NJ to L.A. With Three Kids and a Dog–The Journey Continues

Jennifer Stern September 26, 2010 3 Comments


Wednesday, November 18, 2009
6:10 p.m.  

Our cross country journey West from New Jersey continues.  I’m sitting poolside at the Holiday Inn Express in Dickson, Tennessee, watching Ben and Will swimming and playing in the indoor pool. They have the whole pool to themselves. Of course, I forgot to pack swim trunks for them, so Ben is swimming in a pair of shorts and Will is in his green Hulk pajama bottoms. No matter–they’re happy as clams. I have found through years of parenting that you can be anywhere in the world, at anytime of year, and it wouldn’t really matter–as long as the hotel has an indoor pool that’s open late, they couldn’t be more thrilled.  

Holiday Inn Express Indoor Pool Dickerson Tennessee

Having fun in the hotel's indoor pool

Michael and Tristan have located the nearest Wal-Mart and are out shopping for jackets. Will lost his jacket somewhere in West Virginia, and Tristan left his at the Castro’s house back in New Jersey. Oh, and I asked them to find me some Ex-Lax as well…I am having the same problem I ALWAYS have when we travel… We got a late start leaving Virginia this morning–Will had left his DS and box of video games in the motel room and we had to double back and get them. I am firmly convinced that my children would leave their heads behind if they were not attached to their bodies… It was rather gloomy and overcast with several showers and only a very few breaks of sun today. Since we have been traveling through the Great Smoky Mountains, the scenery on the drive should have been beautiful. Unfortunately, because of the weather, visibility has been very poor. We drove 450 miles today and we’re STILL in Tennessee–past Nashville, but still about 170 miles from Memphis. Ben, my middle child, has pronounced Tennessee “BORING.” He seems only to be interested in the cities–we passed through Knoxville, skirted around Nashville, so the kids didn’t really get to see it, and now we are headed towards Memphis. I personally would love to see Elvis Presley’s Graceland, just for the cheesy, tacky tourist-trap-ness of it, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Arriving in Tennessee 

Ben, who is obsessed with roller coasters, really wanted to go to Dollywood (Dolly Parton’s amusement park located in Pigeon Forge), which would have been slightly out of our way. Unfortunately, it’s a rainy, chilly Wednesday–not exactly rollercoaster-riding weather. However, if you happen to be in these parts and it’s fair weather, you may want to check it out (www.dollywood.com). The park features coasters, kiddie rides, live shows, and an award-winning waterpark called Splash Country. You can also stay in a luxurious log cabin (no roughing it here) or a hotel just minutes from Dollywood and all the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg activities.  

We ate lunch at a Taco Bell (this fast-food thing is getting old really quickly), and dinner at a place called O’Charley’s (think Applebee’s/Fridays–same thing) mainly because it was right across the parking lot from our hotel. After spending ALL DAY in a car with three boys and a dog, the LAST thing we want to do is drive around looking for a place to eat.  

Thursday, November 19
8:10 p.m.  

Once again I am sitting in the heavily-chlorinated humidity, watching Ben and Will frolicking in the hotel’s indoor pool while I process the day’s events. We’re at a Sleep Inn in the hamlet of Van Buren, Arkansas, and had to try three other hotels before we found one that would accept dogs and/or wouldn’t charge you an arm and a leg for one. Everyone was weary, hungry, and frustrated by the time we got here.  

Well, I’m doing it again–having a repeat performance of my FIRST cross-country trip 16 years ago. Suffice it to say that thanks to the Correctol pills I took (one last night and two more this morning when I wasn’t getting the “desired results,”) I went from not being able to go at all to forcing Michael to find a rest stop and pull over nearly every twenty minutes! Ugh. It’s been horrible. When will I learn that laxatives and I just do not mix?!  

It’s been a pretty rough day overall–besides my intestinal issues, I mean. We had to pull over at one Podunk little market/grill/gas station/whatever, where I discovered, to my horror, that the toilet didn’t flush! I booked out of there as fast as I could and told Michael to burn rubber!  

Driving through Tennessee

On the road again...

The drive was exceptionally boring–very flat with tons of farms and cotton fields (well, I admit I’ve never seen an actual cotton field before). At one point it got a little hilly as the sun was going down, and Michael told the boys (who thus far have spent the majority of the trip with their noses buried in their video games or watching movies) to look out the window at the sunset. “Isn’t it beautiful?” he asked, to which Ben replied that he’d seen enough beautiful things and was bored of it…What else would I expect?  

Oh, and this is the second day in a row that we–meaning ME–left something behind in the hotel room. My cell phone. I realized I didn’t have it about 10 minutes after we left, and Michael (already cranky from sciatica pain down his right leg) refused to go back, insisting it was probably in one of the bags in our car’s “fanny pack.” I didn’t think so and called the hotel. It turns out it WAS there (on the floor–don’t know how it got there), and the manager is going to mail it to our new California address. I feel somehow as though I’ve lost a limb.  

Great American Pyramid Downtown Memphis Tennessee

The Great American Pyramid in downtown Memphis, Tennessee

Ben perked up again when we hit Memphis, especially when we saw the gigantic stainless-steel pyramid in the middle of the city. The Pyramid (officially named the Great American Pyramid), which has been a focal point of the city’s skyline since 1991, is actually an arena seating up to 21,000. The Pyramid is a 60 percent replica of the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt and is the world’s third-largest pyramid, standing 321 feet tall. Since 2005, the arena has been in use less and less, as the newly-built FedEx Forum has become the preferred Memphis venue. Its future remains uncertain, but numerous proposals have been made regarding its future use. It certainly is a very impressive piece of architecture!  

We ate lunch at a place called The Iron Skillet (aptly named since they serve EVERYTHING in mini iron skillets–very cute)–it was a truck stop. But my past two cross-country trips have taught me that truck stops are where the best food can be found! The truckers gave us the hairy eyeball when the five of us came in–especially Tristan in his NY Giants jersey. But our waitress was perfectly charming and lovely. Oddly enough, I really don’t mind being called “sweetie,” “baby” or “honey” by these people. I’m not sure why. Back home it would irritate the heck out of me.  

Iron Skillet Truck Stop

Lunch at the Iron Skillet Truck Stop

 You should know that, my tummy troubles notwithstanding, I not only ordered, but devoured, the corned beef hash skillet. Which was huge, by the way. I had corned beef hash for breakfast the previous morning in our hotel and I liked it so much that I sent Tristan back to get me more! Ralph was totally digging it too–I fed him several bites off of my plastic spoon (only after I was absolutely sure I’d eaten enough)–and then immediately regretted it, fearing I might see it again (re-warmed) in the car once we got going. He’s been perfectly fine, though…no accidents. Wish I could say the same for me…  

Friday, November 20, 2:00 p.m.  

We are somewhere west of Oklahoma City…I just saw the first Starbucks I’ve seen since we started this trip…can civilization be far behind???  

To Be Continued on our trip through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona

avatarAbout the Author:

Jennifer Stern is a mom of three teen boys, who provide her with constant inspiration to write. She is also a fitness professional/junkie who teaches everything from Spinning to Zumba. A New Jersey native, this is her second time living in Southern California. She loves the L.A. lifestyle, but does miss eating decent pizza and bagels--so she consoles herself with excellent Mexican food. She and her family live in Burbank.

Tags: Sharing Experiences, Travel Excursions
3 Comments to “NJ to L.A. With Three Kids and a Dog–The Journey Continues”
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