Road Trip 2015, Day 1: June 24 2015 (Little Rock, AR to Jackson, TN)

Arriving in Jackson, TN
(click here for today's pictures)

A good road trip always begins with a car load of kids, a 7 page packing list, 2 sets of parents that want to meet you somehwere along the trip and friends crazy enough to want to come with you.  The car load of kids we already had.  The packing list isn't new but I sure don't recall ever having one that was 7 pages long.  Despite that list, I will try to keep you posted on things that we have forgotten, have to buy or need to replace on our trip (if you will remember Robby averages losing 2 pairs of sunglasses on our road trips-he even broke one on our 4 day trip to Branson.  I should probably buy stock in a sunglasses company.)  My folks are going to meet us at the end of our journey and Robby's folks are going to meet us near the beginning.  And finally, the Wilsons called early this year wanting to plan a trip and soon they were signed up for this road trip.  They never changed their mind despite our marathon hotel booking sessions and our 4 foot map marked with pins of each and every stop that we required them to memorize.  

If you would like to follow along with us we will be traveling through Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Canada, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee.  Keaton and Whitman will be the only Dennies seeing new states on this adventure but all the kids have been so excited for days about this trip and I have answered a zillion and twelve questions about this trip.  

Also for days, I have been packing and packing and making list after list.  Packing for a road trip is quite the undertaking for any family but when you add a few more kids than average and throw a van without a back seat then it is really a challenge.  Let me breifly run down how we manage our packing....

Starting up front: I have my bag of magazines, papers and candy sitting at my feet and between Robby and I we have two ice chests.  One ice chest is full of drinks and another one has everything we need for a picnic (cheese, turkey, cheese sticks, mustard, dip, grapes, jelly).

Moving to the front seat: In front of the seat, is a large ice chest packed full of extra food.  Under the front seat is a bin with an extra change of clothes (we only pack 2 pairs of clothes, plus this extra and the clothes that we have on-that means lots of laundry).  Beside that is our bin of food needed for a picnic (bread, plates, table cloth, chips, etc.) and next to that is a snack bin that I can grab fairly easily.  Also on the floor by the door is the second small trash can (one is by Robby and another near Anderson) and our diaper bag.  Sitting on that seat is Robby's backpack, a small box of diapers and wipes and a box of food that I wasn't able to pack away in our bins.  

Now the second row (Whitman and Graham):  Beside Whitman is 7 jackets shoved in a tiny pocket and at his feet is his pack n play (hopefully it will fit in every hotel bathroom!)  Between Graham and Whitman is their bucket of toys and under then is lots of diapers and a box of kid clothes.  Also under them is a tiny bin filled with hats and glow sticks.  (Yes, glow sticks-once I hauled 3 cans of spray paint for 3000 miles so glow sticks aren't that strange.)  Finally under that row is Robby's bin of cords-cords for phones, cords for kindles, cords for computers, cords for cameras, cords for his fan-enough cords to circle the van twice!

The third row (Anderson and Campbell):  Between Anderson and Campbell is their bucket of toys.  Everyone's bins are pretty much the same-clipboard, mad libs, colored pencils, pencils, some stuffed animals, the girls have their baby dolls, matchbox cars, trains for Whitman, a book, some scavenger hunts and sunglasses.  Under that row is floatees for when we go swimming and the final box of kid clothes (I don't know what I will do when they outgrow 2 bins for clothes).  Next to that box is a small bin filled with headphones and then we have the "extra box box."  What is the "extra box box" you ask?  Well, it has our passport books, scissors, duct tape, laundry detergent, a football, mini frisbees, sharpie marker, quarters and clothes pins (to close the hotel drapes shut).  

Finally, the last row (Reagan and Keaton):  They have thie box of toys between them and Keaton has a stroller under her.  The bin of my clothes and Robby's bin of clothes goes under this row along with sleeping bags (someone always has to sleep on the floor but that is a treat for my crew!)  Between Keaton and Reagan are also their beach towels (everyone has one) for them to cover up with if they get cold.  

And that leaves the trunk space: an umbrella stroller is all that fits back there and that is with the wheels smashed into the seat!  Its all works and I do believe that we use pretty much every available inch of this car!

