Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Odyssey to Tennessee Part Two Or what mind-alerting drug was I on when I suggested this motherf&*%^ing road trip

To pick up where I left off.

Flight to TN rescheduled for historic blizzard (which turned out to be pretty paltry actually).

Make-up flight cancelled because of feverish child.

That leaves us with: road trip.

David and I have driven to his family’s place in East Tennessee a zillion times before we had kids. Once we were down South and my agent called to say I had an audition the next morning so we just picked up right then, booked it back to NY and made it in time for my audition (was for a vacuum cleaner, I think, lest you think I was reading for something high-profile and exciting). David and I have driven across-country to California three times. We are NOT road trip novices.

But that was before the babies.

Now, we drive to my parents’ place in New Jersey and the two hours spent in the car are filled with such agida I can taste my own bile by the time we get out. The screaming! The pushing and hitting between the car seats! The whining! The demanding of snacks and toys and other items which are instantly dropped to the floorboard where the kids cannot reach them since they are both strapped into a five-point harness car seat and where I am forced to retrieve them, twisting my body around in contortions which I couldn’t even manage back when I was in actual Circus School, much less now, when I am a decrepit shell of a woman.

Here are some things you should know about the way our family rolls:

1. I get extremely car sick.

I had a stomach of steel previous to having children. One Valentine’s Day, my best friend Em and I stuffed my face with sushi, then dashed over to African dance class immediately after and I managed to keep all my food down. I wear that as a badge of intestinal pride. But having severe morning sickness both pregnancies somehow altered my physiological makeup and I now can not so much as glance at a word on a passing sign unless I want to get hit with a tsunami of nausea. Consequently:

2. I don’t read maps or signs or help navigate in any way at all.

This wouldn’t be a problem if we had GPS but we don’t because its just not the sort of thing I ever want to spend our hard-earned dollar on. Besides, David has a freaky sense of direction, super-keen and nearly always unfailing (except for that one time in Anza Borrego, CA, but that’s another story) He is a wunderkind really – can read the directions from the print-out on his lap, keep an eye out for exits while at the same time reaching his insanely long arms into the back seat to fish out Seconda’s sippy cup. He is literally a one-man driving machine.

3. We don’t have a DVD player in the car

This would, likely, solve all our problems. Yet I continue to maintain that the car is a WONDERFUL opportunity for family bonding. Playing 20 Questions and I Spy! Listening to perfectly delightful books-on-tape, like Heidi! Singing as an ensemble to Hey Jude! These are team-building activities. Of course, this only accounts for 5-10% of our time in the car and the rest of the time is taken up by the kids whining and fighting but hey, at least we’re all in it together.

Seeing as this was an extraordinarily long trip, I did bring the emergency portable DVD player which we bought when we took Primo to Italy a few years ago. It cost $90, has under 2 hours battery power, and virtually no control buttons so you can’t fast forward or rewind, but it works well in a pinch. I also packed pasta and sandwiches, tons of snacks, lollipops, licorice, Sweet Tarts, basically anything bribe-like I could get my hands on. Since Seconda had been fever-free all night and early morning, we decided it was all systems go. At 7:30am Monday morning we made tracks.

I want you to know I suggested spending the night at a city half-way along our route. Its what we did the two times we drove to North Carolina and it worked out really well. But David had been delayed two days already in starting his vacation and seeing his family and he didn’t want any more delays. So the plan was to make it to Gatlinburg is a single shot.

Here’s the good news:

The kids were stupendous. For perhaps the first time on this blog, I have to report they so far exceeded my expectations I actually felt a little guilty for doubting them. There was hardly any fighting or whining though quite a lot of contortions in service of picking up shit on he floorboard.

The bad news:

I was in a car with my two children for FOURTEEN HOURS.

We left NYC at 7:30 in the morning and rolled into my in-law’s place at 10:30 that night. And believe me when I say we didn’t do any sight-seeing along the way. With the exception of three 20 minute breaks for leg-stretching, gas refills and Happy Meal toys (more on that tomorrow), we put the pedal to the medal, baby. It was kind of excruciating. Whoever decided Virginia should be so big? I mean, no offense to VA but it took like SIX HOURS to get across it. Delaware, on the other hand, makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. You really feel like you’re FLYING when you cross the whole state of Delaware in all of fifteen minutes.

The good/ bad news:

A mere three hours after exiting the car Monday night, I started to feel ill. Wake-you-up-and-drive-you-to-the-toilet kind of ill. Then I projectile vomited all those No-Longer-Happy Meals. So the bad news is I got a damn stomach virus as soon as the road trip was over. The good news is I got a damn stomach virus as soon as the road trip was over.