Family Road Trip – Days 1 – 4

Spring break. What to do with a seven-year-old and a two-year-old? Rent a minivan and drive to Atlanta, of course. It seemed like a great idea…either for a family vacation or a reality show. Despite the hesitations from everything that could go wrong, we decided to test our patience and pack up the kids and see the sites between KC and Atlanta. Our first stop, St. Louis, was a given. My sister lives there and the cousins love playing together. Nashville seemed to be a logical next stop: it’s only 5 hours from St. Louis and offers many entertainment options. The last leg would be a quick 3-hour jaunt to Atlanta.

Planning started and immediately came to a stop. It seems everyone wanted a minivan for spring break. I tried every option and every rental company but each one had the same message: sold out. Hrmph! I guess a full-size SUV isn’t so bad–less interior space and worse gas mileage are only small things hardly worth mentioning. I tried one more time using, and lo and behold, one minivan was available. It was in Merriam, KS, but that’s a short distance compared to the option.

We drove to Avis Friday morning and found 1 car on the lot, a blue Nissan Quest. When I gave my information to the rental agent, he asked how I was able to get a minivan…”been sold out for a month.” WOW! Some how Expedia hooked us up. Not only did we get a minivan, we got a brand new minivan. Even had the new car smell (at least it did 3 days ago) and a built-in DVD player and plenty of cargo space for luggage, bike, and trainer.

Maybe this trip won’t be so bad after all.

The drive to St. Louis was pretty uneventful, as I-70 across Missouri usually is. We arrived in town around 9:00 PM and settled in for the night. Before racking out, I searched for rides in the area and found a few options. I decided on the Covered Bridge route, which starts at our hotel’s parking lot.

I woke up at 6:00 the next morning, grabbed breakfast and headed out. The morning was cold but clear with no wind. The route was awesome and lived up to the “hilly” description. I remember thinking that it was more Colorado than Kansas City, with long grades and smooth, smooth, smooth road surfaces. It was a nice change from the short steeps hills and cracked, pitted, and seamed roads around Kansas City.

I made it back to the hotel just after 9:00 and just in time to join Traci and the boys for breakfast. We ate and then loaded up the van and headed to my sister’s. We spent most the day playing and visiting, and then we loaded up again for the drive to Nashville. Try as we might, we just didn’t have it in us for the 5-hour haul. We ended up stopping at Clarksville, TN, which is about an hour north of Nashville. We woke up and hit the road first thing in the morning. And since we just got started, we blew right through Nashville. Maybe on the way home. Like I-70, the drive south along I-24 and then I-75 was pretty uneventful. Traffic was heavy and we had great views of the Appalacian foothills, but otherwise it was just white lines and milemarkers.

We arrived in Atlanta around 6:00 PM on Sunday night. We checked into the hotel, unloaded the car, and headed out for dinner. We made it! And no fits, fights, or foolies along the way—DVD player, oh yeah!

It was raining when we woke up this morning, and the weatherman said the showers would be around throughout the day…what a perfect day to visit the Georgia Aquariumand the World of Coca-Cola. We took our time getting ready (and I worked most of the morning) and finally made it to the aquarium around Noon. It was an incredible experience, crowded, but worth the wait and pushing and shoving. The Journey with Giants was awesome! It features a long walk-through tunnel that passes under a tank of sharks, rays, and various fish. The boys were mesmerized. (Don’t tell anyone but dad was too!) The thought of being under 6 million gallons of water was a bit overwhelming but that thought was easily pushed aside by the whale sharks, hammerheads, and countless schools of fishes that were swimming around.

The Georgia Aquarium’s Ocean Voyager, Journey with Giants features the second largest viewing window in the world at 23 feet tall by 61 feet wide and 2 feet thick!

By the time we finished the aquarium, everyone was too tired for the Coke Experience. We headed back to the hotel, where we wrapped up the day with a quick swim for Traci and the boys and an intense hour on the trainer for me. We don’t have specific plans for tomorrow. We plan to play it by ear and go with what the day serves us. I’m certain it will be fun…


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