My anal retentiveness cannot justify ending my travel posts with our final destination when we technically made more semi-interesting stops.
I promise this is the last of my vacation photos.
On our first night of our two-day trip home, we stopped just outside of Nashville. How could we not stop and see the Grand Ole Opry?
After seeing it though, I wished we hadn’t stopped. I had always envisioned a crusty old building filled with history sitting upon a road reminiscent of horse hitches and dust.
This was not the sight I expected as we pulled up.
But we took pictures anyway.
Then we headed to Memphis to peer over the walls at Graceland (not paying $20 a head since we are not huge Elvis fans).
Outside of Graceland there’s a wall where people write all kinds of messages to the King. Annika wrote her name and age. We mused about how cool it would be if she came back 20 years later and found it again.
Then we ate some ridiculously good barbecue.
I have a particular fondness for southern, melty mac ‘n’ cheese. It needed its own photo.
And now we’re home. It was good to sleep in my own bed after two weeks on the road.
Our final destination, other than perhaps a side trip to Graceland on our way home, was to visit Toyin’s sister in DC. I really like the feel of DC. It’s a great city. One of my favorite things about visiting big cities is that you can ride the train everywhere. It’s one of the appealing things about living in such an urban area.
Annika’s first ride on the Metro.
This ride was on the way down to the tourist district of DC where we quickly walked through the Air and Space Museum and the Natural History Museum.
We then hit up the Mall and lo and behold, at the WWII Memorial, Texas and Michigan were right next to each other. We had to take a picture.
We also saw Lincoln and MLK. Lincoln is favorite. But MLK was an inspired and a great addition to our country’s memories of stone.
But frankly, even though we saw much of our nation’s history on this leg of the trip, it’s very likely that Annika’s favorite memory of this part of the trip will be making a cake with her auntie.
Our next stop in this trip after spending a couple more days in Ann Arbor, one of them with a sick kid, was New York City.
Naturally, one of our first meals was Middle Eastern fare. I had a lamb shwarma with some hot sauce that was, dare I say, even better than some of the shwarma I’ve had in Detroit. One of the nice things about New York City is that you can get good food from just about any culture and it’s authentic and super delicious.
The second day we went to Coney Island and had a so-so hot dog and chili fries at the Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters.
The dog was okay, but what made the trip memorable was a sand castle she made with Toyin and then she got to pick two kiddie rides.
Kiddie rides at Coney Island equal kiddie ecstasy.
The next day on the way to see the Statue of Liberty, she got to have a New York City pretzel. It did not disappoint. But she didn’t like the salt, which is funny because I remember feeling the same way as a kid when I had my own sampling of NYC pretzel. I like it now, so the salted parts of pretzel did not go to waste.
We hit up the Statue of Liberty on our way out of town. So we didn’t take a tour, but instead rode the Staten Island ferry, which was free and just as fun as taking a tour boat.
Detroit doesn’t have a great reputation, even amongst those who live in the metro Detroit area. But it’s got some good qualities. Every time I’m in town, I just feel like I am home again. And I’m always reminded of the reasons I stayed for so long. And eventually, I’m reminded of the reasons I left.
We are in Ann Arbor at the moment, Annika woke up this morning with her very first ear infection! Ah, but that’s another post.
We spent the first part of this week in a suburb of Detroit, with friends. And we made a couple of brief trips into the city to see a few things and enjoy some food that only this city can offer.
In part, one of the reasons we made this trip was to visit one of my best and dearest girlfriends, who is like a sister to me. She has three children (and surprised to learn another on the way!).
Last time we were in town, Annika didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with the oldest two boys who are 4 and 3. This time, they had a blast. The oldest proclaimed that he’d like us to stay for seven weeks. And Annika cried when we left.
We had wonderful fun and as always, it didn’t seem like long enough. While we have many good friends in Austin and I wouldn’t trade them for the world, there’s just nothing like an old friend who knows all your dirty secrets, loves you still and now is now sharing motherhood.
