On traveling…with kids

Good morning everyone!  I managed to successfully pull through another workweek largely unscathed.  It will certainly be an interesting next week while I do my best to impart my rather limited knowledge on to others during a weeklong class I’m teaching.  Irregardless, now cometh the latest and greatest edition of the Diatribe!

Many years ago my friend over at the Drifter’s Dispatch blog and I became Ambassadors for Makers Mark whisky.  Oh now don’t think that means I have a palatial embassy in Kentucky and they fly us all over the world.  No, it means that we get a really cool Christmas present from them every year.  It also means that we got our names engraved on a barrel of whisky (there’s no “e” in whisky).

Now jump forward 6 years…I received my golden ticket to tour the distillery, dip my own bottles in that famous redhead wax, and buy a bottle or two out of “my” barrel since it was FINALLY done aging.  How could I refuse such an invitation?!  Keep in mind this is a family trip so there will be zero drunken debauchery while we are there.

The travel planning began in earnest.  I know I’m not telling you other travelling parents out there anything but I’m fairly certain that less planning was required to put a man on the moon.  We travel as a family…a lot!  Most of the time we travel by vehicle and that requires some diesel and a vague idea of where we are going.  This is our trademark style of seeing this great country: last minute plans, haphazardly packing a suitcase (either forgetting half our clothes or grossly over packing), and driving away from our little mountain oasis.

But this time it’s different.  The Boy only has a very brief window he’s out of school here in a few months so we have to fly.  Yay for a death-defying trek across Denver during morning rush hour on the giant parking lot known as I-70 just so I can park 26 miles from the terminal.  Then I get to complete a marathon across the scenic expanses of the parking lot dragging a stroller, every piece of luggage we could put something in, two children, and a car seat that keeps hitting me in the side of the damn leg every time I step.

“Well Dooley, why don’t you put the child into the stroller, hang your carry on off the stroller handles, and put as much in the bottom as you can thereby reducing the number of wandering children by half and making yourself feel like less of a Sherpa?,”  you may ask.  It’s simple really; because you never know when you’ll be ambushed by a shuttle bus and the panicked rush to load the whole lot onto the bus before he drives away is not worth my added stress.  Besides, I’ve timed it and almost without fail it is the same amount of time, or less, to just walk to the terminal dragging all of our gear.

I suppose it might be funny to watch me slowly losing my grip as the seconds tick by while we check in, get through security while trying to keep my modesty and dignity intact, and getting to the gate before our plane leaves.  Perhaps it would be funny if you were watching me from a distance and not actually travelling with me.  For those of you who don’t know me on a personal level, I’m actually a mellow guy.  Not much gets me worked up unless I’m at work or trying to simply get on a plane.  Apparently, I catch a whiff of Jet A fuel in the air as I near an airport and the calm and rational part of my brain gives way to the “Oh my god, move your butts, and LET’S GO!” part of my brain.

Bless my family’s hearts.  They just let me do my thing of being bossy and impatient, ignore my snide little comments about every step of the air travel process, and actually laugh hard when my ridiculousness gets out of hand.  They are probably the single reason I’m not on a list somewhere with TSA, FAA, or some other branch of the Federal alphabet soup.

Now, please don’t get me wrong.  DIA is a nice airport, most everyone we run into there is doing their best, and I don’t snap at employees.  I actually enjoy flying, but I have a deep seated need to work myself into a little tizzy before I park my backside in a seat on a jet with a picture of an animal on its tail.

We’ve had some fun times in airports across this great country.  Lord knows we’ve spent enough time in them waiting, and waiting, and waiting a little more.  A few of our favorites have been MCO in Orlando, PDX in Portland, and BKG in Branson, MO.  They are cool airports that have actually made a good effort in making their terminals places to relax and enjoy yourself in.  They are kid friendly and each offers some unique thing for the wee Dooley’s to do.

Then there’s the car rental issue.  Please understand that I’m a germ-phobe and being in a flying aluminum can with 200 disgusting other humans is about more than I can stand.  But cars?  I know what people do in their cars America!  I also know that they are even worse when they are in a rental car!  Regardless, after some deep breathing exercises, a little yoga on top of the rental counter, a spiritualistic cleansing of the car, and perhaps an exorcism; I am able to hop behind the wheel of all the luxury, class, and room that a $22 per-day car affords you.

If you will permit me I’ll share a story of one of our recent flying trips:  We had flown to Iowa for a wedding last summer.  Apparently my nickname is not Magellan because I decided to fly us into an airport halfway across the State from where the wedding was.  We picked up our car, which was thankfully rather zippy as you’ll see later, and did the tourist/family thing for a few days.

We were spending our last morning at Antique Archeology in Le Claire, IA (you know, that TV show American Pickers) when I finally decided to plug in driving directions to the Des Moines airport.  WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT’S 3 HOURS TO THE AIRPORT?!  OUR FLIGHT IS IN LESS THAN 4 HOURS!  I’ve heard this theory that as you approach the speed of light, time actually slows down.  Well I put this theory to the test but my lack of regard for posted speed limits came at a significant cost in fuel economy.  I anxiously watched as the fuel gauge slid towards “E” and the clock slid towards departure time.  The Muffin and I pondered the odds of us making it if we paused for a few gallons and decided to just roll the dice.

We had plenty of time to discuss to possibility of this being a poor gamble as we hit Des Moines about the same moment the little fuel light came on saying that we were on borrowed time.  Speaking of time, I think physicists are wrong.  We didn’t go back in time.  Perhaps it was because I hadn’t opted for the flux capacitor, that Doc Brown and Marty McFly discussed so much in their movies, as an option on our Delorean (AKA a Malibu).

We pulled into our parking space at the rental return as the car sputtered and died.  Yup, we coasted into our space.  We moved like lightning.  The Muffin had the Boo-Bear tucked under an arm like she was carrying a football into the end zone and a purse swinging wildly off her other arm, I looked like the little dog pulling the Grinch’s loaded sled in whatever Dr. Seuss movie that was, and The Boy was doing his best to keep up.  I hit the front door of the airport, cut in line, tossed the keys and whatever paperwork I could find at the agent behind the desk, and then came to the nemesis of all air travelers in a time crunch: passenger screening.  Less than 15 minutes now until departure…

But wait!  Not all is lost!  We are travelling with children!  We hit the family line, threw all of our junk into one of those little unsanitary bins, and blew right through the checkpoint.  No time to put your shoes back on, LET’S MOVE!

Somehow we made it to our gate as they were loading and made a safe return to the mountains.  We seem to almost always get lucky like that (knocking on wood as I type).

I fully understand, and appreciate, how blessed we are to have children who love travelling and travel very well.  We’ve been through violent storms, blizzards, come across nasty wrecks, tornados, left several times in the middle of the night for a family emergency, and all that the road can throw at us only come out on the other side with a new story to tell.  The Boy, at the ripe old age of 9, has nearly 300,000 miles of car travel alone under his belt.  He’s played in two oceans, walked the shores of the Mississippi, and had thousands of adventures in dozens of states.  The Boo-Bear is seeing the country, one state at a time, through her window from a car seat and is loving it!

So here’s to hoping that our trip to Kentucky goes a little less dramatically than Iowa did!

Please share your travel adventures with us!  We’d love to hear about them!  Don’t forget to like our Facebook page for photos, or on Twitter @DooleyDiatribe for updates.

 

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