We left around noon on Wednesday, August 13 and drove five or so hours to our first stop. Since we wanted to camp some on our trip, I had scouted out State Parks in Missouri and found the perfect one, Bennett Spring.
Not only were we heading to a wedding where the groom's last name was Bennett, but Bennett Spring also included a trout hatchery. We sat up camp and hung out at our campground that evening. As the sun was setting, we got smart and put a headlamp on the toddler. This was great idea #1 of the trip.
The kids loved camping (especially the big tent and blow up bed)!
Joseph slept on his nap mat by our bed (he still sleeps in a crib at night at home, but I had been "training" him with the nap mat during nap time for a few weeks).
Sarah slept in her pack and play in the same big part of the tent.
The next morning, we woke up and ate breakfast (Have I mentioned how much this girl loves fruit? Don't worry, she eats other stuff too.).
And took a family picture.
I love how our lawn chairs represent our little family.
While Sam went to fuel up the car, the kids and I hit up the playground to burn some energy before the next leg of our drive. It's a good thing the kids and I stayed behind, because we were rushing to get to our campsite the night before and didn't fill up our car on our way to the park. We had looked before we left the interstate and found that there was a gas station right outside the park, so the plan was that Sam would run there real quick the next morning. Sam pulled up to the gas pumps and walked inside to pay for his gas. He stood at the counter for a little bit before somebody finally asked him if he was looking for gas and proceeded to tell him they don't have gas. So, Sam drove all the way back to the interstate to the next closest gas station. When he was within sight of the station (probably about a mile away), he ran out of gas. He walked the mile to the gas station only to find that the large, side of the interstate gas station didn't sell gas cans. He bought a gallon of overpriced windshield washer fluid and angrily dumped it out on the grass (because he didn't want to walk a mile to the car (including going over the overpass) just to put it in the car then walk a mile back to fill it) and then filled it with gas. He walked it to the car, put it in, then drove the car to the station and filled it up. This all added a lot of time to our plans for the morning.
Luckily, the kids were happy with the extra play time.
When they finally tired of the playground, we watched people fly fishing.
Then walked over just in time to watch them feed the young trout.
It reminded me of how we fed cattle as a kid, driving through there pouring feed out.
When Sam got back, we fed the fish some food that the awesome park rangers were nice enough to give us (you can also buy the food very inexpensively from a dispenser located nearby).
Seriously, there were thousands of trout of various sizes in the holding tanks! If you ever get the chance to visit one of these fish hatcheries (I know Missouri has 5), do it! I want to go back and spend a whole weekend there.
We finally headed out (a few hours later than planned) and the kids promptly fell asleep.
Our next stop was Chicago by way of St. Louis. Since we had used up so much of our time that morning and we had sleeping kids, we didn't get a chance to stop in St. Louis. Instead, we simply saw what we could from the road. This included the arch and the Mississippi River.
Yes, that is an atlas on my lap in the reflection. Even though we have smart phones, we're old school like that.
We arrived in Chicago Thursday night and decided to just go straight to the hotel (in Tenleytown, not really Chicago) and relax after a long day. The first thing Joseph did when we got there was open the bible and start repeatedly singing "the bible tells me so" (even though he does know the rest of the song). It melted this momma's heart.
Sam (who did the bulk of the driving that day and had walked a few extra miles that morning), volunteered to give Sarah a bottle while I unpacked what needed unpacked from our suitcases.
And Joseph quickly sat up camp on the other bed.
Friday morning, we drove into Chicago and saw the sights. First up, Soldier Field.
Then we stumbled into some kind of air show. First we saw these smoke jumpers/skydivers/whatever they're called.
Then we saw planes writing in the sky
and racing. It was super interesting for all of us.
We parked by Wrigley Field which was on Sam's list of places we had to see.
And even let a stranger take a family pic (I was nervous to give him my camera, but he offered and looked like an upstanding citizen).
Sarah got to enjoy the sights from the backpack carrier which she loved!
We walked around for a bit, then stopped for some pizza. Even though we ended up at a place that didn't serve Chicago style pizza, it was still really good and not a chain restaurant. Joseph was just happy that we let him drink a little of our pops.
