it's our last west virginia trip post, and this one is all about the day i dreaded...the full attempt at a drive home. on a good day with me and justin, this drive could take about 9 or so hours. on bad days (and we've had some very bad days with traffic, weather, etc.) it's taken anywhere from 12 to 14 hours. we've never attempted it all day with a toddler, and we've never asked davis to do more than 4-5 hours in a car per day. it was a big test for all of us...and surprisingly (thankfully) it ended up being okay.
the night before, we did everything we could to get packed up and the car loaded so we would have little to do in the morning. davis got one last bedtime routine with his "pappy and grammy" before he headed to sleep.
justin's dad would be leaving for work early the next day, so we said our goodbyes that night and rested up for the long drive. we got on the road just around 9 or so (that way davis had some time to play in the morning) and we got him all set up in his car seat. thank goodness for the iPad! we had loaded it up with several shows and games to keep him occupied, and towards the end of the drive, i'm not sure we could've done it without it.
i had mapped out a couple of possible places to stop along our route, taking into account that davis would nap at some point, so we might not stop if he was sleeping. before he took his nap, we stopped at this gorgeous view at one of the rest stops about an hour or two into our trip.
he slept through the first possible stop at berkeley springs (we figured if it worked so well the first time, it would work this time) so the next option was a community park in winchester, va. we hit it just at lunch time, so we picked up some lunch and took it to the park, where they had a great shelter with picnic tables right by the park. davis was able to eat and then burn off some energy on the playground...
you can see them a little bit better here...
i took over driving at this point (we were safely out of the serious mountains--justin's our mountain driver and i do the highways) and we kept davis entertained with books, stickers, snacks and the iPad. our next option for a stop was just outside of richmond. i had read online that short pump shopping center was great for kids, and that they even had a train you could ride during certain hours. i was so hopeful that davis would get to ride it, but alas--it wasn't running that day. luckily he didn't know what he was missing and instead loved running around the little depot area they have for the kids, complete with general store and train station.
we grabbed dinner here, picking up tacos from the chipotle that was nearby. SO GOOD. we've only had chipotle a couple of times, so this was a treat. then we started our way back through richmond traffic at rush hour, and i was never so glad to get back on i 95 and continue on home.
we knew we were getting closer to having a davis melt-down, so i called the last few hours of our trip "just keep davis happy." he got his pacifier, he got iPad, he got snacks, he got whatever it took to keep him content. we made one more stop to get some gas at--ironically--the "davis" travel stop close to the nc/va border!
all things considered, he did so well. i am so glad we knew places to stop and highly recommend that for anyone traveling long distances with a toddler. a regular gas station/rest stop just wouldn't cut it for him, and having safe play equipment and spaces specifically designed for his interests was so important. it broke the trip up for us really well so that it didn't feel quite so overwhelming. is it something i'd like to do regularly? no--but i can do it once or twice a year, which is all we're really asking him to do. i am glad we broke the drive up into two days so that it wasn't two full day drives. i have a feeling that might have really pushed him to the limit....but he's a resilient kid. who knows.
and next time, we'll have plenty of milk.