Now, let's get started on this day: After staying up until 2 last night, we finally decide that we didn't have time to make our rice krispy treats (a Dennie vacation staple) so we would wake up early this morning to make them.  We woke up "early" and stumbled to the kitchen to find that I had let Reagan eat all of my rice krispies.  Robby went to work disappointed about having no rice krispy treats on our trip as I started to wake up the kiddos.

My Graham was the first one up and everyone else woke up pretty easily.  They knew that today was a big day and there would be lots to do.  We had our breakfast and tried our best to finish off our yogurt that we have way too much of and if I would have known that we had a whole gallon of milk in the fridge, I would have encouraged more milk! (I ended up freezing my left over yogurt and gallon of milk-won't hurt anything and worth a try.)  

We read a bit during lunch and then started on a few chores.  The kids are so willing to help when it comes to leaving on a trip.  Everyone made their beds, helped with laundry, picked up the toy room and even pulled a few weeds before we loaded up for the day.

Half of everyone thought we were leaving on the trip right then without Robby and the others were confused that I didn't have the big van and we were just all cramming in the mini van.  Robby had taken the big van to work so we could pack last night and the kids wouldn't get into it all today.  

Our first stop this morning was at Barnes and Nobles for the summer reading program.  The big 4 had all read 8 books so they received a free book.  Our time at the bookstore was so painless and easy that I seriously looked inside of the stroller just to make sure that Whitman was siting in there (he was.)  You were supposed to be in first grade or up to receive a book but I did let Campbell participate anyway....but that left Keaton out.  She was none to pleased about this and told me "I am so mad at you for not letting me buy a book."  For a second I did feel bad but when I turned over a tiny paper back book and saw the price tag of 4 dollars (the same thing my cheese whiz cost for this trip) I no longer felt bad and knew that I would make Daven Ramsey proud...and after all, we do have an excellent local library system-all the books you want for free!

Then the gas light in Robby's car came on and I thought that I would be a good wife and get him some gas so he wouldn't have to deal with that on the Monday morning after we came back.  First pump declined my sale when I tried to punch in our rewards number.  Then it took my rewards number but didn't take my credit card.  Second pump didn't take my first credit card nor my second.  Then I went in and had the man just do 30 dollars of gas-hopefully that will be enough for him to get everyone dropped off and the entire crew to Family Farm when we come back.

When we pulled in to Beebee's place, Whitman said "candy? candy?"  And even though Beebee was in a new room the kid didn't take too long to find her candy bucket and completely empty it. (Pops, you need to bring more candy!)  Beebee was in a decent mood and our visit was relatively calm (Whitman was too busy eating candy to cause much trouble.) 

Then was headed to Nonna's house.  We were Nonna's fourth visitors today (Grannymom and Grandpa, a carpenter, a blind lady-a lady who installs blineds who is in fact blindish and us).  The little girls made a menu for lunch and spent a crazy long amount of time asking us what we wanted to eat and drink.  I was asked about my drink order at least 14 times and eventually just had to pour myself a drink.  

Lunch was good and the kids and I worked on some of our National Park book before cleaning up some and heading home.  It will be a bit before we see Nonna and Pops even though they will be coming to meet us when we are back in Tennessee.  

Once at home, we had about 2 hours (Robby was home a few minutes early and was already mowing).  The kids all had showers and changed their clothes while I vacuumed and tried to load up some more.  Then I had a shower after Robby so we could start the last bit of laundry.  When we had about an hour left, we fed the kids some pizza and started working on the rice krispy treats.  What a mess-I was in a hurry and those treats were just nightmarish.  We finally finished-they aren't wrapped all cute like they have been in the past but the rice krispy treats were made and Robby could leave the state a happy man!

The little girls were looking out the window and saw the Wilsons drive up.  I had been running back and forth loading the final few things into the car while Robby played tetris on his computer.  Ha!  Actually, his work email had gone crazy so he was dealing with a crisis.  The Wilsons did run home to get a spare key for us to put in their car and we gave them one of ours.  Then we we hit the road at 4:16.  I have never left on a trip as hot and sweaty as I was-from now on I am going to let Robby do all of the heavy lifting and loading and unloading of the van.
We were just a few miles down the road when Anderson shouted "the adventure begins!"  The adventure was pretty tame on the road to Memphis.  Campbell and Keaton snoozed some while the others watched Horton Hears a Who.  I worked some on this blog and looked at the maps for the next few days.  

