5,000 miles and 163 pee stops later….

Meet the passengers: B1, B2, C1, C2 and C3

Meet the passengers: B1, B2, C1, C2 and C3

We did it!!  Holy Moly, my little idea to take 5 kids under the age of 10 from Texas to California with one other brave mom in her Storm Trooper (also known as the white minivan) is now complete and my final answer is…….it was a success!  Hear me out, days 1 thru 3 while we were logging about 500 miles per day and trying (but failing) to find a groove I was fairly certain I’d made a huge error in judgement.  After all 7 people in one car for 7 hours per day, 5 days in a row is a lot to ask of a grown up let alone a 5, 7, 7, 8 and 9 year old.  Up the ante on this little pressure cooker by breaking an iPad, then a DVD player, then a pair of “ear muffs” (also known as headphones), for good measure have your iPod start to malfunction and you are ready to start checking flights from Nowhere, New Mexico to San Francisco, California!  Thankfully, it never came to that.  We were armed with a HEAVY dose of humor, and we made it and even smiled and laughed along the way…..in between the pee stops that is.

Here are a couple tips we picked up.

Tip 1:  It’s really helpful if your nightly stop has a pool.

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While the “adults” planned the next days’ travel strategy pool side, the kids happily went insane.  Nothing quite like a cannon ball to express your daily frustrations.

Bonus points if you can find something like this for your lunch break.

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Or even this random gas station treat.

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Tip 2:  Electronic distractions are certainly helpful, a movie can provide maybe 30 minutes of quiet, however that peace and calm usually won’t last.

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The other mom had packed up Lego Hero Factory (in that nifty clear container at the bottom of the pic) and these provided hours of entertainment for all our little passengers.

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Tip 3:  One exciting stop for the way out and one for the way back is plenty.  Especially if one of those stops is the Grand Canyon.  We opted for the North Rim and were able to stay inside the park in wonderful cabins that were more comfortable and hospitable than most of our other hotel stays.

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Super comfy beds and since there is no wifi or cell service to be had the park provides free long distance to check in with loved ones.  See below my daughter’s first experience with a phone that has a chord – that’s exciting stuff!

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Even more impressive than the phones with chords is the canyon it’s self!  My son’s 7 year old words were, “It looks like a cool bath tub for giants”.

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But the best thing about sleeping in the park is the canyon at sunrise, I highly recommend this!

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Tip 4:  If you’ve been driving for 5 days straight try to give yourself at least a full week outside of the car.  Your destination should provide lots of easy fun, no helicopter parenting required.

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Tip 5:  When in doubt follow the signs.

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And last but not least…..

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Dear Best Western

Traveler Beware!!

Traveler Beware!!

Having recently completed a cross country journey allowing me to stay in many fine establishments across our great country I can say without a doubt, your hotel was the worst.  Not to throw out the apple tree due to one bad apple, allow me to limit my comments to the Best Western Santa Fe Inn Amarillo, Texas.

Let’s begin with the name, “Best Western Santa Fe Inn” – there was nothing ‘Santa Fe’ about this ‘Inn’, it’s confusing, overly long and sets up an expectation that the hotel clearly has no intention of reaching toward.

Now the room – when staying in an unfamiliar place it is generally helpful to have lights by the bed or beds.  A lamp, a switch for over heads, a sconce or two – a light switch clear across the room which ignites a dim lamp in the far corner is unhelpful when reading in bed or rising when it’s still dark outside.  Secondly, when offering a “Clean Remote” it’s generally helpful that it is indeed clean. Although I find it wasteful, the concept is that remotes are disposable allowing each new customer a fresh clean remote.  Our remote had been wiped down – sort of, there was still “schmutz” on the power button and sides.  Thirdly, privacy curtains, although the blackout shades are particularly helpful to block out the morning sun, it’s also helpful to be able to fully close curtains when your room faces the parking lot.  A 12″ gap does not provide the privacy one might hope for.  On to the carpet, while placing carpet in front of the bathroom sink area is an interesting choice, it does experience greater  wear due to water, constant standing for brushing teeth, drying hair, flossing, etc.  Whatever synthetic “softener” you used to create the illusion of thickness in this particular area resulted in a greasy residue that sticks to your feet and smells weird.  Lastly the bed, traditionally I prefer something softer than the floor, when my 7 year old son, won’t even bounce on the bed because it “hurt his bottom” when he sat down, I’d say that’s a touch too firm.

Shall we go outside to the “pool”?  We’ve had our share of hotel pools on the trip, usually the color is something akin to blue, the greenish hue at the BWSFI (that’s Best Western Santa Fe Inn) was green and cloudy.  Hmmm, a little concerning but not as concerning as the number of dead insects floating on the top of the water.  But having 5 children  under 10 in a minivan for 8 hours requires some release, so we allow them all to jump in.  What’s missing?  Towels!  It’s not uncommon for towels to be missing from the swimming area, but this was the first time I had to ask the front desk “helper” for the towels and then receive a lecture about only asking for one towel for guest and she’ll count how many people are swimming.  She can actually do that from her front desk station since she can see the pool clearly – might have been nice to send someone out with towels when she saw us swimming but maybe she figured we’d air dry.

I could go on about breakfast, security, hotel employees, wall non-thickness but after about 10 nights staying in different hotels each night suffice to say that the Best Western Santa Fe Inn Amarillo, Texas was the WORST EVER, like EVER.