Spring Break Road Trippin’ Day 8: Journey Home

Today was the last day of our fun Spring Break road trip. We played with our friends, then headed home. Of course, it rained. It ALWAYS rains on the final day of our road trip. It rained on the last day of our Colorado trip, our New Orleans trip, our Route 66 trip. Every single time.

But no rain can stop us! We pulled over and splashed in puddles (just for a few minutes, though, it was COLD!), and we played with neon glow sticks that Jenny brought along. The kiddos also decided that they needed to light saber fight with their shoes. Yes, their shoes. Gotta love kids!

Reviews: Do you really want to read a review of McDonald’s somewhere in the middle of Arkansas? Don’t hate on McDonald’s, either, they have Batman & Superman toys. Those toys alone saved the last 3 hours of our trip. Thanks McDonalds!

Conversations:

Ava: “What if we didn’t have a cooler? And every store we went to didn’t have any coolers? We would have to bring our fridge!”

Lia: “Somebody broke me.”

Lia: “Mommy, I’m a mess.”

Ava: “How come they call it Burger King? Maybe ’cause they have crowns.”

Ava: “Where did my bracelet go? Oh, it’s on my wrist.”

If you enjoyed following our road trip, and are scared, nervous, or have no clue about how to plan an enjoyable road trip with your kiddos, we have you covered. Check out our awesome Road Trip planner!

The official map of the 2011 Spring Break Road Trip.

Our spring break road trip route.

Boy jumping on a hotel bed.

Max didn’t participate in the splashing, and it was so cold & windy that Ava & Lia didn’t do much splashing, either. I (josh) killed it though 🙂

Girl splashing in the water.Mom and daughter splashing in the water puddles.Man jumping in puddles.Man jumping in puddles.Girl with neon bracelets on.Kids sword fighting with neon glow sticks.Toddler being silly with a glow stick.Toddler snuggling her blanket in the car.Kids playing in a car.

Spring Break Road Trippin’ – Day 7

We got up early this morning (thanks to switching back into the Central time zone), and attempted to get on the road quickly. It still took us awhile, but at least we made it out of there before 9 am.

We headed right out of Birmingham and toward Memphis. It was a nice long drive, but thankfully (and surprisingly!), the kids were in a good mood. They started getting a little grumpy, so I got out the markers and googly eyes and we drew puppets on our hands and had a fun with that. Then I taught Max & Ava how to play thumb wars. It’s always fun to come up with games to play in the car. The silliest things get them to laugh, and laughter puts everyone in a good mood!

About that time, we finally made it into Memphis and headed to Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. We must have had bad timing, because we had to wait about 45 minutes to get seated and another hour to get our food. Man, oh man, was it good chicken though! I’m sad we didn’t order a bigger meal, because we finished every bite.

Our next stop was Trolley Stop Market (farmer owned, farmer operated), where we intended to get some down home Southern dessert (read: homemade fruit cobbler). Bummer for us, all the fruit is out of season. So we ended up with a pizza and chocolate chip cookies. They make everything from scratch using all local and homegrown ingredients. The food was awesome!

After our second lunch, we proceeded straight to Graceland, where we intended to buy some cheesy Elvis props to use for some fun pictures. Because we were clueless, we thought we had to park in the Graceland parking lot. So, we ended up paying $10 for parking just to go to the gift shops. It turns out that the gift shops at Graceland do not have ANY good cheesy props. We were pretty bummed, but then we saw another gift shop across the street. It was totally a tacky souvenir shop… Just what we were looking for! We picked up some Elvis sunglasses and had fun taking goofy pictures with them. We were looking for a wig, too, but the ones we found were horrendous, not even worth the wasted money we would have spent on them.

After Graceland, we hopped on I-40 West toward Little Rock, AR, where some of our good friends now live. When we got to Little Rock, we met up with them at a TCBY’s and all the kids went crazy. It was super late (it was about 8:15 pm when we got there) and they were all SO tired, but they ran around like wild little kids for about an hour before we headed to our hotel for the night.

Tomorrow, we’re meeting our friends in the morning before making the long trek back to Kansas City. I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed tomorrow night!

