Well, actually more like across four states on I-80. We had a great time on our trip to California. My strategy of trying to go 150 miles between stops worked well. A restaurant with a play area for lunch was ideal. Other activities we found along the way included a local library for a bathroom stop that had a children's book sale. A find-the-hidden-cartoon character book for 50 cents helped us get through the next 150 miles and intermittently beyond that. Another rest stop had the added bonus of bison and elk and a playground. The boys played and played and when we went to the restaurant for dinner just after, the kids ate and ate (luckily it was a soup and salad bar). For our last stop, in overheated Sacramento (107 degrees Fahrenheit at 5 in the afternoon), a romp at a playground seemed dubious, so I parked on a shady street some blocks from a shopping center and we got a nice walk in, then we found an air conditioned toy store next to another soup and salad bar. The kids played at the toy store, and we picked up some (free) toy catalogs for them to peruse on the next leg. Even with these long stops and activities, we made 1300 miles in two days.
We have had good luck with books on CD in the past, so I picked up Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne for this trip. (Read by Jim Dale for those of you who have discovered this great audio book reader.) I'm not sure the kids were so into it, too may big words, but they let me listen to it, and I really enjoyed it. I especially benefited from the fact that the main character, Phineas Fogg, is an unflappable man. He arranges his travels calmly and deliberately, stays focused and gets where he wants to go. His lack of emotion is amusing and super human, but successful. The people around him, his servant and other traveling companions, are full of worry and concern. Their roller coaster emotions provide a foil for his poise and take them on all sorts of exciting, but unnecessary journeys. It helped me feel calm and in control in the front seat while all sorts of dramas unfolded in the back. Yes, it would all work out. And it did. I am glad that I have yet to succumb to a portable DVD player (but I am not ruling it out for the future!).
I thought about Phineas Fogg again on Sunday when I went to church with my parents. The lessons of the day included Elijah looking for a sign from god and Peter walking on water. Elijah looked for god in the earthquake, the windstorm, and the fire, but didn't find him in any of these dramatic, turbulent places. Then he heard "a small still voice" and it was god. Peter sees Jesus walking on water through a storm out to his boat. Impulsive Peter wants to join him, and is able to walk on the water too as long as he is focused on Jesus, but sinks in when he gets distracted or self-reflective.
Phineas Fogg, Elijah, and Peter, are all reminding me of the value of keeping a calm center amidst the daily hurricanes of parenthood.