The 1 Minute Summary
Why on earth would you want to drive 2,400 miles across the country with two kids, two dogs and a small car full of camping and hiking gear? Because that’s what good stories and memories are made of. The time I have with my kids before they leave home is extremely short, so why not seed their future with stories that inspire them to create their own memories, even if the idea seems daunting and not easy.
How It All Started
I had been wanting to visit Glacier National Park ever since I got to see my first glacier in Patagonia. This past July, friends of mine graciously offered to let me, my kids and my dogs visit them at a home they were renting in Montana for the summer. I knew nothing about Montana but It was important to me to start traveling the US with the kids as a new tradition. I was in. It was only right before we were leaving that I found out that they were staying near Glacier National Park. Wow. Serendipity at it’s finest. What a gift!
As life would have it, I wasn’t able to prepare for the trip until the night before. I had no idea of the route and what we could see along the way. I figured, bring camping gear and clothes, the kids and the dogs, and head west. We would figure it out along the way. And that’s what we did.
The plan was to cover 800 miles a day and to make it to Montana in 3 days. I’ve driven to Ohio plenty and I knew how long it takes to cover that 500-mile trip. Rather than dwell on the distance, I just blissfully ignored the 12-15 hours a day in the car reality, with me as the only driver, and stayed positive about creating a family experience.
The Trip Out
Much to my surprise, the kids did GREAT. Luke was sick before the trip started and decided not to eat the first day. The second day after drinking some milk we had to do a pit stop somewhere in Kansas City for him to throw up. Also, Shadow, my little Australian Shepard pup had diarrhea. He literally kept his “poop” together in time for us to stop at various rustic rest areas along the way. What more could a mom ask for? They were hanging in there.
Rather than camp along the way, I decided to stay at La Quinta which allows dogs. If you have dogs, I will tell you they are so supportive and dog-friendly. My dogs were terrors in the hotel room. After 15 hours in a car, they wanted to run like crazy jumping on the beds and trying to make a race track in the tiny space. In the end, I had to tie them to the furniture to get them to stay somewhat still. It was a wee bit stressful on my part and it limited my sleep, but it was far better than camping and have them go crazy in a small 3 man tent. I was thankful! On the second night, I discovered that the La Quinta had a fenced in dog park and I was in heaven. I let the dogs off and let them run their crazy hearts out.
I will say that food was a challenge. The kids ate a lot of snacks from the gas station and we frequently ate Wendy’s and Chic fil a. With two dogs in tow, going into a restaurant was not in the cards. If I were to do it all over again, I would try to go grocery shopping for a stash of healthy snacks and keep a small cooler somewhere. Where, I’m not sure as the car was packed but well-fed kids make happy passengers so where there is a will…
On day two or three – it’s all a blur – we stopped at the Badlands. It was a great break in the long drive monotony and a warm up for the beauty of Glacier National Park. With dogs in tow and the hot weather, we just drove through the park and enjoyed the beauty.
Then we managed to squeeze in Rt Rushmore. I really just wanted to hit the hotel at this point but I’m so glad we made the stop – albeit quick.
I have to say the drive was a complete success. When we arrived at our friends it felt like I had just completed the longest race of my life. I told Leisha I would love a finishing banner and a race medal for completing this journey. She sent me a picture of a bottle of wine. That counts!
Would I do it again?
To give credit where credit is due, I was completely supported back home by my boyfriend Nik, who sent me directions, places to stay and places to visit as the trip progressed. Each evening we would work out how much more drive time I could tolerate and where that put us on the map. Then it was a hunt for the nearest La Quinta. When the kids fell asleep, I would put in some headphones and we would just talk so the hours passed.
It goes to show, as a single mom with some support you can do the unimaginable. You just have to be willing to go for it. 2,400 miles and a packed car with an 8 and 10-year-old could be a nightmare, or it could be an adventure. it’s just how you look at it… And yes, I’d do it again – with more snacks and hopefully a bigger car.