One of the worst parts of this year's vacation was the drive. It was also one of the best parts.
Fourteen hours plus in the car with whiny little ones grates on your nerves. You can pacify them with movies, but then the movies grate on your nerves instead. And the kids don't always agree on the movies (soon we shall enter the era of individual movies with headphones...soon...). Luckily, there are stops along the way.
This was the first trip in a long time where we've had the luxury of making stops. Not just quickie bathroom breaks, but actual visits to places. Its nice not to have a set schedule all the time.
On the way to Florida, we took our first major stop in Sikeston, MO at Lambert's Cafe. Its a kooky country restaurant where they serve enormous portions of food, throw the rolls, and servers walk around with extra freebies. My husband and I had been there a few times in college on roadtrips, but its been years. The place hasn't changed. That's a good thing, btw.
That evening, we had a second stop in Memphis. In search of a bathroom, I ended up driving us to the riverfront park just a few blocks from Beale Street. It was just before sunset and about 70 degrees. We used the port-o-potties (the park bathrooms were closed), and then spent about 45 minutes running and playing with each other in the wide-open grassy areas. Trystan counted boats on the river, and we watched a gorgeous sunset.
We stayed the night in Columbus, Mississippi, and took a wrong turn leaving town the next morning. Instead of cutting a diagonal across Mississippi, we ended up back on I-55, and cut through Jackson and Hattiesburg then to Mobile, and Pensacola. I enjoyed the changing scenery along the route, from cotton fields up in Alabama, to the pine tree forests through Mississipi, to the gulf views in Mobile and Pensacola.
On the way home, we started with a long, planned stop at the National Naval Aviation Museum. We did not get lucky enough to visit on a day when the Blue Angels were flying. But we had a blast walking through and touching hundreds of planes and helicopters, dating back to WWI and before. They also had a lovely aircraft-carrier-themed indoor playground for the kids, with slides and climbing.
Before we left the naval base, we stopped at a gazebo along the water to eat our lunch (pb&j sandwiches, made with the remains of the loaf of bread that we'd bought in Destin).
That night, we drove all the way back to Memphis, and stayed in the Days Inn at Graceland. It was actually one of the cheaper hotels along the route, and it was a fun stop. The rooms were nice, and they had free 24/7 Elvis movies, which the kids enjoyed in the morning before we left. The lobby was full of Elvis memorabilia, and there was an actress there who had co-starred with Elvis in one of the movies, offering to sign photos or posters. Actually, that part was kind of sad, because few people were talking to her, and it made me wonder how desperate a person has to be to bank on a 40-year old job to make a few bucks. We were also some of the only American-English speakers in the breakfast area--apparently Brits like to visit Elvis over Thanksgiving?
Alas, we did not stop at Graceland itself. We had too much laundry and unpacking to do at home so we could all get back to our normal lives. Maybe when the kids are bigger. Think I'll try to DVR a few Elvis movies to watch over Christmas, though--Char was fascinated.