We are road-tripping this week. Driving from home to Baltimore then West Virginia then Pennsylvania then West Virginia then home. I enjoy a good road trip and I haven’t had one in a while.
Here’s the thing. Road-tripping with children is a whole new adventure. Especially when one of them is still not 100% potty trained. But the interstate system is usually pretty good about having rest stops along the way.
That is, until now.
Apparently, Virginia decided to close many of its rest stops to save money. I’m all for saving money, but this time, it comes at the expense of my children’s bladders and their need to stretch out their legs. Also, it doesn’t seem to make sense to close them during the summer when there tends to be more people driving on vacations and such. The ones that are still open are roughly two hours apart.
Sure, I could stop at McDonalds, but then I have to explain to the kids, “no, we’re just using the bathroom and this one doesn’t have a playland so we can’t stay.” Try getting a 3 year old to understand that. Ain’t happenin’. And I’m not stopping at every exit with a McDonald’s sign to see if it has the playland. I’ll never get to my destination!
I could stop at a convenient store, but I’m not often a fan of their not-so-clean bathrooms. Yesterday, I got lucky. I had to get gas, too, and I just so happened to stop at one of those stores that also has a Subway inside. The bathroom was large and fairly clean.
Other times, convenient stores and kids don’t really get along. There’s all that food – candy, cookies, donuts, chips – within reach of the children so I have to quickly usher them down the aisles past all that tempting food (it’s tempting to me, too, ya know!). Sometimes the bathrooms are cramped and dirty enough that you stand there at the door, trying to figure out if there’s a way to hover your way in without even your shoes touching the sticky, toilet-paper littered floor. And don’t get me started on bringing in a curious 3 year old who likes to explore everything with his hands. Blech!
I do realize that over the years, with interstate towns growing around just about every exit, there are many more options for stopping for things like bathrooms and stretching the legs than just a rest stop. But for me, I prefer the rest stop. Generally, the bathrooms are large and clean, there are picnic tables for eating lunch (I usually pack lunch in an effort to save money and keep from eating too much junk food) and an open area for the kids to race. Nothing like a little friendly competition between siblings to burn some energy while on the road. You can’t find that “open space” around a convenient store, unless I let the kids run willy-nilly through the parking lot, which I’m not willing to do.
Now, having said all of that, because I couldn’t stop at a rest stop when Monkey was complaining about needing to stretch her legs, I took an exit that had a “tourist center” sign and discovered a frontier museum in Virginia. While we didn’t have time yesterday to stay for the museum, I will be planning to break up our trip home with a stop there. There’s plenty of walking around for the kids to stretch their legs, they have tables for lunch and/or snacking and the children will get to learn something about farms in other countries and in America from around the 1700’s and 1800’s.
I would never have found this interesting bit of history right off the interstate if it hadn’t been for the closed rest stops. And isn’t the point of a true road trip to make little side trips and adventures along the way, especially for the kids?
I love a good road trip.