23 May

Pit Stops: Make Them Count (Stephanie’s Rules for Rest Areas)

Even before the boys came along in all of their life-changing glory, Jeremy and I were never ones for air travel. Aside from a few vacations here or there, we embraced the fine art of the road trip. We were pretty good at it, too. One time we made it all the way from New Jersey to California in about 50 hours, stopping only for a brief overnight in Denver accompanied by the best steak dinner of our lives.
So for most people, including us, this is how a typical pit stop goes: you find a place where you can get gas, eat a meal, and use the bathroom all in one shot. Once you have fueled up and filled up, you get your next shot of caffeine and off you go. This was the way we continued to do it for the first year of the boys’ lives. We just added diaper changes to the to do list.
As we have discovered over the last year, this is exactly the wrong way to do it when you are traveling with kids. Here is the rule to live by: your kids should be running, jumping, rolling, and tumbling for every single minute of a stop in order to make it truly count. How do you make this happen in a turnpike rest area with traffic and crowds and really, really dirty floors? You don’t. You avoid those places at all costs and you pull into the picnic areas and visitors’ centers that you used to blow right by before you had kids.

As soon as we pull into the picnic area, we throw two balls onto the grass and let the boys run while we take turns using the restrooms. Then we eat our food (sometimes packed sandwiches, sometimes take out from one of those disgusting turnpike Burger Kings) while the boys continue to run around. They might come up for random bites of food, then fly off again.
That is okay. It is truly torture to make them sit in a highchair and eat a respectable lunch when they have been sitting in a carseat for hours. You can feed them once you get back on the road. Let them run.

This past weekend we packed sandwiches before we left for the Poconos and stopped to eat dinner at one of our favorite rest areas: The Delaware Water Gap. Sticks, rocks, and dandelions…the boys were in heaven and the adults enjoyed a nice picnic dinner. Who would ever choose a McDonald’s over that?
I have never researched rest areas in advance. It is a good idea; I’m just not that motivated in the planning department. But if you are, you can find rest areas listed by state here: http://www.interstaterestareas.com/. Or you can go to the department of transportation website for whatever state you will be driving through.
And if you are ever in the area, remember this: Tennessee has the nicest, cleanest welcome centers you will ever see. The rocking chairs are to die for, and I found my first fish hatchery brochure there. Sigh.

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