We made it to Asheville and back in one piece! For those of you keeping score at home, it was a 1,200-mile roundtrip. Needless to say, we’ve all had enough of the car.
But the weekend more than made up for it. Once I finally get a good night’s sleep (sharing a bed with a kicky 3-year-old for three nights in a row kind of messes with your sleep), I’ll start sharing my love for Asheville. Seriously, we debated just staying forever. It’s such a special place.
In the meantime, I thought I’d share the stories that will probably be the ones we’re still telling 10 years from now — the stories from the road.
We left Orlando on Thursday around 4:30 p.m. We made pretty good progress through Florida and decided to stop somewhere in Georgia for dinner. Our thinking was to drive as long as possible so that right after dinner, E. would hopefully fall asleep and we could get a couple more hours of driving in before stopping for the night (we considered, then quickly reconsidered, driving all 10.5 hours in one shot).
The gas gauge chose where we stopped — Brunswick, Georgia. Since E. was being such a good girl, we thought it would be good to get her out of the car for a little bit but we still wanted it to be fast. Our choices were pretty limited at that exit. Amazingly, I’ve never eaten at that southern staple Waffle House, and E. could eat pancakes or waffles 24/7, so we thought we’d give one a shot.
As we pulled in to park, we encountered a really bizarre scene — all of the employees and what we guess to be three customers were sitting outside on the curb. Did we just stumble upon a crime scene or a gas leak? There were no cops or emergency vehicles, but the restaurant was also empty. So, yeah, I still haven’t been to a Waffle House.
Then, the wandering began. It wasn’t a well-marked (0r well-lit) area, so we headed toward the only sign we could really see — Denny’s. As we pulled into a parking lot, we saw what can only be described as DadJovi and E’s version of heaven:
Is it a Denny’s? Is it a bowling alley? In Georgia — it’s both!
After letting E. eat chocolate chip pancakes for dinner, we thought bowling a game would be a good way to burn off some of that sugar before we strapped her back into her seat for the next several hours. OK, let’s be honest — it was for DadJovi.
You know how frequent diners can get their faces put onto the walls of fancy restaurants? DadJovi has a new goal in life — becoming one of the “real people” mixed in with the dead celebrities on the wall of The Strike Zone in Brunswick, Georgia. Aim high, dear. Aim high.
On about frame 8, we discovered yet another cool feature of the bowling alley (I mean, how can it get better than the fact that it has an attached Denny’s, right? Imagine the Moons Over My Hammy you could have between games!). After each turn, your roll’s MPH displayed on the screen.
DadJovi may or may not have thrown out his shoulder trying to hit 20 mph.
After tearing my two bowlers away from the lanes, it was time to get on the road again. Around midnight, we hit what’s quickly becoming our favorite hotel chain — Holiday Inn Express!
After great stays at the Holiday Inn Express in the Keys and our staycation in Orange City, the Holiday Inn Express in Columbia, S.C. did not disappoint! (and no, HIE sadly did not comp our stay. We’re seriously just big fans). Well, one member of our family is an especially big fan of one feature in particular — the magical pancake machine.
She now requests to go to Holiday Inn Expresses just for breakfast. Think we could crash a free breakfast bar because that would seriously make her day most mornings.
After a good night’s sleep and (obviously) a good breakfast, we hit the road for our final 2 1/2 hours to Asheville.
Before we knew it, we were in North Carolina.
And as soon as we crossed statelines, E. said, “We need to watch out for the Tar Heel because he will try to steal my toys.” Yes, her father, the die-hard Duke fan who convinced her Santa delivers toys with his best friend the Blue Devil, has brainwashed her well.
That was the trip up. A somewhat leisurely two-day drive with unexpected fun. If only the trip back was the same.
The alarm went off for our return trip home Sunday morning at 4:45 a.m. We had packed almost everything into the car the night before, so we threw the final few items into a bag, grabbed E. (still in her PJs) and loaded into the car. Thankfully, she stayed asleep for a couple hours (well, for the most part. There was some whining and crying in her sleep). After I helped DadJovi get through the detours and roadwork in Asheville and safely heading east on I-26, I caught some more sleep, too. Hey, I offered to drive … several times.
E. woke up around 7:45 and unfortunately it was on a stretch of I-26 without a lot of bathroom/restaurant options. And since she was just waking up, I knew we had to find a bathroom ASAP. We ended up in a McD’s. E. thought it was hilarious that she got to wear her pajamas inside. Sadly, she wasn’t the only one in her PJs but at least she was the only kid. Oh, South Carolina.
The day was long. Very long. E. was such a trooper though and stayed busy with coloring books, games on our phones and watching some of “Annie” on the laptop (man, we need an iPad. A laptop is so unwieldy for watching movies in the car).
After we got to Jacksonville, I started checking our Central Florida traffic. And I’m glad I did. Turns out I-4 had been closed since 4:30 a.m. — that was more than eight hours — due to a fatal motorcycle accident (it’s a really sad story).
We were so tired and so done with the trip. We’d been in the car for eight hours ourselves and all three of us were ready to be home. As we started weighing alternate routes (and got some advice from Tweeps. Thanks guys!) we pulled off and decided to get lunch at Outback since clearly there was no rush to keep going south. From the sounds of things, all the alternate routes were packed too.
These are the punch drunk faces of exhaustion
And our luck turned — as we were eating, I-4 FINALLY reopened! Not only that, but I came out on top in the Jovi Bowl — my Eagles beat DadJovi’s Redskins!
I know I shouldn’t complain. We had no major catastrophes ourselves — just a lot of driving. And anytime we make it home safely from such a long trip, I say a silent thank you prayer that we made it home again.
Up next, I promise to start sharing some gorgeous pictures of fall in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was stunning.
What’s your favorite road trip memory? Food? Hotel? Share your stories from the road!