Category Archives: travel

travel

Solo Flight

It took me a long time to get used to traveling through airports without getting on every elevator. We are finally stroller free on long trips. However, today’s experience of travelling without children was even more strange. I don’t often go anywhere without them that it is quite odd to walk alone through the throngs of travelers. I have flown as a solo dad, but it is weird flying as a solo dad without kids.

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Don’t Let the Plane Door Hit You On the Way In.

Today was my birthday, and Facebook did its magic in letting people know. Those simple good wishes throughout the day made things nicer. We started be getting up at 5:00 to race out the door. Even with our early start, we barely made the plane. They were paging us as we rushed to the gate from the security line. I put my belt and shoes back on while waiting in the gangway to board. I sat with the kids in the last row of the plane while my wife, who will be flying back with the kids solo, sat a row ahead and across the aisle. The flight was ok as the militant Christmas celebrator of a flight attendant repeatedly told my daughter she would take her home and asked her what Santa was bringing. We made it to Saint Louis where my kids spent the day enjoying the attention of their grandparents. It was a good, if tiring, birthday.

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A Matter of Time

45 minutes four times daily. That is three hours a day. Over four days, that is twelve hours. Add in an extra hour for the one time I took the wrong road and got stuck in horrendous rush hour stop and go. Add in an hour and a half for the time I had to drive to and from the auto repair shop after destroying a tire on the car. Now we are up to fourteen hours. Over four days, 96 hours, let’s subtract eight per day for sleep (ha ha ha ha ha). This leaves 64 waking hours over these four days. Fourteen is almost 22% of that time spent driving to and from my daughter’s camp and dealing with the auto repair. Round it out to say that I have spent a quarter of my time in four days driving.

I know that many parents do so much more driving than this, but I have worked to eliminate as much driving as possible from my day. This is partly an environmental choice, and in Boston, it is also a mental health choice. On the other hand, my daughter is so excited to take care of animals during the day that it makes it worth it in the short term. I could not do this on a regular basis, though.

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Let’s Drug ‘Em, I Joked…

One should never joke, really. It only makes the reality even more ironic.

Last weekend, my wife and I headed out for our 20th college reunions. It is a special event because we connected at our 10th and things led from there to marriage and kids. We packed the kids in the car for the seven or so hour drive on Friday, got the kids situated with their Saba before heading out for a small gathering of friends that evening, and then Saturday was filled with reunion activities. We left our son with his grandfather and took our daughter with us for the morning. She enjoyed seeing both campuses; my wife and I attended nearby colleges, and I even majored at hers.  In the morning while my wife was in a class meeting, I took my daughter around to see the campus and visit with my senior thesis professor. My daughter also enjoyed the picnic lunch and popsicle. In the afternoon, we all headed over to my college and had a quick tour before we drove her back to my wife’s father’s house. We then returned to the reunion action, had a wonderful time, and arrived home late and exhausted.

As we contemplated the seven plus hour drive back to Boston with crabby kids, I joked, “Let’s drug ’em.” Now, I am the one who errs on the avoiding medicine side, so it was just dark humor to deal with the inevitable challenges of the ride. However, the universe was listening, and my daughter deposited a parting gift on my father-in-law’s bedroom carpet. We hoped whatever was bugging her was out of her system, but as we started the drive, a faint voice from the back of the car informed us that all was not well. I had improvised some bags, and my daughter promptly used one of them. We stopped, purchased some Dramamine, and proceeded on our way with a very wilted, unhappy kid who, in part thanks to the drugs, slept much of the way home.

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A Tale of Two Seaties

The aftermath of a hard drive from Philly to Boston.

It was, indeed, the best of times and the worst of times. Well, that tends to the hyperbolic, but the car ride to Philly was pretty smooth. No difficult traffic, no major complaints from the children, and no bad weather. The kids sat, as they usually do, next to each other and played amicably all the way except when my son was napping in the afternoon.

The way back, perhaps not the worst drive ever, was fairly nerve wracking. Bad traffic, poor communication while navigating around it, sick and grumpy children, sleep deprived parents, and the threat of rain made for a ride almost the same length of time but far more frazzling. We ended up separating the car seats, and while my wife and daughter napped for the last few hours, my son made a persistent and irritating sound. This on top of being away from home for several days was not unexpected but fully unhelpful to the well being of us all.

With four tickets to purchase and the craziness of airports along with travel to and from them, we have settled on driving as a cost effective and not terribly different in door-to-door travel time way to make this regular journey. I still prefer the train, but it is expensive and slower than the rest of the options.

