Photo: Getty Images
This American Road Trip: 12 days, 2,058 miles, three kids, and one Mama
Destination: I took my kids from New York City to Florida and back for spring break. We visited five cities — and I was alone at the wheel.
The Route: From New York City, we took the NJ Turnpike south to I-95, with a visit to Raleigh, North Carolina, en route to Boca Raton. Then it was back north on I-95, stopping in Savannah, Georgia; Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina; and Selma, North Carolina on the way home.
The Car: 2013 Chevy Tahoe.
What is it with me and road trips? It’s like I forget the pain from previous ones and talk myself into new ones. I call it “Road Trip Amnesia.”
Stuck in traffic. (Photo: Stephanie Laing)
8 a.m. — goodbye New York City. We start off singing and end up fighting before we even get off the NJ Turnpike. At our first stop, we join all the people in pajamas in line, since the kids want Auntie Anne’s pretzels for breakfast. I turn down a Cinnabon. Yay for my willpower. By the way, there is so much crap in this car, it’s like we’re going to be gone for a year. The day ends as we get to my 90 year-old grandma’s House in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Visiting grandma. (Photo: Stephanie Laing)
We wake up and are greeted by horses, chickens and dogs. After a full day of four-wheeling fun and fireworks, plus a night-time session of kick the can and a tick check, it’s lights out because tomorrow is the longest part of the trip.
Horses in Raleigh (Photo: Jillian Stewart/Flickr)
I’m on a mission to get to Boca Raton to get this party started. We’re meeting friends with kids for beach time and hoping for good weather. Travel tip: there is a drive-through Starbucks at exit 172 on I-95.
We stopped at South of the Border truck stop to visit Pedro. My kids had never seen anything like this place. I used to come here as a kid when it was full of life. Now, it’s full of nostalgia and really quiet, like a ghost town.
A landmark I have loved since childhood. (Photo: Stephanie Laing)
We crossed into Florida and then it hit me. We have thousands of miles and hours to go before we get to Boca and I’ve already been driving for 10 hours. Oh boy.
After countless games of “Would You Rather” and “I Spy With My Little Eye,” we finally saw the lights of Boca Raton around 11 p.m. We checked in and were given a room with one bed. That’s when I got angry. I managed to hold it together for 13 hours of driving, fighting, laughing, and musical seats, but one bed was not going to work. Thankfully, 30 minutes later after I agreed to an expensive upgrade, we had two beds.
Boca Raton beach (Photo: Shutterstock)
We woke up late and spent the days pretending it was warm enough to swim. We also spent them watching the surgery safari. Seriously, so many people at this hotel were there after plastic surgeries. My favorite was the mother and son with matching nose jobs. We witnessed two grown men fighting over pool chairs. I’m not making this up. They actually got into a fist fight because one of the guys was saving too many chairs. Of course, the kids ate too many chicken fingers to count. I lost my willpower and ate a Cronut.
He helped get the ticks off in Boca. (Photo: Stephanie Laing)
Then the ticks happened — four to be exact. My son woke me up at 1 a.m. telling me he found ticks on his body. I swear we did a thorough tick check in North Carolina. After running around the room looking for tweezers and keeping my freak out internal, I decided to call my friend’s husband. He’s from Tennessee, surely he would be able to help. He hadn’t seen my son in four years, but they were about to get up close and personal.
The kids in Savannah. (Photo: Stephanie Laing)
It was time to leave Boca and ticks behind for Savannah, Georgia. After trashing our hotel room like rock stars (what can you expect from three kids) and fighting a double charge for the already overpriced upgrade, we made our way back up I-95 to spend Easter with the ghosts. Eight easy hours later, we arrive at The Bohemian Hotel, which is a little bit like a nightclub, but the kids liked the furry blankets on the bed. Of course, the next day we went to The Lady and Sons. Watson had his first banana split and fell in love. We ate way too much and topped it off by buying some Paula Dean Lipgloss. I didn’t know she made lipgloss. I’ve aways wanted my lips to taste like maple bacon and butter.
Lady & Sons, in Savannah. (Photo: Stephanie Laing)
Things went wrong when my eldest son talked me into taking them on a Ghost Tour that night. Lets just say my kids will never be the same after the visit to The Gribble House. Both my boys peed in bed that night. Sorry Bohemian Hotel. Now, I know why you don’t want kids here. The next day, we had a nice Easter brunch and tried to brush off the nightmares.
Wrightsville Beach here we come. We love this place. This is where we filmed Eastbound & Down for four seasons and it’s like home. Once we arrived at The Blockade Runner beach resort, I didn’t want to leave, even though it was not warm enough to pretend we could swim, basically it was freezing. We just hung out, played laser tag and walked on the beach when we were allowed to. That’s right, allowed to. They were doing construction on the beach 24 hours a day. It was loud and not exactly what we had in mind. Also, the kids watched Gracie, the cat kill a bunny. Thankfully, it was not the Easter bunny.
Construction at Wrightsville Beach. (Photo: Stephanie Laing)
Bound for D.C., and finally, I can ditch this car! On the way, we stopped in Selma, North Carolina, home to Vic’s Vapor Rub. This was turning out to be a strange vacation. We stayed one night in this lovely town and closed the Veep offices for the season. Nothing eventful happened on this part of the trip until we boarded the train to New York City, there were only single seats left, so the Laing Clan rode back to New York Penn Station in the cafe car, which was a perfect ending to this American Road Trip.
I’m not sure I’ve fully recovered and I still hear the GPS we named Lucille’s voice ringing in my head, saying “recalculating” over and over again. If history proves itself true, you’ll be hearing from me again, once we take another road trip.