Monday, December 13, 2010

National Lampoon's Himmerick Vacation

When Brent proposed the idea of renting an RV and driving down to visit his sister in Arkansas, I said, "Yeah, that sounds like a great idea!  We've always wanted to do that with the kids and they have a few days off of school in October for MEA weekend, so why not?"  Famous last words.

So I'm going to do a service to all who may be contemplating this form of travel, especially with small children.  I encourage you to use my experience as a learning opportunity, a life lesson if you will, and that is what I've decided to do as well.  Here are the things I learned from our trip in the ol' RV. 
  • Renting an RV does not cost less than purchasing 4 plane tickets.  It was about $2000 for 5 days.
  • An RV is more convenient if you have to travel with baby stuff, because you can just load up what you need and don't have to worry about checking any of it at the airport and possibly arriving at your destination with damaged or lost goods.
  • RV's are nice for traveling with a dog, but said dog will likely hog the front passenger seat.
  • Having snacks for kids within arm's reach at all times is a blessing.
  • A novice RV driver (a.k.a. Brent) doesn't realize that when you take corners or proceed forward from a stopped position, you need to do so gently, so as not to fling your wife, kids, dog and all of the items on the counter or table to the opposite end of the rig.
  • Being flung across an RV leaves a nasty bruise.
  • If you suffer from motion sickness, as I do, riding in the back of an RV will be approximately 4 times worse than any motion sickness you've experienced in a car.  Especially when your husband drives in the aforementioned manner.
  • Dramamine is a life-saver, but it takes about 30-60 minutes to kick in.
  • If you tell kids not to touch something, they will do it anyway.
  • Gas station bathroom stops are inconvenient but necessary when RV bathroom doors have been locked from the inside by meddling children.
  • If Brent gets mad enough, he can yank a locked bathroom door open so it is usable again.
  • RV trips do not strengthen marriages.
  • DVD players on board an RV are awesome.
  • When little fingers mess with the audio/visual system, DVD players become obsolete.
  • Markers and coloring books can help kill time...about 30 minutes...tops.
  • The words, "How much longer 'til we're there?" are not just words we used on trips when we were kids.  Kids still use them today...often.
  • When driving into 50 mph winds, an awning ripping off the side of an RV sounds very scary, but is rather breathtaking when you watch it fly quite freely across the highway.
  • They do indeed have good BBQ in Kansas City, MO.
  • Fried okra is fantastic!
  • Kids fighting in an RV is worse than kids fighting at home.
  • 13 hours from Minneapolis to Branson, MO feels a lot longer than that.
  • In Branson, most visitors have bluish-grayish hair and are sleeping by 9 p.m. and do not appreciate an RV pulling into their peaceful RV parks at 11:30.
  • RV beds are small and not incredibly comfortable for adults; however, kids do very well in them.
  • 2-year-old Kierney is much more adaptable to different sleeping environments than I would've originally given her credit for.
  • A good night's sleep can improve moods dramatically.
  • I hate to admit that I would probably go back to Branson when I have more time to check out the shows.
  • Lamberts (Home of the Throwed Rolls) is a really cool restaurant with huge portions of good ol' southern food and people that walk around the restaurant offering you different side dishes for free and throwing yummy buttery rolls at you.
  • The Water Ducks are fun for adults and kids and the attraction has a huge candy store with every flavor of taffy you can dream of; $24 buys you a pretty good variety of them.
  • Taffy makes everyone happy.
  • A little fun can help repair relationships damaged by RV traveling.
  • The trip from Branson, MO to RoseBud, AR is short and not as painful.
  • It becomes a little bit painful when you tweak your back unknowingly and can't sit or stand.
  • There are a lot of "dry" counties in MO and AR; bring your own alcoholic beverages.
  • Finally arriving at your destination is a wonderful feeling.
  • Memphis, TN is not a very long drive from Arkansas, so a trip to Graceland to see The King is a great plan.
  • Graceland is very commercialized, but it is still a really cool experience.
  • While at Graceland, it's perfectly normal to imagine yourself in another time, perhaps as a pretty little thing waiting for The King down in the Jungle Room.  I think.
  • While in the Memphis area, a trip to Beale Street for some BBQ is a must; 'Rendezvous' is off the beaten path in a dark alley, but SO worth the walk if you like dry rub bbq.
  • My kids amaze me sometimes when they behave like almost-perfect angels in places where I would've completely understood if they were bored to death and naughty.  They must love the south!
  • A relaxing day in Arkansas, just visiting with family you don't get to see often, is what trips like this are all about.
  • My sister-in-law is one of the nicest, most generous and welcoming people I have ever known.
  • I'm sorry I never got to meet her late husband, Nick Bacon, who was a Medal of Honor recipient.
  • In an RV, there is "gray water" and "black water" and you should know the difference between the two and if going on a longer trip than we did, make sure the RV rental place gives you a hose to pump out the "black water."  Pumping stations do not supply them for you.
  • When setting out for a non-stop trip back from AR to MN, leaving at 4 a.m. is a good idea because Dad gets a few hours of peaceful driving before the kids wake up; this makes the trip seem much shorter.
  • Bring a bigger selection of kid movies along because once you've seen each of them a few times, you will want to throw them away...or throw up...or both.
  • In the words of the pretty girl in the ruby slippers, "There's no place like home." 
Most of all, this trip taught us that we are probably like just about every other family out there.  Cramped quarters and long trips can bring out the worst in all of us, but once you're home and have had time to reflect, the experience is kind of like child birth; you forget about the pain and the yelling and screaming and just remember the good things.  Mostly.

P.S.:
  • An awning replacement costs $1079.
  • If you do not have comprehensive coverage, your auto insurance won't pay for it.
  • If your insurance company makes a clerical error, they will end up paying it anyway. :)

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