Homeward bound {NC – Summer 2017 (Part 5)}

After our exciting time with Mama Kim and Aunt Charlene I crashed.  I ended up with a cold that took me down for a few days.  I can barely remember driving back from Virginia to NC.

Once back at my parents’ we unloaded the van one last time.  I cleaned it as well as I could, washed clothes, and then strategically packed our suitcases so that we could take as little in to the hotels each night as possible.

On the morning of the 25th we spent some time taking the obligatory Harley Davidson pictures of Anna.  All the kids at 18 months have had these pictures taken.




Typically when I leave NC I can get home with only one hotel stay.  By that time we’re usually so ready to be home that I can push through and drive half-way two consecutive days.  This time, with me not feeling 100%, I knew I needed to give myself more time to get home, thus less driving time each day.  I could have delayed leaving until I felt better but we had our first day of the 2017-2018 school year less than a week away and I didn’t want to get back so close to our starting.

The driving time itself is not very memorable.  Everything went smoothly and we were happy to see each state’s welcome sign.

Things went wonky during our first hotel stay.

For the first time I can remember (during our time in Texas) we stopped for the night while still in Georgia. Typically that wouldn’t feel quite far enough along the way to make it worth stopping (heading back to Texas) but we got a later start than usual (1:30 p.m.) and the goal was to get past Atlanta… we managed to do that and found a hotel in Smyrna.

The boys swam in the weirdest of pools to get the wiggles out before bedtime.  The room we requested was a suite and these typically have a fold out couch.  Here comes the first of many issues on our trip home.

  • No fold out couch.

This was fairly easily resolved as we had an air mattress in the car.  Our second issue:

  • One washing machine and one dryer for the entire hotel.

I had really hoped to throw our wet suits into the dryer so we wouldn’t have to carry wet clothes with us in the car the next day but it was in use.

Our third issue is explained in my Facebook post from shortly after we checked into our hotel:

  • The smell was… odd.

Our hotel is fine… Good enough for a night’s sleep with a pre-bedtime swim to get the wiggles out. One complaint: the hallway smells like nicotine and chewing gum.

Not smoke, necessarily. It’s a weird smell, though.

You can research a hotel only so much…

I guess I need to add to my litany of questions: “Does your hotel have a funky nicotine/gum smell?” along with “Do you have a pool and if so, is it in working condition?”

And this leads us to the next, most substantial, issue of this hotel stay:

  • The fire alarm shrieked at us for 3 hours.

It literally took the alarm representative and the fire department three hours to make. IT. STOP!  Anna woke once.  Hayden never heard it. While I was downstairs trying to see how much longer this was going to last (I was worried about my ability to drive or stay awake while Hayden drove the next day), Bailey woke up and tried to find me.  This leads us to the final, though minor, issue.

  • Bailey got locked out of our room.

I was downstairs on the 2nd floor which had a balcony over the lobby.  I could hear and see what was going on which allowed me to know how much longer the madness was going to last.  When it finally stopped I headed back to my room to find Bailey sitting at on the floor outside our room.  Poor kid.

Thankfully the hotel was apologetic and handled the irritated guests very well the next morning.  While they didn’t refund my money, they gave me enough points for a free hotel stay.  And to make things truly right, they applied the points immediately, so that I could use them that night.  (Typically it takes three days for points to show up in my account.)

Driving Day 2:

Everything went smoothly and we had lunch plans with friends we met in Germany. All was well and good until we got out of our car to walk into the restaurant.

  • Parker stepped in a mound of dog poop.

People. For the love of all that is decent on this earth, if you let your dog poop in the tiny bit of grass that separates a McDonald’s from a Chick-fil-a, pick it UP!  I had to bag his Chacos until we got home (to TEXAS) because it was in, on, and around the shoe.  I got his foot cleaned fairly well with a baby wipe but I wanted to say words that I’m not in the habit of saying.  Remember, I wasn’t feeling well to begin with, had (not) slept through a 3-hour-long fire alarm the night before, and had been driving for a few hours already with several more hours of driving to come.

Thankfully Mason had given Parker a pair of shoes he’d recently outgrown so we didn’t have to go through the strategically packed suitcases to find another pair for my guy.

Lunch was pleasant and we enjoyed catching up.  Our babies who were born in Germany are now in 2nd grade! Crazy!


Thirty minutes after resuming our travels Alabama decided to show it’s ugly side.

  • Rain came down in sheets.  It was the most difficult rain conditions I’ve ever had to drive in.

You can only imagine my relief at arriving at our hotel in West Monroe that evening.  We’ve traveled this drive so many times we feel like West Monroe is a bit a second home. Our hotel’s parking lot was attached to the Duck Dynasty restaurant.  This was our “free” stay hotel and we began by hitting the pool right off.  When Hayden had had his fill of swimming, I sent him over to Pizza Hut to pick up a few pizzas for dinner.  (Having another driver in the family is quite convenient.)

One minor issue that I guess I shouldn’t complain about but will anyway, because, when you stay at any hotel, these things should be taken care of:

  • The area surrounding the pool was filthy.  Dead frog, cigarette butts, and beer bottles.  I was too tired and sick to complain.

They didn’t have a room large enough for our family (and that was without Matt) so they gave us two different rooms.  Whatever… just a few minor things that made this stay fit right in with the rest of our trip home:

  • No washer or dryer.
  • There was a lizard in my room which I made Hayden dispose of.

At this point I was almost laughing through tears at the absolute absurdity of this trek home.  Any of these things alone isn’t a big deal but they were piling up on top of this tired, sick mama.  (Tack all these experiences on top of the fact that we had had a very emotional and whirlwind trip.)

My sleepy girl:


The next morning I used my hotel-coffee-trick to make coffee that was strong enough to get the job done.  I put both coffee pods in the pot.


Travel that day was smooth enough.  I can almost remember some of it. I think my cold was subsiding by that point.  We hit Texas and rejoiced, even though we still had, like, 7,000 miles before we got to our house.  (I exaggerate, sort of.)


By the time we reached Temple, a town near home, and one we have to travel to for Carson’s orthopedist and to go to a Staples Office Supply store, we hit our last few snags of the trip.

  • Dead. Still. Traffic.
  • 107* heat.  (I didn’t get a picture of the temp at 107 so please imagine with me that the picture below shows that instead of 105*.)


We really hadn’t missed that at all.  

It took some breathing techniques for me to work my way mentally through that traffic but before too long we were on our way.  My mantra the last few miles was, “Most accidents happen close to home when people lose focus.”  I focused.  HARD.  I wanted my house, my bed, my best friend.  I wanted my baby girl to have her space and my boys to have their friends.  I was ready.

And finally we were home…

After 18 days on the road, unpacking the car 11 different times for overnight stays, visiting friends and family in 6 different states, traveling 3,400 miles, we were home.  We are so thankful for such a safe, eventful, trip.

My Facebook status that evening:

We are home and refuse to get in the car again today. Matt’s running out for Mission Taco. I will be largely ignoring FB for the reminder of today and tomorrow.  🙂

We missed home as we always do but this time, more-so. Anna loves being in her house and we love having a place for her to roam freely!

Thank you to everyone who showed hospitality and let us crash in your homes…. I know it gets harder and harder the bigger our family gets. Your welcoming hearts are greatly appreciated.

Bedtime was sweet that night.  You know how it is after being gone so long.  You slip into your own bed and think, “There’s no place like home.”

And then, this:

I got to enjoy the craziness that Matt had endured while we were going.  Three straight weeks of this:



About Jennifer

"Yes, they're all mine." The answer to the question I hear most often.
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