I’ve driven across the United States a few times over the years, but never with two children. Our family lives in Palm Springs, California and we live in northwest Arkansas. I had surgery in April and wanted to spend the summer in California. We decided to drive instead of fly because I had some medical issues and felt I would be more comfortable driving. I could rest whenever I wanted and pull over if I needed to. I also liked the idea of not being on a set schedule. Driving across the country felt adventurous.
What Went Wrong
It is really difficult to drive for hours and hours each day. If you’ve been ill it’s even more difficult. I would have to stop alongside the interstate, throw up and keep driving because the next town was one hundred miles away. There are so many towns along the interstate that were on the map and on my GPS that were basically nonexistent. Often, we would exit thinking there was a nice hotel or restaurant and everything would be closed or absolutely repulsive.
The worst part of the trip was the panhandle of Texas. There is absolutely nothing for hundreds of miles. We reached Amarillo and thought, “Yes, we can stop for the day.” I exited and the first thing we saw was an I Hop with someone laying on the ground and two police cars. I pulled into a hotel parking lot and immediately decided to leave when I read the sign in the parking lot. It read, “Not responsible for damage to vehicles. Not responsible for theft of vehicles.” No thanks, Amarillo. As we were leaving and trying to find our way back to the interstate my twelve year old son said, “Mom is that what a nudey bar is?” There was a huge sign with a scantily clad woman in a provocative pose pointing to a strip club. That was it for me.
The next town we stopped in was like something out of “The Twilight Zone.” Our travel guide said there were three charming hotels, a great steakhouse, and some fun attractions. The entire town was abandoned. I literally drove through Texas without stopping except for gas. That day I put a little over seven hundred miles behind us while I was throwing up about once an hour. It was horrible! We finally found a hotel in New Mexico that was clean and safe.
I could drive around five hours each day before I started to really hurt and become uncomfortable, but often I would drive more because there truly wasn’t anywhere decent to stay for the night. I don’t have to stay at the Four Seasons. I just want a clean room, a soft bed, and a pool for the kids.
Avoiding Travel Disasters
There is a lot you can do to avoid this travel disaster. I recommend flying. If you have medical issues, just call the airline and ask to be accommodated; or made comfortable. If you do drive across the country, make sure you know your limits. Plan each stop you are going to make and trust me; only stay in hotel chains you are familiar with. Hotels off of the interstate are about twice as expensive as other hotels because they know people are exhausted and will pay anything.
Don’t trust your GPS, Scout, or even Triple A travel guides to be correct. I don’t know if it’s because of the economy, but many towns were just abandoned looking or really dirty and rundown. Remember that the time will change as you travel and change your clock and watch accordingly. I took the kids to a dinosaur museum an hour before it actually opened.
Always stop for gas when your tank is half empty. If you don’t you may run out when you’re driving through Texas or New Mexico. There are distances of hundreds of miles with no place to fill up. Also, the weather really varies as you travel. There were over ten cars overheated on the side of the road in Arizona. Make sure you’re vehicle is ready for anything.
I can’t say I will never drive across country again. We did have some really awesome experiences and now the we laugh about the whole thing. We have a joke in our family about the Griswold’s from the National Lampoon movies with Chevy Chase. If something crazy happens we say, “It’s all part of the experience kids,” but honestly there were parts of that vacation that I never want to repeat.