Reviews:
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken – 5 stars – Even though the wait really sucked (we waited about 2 hours total), the chicken was fabulous. It’s definitely the best fried chicken I’ve EVER had. It was so good, we literally ate every single bite. I was sad that we only ordered a small meal. I figured the kids wouldn’t eat it, since I had read that it was a bit spicy. It was spicy, but the girls loved it. We got a 3 piece meal with beans and fries and split it. The baked beans were great, but the girls ate most of them. And the fries. But, man, that chicken was good! We waited about 45 minutes to get seated and then another hour after that for our food to come. I don’t know if they messed up our order or what, but it didn’t seem like it should have taken that long. Slow service or not, we’ll definitely come back next time we’re in Memphis (but we’ll call in our order ahead of time!).

Trolley Stop Market – 4 stars – We originally planned to stop in here for dessert, but it was out of season. We ended up with a pizza and chocolate chip cookies, both of which were awesome. The place itself was pretty cool and very hippie/eco-friendly/organic, which I liked. Note: Josh is really a hippie.

Graceland gift shops – 2 stars – We didn’t tour Graceland or anything, but we did visit the gift shops looking for some cheesy souvenirs. We found none. And, they have like 10 gift shops, and they all have practically the same thing. No fun!

Rodeway Inn, Little Rock, AR – 4 stars – No complaints here. We got a room with two beds, a microwave, a mini fridge, free wifi, and free breakfast in the morning.

Things I learned today:
1. It takes a long time to pack up stuff for 5 people every morning, even when I’m hurrying.

2. It’s inevitable that we will leave something behind on every trip. This time, Max left his water cup (the nice Thermos one) at the hotel. We didn’t figure it out until we got to our hotel tonight.

3. If a local restaurant has ‘world famous’ in it’s name, plus it has almost 200 reviews on Trip Advisor with an average rating of 4.5 stars, you should probably save yourself some time and just call in your order.

4. You should NEVER split a meal with someone when that meal is world famous fried chicken.

5. You don’t have to pay for parking at Graceland if you are just going to the gift shops. You can park for free by the satellite gift shops and walk to the others.

Favorite quotes/conversations:

Max “if we got how many cookies for how old we all are, we would need 70 cookies.”
Me “well, daddy’s 30 and I’m 28. That’s 58. Lia’s 2, Ava’s 4, and you’re 6. So, yeah, that’s 70. How did you do that?!”
Max “I just did.”

Max “mom the tv doesn’t work.”
Lia “we need to put some batteries in it.”
Max “Lia, the tv doesn’t take batteries!”
Lia “Put some money in it.”

Ava “Mom! 3 and 3 make 6 AND 4 and 4 make 6.”
Me “4 and 4 don’t make 6. Try again.”
Ava “8!”

Ava “if we kept going straight and then turned we would fall off the road.”

Max “Mom, I think I know why all the Holiday Inn’s are Holiday Inn Selects.”
Me “Why?”
Max “It’s because they have breakfast.”

If you’ve read this far, you obviously LOVE road trips as much as we do. You should check out our awesome road trip guide, complete with surprise adventures!

Mom tickling her daughter in the car.Kids making angry eyes at each other.Siblings playing thumb wars.Kids laughing in the back seat.Kids making silly faces in the car.Mom playing thumb wars with her son.Mom playing thumb wars with her daughter.Hand monster entertaining a littler girl.Hand monster entertaining toddler.Toddler with mustache on her finger.Girl making a silly mustache face with her finger.Toddler with a fun hand monster.Gus World Famous Fried Chicken restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee.Dad with lightsabers.Mom snuggling toddler.Gus World Famous fried chicken menu.Girl giving her little sister a kiss.Son tickling his dad.Toddler resting in a restaurant.Gus World Famous Fried chicken.Trolley Stop Market in Memphis, TN.Toddler being silly.Kids posing with Elvis cardboard cutout.Girl with Elvis glasses on in front of a vintage car at Graceland.Boy with Elvis glasses on in front of a vintage car at Graceland.Toddler with Elvis glasses on in front of a vintage car at Graceland.Toddler with Elvis glasses on in front of a vintage car at Graceland.Woman with Elvis glasses on in front of a vintage car at Graceland.Dad with Elvis glasses on in front of a vintage car at Graceland.

