17 days. 4000 miles,10 states, hours and hours and hours in the car, hundreds of gallons of gas, 9 hotels (some really crappy), too many screens watched and played, too much fast food, countless "Mom he/she touched me", "Mom he/she's looking at me", "When will we be there?", "How much longer?", "I have to go potty!"
Not to mention many books read, hundreds of funny moments, new people and adventures, countless laughs together, seeing America the beautiful, hundreds of memories, lifelong stories to tell, multiple occasions of feeling the spirit together,building relationships, creating stronger extended family bonds, having my husband and kids around for 17 days, good talks in the car...etc. It was better than I ever expected it to be.
Multiple times people have said to me, "I can't believe you did it." or "I would/could never do a long road trip like that!" To those naysayers ;) I say never say never and/or don't knock it till you try it! I would never have tried this when my kids were much younger. It would have been a nightmare with a baby, but my kids did great. But they also have been road tripping since they were born since we have always lived away from family. They are used to time in the car and know what to expect. Now they aren't used to multiple days in the car, but they did so great.
Dave and I have talked multiple times that we have THREE summers left with our oldest until he goes off on his mission and honestly I know how fast 3 years will go as time seems to be rolling along more and more quickly as my kids get older. I want my kids to have lifelong memories of our family together. I want them to have funny memories and stories that will only get better with time. I want them to see our beautiful country and be exposed to new things and diverse people. I mean who knew that Iowa and South Dakota had the most beautiful scenery of the trip? Who knew that I would want to go back to the Black Hills and explore? Who knew that we would see THOUSANDS of motorcycles going to the Sturgis Harley Davidson rally near Mount Rushmore?
People ask us what the highlights were and everyone has a different answer, but mine has to be having my little family together and building memories. Mine is the picture at the beginning of this post, yes my 3 year old was grumpy and wouldn't look at the camera and was crying, but we were at the Nauvoo temple together! Sometimes I would look all 5 of them sleeping at night all in the same room and it my heart was so full from the gratitude I had for them and for this experience. My family is changing, my oldest starts high school, my youngest starts preschool. I won't have all of them on vacations like that much longer. I have seen my siblings become empty nesters and miss these times together with their kids. So the fact that we had this opportunity for 17 days just makes me happy.
I have also been asked, "Would you do it again?" My answer is unequivocally YES! I wouldn't go the same places, I would want to see new places and have different experiences but I am already in my mind planning where we will go next! It certainly wasn't perfect, it certainly was crazy, and crowded and messy and noisy and stressful at times. My kids got on my last nerve multiple times, but it was totally and completely worth those times to make the memories and stories and fun we had. As it is right now, my kids are talking about the fun times, not the time in the car, not their brother annoying them or the crowded van. They remember the good stuff and that was the whole goal of the trip.
We will do certainly an #epicroadtrip (my hashtag on instagram for this trip) again!