We hit the road at 0430 from the Outer Banks of NC for the last time in the unforeseen future. My husband’s project is wrapping up so I decided to take my first road trip with a 4 month old and 17 month old by myself. From the OBX to Hendersonville, NC (where my parents live) I was looking at a 7 hour drive not including stops.
Our first stop was about 3 hours in and I found a nice grassy area for the kids to play and eat and I had to haul the whole crew in for me to use the bathroom (damn you tea at the crack of dawn). Waves decided to open the sanitation trash can in the bathroom, I nearly gagged.
Besides leaving early in the morning I find it super helpful to listen to children’s music and sing loudly in the car when the kids are awake; my daughter is watching my every move and dancing along while my son is listening and cooing along to my less than beautiful singing voice. Let me be honest- nursery rhymes are annoying at times. I’ve found a station on Pandora that not only the kids like but my husband and I also semi tolerate/enjoy as well. There’s a lot of Reggae, Caribbean, Latino/Hispanic inspired music and endless songs about being outside, enjoying nature and being respectful to all humans and the environment. How can you not be happy after listening to this station?? Check it out, it’s called “The Kinkajous (Children’s) Radio.”
When I’m traveling with my husband when the children become fussy it’s easy for the passenger to do a quick google search to see where a nearby playground or park is. But when traveling solo and everyone is in meltdown the last thing I want do to is pull off the road in hopes we find a park. Although by no means am I a huge proponent of the Fast Food Industry, I do find it very easy and convenient to find an indoor playground. We found an awesome McDonalds right off the highway that was new and overall pretty clean. I purchased a small fry even though no one would have noticed if we didn’t purchase anything. My 17 month old, Waves ran around for 45 minutes with her new friends while I fed and entertained my 4 month old, Reef. Another great place I’ve learned that continuously has designated play areas are Food Courts at the mall. When we fly we always find the play areas in the airports. All these resources give the parents a much needed break, your children run out all that pent up energy and they get to new experiences with different children. I hope these few tips can help traveling with children more manageable. The biggest tip I can give is to NOT BE IN A RUSH. Be patient; traveling with kids is challenging and as long as you remain calm, cool and collective it will carry on to the children and everyone will have a much more pleasant experience.
After 9 hours on the road and an unfortunate accident that we sat in traffic (only being 18 miles from my parents house), we finally pulled in at 1330! Waves ran around outside for the afternoon while Reef observed her every move. Man it feels good to be back in these mountains. We rested up for the evening for our first adventure beginning tomorrow.
The local news emphasized if you’re interested in seeing some Fall foilage that Graveyard Field’s off the Blue Ridge Parkway had the best color. So up to the Blue Ridge Parkway we go, Graveyard Field’s is around MileMarker 418. There are several short hikes that all conjoin; and the waterfall is gorgeous. We hiked around the fields enjoying the beautiful colors as Waves pointed out “yellyow” & “geen” leaves. My sweet baby boy Reef turned 5 months old today! As we hiked and snapped his monthly picture it was ironically taken at the exact moment he was born 5 months ago. It’s amazing how quick time goes- I swear he can say “hi”, he can sit up at times by himself for nearly 30 seconds and if you lay him on the bed he will crawl to the other side! We’re always so proud of you little Reefie!
On Tuesday my cousin, Lexy came in from Hickory for a visit. We went to DuPont State Forest and did a short hike to the middle section of Triple Falls. We sat by the waterfall talking away, doing yoga and enjoying the warm sun and the cool mist from the waterfall. It was truly the perfect afternoon, especially since we left all 5 of our children behind for the day! Waves & Reef went and got pumpkins with MomMom & PopPop and enjoyed the afternoon playing outside with Mama and my friend Christine and her sweet girl, Finley.
Wednesday I finally had my appointment with my OB/GYN to discuss the Post Partum Depression I’ve been battling. It’s reassuring to hear that I’m doing all that I can and I happily declined the Zoloft that was offered to me. I explained to her how I’ve been self treating/medicating and she agreed to say what I was doing was working. It was such a relief to finally talk about all my struggles, and not just with a professional but a Doctor that I grew up talking to as a teenager. When Autumn rolled around last week I decided from that day forward I will “DO ME” at least once a day. Whether that involves yoga, taking a bath, putting lotion on or simply taking a nap; it’s time for me to start making myself a priority, even if it’s only 30 minutes a day. Now back to our adventures..
I picked up my nephew, Hunter (12 years old) and niece, Hayley (6 years old) and I bravely took all 4 kids to Pisgah Forest for the afternoon. We went to the drive to waterfall, Looking Glass Falls and every time I see this waterfall I’m just amazed; it’s gorgeous. From there I took them down to the Davidson River Campground and walked the trail down to a river, where Hayley found the perfect spot for us to splash in the water and have one heck of a rock skipping game! The kids repeatedly said over and over how much fun they were having; it warmed my heart. We grabbed ice cream at Dolly’s which is at the foot of Pisgah Forest and has been there since I was a child. That was one of my favorite afternoon’s in a long time, everyone just got a long and had the best time outside.
