Labor Day Weekend in San Antonio

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Spending a day in San Antonio is something we’ve been planning to do since we moved to Austin, so we decided to make it happen over Labor Day weekend.

Spoiler alert: that may not have been one of our wisest decisions.

My sister, a San Antonio native (practically), was our tour guide for the day and suggested brunch at The Guenther House… which had a 1:45 wait. Not really feasible with a three-year-old. So we tried nearby Liberty Bar… which also had a wait longer than Nora could handle. We ended up at Stella Public House, and it did not disappoint.

Prosciutto, arugula, fried egg

You really can’t go wrong with a fried egg on top of anything. It was especially tasty on this savory, salty prosciutto, arugula and burrata pizza. Honestly, they had me at “burrata.” Okay, and “prosciutto.” It was so yummy. Nora was quite content with her chocolate chip Nutella pancakes, too.

Nutella chocolate chippers
“Have Ninja Turtle cup; will travel.”

And Joan, with her mimosa flight. I’m 100% certain that this is the only brunch I’ve ever attended with a mimosa flight. How has no other restaurant thought of this? Genius!

Mimosa flight

Walking back to the car after brunch, we passed so many quaint homes, beautifully manicured lawns and picturesque streets; admittedly, not what comes to mind when I think of San Antonio. The fact that we had to park a ways away from the restaurant was okay because we got to take it all in.

San Antonio

No shortage of crepe myrtles!

Crepe myrtles for days

Our post-brunch plan was to hit the infamous Riverwalk and take Nora on a gondola ride and a trolley ride, and go by the Alamo. KP had never been to downtown San Antonio so the tourist spots were a must.

We missed our queue when every single parking garage and lot near the Riverwalk was full. We persisted and parked a decent walk away from the Riverwalk, still intent on taking Nora on a gondola ride. Because, when you tell a three-year-old you’re going to do something, you damn well better do it!

Nope. We didn’t do it. We didn’t do the gondola. We didn’t do the trolley. The lines were beyond. Apparently everyone thought the Riverwalk was a grand idea for Labor Day weekend. Nora rebounded better than I anticipated. Maybe she, too, was secretly looking for an escape in the AC, gondola ride or not.

Riverwalk

Walking to the Alamo, it started to get downright comical. Thanks to endless construction downtown, there were multiple detours on our path to the Alamo. But we made it!

Remember the Alamo

Granted, this is as close as we made it, but it appeased the history buff in the family. (I am not the history buff. I know, you’re surprised. In fact, upon arriving at the Alamo I said, “This is bad, but I don’t even know the details as to why the Alamo is significant.” Don’t worry; KP filled me in on the spot.)

We ended our day hot, sweaty and tired (and hot and sweaty). So, it was almost like we saw all the sights, anyway!

6 Must-Haves for a Road Trip With Your Toddler

I vividly remember summer road trips when I was a kid. The first one I can recall was when I was four years old. My mom and grandma drove my two sisters and me to visit our great-aunt in Miami, Florida. It was just a wee 18-hour drive from Illinois, which was thankfully spread across two days. My two sisters and I piled into the backseat of Mom’s Ford Granada and had to keep ourselves busy. One vacation treat we always got was a new Barbie doll, but of course the novelty quickly wore off. So we would color in Barbie coloring books, play travel Connect Four, play a version of I spy, catalog other cars’ license plates in hopes of seeing one from each of the 50 states and gesture at truckers to get them to honk their horns.

I like to think Nora will do some of those same things on our road trips in years to come. We already attempted I spy on our last road trip, and that lasted for about three minutes. Luckily I had plenty of other ways for her to pass the time in my arsenal of Mom goodies.

