Monday, February 20, 2017

This Land Was Made for You and Me: 2016 Herrington Family Roadtrip Adventure

As I said in a recent Weekly Happenings post, I wanted to share the details of our days on the road there, but I wanted to share some pictures and reflections in a separate post. As I also mentioned, the vast majority of this has already been shared on IG and Facebook, but I wanted it all here, too =)

The only two days of pictures from our real camera that turned out pretty were both from the days we were at the Cumberland Gap. Mammoth Cave was also really interesting, but none of the pictures I took really came out decent. It was so dark, and to be honest such a stressful situation, I couldn't get it to photograph well. The Blue Ridge Parkway was also GORGEOUS (there's an iPhone picture near the end that I adore) but we didn't stay as long as we had initially planned and by that point, it was the very end of the trip, and I think I was too exhausted to dig out the big camera.

We hit five national parks in five days, which I thought was a pretty adventurous exercise. We made it to the Natchez Trace Parkway, Mammoth Cave, Shenandoah, Cumberland Gap, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Even though it not new to us and even though it added several hours on to our trip up to Cookie and Conrad's we decided to take the Trace and enjoy all that our own beautiful state has to offer. We stopped at a couple of landmarks, which was especially fun since it brought back so many childhood memories of taking the Trace up to my grandmother's when I was Annie and Graves's age.

It was kind of a dreary day for day two of our hiking/camping/scenic driving trip but we had fun. We stayed with Cookie and Conrad at their new house in Nashville the night before and then visited Mammoth Cave in Kentucky! [This was at an overlook right before a guy stopped and told us about an escaped convict to be on the lookout for and we hightailed it out of there. Glad P and the big kids were back from their hike and Sallie and I weren't just chillin in the van.]

No filter. I didn't wear makeup in public (so weird for me) because I was so tired and it seemed sort of stupid for cave exploring. Peyton was ecstatic (he's so weird). And I slept horribly all night because he was taking up ninety percent of the bed and Sallie and I had about six inches to share. But she slept great, which is the most important. Those circles, though. I'm not sure they were that dark two days after she was born

Mammoth Cave was pretty amazing. I didn't get many good pictures and it was a bit nerve wracking with not much light; narrow, slippery passageways; super high, steep stairs; and you know, an infant. Also, the guide explained that the only way out was the way we came in and if there was a medical emergency there were no secret exits (none exist for crying babies on guided tours either).

Sallie did amazing on the tour (and was just a wonderful traveler overall). She fussed really bad on the bus ride over and several old people glared at me- I don't know if they were upset thinking she was about to ruin their tour or because I tried to nurse her a little. One lady was super sweet and asked me if I'd like her to hold up the blanket I had. Anyway, Peyton carried her this way (on her tummy, straddling his arm- at that point it was her absolute favorite when her tummy hurt) the whole forty five minutes and she actually fell asleep for a good bit of it. She's such a good sport with these adventures!

Cumberland Gap was our next park to explore! 

 These were looking out over the Cumberland Gap late one afternoon. It was just amazing to take in. It felt like looking at a painting to me.

 We went a little further up the mountain and a lot of the trees had started to change colors. 

This was my favorite thing we saw in my favorite park on the trip. It's so so simple, but this tree was literally the color of a grapefruit. It's hard to tell but I didn't filter it. I had never seen leaves that were pink and it's one of my favorite shades of pink, actually. I keep meaning to write more about this but I've gotten less worried about trying to figure out God's plan for my life but at the same time, I think I've grown to see His provision in the details even more over the last few years. Before the trip, I prayed several times that I wouldn't have one of those debilitating, throwing up, can't get out of bed headaches. I just didn't know how I could possibly deal with that on the trip, especially with trying to care for Sallie. I did have a few dull ones, but nothing terrible at all. And Sallie slept better in the parked van in her car seat than she does in her bed, which I was also super nervous about. One thing I didn't think about was my mental health, because overall it had been really under control. However the trip was bookended on each side by a couple of days of frightening irrational spiraling. On the trip, though, I had some of my best days. One could easily attribute it to anxiousness before the trip and fatigue after and my own willpower during, but I'm choosing to see it as God, in His gentleness, lightening my load so I could flourish and really soak up His creation. 

When it's forty degrees and she's camping with her fam, Sallie gets dressed in her cozy pink teddy bear suit with a onsie underneath and sleeps in her carseat with the straps loosened in the van. Peyton can say she's not an easy baby all he wants but I think she's so dreamy (pun not intended) and the PERFECT third child. And protip c/o my fabulous sister in law: when you're in a situation where you really don't want a blowout or a leaky diaper (like when you have one thing that's weather appropriate for your infant to wear to sleep in a cold vehicle) just use your cloth diaper cover over your regular disposable diapers. This was the first night we camped during the trip (we spent the first night at Cookie's and the second in a motel).

And this is what Bud started out in.  It's a 24 mo. so understandably the snaps kept popping open and he ended up in his underwear in Peyton's sleeping bag one night.

This was my set up the first night we camped. The second night we knew we were going to try to leave super early and didn't want to have to reinstall AP's booster so I just laid back the front seat as far as it'd go. Both were pretty comfy and I slept better than I did in the double beds with P the two nights in motels. I used to say that the "couch" in the front seat of my Buick was some of the most comfortable furniture we owned, and while I'm certainly glad to have a real bed, the van wasn't bad at all. 

Best camper ever! Little Sallie Sunshine STTN (12 hrs!!) excepting one wake up for a dirty diaper and a midnight snack! And she had so much fun hiking The Gap the next morning.

Hiking the Cumberland Gap with Little Sallie Sunshine!