Spring Break Road Trippin’ – Day 6

We got a late start once again this morning, then we wasted well over 30 minutes driving around looking for a good donut shop. We were unsuccessful, so we finally headed to the Tennessee Aquarium. Their credit card ticket machines were not working, so there was a super long line to buy tickets. It was one of those days where you could easily throw in the towel, but we pressed on.

Once we finally bought our tickets, we headed into the River Journey first. It was inside a HUGE building. There were four floors of animals to look at, including alligators, sea otters, a butterfly room, and of course, tons of fish. We spent well over an hour touring the whole place.

Once we finished up the River Journey, we headed to the Ocean Journey. The big draws in this building were the sharks, turtles, and penguins. The Ocean Journey was also a huge exhibit, which took us well over an hour to tour. Lia even tried to hug the penguins (unsuccessfully). Overall, the aquarium was awesome and the kids had a blast!

After the aquarium, we FINALLY found a donut place. Thanks to twitter, @BusinessChatt sent us a link to Julie Darling Donuts, the most amazing donut place EVER and it just so happened to be down the street from the aquarium. Score! (AND! we were even featured in a blog post about twitter today because of it: http://mmlabs.biz/2011/03/case-study-how-twitter-drives-customers-to-your-location/)

After donuts, we were trying to decide if we had time to do Rock City or not. The kids were being SUPER whiny, so we almost skipped it. In the end, we decided to do it. So we headed there and paid our admission. Since today was St. Patty’s Day, they were actually having a discount on tickets, so we saved some money on admission.

I had heard conflicting reviews of Rock City, but we decided it was worth a shot. We got inside and headed down toward the first trail area. We weren’t there more than 5 minutes, when Lia fell right off a little ledge, right onto her head. That kid has something about falling on her head, because this isn’t the first time. She got a huge goose egg on her forehead, so I ran her up to the first aid area. Major parenting fail on our part 🙁

After she got all fixed up, we headed back down to the trail, MUCH more cautiously the second time around. We spent about an hour and a half walking through the different trails and enjoying the awesome views. Max decided that the viewer thingies were Star Wars weapons of some sort and started destroying cities. People think we’re crazy, guaranteed. I’m definitely glad we found time to visit Rock City, though I wish poor little Lia could have left without a battle scar.

After Rock City, we grabbed a quick dinner and a started driving toward Birmingham, Alabama. At first, we were just driving down I-59 South. Then we decided to see if there were any scenic routes we could drive on instead. We found a great stretch of road through the DeSoto State Park. We hopped on that scenic route for about an hour until the sun went down.

After dark, we headed back to I-59, and it seemed that we somehow backtracked. After that, we continued our drive toward Birmingham, through the lovely construction. I tried desperately to book a hotel through Priceline to no avail. Eventually, I got frustrated and tried the Choice Hotels app instead. I found a hotel, but didn’t book it through the app because I was able to get a cheaper rate just by walking in.

We eventually made it to Birmingham, albeit very late! We got checked into our room, the kids went crazy jumping on the beds, and we finally got everyone settled and down for bed. Tomorrow, we’re headed toward Little Rock, AR through Memphis, TN. Hope the kids aren’t too grumpy!

Reviews:
Tennessee Aquarium – 5 stars! – This place was awesome! We’d only heard great things about the aquarium, and it did not disappoint! This is a must-see if you are traveling anywhere near Chattanooga. There were two huge buildings full of stuff to see AND they were definitely set up with kids in mind. There were tons of ledges for kids to climb on so they could see. They also had workers stationed in different areas to answer questions or direct attention to something cool (like the baby fish that were just born today!). The kids were absolutely thrilled! Word of advice: the gift shop in the River Journey is way better than the gift shop in the Ocean Journey (Josh says: But the Ocean Journey gift shop had paintings done by penguins!). We actually bought a one year membership (was $115 for a year versus $80 for one trip), because we are hoping to stop in again in August on our way to D.C.