Before we take a road trip with Nora, I pack up one reusable shopping bag full of stuff that I think might entertain her for some period of time. A trip down the dollar aisle at Target is a great place to find cheap things for road trips, but a lot of those items are geared towards older kids, and Nora’s only two. On our recent 14-hour road trip to Illinois, I was very thankful to have packed these six road trip must-haves in my Mom bag:

  1. Crayola’s Color Wonder Color & Go set is recommended for ages three and up, but Nora did just fine with it. If you’re unfamiliar with Color Wonder, the magic is that the markers only color on Color Wonder paper. So no biggie if the uncapped marker falls on the car seat, or your child is like Nora and likes to color all over herself/himself. The yellow case is perfect for travel, as it fits perfectly on little laps and has two clips to hold the paper in place.
  2. The iPad is reserved for long road trips, otherwise Nora would want to watch The Wiggles every time we drove to the grocery store. We make sure it’s loaded with plenty of videos — namely, The Wiggles and Sesame Street — and fully charged, then we pop it into this iPad headrest mount holder. Although the holder is designed to be mounted on the back of the front seat headrest, we used to jimmy it on the backseat headrest when Nora was still facing backwards in her infant car seat.
  3. Find the least offensive children’s music that you’ll be able to stomach for hours on end, and load up the iPod with tunes. Do yourself a favor and steer clear of Nora’s current favorite, Music Together’s Triangle Song Collection. Surprisingly, there is some children’s music out there that doesn’t make me want to jab my eyes out with a hot poker.
  4. … and when your kiddo’s tunes are just too much for you to take any longer without steering the car right off the road, pop these Kidz Gear headphones on her/his little head and enjoy the silence, or your own tunes. I found them at Target and we just used them for the first time. KP was skeptical but Nora thought she was pretty cool. Plus, there’s a volume control switch so you don’t have to worry about your child going deaf.
  5. It seems like a no-brainer to pack snacks, but I’m always surprised at the parents I see on airplanes who haven’t packed snacks for their kids. We try to be healthy, but rules get bent greatly for road trips. Nora is partial to these Earth’s Best Sunny Days Snack Bars.
  6. Stickers are the ultimate two-year-old treat, I’m learning. And they’re harmless, mostly. We learned that the stickers from Nora’s Sesame Street coloring book could essentially double as duct tape. We learned this after she covered her legs with them.
Do not try this at home, kids.
Do not try this at home, kids.

You don’t have to do or buy anything elaborate to keep your toddler entertained while on the road. Have options so that she/he can mix it up every so often, and if all else fails, a stop to stretch the legs and breathe some fresh air always seems to help everyone in the car.

Wine from Fezziwig’s Tea & Gourmet Market

We took a road trip this past weekend to visit my parents in Southern Illinois. It’s always a nice getaway from Chicago — because it’s nothing like Chicago. No tall buildings, no crazy traffic, no unending noise and congestion. You know I love Chicago, but an escape every now and then is necessary. And, since the forecast at my parents’ called for 70 degrees on Friday, I couldn’t get there quickly enough.

My parents still live in the small town that I grew up in, about 40 minutes east of downtown St. Louis. Dotting the area are a number of similar small towns, most of which are farming communities. Some have cute little downtown areas with shops and restaurants. Just a few minutes from my parents’ house is Lebanon, which has plenty of boutiques, antique shops and restaurants along its main drag, St. Louis Street, otherwise known as “The Brick Street” (cleverly dubbed due to the cobblestones). And, one of my favorite places to visit in Lebanon is Fezziwig’s Tea & Gourmet Market, a gourmet shop offering food, wine, tea and home décor. I always find something yummy at Fezziwig’s that I must have. Cranberry Jalapeño Compote, anyone?

Fezziwig's Tea & Gourmet Market
Fezziwig’s Tea & Gourmet Market
Photo credit: Tom Conder

Whenever we’re in the area, we always try to make a quick stop in Fezziwig’s to see what’s new, particularly in terms of wine. Though the wine offering is fairly small, I like it because I almost always discover a new wine that I wasn’t familiar with before, and I typically walk away with a new favorite. Oftentimes they have Saturday wine tastings, which was the case this past visit.

We tasted five wines and I was surprised to discover that my favorite was this Montinore Estate Riesling Sweet Reserve. I’m not normally a huge fan of Riesling; my husband is. It’s too sweet for me, and while the Montinore Estate is certainly sweet, there’s a bit of a punch to it — not quite spicy, but zingy. Zingy? Probably not a word you’re going to hear real wine connoisseurs throw around. Maybe it was the citrus notes (“notes” — see, I can pretend I know what I’m talking about). Whatever it was, I was sold. My sister and I snagged the last two bottles that Fezziwig’s had and I proudly left with a gift for my husband (and me to share). I thought it would be the perfect wine for Easter lunch, light and springy. Because maybe by Easter, it will actually be springy.

