laptop in the past month, and I have a small confession to make, I missed my blog more than I missed the dogs!
I mean, I’m happy to see the little furry creatures and glad they are thriving and were well cared for while we were away, but I thought about my blog far more often than them. I tried to keep up with posting from my phone but it just wasn’t the same.
I know. I won’t try and explain it.
So while the washing machine is churning over yet another load from our well-worn, travel weary clothing and the kids are snoring on, I’m keeping company with the spiders who have gleefully and greedily set up residence in every corner of our home while I summarise, in brief, our entire month’s road trip.
This was our itinerary:
- Fly from Dublin to Providence, Rhode Island with Norwegian Air (budget airline, bring your own food, blankets and inflight entertainment). Depart 3:00pm, arrive 6pm (flight was delayed by 2 and a half hours but caught up time landing only one hour late).
- 1 night in Vernon, Connecticut – AirBnB
- 3 nights in Valley Stream, New York City – AirBnB
- 3 nights in Capitol Heights, Washington DC – AirBnB
- 11 nights in Tryon, North Carolina – friends
- 1 night in Louisville, Kentucky – in-laws of a friend
- 4 nights near Chicago, Illinois in Libertyville – friends
- 1 night near Detroit, Michigan in Livonia – friends of friends and now our new friends
- 2 nights in Niagara Falls, New York – Couchsurfing
- 1 night in Boston, Massachusetts – sister of a friend
As you can see, although we were travelling for a month, we only had seven nights of paid accommodation, for which we are extremely grateful. Our trip wouldn’t haven been possible otherwise. We were blown away by the hospitality and kindness shown to us by total strangers and hope we can extend the same warm welcome to them if and when they come and visit us in Ireland.
We hired a car with Dollar for the duration of our trip, we asked for a 7 seater people carrier but were given an enormous Chevrolet Tahoe SUV. The car was heavy on fuel and had a tiny boot (trunk) so we had to pile up some of the cases in between the seats. It also had a very narrow back bench seat with little leg room which meant that the longer legged occupants of the car were unappreciative of its impressive engine size.
However, it was an extremely comfortable car to drive, it was an automatic with many intuitive features like anti lane drifting, water sensitive wipers and lights that dim when another car approaches from the front. As Athol was having to do all the driving (adding another named driver to the rental made it prohibitively expensive), it was good to have a car that made it easier for him.
Our tickets on Norwegian Air only cost us €300 each return – I know, a steal right?! We were offered the option of paying an extra €30 each for a meal on board but we opted to bring our own instead as the flight is only six hours. (Maybe that’s the reason why we didn’t need to use the sick bag?)
You can buy food after you have been through Immigration pre-clearance in Dublin to bring on the aircraft or you can take a picnic provided that it doesn’t include fresh fruit or meat products. I packed instant pot noodles (and asked for boiling water on board), cheese sandwiches, cereal bars, mini bread sticks, sweets, hot cross buns and brioche rolls for the way over. On our return journey we bought burgers in the airport, none of us were hungry on the aeroplane.
We all carried our own water bottles which we brought empty through security. There are drinking fountains in Dublin airport just after security outside the bathrooms which you can use to fill bottles.
We found drinking fountains all around the States, many of them have a special ledge for filling bottles and usually the water is cooled.
Although we were travelling for 28 days, I made sure the kids packed only a week’s clothing as our packing allowance was tight (with hindsight I’m glad I did as the car packing space was so cramped). We checked in one 20kg suitcase but each had a cabin bag measuring 55cmx40cmx20cm. I packed our shoes, towels, raincoats, portable dvd payer for the car, toiletries, first-aid kit and gifts in the big suitcase.
The airline allows you to bring one cabin bag on board as well as a handbag, small backpack or laptop bag. When we checked our suitcase in, they offered to take our cabin bags too which freed us up to carry only a small bag each, just big enough to carry a blanket, travel pillow, picnic and books, phones, headphones, toothbrush etc.
We downloaded a few movies and audio books onto the phones, these were a life saver on the long road trips too.
One of the notable things about the USA is that you never need to travel more than about 5km, if you are very unlucky or driving over a mountain pass, without going hungry. We spent most of our budget this holiday just feeding the kids. We tried to buy from supermarkets as much as possible but also ate our way through a list of fast food joints, diners and greasy spoons that included Chipotle, Ihop, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Waffle House, Chick-Fll-A, Cracker Barrel, Dunkin Donuts, MacDonlads and Burger King. Our diet starts today.
The States takes food seriously, every few miles on any Interstate on the east coast you will see about 5 or 6 signs for somewhere to turn off to refuel – and not just for the car. And then, as you approach an off ramp you will see another bunch of signs raised about 60 foot up into the air each displaying the logo for the eating place beneath it. If you can’t find a place to eat here, it’s your own fault.
Tip: Don’t give your kids 89c slushies on the road unless you’re willing to stop four more times in the following hour for toilet breaks.
We also picnicked when we could, sometimes we found indoor picnic areas which was a relief as they were always air-conditioned.
On the positive side, we walked miles and miles and miiiiiiyels this past month, so we must have burnt a few calories too. The kids got very tired, especially as we are not used to the extreme heat, so I had to not keep dragging them to all the places I wanted to see.
We didn’t pay for a whole host of attractions throughout the month, we only bought tickets for a Hop-on-Hop-off bus in NYC (we got the tickets on Groupon), entry into the vitual reality booths and planetarium for the kids in the Air and Space museum, D.C., Madame Tussauds in D.C. (also on Groupon), an absolutely mind blowing and terrifying amusement and water park in Charlotte, North Carolina called Carowinds, a baseball game in Greenville, a boat taxi in Chicago and the Maid of the Mist boat in Niagara Falls.
Everything else we explored was free.
We visited museums, art galleries, monuments, parks, beaches and a petting farm where we stroked a very ugly lizard. The kids got tired of sight-seeing so we had some chill-out days in between. We practised the art of family communication and often failed but eventually learned to ask the children what they would like to do before we made plans for the day. We tried to balance out what everyone asked for even though it meant having to quell the moaning from the rest who didn’t want to do those things too.
I now have a gazillion more photos I’d love to show you, but I’ll spare you for another day. Thanks for reading up to here and I hope you’ll stick around for my next update of our trip.
I am glad to be home, to have a quiet day to collect my thoughts, to sleep and to pat the doggies. But in my head I’m already planning our next trip, there was so much we didn’t see and mostly, I want to go back and see those lovely people we left behind.