Thursday, July 24, 2008

Travelling Man

Well #*$& me, we made it.  I'm sitting at GG's house in New Jersey, and the girls are about to go to bed.  Everyone is alive, sane, and not much worse for the wear. 

Our plans were dramatically altered, though, along the way.  On Wednesday morning we left Nashville at about 7:30am (Central) and headed east - stopping outside Knoxville for a snack, and then just inside Virginia for lunch.  We were really cruising, despite having to pull over for about 10 minutes due to the horrific thunderstorm that washed through western Virginia.  We stopped in Staunton, VA at Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant for dinner (for future reference, order the cherry pie, warmed, with ice cream.  Holy crap.  I might insist on stopping there on the way home).

At this point, we made a fateful decision.  The girls were doing great, and we asked whether they'd like to wear their PJ's in the car and drive to GG's that night.  Now, of course they had no idea what they really were getting into, but Kirstin and I were feeling saucy.   So we loaded up and pushed north into the night.  90 minutes after dinner we were in West Virginia, 20 minutes after that we hit Maryland, and 10 minutes later were in Pennsylvania cruising to Harrisburg.   There we stopped for gas, a driver change, and a caffeine/sugar fix.  I drew the last shift and we rumbled from Harrisburg to Plainfied, NJ in one big shot with the girls sleeping in positions so contorted they might need to be checked for swayback. 

But we did it.  We got in at about 12:30am (Eastern), and GG was kind enough to have the beds ready and the girls went down without too much protest.  This morning she was also kind enough to handle most of the breakfast duties, while I slept to close to 11.  Still tired, though.   We did a solid 17 hours in the car in one day.  Yes, we're that stupid.

For those of you scoring at home, here's the rundown of the trip:

Basic route - State highway 59 north from Houston to Texarkana, AK.  Catch I-30 east to Little Rock and then I-40 through Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville until you hit I-81 is eastern Tennessee.  I-81 takes you up the Shenendoah Valley in Virginia and cuts through West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.  Outside of Harrisburg you get I-78 east and follow that into New Jersey.

Tolls paid - Zero.  But only because you don't pay to enter New Jersey, only to leave (which seems to say something about the Garden State).

Mileage - 1657 or thereabouts.

Clock time - 8:30am Central on Monday from Houston to 12:30am Eastern on Thursday morning in New Jersey.  63 hours if I'm counting right.

Movies - Various Barbie movies, Peter Pan, Cars, Aladdin, and a bunch of Dora, Angelina Ballerina, and Max and Ruby videos.

Food - We packed enough to get through most snacks and lunches on our own.  Only one McDonald's trip (which for me on a car trip is a shocking display of restraint).   Only broke into the chocolate once - and that was when I was alternating Coke and mini-Hershey's to stay awake the last night.

Best Scenery - there really wasn't anyplace ugly on our drive, but eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia are really just awesome.  Mountains in the distance, deep valleys by the sides of the roads, and unpopulated enough that you feel out in the wilderness - except of course for the exceptionally well engineered four lanes of man-made concrete highway slicing through all this nature.  And the porn shops - apparently porn retailers are also big fans of the outdoors, an interesting intersection of interests.

Best food - see above for Mrs. Rowe's pie.

Pools - the airport Holiday Inn in Little Rock isn't bad - it's good for kids, as its only 4 feet deep.  The Nashville Marriott has a nice rooftop one, and a whirlpool (and that feels darn good on cramped legs after two days of driving).

Meltdowns - maybe one?  I'd even hesitate to call it a meltdown - Maddie was exhausted and itching to assert her dominance of the pack.  But no one cried in the car or even complained much about tired butts.

Unscheduled poop breaks - One.  Thank you, Abigail.

Overall Score:  95/100.   The trip loses 5 points for making us finish the drive in a pretty heavy rainstorm in PA and NJ.  Nothing like passing semi's doing 75 when you can't see.

I shall now commence the heavy beer drinking.  Cheers!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Road blog

It has begun.  The great Northeastern Vollrath Family Trip-o-palooza 2008 is underway.  

Stage 1 - Houston to Lufkin, TX - watch Peter Pan, eat animal crackers and some grapes.
Stage 2 - Lufkin to Marshall, TX - watch Ratatouille, eat cheese sticks, crackers, carrots, and some oatmeal cookies. 
Stage 3 - Marshall to a rest stop west of Arkadelphia, AK - play Nick Jr. DVD Bingo, eat some kind of honey pretzel stick things and drink juice.
Stage 4 - Rest stop to Little Rock, AK - watch Cinderella, manage to survive 1 hour and 30 minutes without any caloric intake.

Luckily, we have approximately 30 different DVDs left - so we're good there.  If it were possible to just hook Abby and Maddie up to some kind of cracker/juice/cookie IV drip, we'd be all set.  I understand that when you're bored in the car, you snack.  But it's like they're diabetic and in some kind of blood sugar crash. 

Today went surprisingly well - limited sniffling over anything, and enough crap-tastic dollar store specials to keep everyone interested. 

I think the big problem will be telling them that we've got to do this again - 3 more times.  More sugar, stat.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I'm alive

The Vollrath family July travel extravaganza is well underway.  July 2nd through July 8th we were in Wisconsin for the Zimmermann family reunion.  I just got back from Boston on Saturday from a quick two day trip for a conference - I'm back in Boston this week for another quick conference.  Then on July 21st the Bataan Death march of our road trip begins: Houston to Little Rock, Little Rock to Nashville, Nashville to Roanoke, Roanoke to New Jersey.   A few quick thoughts so far:

1) It turns out that Abby is the Cow Whisperer.  We spent most of two days on the farm during the reunion, and Abby could not get enough of the animals.  She fed cows, holding the grass right up to their faces and letting them grab it out of her hands.  She never got scared, and just laughed when they licked her arm.  (This is more impressive that it sounds - imagine being licked by a wet piece of coarse grit sandpaper the size of my forearm.)
2) Pleading ignorance of where you are can get you out of a speeding ticket in Weston, WI.
3) Although things change, enough is the same in Wisconsin that I could still drive around blindfolded.
4) If you get to Madison, try the Contorter Porter.  Tasty.
5) Landing in an airplane with some kind of sinus infection sucks.  Your ears just clog up from the pressure and never actually pop.  I've been half-deaf for a week and a half.
6) Kirstin thought central Wisconsin was really pretty.  It is.  Someday we'll go back in January and re-evaluate.
7) The great hope for our long car trip is that we made it through the Wisconsin trip (which involved four different two hour drives) without any major meltdowns in the car.  In the hotel room, another story.
8) I have a crap-load of relatives - mainly because they refuse to die.  The reunion is for the family of Herbert and Esther Zimmermann (my great grandparents).  Of their 7 kids, only one (my grandfather Harold) has died, and that was in an accident.  These seven Big Zimms had roughly 25 kids (including my mom), and I can't tell you how many kids these cousins have (but it includes me).   We're now kicking out the next generation (Abby and Madeline), so the reunion saw 4 generations all in the same spot.  People are worried that at the next reunion (in 5 years) we will have lost some of the Big Zimms, but I'll put $20 down on the fact that all 6 remaining ones are alive in 2013.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


This will blow your mind, it's some new technique for screwing with the timing of a video's refresh.

Chronotopic Anamorphosis from Marginalia Project on Vimeo.