Montinore Estate Riesling Sweet Reserve

And then Sunday came along and we started the process of packing up the car for the dreaded drive home to Chicago. And my dear husband, god love him, did what he normally does, which is try to do 900 things at once. One of those things was to put the bag with the Riesling in it in the car. I’m not exactly sure the comedy of errors that ensued. All I know is that the tasty bottle of Riesling bid us farewell on my parents’ driveway.

While my husband’s out of the doghouse, I have yet to find the same Riesling in the nearby vicinity. Let’s be honest — I only checked two places so far, one of which was a grocery store. And I can hardly stomach paying a $20 shipping fee if I were to buy it online. So, looks like another trip to Fezziwig’s is in order the next time we’re home, and hopefully by then this gem of a Riesling will be back in stock.

Apples and Pumpkins and Doughnuts, Oh My!

County Line OrchardCounty Line Orchard in Hobart, Indiana

Apple picking has been on our fall agenda for a while. That, and choosing Nora’s first pumpkin. Sadly, we’d yet to visit any apple farms or pumpkin patches in greater Chicagoland since we moved here, despite having talked about it every fall. There are plenty within driving distance in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, but I was looking for someplace that met a few basic requirements. I didn’t want it to be too far from Chicago (no more than an hour, max) and I wanted apples and pumpkins both. So when a friend told me that not only would I find all of those, but also doughnuts (!) at County Line Orchard in Hobart, Indiana, I Google Mapped it and we were on our way.

Pumpkins at County Line OrchardGetting to Hobart from Chicago is a breeze, and it took us right around an hour (and that was with a little Chicago traffic). Hobart reminds me of the town I grew up in — actually, maybe a tad bit bigger. But it’s definitely small town U.S.A. Cute. Once we got closer to County Line Orchard, I realized we weren’t the only ones with the genius idea to visit on a gorgeous, sunny fall day. But we were quickly signaled  into the parking field (similar to a parking lot, only in a field!) and were ready to pick some apples.

Don’t let yourself get distracted from the task at hand by the yummy smell of freshly baked doughnuts; it will hit you right away. Keep walking past the general store until you’ve got your apples and pumpkins and are ready to pay — and treat yourself to apple doughnut goodness.

Mmm... doughnutsAdmission to County Line Orchard is $1 to $10, depending upon how you want to spend your day there. We just wanted to pick apples and get a pumpkin (and eat doughnuts), so we scored the economical $1 admission. That got us admission to u-pick fields, free u-pick bags and the tractor ride to/from the fields.

The tractors that drive you to/from the fields come very frequently — usually two at a time — so you don’t have to wait long after you pay your admission to get going.  And the fields are a very short ride from the main barn and general store. We got off at the first (of three) stop to pick apples. I am by no means an apple snob nor an apple connoisseur, but County Line Orchard definitely seemed to have a good variety: Fuji, Honey Crisp, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Jonathan, Jonagold, McIntosh, Gala, Suncrisp and plenty of other varieties that I’ve never even heard of (like Keepsake — what a charming name!).

Apple tree at County Line OrchardYou can easily get carried away with apple picking. So unless you plan to do some serious canning or baking, practice a little restraint! We could’ve had two monster bags of apples in a matter of minutes.

If you get back on the tractor pull, the second stop is the pumpkin patch and sunflower field. When we were there, the sunflowers were mostly all gone but there were still plenty of pumpkins for the picking.

IMG_2663The last stop is the maze (which pays homage to the Chicago Blackhawks this year!), but we skipped it in favor of the doughnuts which were calling our name. They were well worth the wait. Both apple and pumpkin doughnuts are available, and I highly recommend the apple ones. The general store has plenty of other goodies like jam, queso, popcorn, olive oils, cider and a whole bakery that offers pies and other baked goods.