We did pull out our Little House on the Prairie movies.  We started the series last year when we went to De Smet, SD to see the Ingalls Homestead and once we made it home we put the movies away until our next road trip.  I believe that we are on the 4th season and the kids were so excited when we started it.  

Our first potty stop was around Earl after 2 hours of driving.  Campbell had been asking about pottying for awhile (they have to ask us twice before we take them seriously-which will probably come back to bite us!)  Layne was happy that we stopped too and before too long we were back on the road.  I had given the kids all a filled water bottle a bit before we stopped so everyone was happy to get back into the car to finish off their water (it had some lemonade in it).  A water bottle in the hands of every Dennie child may not have been such a good idea-Whitman does just have a cup but he guzzles his cupfuls in seconds and then looks over at Graham's partially full bottle and asks for more (at least he hasn't thrown his cup at us yet.)  

About 10 minutes after our first potty stop, Keaton and Campbell were asking for another potty stop.  We held them off for as long as possible so we all pulled off again and they hurried in (even though we only had about 40 minutes left to drive until our destination).  Everyone ran into the bathroom and I stayed in the van with Whitman-that was a mistake!  Last rest stop Robby let him out and he did perfectly getting back in the van.  He was mad, mad, mad at me and told me all about it the entire next leg of the trip.  He would scream "no, no, no" or "stop it, stop it" and then throw in "mama, mama" or an "unbuckle" in the mix occasionally.  I have now learned my lesson and Whitman will be the first one out of the van every time from now on.

But when we pulled up to the Casey Jones General Store and he saw a real life train out front, Whitman forgot all about his little fit.  We looked at the train for a few minutes and then went inside.  The ice cream shop was already closed or closing (not sure which) since it was 8 already but the buffet was open.  We don't usually do buffets but we were there and we needed a little something to eat so why not.  And it was pretty good-the meatloaf and baked cinnamon apples were my favorite and Robby liked the salsbury steak.  I saw Graham eat at least 3 rolls and Campbell feasted on cantoloupe.  Even though it was good, I have now had my buffet fix for the next few years!

On the way out the kids discovered some kittens under the train so Bretty, Layne and all of our people chased the kittens for a bit.  Then we were back in the car to head to our hotel.  It was just about 5 minutes away from our supper stop.  While Robby was checking in the kids worked on cleaning their van areas and then we found our room.

Our room is a bit small (or maybe my kids are all bigger since our last road trip a year ago) but there is still plenty of room for us all and thankfully the bathroom is big enough for a pack n play.  I am sure that the Wilsons are upstairs wondering how in the world we all fit in this hotel room: here is how we do it-Robby and I have one bed, Whitman is in the pack n play in the bathroom, Reagan is sleeping under the desk (a coveted spot), Keaton is sleeping between the beds (another coveted spot), Campbell is on the floor nearest the air conditioner and Anderson and Graham are sharing a bed.  All of our shoes are piled up near the door, the ice chest are under the bathroom sink, the stroler is folded and sitting over the two bins of kids clothes, my bin of clothes is on the floor under Robby's bin, his back pack, cord box and miles of cords are sitting on the table and that is about all.  Oh, clothes for tomorrow are laid out and clothes are in the wash.  Yep, we are doing laundry on our first night of vacation-I just really don't like dirty clothes! 

Once we came into the room, the kids all took off their shoes and lined them up (Graham remembered to do this-over a year since a real hotel.  That boy remembers everything)  They had a bit of time to play their kindles.  Whitman sat on the bed with them and watched a Thomas movie while holding his trains.  Then it was bedtime for him (he laid down perfectly after we looked for deers out the window as we do at home-there wasn't any deers here.)  And a few minutes after that, Robby read the Bible story and then it was bedtime!

Tomorrow we have The Hermitage, the Parthenon, hopefully the Corvette museum and who knows what else!  So much to see and too little time!

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