While we were staying with our friends, we wandered downtown to see Toyin’s favorite sculpture, he calls it the gateway to Detroit. It’s actually a memorial to the labor movement, a part of American history homegrown in Detroit.
Finally, one of my favorites, pizza with feta cheese, made at a Greek restaurant named Nikki’s. Not only is this one of my favorite Detroit delicacies, but the restaurant holds many fond memories.
Yes, Detroit may be dirty and corrupt. It’s old and tired. But every time we visit I see a glimmer of hope and history. I don’t think it’s quite done for just yet.
If you’ve never made a double digit hour long road trip with a young child, it is possible.
We hit the road around 630 p.m. on Friday night and drove for about eight hours, stopping only for gas and bathroom until around 3 a.m. when we decided, against Toyin’s wishes, to get a hotel. We all slept for about six hours and then we got up, dressed and hit the road again.
The original plan was to drive for 12 hours the first night, rest at a hotel for the day and then drive another 12 hours.
To be honest, it was only partially Annika’s fault that we stopped. I have a hard time sleeping in the car and she woke up cranky when we stopped for gas. It just so happened that in the next parking lot was a hotel.
That was in Tulsa.
The next day, we stopped for gas and lo and behold, I learned an interesting alcohol related fact. One can buy liquor in gas stations in Oklahoma.
It doesn’t really surprise you that my first photo was of alcohol, does it?
We drove for another six hours and then stopped for dinner and leg stretching in St. Louis.
Then today, we spent with Grandma in Ann Arbor at the Children’s Museum, which surpasses the Children’s Museum in Austin by about a million.
In a few days, Toyin and I will embark on our first really long road trip with Annika.
First, before anyone gets too excited, no, this doesn’t mean anything. For those of you may not realize just how bizarre our relationship is, yes, we do travel together.
Since Annika was an infant, we’ve made several airplane trips together so he and Annika could visit his family, without making her sad and crying for me.
We’ve also taken a handful for short road trips together within Texas and once to New Mexico. That was the longest drive we’ve made with her so far. That trip was about 500 miles and should have taken 9 hours. It took 12. But we made it. At the time, she was only 18 months and we drove mostly at night so she slept for a lot of it.
For this trip, we will drive from Austin to Detroit. which is 1400 miles and according to Google, takes about 22 hours. In my experience it takes about 24 hours.
After about a week in Michigan, we’re driving to New York city and then Washington DC, then back to Austin. We will do this trip in two weeks.
I think that with some good preparation and a few tricks up my sleeve for the car ride we’ll do fine. We also plan to drive mostly at night. And by we, I mean Toyin. I am not a good night driver. But he loves it. And honestly, I’ve made enough night trips with him now that I’d say if you want make long treks with the best time, it’s the only way to go. There’s less traffic on the road. It’s quiet and peaceful and Annika sleeps for most of the driving.
One of the few things Toyin and I do well together is travel. And honestly, the actually traveling part is the only thing that we do well together. We argue about logistics of the trip every step of the way. We disagree about how long we should stay where and what kind of food to eat.
I like to take snacks in the car and splurge on one or two nice meals. He likes to hit up drive thrus.
He likes to make as many stops and get face time with as many people as possible. (Hence the tri state tour.) I like to visit one or two people and laze around a lot.
So anyway, this week I’m in search of good car games for a 4-year-old and thinking up ways I can entertain Annika when she’s not sleeping.
We’ll probably also play a lot of imaginary games, which will be thrilling for Annika and make me want to shoot my brains out.
For the most part I’m looking forward to this trip.
There’s just nothing like the open road for me. I feel more relaxed and happy when I’m driving along, toward a destination, with no daily worries. That part will make it easier for me to deal with the 4-year-old in the back seat.
I’m hoping to blog more while we’re on the road, not less. But who knows what I’ll do. I might spend a lot of time writing in the car. Or I might just stare out the window and fondle a paperback, which is pretty much par for the course when I travel by car.
So, by next week, check in. You may just get a blank screen for two weeks. Or you might get a blow-by-blow of our trip.