On Thursday we had the 2nd encounter of the week with the black bear coming to visit at my parent’s house. I’m a little on edge at times knowing that Waves is running all over the place, but I’m also aware that someone is always watching her so it’s okay. He got into our neighbors trash and frankly is becoming a nuisance. These are the black bears that you need to be careful around, otherwise for all my years and encounters with black bears during my trail runs and mountain biking have virtually eliminated any fear of them.
When I come home to visit my family, even though I was born and raised in WNC I always find myself doing the same few hikes every time I visit. So when I was pregnant with Waves I decided that each visit I’m going to explore something brand new- so a quick google search led me to Catawba Falls in Pisgah Forest’ it’s off 40, exit 73 in Old Fort. It was easily accessible and the trail was a moderate climb up to the 100 foot waterfall. There was an awesome swimming hole at the bottom that the kids played in while my Mom and I marveled the beauty of this new waterfall.
For the evening time I met up with my oldest friend on this planet, Blair and we had a beautiful picnic at my favorite spot close to my parent’s house. Jump Off Rock in Laurel Park gives you nearly 360 views of mountains and is my favorite place in town to watch the sunset. Waves ran around like crazy for the evening while we (as in Blair) patiently chased her and as we caught up on life. Reefie just chilled in his bouncy chair enjoying the great outdoors.
On Friday after trying to get things packed for our departure tomorrow my Mom and I took the kiddos to my old stompin’ grounds- Sky Top Orchard. Growing up one of my closest friend’s parents owned the orchard and I eventually took my first job there in the 8th grade. I’m happy to see how successful their business is, but the vibe that I was looking for- a local, small farm has apparently dissipated over the years. Next time I will try and find a smaller farm that’s not so touristy for our new tradition for apple picking. Waves was elated to pick apples, every tree she saw she pointed and said apple! But when it came to her time to pick she would go to grab it off the tree and then just loudly yell “NOOOOOOOOO” and proceed to pick up the rotten apples from the ground. I joke that her attitude at times matched those rotten apples just perfectly, haha. As long as she wasn’t picking from the tree she ran around like a wild child the entire time. She even went to their petting farm area and fed a sheep from her hand! As usual, Reefie had a huge smile on his face as he watches in awe over his big sister. He’s beginning to get frustrated when Waves runs off or leaves him because he so desperately wants to go with her, soon enough my baby boy.
We wrapped up our afternoon with a visit from my parent’s friends, Debbie & Mitch. The kiddos slept terrible our last night in town but they managed to keep a happy face on Saturday while we visited the goats and Carl Sandburg with our friends Brittany, Nick and baby Kennedy. We had a lovely picnic under the tree near the garden aftermath and then this nomadic family hit the road.
My car is jam packed (but safely with no blind spots) and off we go to Florence, SC. This was the perfect spot to meet Eric, right off 95. There were no playgrounds in the area so I went to the food court at the mall and Reefie and I played while Waves played with more new friends. We ate a piece of veggie pizza and salad for dinner as Reef cried- which another perk of food courts: it’s so freakin’ loud in there no one heard the crying baby, score! Eric snuck in around 2230… yay, we’re finally all back together!
I can’t believe it’s October 1st?! We left my car in Florence at the hotel (they graciously allowed me to leave it there with no charge) and on the road as we head to The Florida Keys. Our first quick stop is on the outskirts of Jacksonville to pick up our boat, and then we make our way to down to Palm Beach Gardens where I have family.
Just when things seem to be going smoothly I crawl in the back to visit with the kiddos and I smell a strong odor of shit. All the sudden I noticed shit everywhere- on Reef’s leg, feet, hand, carseat, clothes, teething toys and his blankie; so of course being an urgent matter the next place we could stop was nearly 10 minutes away. The scene of the crime was too explicit for a picture. Although this smile says it all- Reef certainly seems as guilty as the “In the Slammer” people he’s sitting on.
We had a wonderful time visiting with the family and now we’re back on the road heading to The Everglades National Park and then eventually making down to Marathon in The Florida Keys this evening!
A Tip From The Travelin’ Tribe Archive:
I will consolidate the tips I provided in this blog post: (1) Upbeat kids music such as the Pandora Station “Kinkajous (Children’s) Radio.” (2) Anytime you need a break from the car find a park, playground, indoor play area (in a Fast Food Restaurant, Food Court at the mall, etc.), (3) Most importantly be patient; traveling with kids is challenging and as long as you remain calm, cool and collective it will carry on to the children and everyone will have a much more pleasant experience.
Until Next Time,
Stay Wanderous & Wild
-The Mitchell Tribe