47 days, 6500 miles on the road and at least 18 variations on a joke about erecting the tent! Here’s the final part of my recap of our USA road trip. Hope you enjoy reading it.
We were nearly there. With a degree of regret we now counted the days backwards from our flight out of Miami at the end of the month, or from Disneyworld which we regularly threatened not to take the girls to every time they squabbled or misbehaved.
Having dutifully completed the Natchez Trace Parkway we stumbled across a gem of a B&B on a small man-made lake in Louisiana which was welcome relief after the boredom of the Parkway. One pleasant night there, a banana pancake breakfast with our host and on we went, New Orleans bound.
New Orleans was just awesome! So much fun and so vibrant with life and character. Great people with no hang ups, not a hint of aggro or attitude. The food was good too and we saw a man walking down the street carrying a live alligator. What more could you ask for? We took in as much as we possibly could for the 48 hours we were there and were sad to have to leave to continue our drive eastwards on Monday morning.
We were heading towards The Gulf Coast and following a recommendation from a friend we ended up in Grayton Beach State Park just across the state line into Florida. The campsite was neat, clean and well run. Budget friendly too at 24 USD a night. We ended up staying for 6 nights. We enjoyed the beach during the day and cooked at the campfire at night. We tried to get some homeschooling done in the morning but had to stop when it got too hot. I tried to kickstart a bit of a fitness regime too which was necessary after maybe one too many Po Boys in New Orleans – it’s a shrimp filled subway sandwich in case you were wondering. We loved our time at Grayton beach. As a family we were suited to being outdoors. The girls were having fun at the beach for as many hours as we could fit in and as a result slept well at night. We made friends with some fellow campers too and it was fun to hang out.
We left Florida’s Panhandle and headed towards Orlando. Celebration, Orlando to be precise and the lure of Disney World. We successfully managed to sell all of our camping gear on the way. Rachel posted it on Craig’s List and someone who was looking for camping equipment for his family showed an interest so we met him at a garage just off the highway and did the deal. It’s great when things like that work out and a testament to the times that we’re fortunate to live in, when technology provides us with the tools to make things happen. With $250 in our pockets and a spring in our step we were off to Disney World…
It came an went. My overall sentiment from a day at Disney World was one of disappointment. I didn’t think it was worth the money, $500+ for the whole family. Rachel would argue that it’s not about me and that’s probably true but I’m not too sure the girls were all that impressed either.Space Mountain aside, the roller coasters aren’t particularly impressive and the more low-key rides like It’s a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean or Haunted House look pretty cool but nothing really happens. Again, I appreciate they’re not designed with me in mind but I don’t feel as if they made lasting impressions on our 3, 5 or 7 year olds either. When you consider how long you have to queue to go on some of them I just didn’t feel we were getting much bang for our buck. We were there on a non school-holiday Monday in September, I can’t imagine what it would be like in July.
It’s well run though and their speedy boarding system is efficient. We enjoyed the parade in the afternoon and the fireworks at the end were worth sticking around for too as Mickey and his mates blast out all of Disney’s classic tunes. They even managed to mix in one off the Moana soundtrack which we all sang along to enthusiastically. In terms of the whole Disneyworld experience though, Meh.
Logistically it had made sense to stay close to Miami airport that night so we waved goodbye to Mickey and began our 3 hour drive south towards Fort Lauderdale. The back seat brigade were asleep before you could say “Meeska, Mooska” so it gave me a bit of time to reflect on the 6500 mile journey we were about to conclude as we drove South.
All in, it was a fantastic experience and I feel extremely privileged we were able to do it. The country itself is astoundingly beautiful in so many different ways. It’s so vast and varied and the contrasts between the different settings make each one feel special. The sheer size of everything is staggering; the mountains, valleys, canyons and deserts, the sky, even the f*cking Parkways were just awesome in their grandeur and can’t fail to give you a sense of place in the world we live in.
Overall the food was pretty good, you have to look (and know where to look) for it though. We enjoyed the company of all the people we met and perhaps one of the frustrations was our inability, as a cumbersome family of five to engage more with some of the people we did interact with. The US is obviously going through some pretty interesting times right now and I was keen to listen to perspectives from both sides of what seems to be a pretty polarised set of people. But with three pretty demanding kids and not wanting to ruffle too many feathers meant any profound conversations would have to be kept for another time. This trip wasn’t really about politics anyway.
The trip was about us though, as a family getting the chance to do and see amazing things together. We learned a lot, especially about each other. How couldn’t you after 18 nights in a tent and countless hours together in our sporty yet spacious Nissan Quest? We shared experiences and achieved things together too and I think those stories will age well and help keep us tight for whatever lies ahead of us all.
The drive from our Fort Lauderdale motel to the airport the next day was a bit of an anticlimax. It was raining, a bit grey I think we all felt a bit sad to have come to the end of this trip. We waved goodbye to the Quest, the US and and the good times they’d brought us. Onto the plane for the next leg of our journey together…
(I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these recaps as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. Feel free to share and if you have any thoughts, comments or suggestions please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you)