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The Road Goes Ever On and On

Sunday was travel day. In the new car, we drove about 7 hours with the kids being mostly cooperative. We hit no major traffic, and my son even took a nap. We are now at my father-in-law’s house ready to celebrate Passover, and our nerves are remarkably unrattled from the trip. There was one emergency pee break that was a little harried because the exit we took from the highway ended up being another highway with no bathroom in sight. My daughter’s repeated certainty of, “I just can’t make it,” added stress to the situation, but in the end we did make it and the car and her pants stayed dry. Yay for a relatively easy day of travel.

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It’s the Journey, Really

Friday was another odd day with various moving parts involving dropping off and picking up kids. One of my daughter’s preschool friends had her over for a playdate after school, and I am very grateful to his mother for driving my daughter to her house and entertaining the kids for the afternoon.

I left work at 4:30 to go get her. During rush hour on the train, people cram into the green line, and only a few trains go all the way to the end of the line where I had to go to reach their house. I finally got there, walked a bit, and was greeted with a repeating salvo of, “I don’t want to leave, ever.” After summoning up some energy from who knows where, I gently redirected my daughter to thanking her hosts for such a nice time and excitement about a next possible playdate.

We then walked a block to catch a bus, and that is when the journey really began. I completely missed my zen state of being present and enjoying the journey. I really wanted to get home at a reasonable hour to get a dinner, bath, and bed completed before complete meltdown. Traffic and a transfer had other ideas. We finally walked in the door at 6:30. Walking home from the bus stop, my daughter let me know that one of the highlights of her day had been the wonderful bus ride. At least one of us still had our zen on.

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Sardines of Christmas

Cars pull into the diagonal slots and then pull into the lane next to the curb before returning to the regular traffic lanes. Awesome!

Cars pull into the diagonal slots and then pull into the lane next to the curb before returning to the regular traffic lanes. Awesome!

We booked our return trip from St. Louis on Christmas morning mostly because of the lower price. However, we thought that the plane would be fairly empty. That hope was dashed when we saw the long and getting longer security line after being dropped off at the airport. I do wonder why more airports haven’t adopted the drop-off system at Lambert St. Louis. Cars pull up in diagonal slots, discharge their passengers, and then pull forward into a lane from which they then rejoin the roadway. Anyway, the plane was fairly full. We took two seats in two adjacent rows hoping that no one would want to sit next to kids, but a mother and son took the two aisle seats next to each of us. The plane was packed, and the kept the two last rows empty. We were the sardines of Christmas.

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Taking Flight

Richard Scarry’s Book of Everything kept us entertained.

Thursday at 5:30 AM things got started. We hustled the kids through an abbreviated morning routine and headed to the airport. I saw a surprisingly long line at the ticket counter, so I decided to not check my bag and head straight for the security line which was thankfully short. After grabbing some breakfast, filling water bottles, and having my daughter unsuccessfully try the bathroom, we rushed to the check-in counter and got the stroller tagged through to Milwaukee where we would change planes. The flight was bumpy but fairly uneventful. I did change my son, but there was really no need. In Milwaukee, we deplaned and our next plane was leaving from a gate only a few steps away. After a time zone heart palpitation, I realized we had an hour, so we walked around and had a snack. I gate checked the stroller through to St. Louis, boarded the plane, and kept the increasingly frustrated son occupied for the hour flight. The seatbelt sign was on the entire way due to weather that had already shut down Kansas City airport. I could see the bank of storm clouds rising above the fairly thick cloud deck and prayed we would make St. Louis in time. I also prayed that my daughter, who had not yet had a productive toilet experience, would not suddenly need to go in this bouncing ball of an airplane. Luckily she didn’t, and we landed amidst gusts and sleet in St. Louis. There was no stroller waiting for us, and it was not to appear. The baggage service person guessed that it hadn’t been loaded in Milwaukee.

As soon as we made it out of the secure gate area, my daughter rushed to my mom screaming, “Grandma, Grandma, Grandma.” The whole waiting area smiled, and my kids started their time with grandparent. For all the challenge of getting them to St. Louis, the transformation in my kids while they are here is magical. They truly take flight when we land.

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Blowing in the Wind

The other day as I tried to stretch out the kids’ bath, I sang to them. I often sing through the beginning of bath time when I am soloing the evening routine. I created a book of my favorite songs, and I just flip through it. Blowing in the Wind came up. I felt it spoke deeply to the recent tragedy in Connecticut.

How many roads most a man walk down
Before you call him a man ?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand ?
Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned ?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, how many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea ?
Yes, how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free ?
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see ?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky ?
Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry ?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died ?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

I am glad that I sing this and other songs to my kids. I hope it is one small piece of a better world.

As I write this on Wednesday night, I am packing us up for a flight to see my folks. We will be blowing in the wind with a layover in Milwaukee.  This is my first solo parenting flight with a stop and plane change. I am usually worn out by the direct flight. However, my son is older, so that might make things better. When we get there, I may be blown over by the wind.

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