Good to Know:

  • County Line Orchard is located in Hobart, Indiana, about an hour’s drive from Chicago.
  • Great for kids.
  • Arrive early if you visit on the weekend. We arrived around 11 a.m. and by time we were leaving, it was uncomfortably crowded.
  • If you’re taking your baby, leave the stroller at home. It’s too difficult to maneuver through the orchards. Opt for a baby carrier instead, if you have one.
  • Try to remember where you parked your car, somehow. You literally park in an open field, so it can be difficult to find when your visit is done.
  • Splurge and get a box of doughnuts to take home! We didn’t, and I’m still dreaming of the delicious apple doughnut.
  • Admission is $1 – $10; children under two are free.

“Babies are not permitted in the lounge”

Madison, Wisconsin with a Two-Month Old

Ever since we moved to Chicago four years ago, Madison, Wisconsin has quickly become a favorite weekend getaway destination. Only about two and a half hours from Chicago by car, Madison is just about the right distance in terms of how much time I want to spend on the road for a weekend jaunt. And it’s just an adorable city.

Our agenda is pretty much the same every time we go. We always stay at the Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club on the club level so that we can people-watch in the lounge while enjoying pre- and post-dinner drinks. We always go to the Madison Farmer’s Market which is one of the largest farmer’s markets in the country (if not the largest in the country). We always eat at a super restaurant, typically one that serves local farm-to-table fare. Oh yeah, and we always eat cheese curds at some point over the course of the weekend.

This summer’s weekend in Madison was going to be a little different from our standard, though. It had to be; we would have our two month-old daughter in tow. There would be no drunken nights in the hotel lounge, no fancy schmancy dinner at L’Etoile and absolutely no sleeping in! Still, we wanted to go. We needed to go — we were in the middle of having new kitchen cabinets installed which made me want to climb the walls.

This sink is not conducive to bottle-making.
This sink is not conducive to bottle-making.

Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club

So we booked a room at the Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club, per usual. The funny thing is, when I called to make a reservation and mentioned in passing that our baby would be with us, the reservation agent made it clear that our baby was not allowed in the lounge. Of course, I wouldn’t fathom trying to take her there, anyway! No, instead my husband came up with the genius idea to take our baby monitor with us so that we could enjoy the lounge while she slept. More on that later…

Now that we have a baby, hotel amenities have become extremely important — especially baby-friendly amenities. And the Concourse didn’t disappoint. They had pack ‘n plays available so we didn’t have to lug ours along — music to my ears. Granted, it took some time for the pack ‘n play to be delivered once we checked in, despite being told it was on its way multiple times, but luckily our sweet girl wasn’t ready to go down yet, anyway.

Something that would’ve been nice to have is a bathtub. Every other time we’ve stayed at the Concourse, our bathroom has had a bathtub. We booked the same type of room we always have in the past, so I’m not sure how we got a room without a tub this time around, but that just meant no bath for the little one. I know, at two months old, how dirty can she be? It’s not so much a matter of her being dirty as it is a part of her bedtime routine, but she’s resilient so one night without a bath wouldn’t be the end of the world. One night without a rocking chair, however, might be the end of the world. Sadly, I have not yet mastered manual rocking (and despite all my practice, my arms still don’t yet qualify as “guns”).

Back to the baby monitor/lounge plan of my husband’s… Since the hotel isn’t very big, my husband had this great plan that we would take our daughter’s baby monitor with us and when she went to sleep (ha, sleep…), we would simply take the monitor with us to the lounge and enjoy a cocktail or two. Aside from the fact that that idea made me slightly uneasy (I kept having flashbacks to that tragic Madeleine McCann story), our daughter simply wasn’t going to sleep like she normally would at home. But we made do. There are no rules about not taking wine from the lounge to your room, so that’s precisely what we did.

Our stay at the Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club was a piece of cake with the baby. We even took her for a brief dip in the pool on Saturday morning before we checked out. The pack ‘n play did the trick for a night but seriously, hotels should really think about adding rocking chairs to their assortment of baby-friendly amenities.