Other Chicago highlights included this gorgeous view,
the building that used to be called the Sears Tower,
the Buckingham Fountain (which is best known from being in the opening sequence of Married With Children). Chicago is now on my list of places I want to visit (for longer than a day).
After our day in Chicago, we loaded up and headed to Novi, Michigan which was where all the wedding festivities were being held. Would you believe me if I told you this was the first time I pulled anything out of the "busy bag" for Joseph and it was actually a new book for being such an awesome traveler?
We thought we were doing great on time. We were going to get to Novi in time to check into the hotel, unpack the car, and head to the reception. Sam's brother Ty called to ask our location and tell us they were going to go ahead and go to the rehearsal dinner location. I questioned why he was going over an hour early and we quickly realized we completely forgot to account for the time zone change. So, we went straight to the rehearsal dinner (luckily the dress code was casual and we had dressed decent that day) arriving just a few minutes late. In all of the craziness (kids who didn't want to sit and eat because they wanted to be moving around, etc.), I managed to get zero pictures from that night.
Saturday morning, we slept in just a little bit then headed to Dearborn to the Henry Ford Museum. Sam's brother, Ty, and his girlfriend, Emily, joined us.
If we were to do it again, we would choose the factory tour over the museum, but it was still fun.
Joseph loved watching the model trains from the engine of a real train.
They had an area where you could build cars with K'Nex and race them down a ramp. We gave our engineers (and future engineer) a time limit and they hurriedly tried to design and build a car better then their brother.
Sarah was content to hang out in the sling all day.
We went back to the hotel, took a short nap, and got dressed for the wedding. Even though they had a bus to shuttle people from the hotel to the Temple, we chose to drive separately which allowed us a few more minutes to get ready (and our kids to have car seats). Have I mentioned this was a Jewish wedding?!?! Even though it is a Reform Jewish Congregation (or Jew Light as one of the members called it (oh man, I hope that doesn't offend anybody)), I was SUPER excited to experience my first Jewish wedding! I was so busy soaking up all the awesomeness of the wedding and making sure the kids were quiet that I didn't get any pictures of the gorgeous ceremony. After the wedding, during the cocktail hour, we took the kids to the library where the babysitters were and got everything ready for them to settle in for the night. Did you catch that? They had babysitters right there at the Temple! Best wedding idea ever (especially for out of state guests who had no choice but to bring their kids)!
After mingling at cocktail hour, we retrieved the hungry kids so they could eat dinner with us. I'm not the kind of mom that orders off the kiddy menu for our kids, they typically just eat some of our food and I might order an extra veggie side or two, but Allison (the bride) Jeanette (the bride's amazing mom), had planned every detail down to the fact that the kids received vegetable sticks and ranch dip instead of salads. Joseph was thrilled (in this two year old's eyes, nothing is better than dip)!
He even tried to share with Sarah who still doesn't have near enough teeth to eat uncooked veggies.
But that's ok because she had plenty of people to watch. They even served the kids chicken strips and French fries instead of the adult meal (Sarah gladly ate those).
After an attempt at a family picture, we took the kids back to the nursery where they settled in for the night. It wasn't long before the babysitters texted to let us know both kids were asleep.
We danced the night away (have I mentioned we experienced so many new amazing Jewish traditions that night?!?!) while my camera sat on the table being neglected.
Seriously, we had so. much. fun! Another detail that was pretty awesome was the basket of flip flops at the corner of the dance floor. When you're not used to wearing heels and the party lasts until 1am, comfortable flats are a must. Oh, and sometime (around midnight, maybe), servers started walking around with amazing treats such as donut holes with mini orange juices, milk and cookies, and cake pops. They also had some kind of awesome food hot food bar sat up at this time. I didn't make it over to get any of it (although I should have), but I think it was hotdogs with chili and nachos and stuff (I could be wrong about that, it's been a few weeks and although I hadn't been drinking (yay DD :), it was late and I was tired).
Since we were inside during the entire wedding, cocktail hour, and reception, we didn't realize it poured outside during this time. It was still raining when we headed back to the hotel, but luckily it was much lighter. The next morning, I told Sam you know it was a good night when pretty much the only pictures you have are from the photo booth.
