Recently we planned a 3,000+ mile road trip with 4 days notice. Everyone said we were crazy.
But here’s the thing: if that were the first time you’ve said that about our family, then you’ve missed the boat (literally and figuratively.) Spontaneous, memory-making travel is our thing. In other words, crazy is what we do best.
Having just finished our first Loop, this road trip is a perfect excuse to introduce all of our new friends to the old Mom With A Map. In other words, the life we live off the water. If you’ve been a long time follower of our website, then the first part of this post may be repetitive. Don’t miss the end though- I’ll go into detail about our wild little road trip.
14 years ago, pregnant with Mary Grace, Brent and I set a goal to take our kids to all 50 states before they turned 18. Admittedly, it felt like a really big dream. But we were bound and determined not to let kids interfere with our travel life.
At 2 weeks old we checked off her second state when we took our newborn to the beach. Did I mention that we know we’re crazy? (Incidentally, that is probably my only travel regret to date. What was I thinking and why didn’t anyone stop me?) By 4 months Mary Grace was up to 6 states and had already successfully navigated her first airplane trip. We joked that we weren’t going to need 18 years.
However, we soon realized that checking off states you typically travel to is the easy part. Exploring new ones becomes the challenge.
Fortunately, challenge is what I do best (besides crazy, of course!)
We spent 4 years doing some amazing travel with Mary Grace including a trip to Hawaii, the Bahamas, and a huge road trip to Texas. But then Miller came along and suddenly we were back to the beginning. (Not that I minded NEEDING to go back to Hawaii!)
Traveling with 2 kids comes with infinitely more challenges, but we learned a lot. More than that, we made some precious family memories. For every challenge, we were rewarded with dozens of positive moments. Travel made our kids adaptable, outgoing, adventurous and confident. They learned hotel elevator etiquette before they could form full sentences!
After one of our trips, I realized answering friends’ questions about traveling with our kids had become a part-time job. In fact, I started having friends’ friends reach out for advice. The idea for Mom With A Map took root and, as they say, the rest is history.
Over the years we’ve explored almost the whole United States and even several other countries. We partnered with some amazing destinations and brands along the way, built a pretty cool business, and even published a book. Through mega road trips, too many flights to count, and even some boat and train travel- we visited 48 states before 2020. Our kids were 7 and 12.
Here’s the part of the story that will be most familiar, especially to our newest friends…
We bought a boat with the goal of doing America’s Great Loop. Covid hit. The world went remote. And we spent a year of our life making our wildest dream come true. It’s easy to sum that up in a few sentences, but I can’t downplay the amount of work, prayer, and intention that went into our plans.
Everyone said we were crazy.
And that’s why I really have to laugh. Planning a 3,000+ mile trip with less than 4 days notice was nothing. In fact, keep reading to see how our spontaneous trip to Omaha got even more spontaneous.
If you follow us on social media (Instagram / Facebook), it’s no secret that we love baseball. 3 years ago on a huge road trip we made a point of stopping in Omaha where they play the College World Series. Somewhat flippantly, we promised the kids that if The University of Tennessee ever made it- we’d be right there with them. Well, guess what?
That’s right. After a series of big wins, we found our team Omaha bound.
Admittedly, the timing gave us pause. We just finished our Loop and we already made some June plans. Not to mention, there is another road trip in the works. I pumped the brakes hard on Omaha. The kids were shocked:
“Why would we not go? We always go. It’s what we do.”
Their words, along with the fact that Brent had already booked a non-refundable hotel room, gave me the push I needed. Thankfully packing was easy. Everything orange we own got thrown in a suitcase, and we began the 2 day journey from Hilton Head Island to Omaha. (We might be the first people ever to leave Hilton Head to vacation in Nebraska!)
One of the coolest and most unexpected parts of our trip was driving right through areas we’d boated last fall. We even crossed over several bridges that we’d boated under. But the highlight was when we drove right past the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. It was literally a U-turn moment. Here’s why…
This particular museum was easily the most talked about place on our Loop despite the fact that we didn’t get the opportunity to stop. There’s more to the story, but at the risk of offending people let me just say that there are LOTS of great stops around the Loop. The Quilt Museum wouldn’t be the top of my list. That being said, we had to see what all the fuss is about.
If I were going to do a review, it would be similar to my thoughts on the Dismal Swamp. (Read: The One With The Big Decision)
Less than 48 hours after we left Hilton Head, we arrived in Omaha just in time for the Vols first game.
Let me reiterate, we didn’t really plan this trip. But that being said, we didn’t plan on the Vols losing either. I’m not sure why that thought never entered our minds. Taking the glass half full approach, we reasoned that having a team in the losers bracket ultimately led to more games played. A win for us. Assuming they kept winning.
Tuesday came. And once again, our team didn’t look good. About the 7th inning Brent looked at me and said, “what are we going to do if they lose?” (For those not familiar with how the College World Series works, 2 losses and the team goes home.)
My initial response to him: “NOT stay in Omaha.”
Plan B came together quickly. North Dakota was just a short 6 hours north of Omaha, and just happens to be one of the two states we had left to visit. I’m quite certain we are the first people to ever unexpectedly visit North Dakota!
As luck would have it, when I called Marriott to beg them to let us change our non-refundable reservation I reached someone in the call center working remote in Omaha. She got it, apologized that our team lost, and helped me switch the reservation to a hotel in Fargo.
You have to love when a spontaneous Plan B comes together!
On the way to Fargo, Brent asked what we were going to do next. I mentioned that I’d casually checked a few baseball teams schedules to know who was playing at home in the next couple of days. Unfortunately, most of the teams even remotely close to our route were either away or stadiums we’d already visited. But Minneapolis and Cincinnati were two options.
At this point, even Brent looked at me and said I was crazy. But, of course, he loved the plan.
Fargo proved to be far more wonderful that we expected. We did a day of sightseeing and fell in love with a new (to us) brand of Marriott Hotels. Element is now our new favorite family hotel for road trips. We will always choose that brand when it’s available.
We departed Fargo just in time to make it to Minneapolis to catch the Twins game. However, the next day I failed to factor in a time zone change when heading towards Cincinnati for the Reds game. Yes, I had cut an 11 hour drive that close. When we realized we would miss part of the game, we changed our route and decided to go straight to Knoxville to spend the weekend with family.
After an 8-day whirlwind road trip, it was nice to be able to relax for the weekend. We spent almost every waking second out on the boat, which is fairly ironic given our lifestyle. And we got to celebrate our nephew’s 19th birthday in person, which is a rare treat since we don’t live close by.
And because we can’t possibly conclude a road trip without a little misadventure, tropical storm Danny decided to hit our boat the day we returned.
Fortunately, a lot of rain doesn’t really bother a boat. However, it made for some rough conditions getting back onto HIlton Head. For the record, at that time 2 of the 4 named storms this year hit our boat. This should make for an interesting season, to say the least. Prayers appreciated!
As always, thanks for keeping up with our crazy adventures! You might also enjoy reading:
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