24 Hours in Kohler, Wisconsin

Weekend Getaway to Kohler, Wisconsin

Since I will be traveling for work on Tuesday — my two-year wedding anniversary — my husband and I celebrated this weekend instead, in beautiful Kohler, Wisconsin.

Kohler Abrazo tub

Yes, that Kohler.

Only a two and a half hour drive from Chicago, Kohler is perfect for a quick weekend getaway. And it has everything you want when you want to escape from Chicago. By “everything,” I simply mean peace and quiet. And champagne.

Kohler, Wisconsin

The village of Kohler is pretty small with a population of only around 2,000 or so, and because the Kohler Company and its employees make up so much of the community — and essentially is the community — fancy bathroom fixtures are everywhere, even in an unassuming restaurant bathroom.

Kohler sink at Cucina

Kohler proper has exactly two hotels, Inn on Woodlake and The American Club; we stayed at the latter. I had a real lovefest with this place this weekend, from the champagne at check-in to the bellboys in their cute little golf caddie outfits. Seriously, I loved everything about it. But what’s not to love about a five-star resort?

The property has a pretty interesting story, too. Back in the day, it was used as a dormitory for the immigrants who worked at Kohler Company, and one of its restaurants today is dubbed The Immigrant (more on that shortly).

Our Deluxe King room was nothing short of plush, luxurious and comfortable, but naturally the best part was the enormous bathroom, complete with fancy sink, jet bath and rain shower with body sprays.

Our very own fancy sink
Our very own fancy sink

I must admit, I was a little quizzical when I went to run the bath.

Doesn't your bath water come from the ceiling?
Doesn’t your bath water come from the ceiling?

The Shops at Woodlake

While I could’ve quite easily spent the afternoon in that jet bath, I was a bit nippish. So we walked over to the Shops at Woodlake for a little lunch and window shopping. That’s one of the great things about tiny little Kohler — everything is so close by and the village is so small that you can easily walk everywhere.

I moaned about wanting to sit outside somewhere for lunch but we couldn’t find any place that had outside seating, so we popped into Cucina. And voila — outside tables on the backside of the restaurant. I have no idea what their dinner menu is like, but my panino al tacchino at lunchtime was pretty fabulous, especially that pretzel roll.

Panino al tacchino

Just around the corner from Cucina, also in the Shops at Woodlake, is Craverie. And if my husband had his druthers, he’d have probably selected Craverie for lunch. If only we knew that they serve salads and sandwiches… We thought it was just decadent sweets.

At $8 a slice, this cake made me feel like I was back in Chicago.
At $8 a slice, this cake made me feel like I was back in Chicago.

Still, some of their gems were pretty amazing.

Rare facets at Craverie

I dare you to step foot in Craverie and walk out without trying a single thing, even if that means you just cruise the sample platters.

Ice-cream at Craverie

Kohler Design Center

The crown jewel of Kohler is clearly the Kohler Design Center. If you’re a home design enthusiast, and even if you’re not, the Design Center is fascinating. It’s three levels of all the latest, coolest and most innovative products.

I’m already on a major “let’s buy a house” kick, and I’m afraid, for my husband’s sake, that the trip to the Kohler Design Center did not help matters.

This infinity tub would go perfectly in the bathroom of the house that we don't own.
This infinity tub would go perfectly in the bathroom of the house that we don’t own.

There are some seriously impressive displays at the Kohler Design Center. You can’t explore it and not feel inspired.

Kohler Iron Works Historic tub

Bathroom inspiration

One of my favorites was this ultra-chic, modern, all-white display.

Modern bath

Modern bathThe Immigrant Restaurant

We capped off our 24 hours in Kohler with a romantic dinner at the lovely Immigrant Restaurant located in The American Club. The atmosphere is warm and intimate which was perfect for our anniversary dinner. Although I felt like a bit of a heel when our server noted that another couple was also celebrating their anniversary that night — a whopping 65 years of wedded bliss.