The kids (who slept the whole time we were up dancing) woke up bright and early the next morning wanting breakfast. We walked down the hall to the wedding brunch where we said goodbye to all the people heading out that day (thankful we had already made the choice to stay another night) and ate cupcakes from the night before, umm, I mean nutritious breakfast food. We then hit up the hotel pool in hopes of wearing the kids out so we could all take nice, long naps.
It worked like a charm and we all slept for a few hours.
Great idea #3 of the trip (although this one technically happened before the trip) was that we booked a suite instead of a normal room. This was amazing because it allowed us to pull out the pull out bed and put the nap mat on it for Joseph and put the pack and play next to it for Sarah. The way the room was arranged, the kids had their own "room" and we had ours connected by a hall with a bathroom in between. It was close enough the kids knew we were there, but far enough away they (Joseph) weren't constantly asking us questions in an attempt to not go to sleep. Somehow, during the long nap on Sunday, Sarah ended up in the big bed with us.
After nap, we met back up with Uncle Ty, Aunt Emily, and Sam's cousin, Adam, to go eat and check out Detroit. Many locals told us we needed to try a bar-b-que place called Slows, so, we decided to check it out. The wait was fairly long, but we didn't have anything pressing to do and the weather was great, so we decided to set up camp for a bit outside. It was actually kind of fun waiting outside because what looked like a door wasn't really a door, instead it was hidden in a wood plank wall (why didn't I think to take a picture of that) and people were often confused about how to get in. After we had been there for a while, I looked down at where the kids were sitting and realize it could make some super cute pictures. While Sam went to the car to get the good camera, I took a few pictures with my phone.
It's a good thing I took some with my phone because as soon as I Sam walked up, right after he took this picture, our table was ready.
After dinner, we drove around and enjoyed some sights in downtown Detroit. Sam likes reading about old buildings and told us this was the world's tallest train station when it was built. It is said to be representative of the rise and fall of the automotive industry and now sits vacant. You can read more about it here.
Joseph thought this guy was Spiderman (he has no clue who Spiderman is other than he's on his underwear).
We drove out to Belle Isle where we had a great view of the Detroit skyline (yay for tripods and a photography class that taught us (ok, Sam in this case) how to take cool late evening pictures like this one).
The island even had a cool fountain in the middle of it
that Joseph gladly gave Sarah a tour of.
And since we had people with us, we used it to our advantage and took another family picture.
The next morning, we slept as late as the kids would let us, packed up, and headed out. There was a lot of this on this leg of the trip (I couldn't get a picture of Sarah since she is still rear facing and was behind me).
Joseph even got a second item from the "busy bag". FYI, magna doodles are great for playing with in the car!
We stopped at a state park in Indiana (or was it Illinois, I can't remember (Sam says Indiana)) to camp Monday night. We were busy playing with the kids and cooking hot dogs, so I didn't get any pictures of the camp site. Before we arrived at the camp site, we had already determined that we would only unpack what we absolutely had to (we were smart enough to pack our clothes for Tuesday where they were easily accessible before we left the hotel so we didn't even have to unload our luggage). This was great idea #4 for the trip... although we didn't realize just how great until later. We put the kids to bed, then Sam and sat outside and talked a little. We went in the tent to lay down and both started noticing spiders. They were just Daddy Longlegs, so I wasn't too concerned. We were ok with the first three or four, but by the time I came across number 12 I was done. Sam and I talked and agreed that there was no way we would be able to get any sleep worrying about spiders crawling on us, or worse, on our babies, so we packed up camp in the middle of the night and headed out. We drove until about 4am when we reached a well lit, nice, clean, state travel plaza where we stopped and slept in the car for a couple of hours before heading home. By the time we made it back to Stillwater sometime early Tuesday afternoon, we were all starting to get a little weary of being in the car.
While Sam chilled at the house with the kids, I went and picked up the dogs who, although they enjoyed their time at the Kennel (we were concerned since it has new owners), were happy to be home and have their family back. Thankfully, Sam was smart and had taken off work Wednesday too, so we spent the next day relaxing, doing laundry, and readjusting to life at home.
All in all, it was a great trip! Are we eager to jump in the car and drive across the country with two small kids again? I think we'll give it a little while. Do we regret that we did it this time? Not at all! We made many great memories and got to experience a lot of new things.
Alex and Allison, your wedding was beautiful and so much fun! We wish you many years of happiness!