Schoolhouse in the Suburbs on the road-- I loved talking to Annie about these animals and people who came through the Cumberland Gap before us!

A few more from our morning hike through the Gap!

Morning snuggles and a new Sallie Selfie. Love every one of her expressions!

We made it to the Shenandoah Valley that night but all the campsites and motels were full. We finally ended up getting the last room in the motel an hour away for less than a hundred dollars. I was pretty proud of myself because Peyton was just a ball of stress and I stayed calm (which is typically so the opposite for us) and even insisted we not cave and pay $200 for a mediocre motel half an hour away. And I was so proud of this guy who was calm, obedient, and a big help with his baby sister who just wanted to be held after a long drive. Also, she tickles, strokes, and grabs his face back now. These two were made for one another! 

Happy Little Sallie about as grateful as her momma for the Waffle House stop. Don't think I didn't eat every bit of my All Star Special (two eggs, hashbrowns, four pieces of toast, bacon, and a waffle).

Annie was a little complainy about the driving part of this trip (which, as I said, was a BIG part of this trip). I found the Magic Treehouse activity book I brought, though, and she worked through it with a headlamp for hours. P said something about how he felt bad we were going to have to drive back an hour to where we'd just been since everyone was so sick of the car. "Actually, the driving isn't bothering me anymore. I'm enjoying my activity book now", she told him.

Trying to stay caught up on school!

Sweet Peyton rarely misses an opportunity to help a stranger. This was somewhere on or around the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Such a pretty view of the Blue Ridge Mountains! This trip was full of unpredictable elements, as one would expect with things like this. Probably the biggest surprise to me, though, was that I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would and Peyton found it more difficult than he anticipated. One of my best friends and I talk about how she and I are like Doomsday Preppers but for life situations. Mick says I (and he) "awfulize and catastrophize". Basically, I can be a real pessimist (and though I've gotten better) I over think and let things P sees as simple become really daunting (and then scream at him that I'm pretty damn flexible to go a long with half of what I do). Sometimes it makes life miserable but sometimes it works to my benefit. Anyway, I shouldn't be surprised; this is how it often works out. (I still contend that I fell harder and loved deeper in regards to New York than he did.) He kept telling me that if I wanted to stay at a motel, just to say so. But another element of my personality is that I really, really like to prove things to myself and to him. That said, I was pretty relieved when he suggested camping one more night for the last time and just trying to get in a bit more hiking. And even more so when he said we should just find something interesting to do on the way and stay in a motel halfway. And even more so when he woke me up super early and said he and Annie thought we should just drive straight home and eat out twice on the way. It was a lot of fun, but was ready own bed!

Sallie gets dressed in baby toile to go hiking. She's such an enigma. Also, one of the few things (probably the only big thing) I wanted for this babykins was a standard Tula. P kind of pushed back (understandably- they're an investment) but I knew from wearing Graves when he was three in Brooklyn how amazing these carriers are and that I didn't want to try anything else. Peyton agreed we could get one if I agreed to try a big hiking/camping trip. I even let him help pick the pattern (Shenandoah, so perfect for us/her!) and he came around to offering a motel if the nights were rough for Sarah Lamar. I've come a long way in flexibility and he's come a long way in graciousness. We did end up in a motel two nights and camping two and surprisingly, Peyton got tired of snacking and wanted to go out to eat before I did. And he got peopled out by the children (not the baby!) before I did, too.

Fussy Little Sallie was not impressed at this point and crying unless she was holding her
momma's hand. But we decided to get up early (in Virginia) and drive the whole way home that day. She was such an amazing traveler and really exceeded my highest expectations for the trip.  

We texted Minnie this picture and told her we picked up a homeless person and the pictured child appeared so blond from the sunlight she didn't even recognize her own grandchild and called me alarmed and almost in tears. P said "Sarah Ann, if we had found a homeless SEVEN YEAR OLD we probably would have picked her up". And Minnie said " Yes, I know y'all would have". Love them both (and this little vagabond Peyton plopped in her car seat at six thirty this morning) so much. They all three keep my laughing.

Another picture of the best big brother ever taking care of Sallie at a pit stop on the trip. He and Annie are so different. A couple of weeks later AP told me "I tried to help Sallie while you were busy but finally I just said 'Graves, if you entertain her I'll get the Playmobil set up'". At least she gave it a shot. Ha!

Fortunately, we've made really good time on the trip home. I mean after that one time we stopped three times in one hour. We stopped for lunch and then we needed to fill up water bottles and I wanted to brush my teeth and wash my face and change out of the two pairs of pants I was wearing to sleep and into shorts since we had left the mountain crispness and were working our way back to our toasty in almost November Deep South homeland. And also organize the van which got a bit trashed during our abrupt sunrise campground departure. And THEN Sallie started losing it and so we stopped again and I nursed her and she had her second dirty diaper of the day. Which is super unusual for her as she typically potties every two to three days, it's the source of ninety percent of her screaming, and we occasionally have to give her a suppository for. BUT we had made it to Alabama. Or as Annie would say "a border state".

Because five national parks in five days wasn't enough, we stopped at a state park in Alabama. Our big kids did great on a really long drive today and fortunately, they had a playground, which was really what they cared about. It was $13 well spent and it actually seemed like a really neat place. We may well be back for a visit. Especially since it's only three hours away! 


File that under things I hope to live the rest of my life without ever hearing again. We we still experiencing the aftermath of Herrington Camping Adventure a few days later.

This trip taught me so much about myself, about my little family, and about life. It was an ordinary adventure in so many ways, but it was a very special one to me. I'm so glad we got to have so much time together and enjoy the beauty of our wonderful world! 

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