Julie Darling Donuts – 5 stars – The donuts were amazing! And the donut holes were still fresh and super yummy when Josh and I ate them tonight. We love getting donuts from mom and pop stores versus the Krispy Kremes and Dunkin Donuts of the world. We’ll definitely be going there again next time we are in Chatanooga!

Rock City – 4 stars – Despite our nervousness about this place (due to conflicting reviews) and the fact that Lia did a header onto the concrete and got a giant bump on her head, we really enjoyed it. The rock formations were awesome, as were the views, especially from Lover’s Leap. They say you can see seven states from there. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, but good luck proving otherwise! I will say, there were some parts that were pretty weird. They had a couple of caverns done up with black lights, gnomes, and kitschy renditions of old school fairy tales. The kids rather enjoyed that part, but I honestly thought the whole place was cool enough that they could have done without weirdness. Either way, it was a cool place! I think it’s probably a little overpriced at almost $20 per adult and over $10 per kid, but still very fun.

EconoLodge, Birmingham, AL – 4 stars – We got a ground level floor with two beds, a microwave, mini fridge, etc. It’s nice enough, clean, quiet, and there’s free breakfast in the morning. The internet, on the other hand, is pretty slow.

Things I learned today:
1. There are a ton of donut places in Chattanooga, however, most of them don’t exist anymore, even though the GPS still thinks they do.

2. Chattanooga is actually still in the Eastern Time Zone, though the iPhones never quite got that right. Both of our iPhones kept switching back and forth between time zones most of the day.

3. Hand puppets can totally turn super grumpy, whining, crying, fussing kids into giggly happy kids. Especially if said hand puppets are not making their correct animal sounds.

4. I think I’m failing as a parent. At Rock City, they had tons of fairytale setups (you know, like Hansel & Gretel and the old woman who lived in the shoe. My kids have NO idea about any of these fairytales. I always thought they were pretty weird and creepy, but now I’m wondering if anyone still reads these to kids…

Favorite quotes/conversations:

Lia “Mom, I don’t want the sun to look at me.”

Max “Mom, someday I want to have a river otter as a pet.”
Me “I don’t think river otters make good pets.”
Max “Why not?”
Me “Well, we don’t have a river in our backyard.”
Max “Well, we could buy one.”

Me “You guys better eat that macaroni and cheese.”
Max “I kinda don’t like it, but I do like it.”
Me “What does that even mean?”

Max “Is Washington D.C. the next country in this country?”
Me “what?”
Max “I mean, is it the next state?”
Me “It’s actually the capital of the United States. It’s where President Obama lives.”
Max “oh.”

Ava “Hey mom, I have ketchup on my foot.”

Toddler looking at fish at Tennessee Aquarium.Kids looking at fish in Chattanooga at the aquarium.Girl touching stingray.Little girl touching stingrays.Two alligators sitting on top of each other.Kids looking at Beluga Sturgeon Fish.Toddler trying to hug penguin at Tennessee Aquarium.Girl watching penguins swim at the aquarium.Brother and sister watching shark swim by at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga Tennessee.One of a kind artwork painted by penguins.Julie Darling Donuts in Chattanooga Tennessee... yum!The Grand Corridor at Rock City.Kids watching Dr. Seuss on the iPhone.Kids in cavern at Rock City on Lookout Mountain in Tennessee.Girl on swing bridge at Rock City.Boy looking out over Lover's Leap.Boy using binoculars as fake gun.Gorgeous flowering tree in Tennessee.Kids posing in a 'See Rock City' barn photo prop.Girl standing at top of Fatman's Squeeze in Rock City.Lover's Leap at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.Mom holding up giant boulder with one finger.Dad tickling daughter.Kids playing with Baby Einstein hand puppets in backseat of Dodge Grand Caravan on a family road trip.Borther and sister playing with hand puppets.Girl with dog puppet.Boy wearing Burger King crown and holding lightsaber.Boy smiling at DeSoto State Park.Kids lightsaber fighting at DeSoto State Park.Toddler using The Force on her older brother.Kids playing with lightsabers.Little girl using The Force at DeSoto State Park.Toddler girl with band-aid and lightsaber.Girl holding custom lightsaber from Disney World.