I digress. The Immigrant has six little rooms, each of which is decorated in the theme of one of the countries of the first settlers in Wisconsin — French, Dutch, German, Normandy, Danish and English. We were seated in the German room, and there were just two other tables of two in the room. Luckily both tables were finishing their meals as we arrived, as much as I would’ve enjoyed listening to their political banter back and forth across tables the entire evening…

I forget how many times various staff members wished us a happy anniversary, not to mention started us off with complimentary glasses of champagne. So yes, the service was spot on. And the food was pretty incredible, too — especially the peaches and cream dessert. My husband isn’t a big fan of peaches but I can’t get enough. I guess that’s when you know it’s true love — your beloved lets you order something he doesn’t even really like for dessert.

Peaches and cream

Seven Days in Seagrove Beach

I’m back in Chicago, much to my chagrin, after spending seven super relaxing days at this beautiful beach house, appropriately dubbed “Brown Your Buns,” in Seagrove Beach, Florida. And no, my buns aren’t brown now, but the rest of me certainly is!

Brown Your Buns

We road tripped it there and thank goodness for the GPS. I don’t know what Google was thinking, but their directions took us way off the beaten path in Alabama on Friday night when we were trying to get to our hotel. Let’s just say we took the scenic route to Decatur, Alabama… Thereafter, it was GPS or bust.

We landed on Decatur simply because it was a good middle ground stopping point. And although hotel options aren’t particularly limited in Decatur, we needed a place that accepted dogs and wanted something close to the freeway. So we wound up at a Microtel to the tune of a very economical $67.00! It did the trick for a night’s rest and one of my biggest guilty pleasures was right up the road (hint: “Eat Mor Chikin”). Daisy happily got our money’s worth for us for her pet fee.

After getting our Starbucks fix on Saturday morning, we were back on the road to finish up the drive. While the first half of Alabama was actually very pretty (yes, I say “actually” because I wasn’t expecting it to be), the second half was less so and there was an overabundance of rubber-neckers on the road that day. And the closer to Seagrove Beach we got, the worse the traffic became. I know this is nothing profound, but beach traffic is a beast! Thank goodness for diversions like Betty’s for a little comic relief.

Betty's Fireworks

We finally arrived in Seagrove Beach early Saturday evening, but it was well worth the journey. The many pictures we found online don’t do Brown Your Buns justice — it truly surpassed our expectations. How lucky are we?!

Brown Your Buns
The back of the house overlooks the community pool.

The house is huge — three stories with multiple outside balconies/decks and an elevator. Off the second floor wet bar, there is a great screened-in porch which is key with all of the hungry mosquitoes. That quickly became our morning coffee spot. Of the four bedrooms, one is handicap-accessible and another is essentially a kid’s dream come true. It’s a room full of bunk beds with an air hockey table in the middle of the room. And it’s the only room on the third floor (except for two bathrooms) so it gives kids their own space (and more importantly, it gives the adults their own space!).

Brown Your Buns is part of Greenway Park, a small neighborhood of ecological homes. Right now, I think there are only three homes in the subdivision, including Brown Your Buns, and they all share a community pool which Brown Your Buns butts up to. So pool access couldn’t be more convenient. And we spent nearly every single day there. There’s a beautifully landscaped yard with a gazebo and patio which is where we spent most of our nights (along with the pesky mosquitoes and geckos). The day that we left the next group was coming in for a wedding that was going to be held on the grounds.

Brown Your Buns gazebo

Brown Your Buns gazebo

We went to Seagrove Beach — the actual beach — a handful of times. It’s just across 30-A and down May Drive, which is a little rocky road directly across from Brown Your Buns. The sand was so soft and the beach wasn’t miserably crowded.

Seagrove Beach, Florida

This vacation was truly all about rest and relaxation. Although, I don’t think I ever managed to sleep in much past 7:00 a.m. But that’s okay. My past seven days pretty much consisted of getting up, slipping into a bathing suit and either hitting the pool or going to the beach. Life doesn’t get much better than that, as far as I’m concerned. I even read two books which is monumental for me — “Every Last One” by Anna Quindlen (loved, loved, loved) and “Heart of the Matter” by Emily Giffin (meh, quick/easy but unimpressive read), and started on a third — “Life, on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat” by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas (so far, so good).

Brown Your Buns

Is it any wonder that the thought of going to work tomorrow makes me want to cry?

Road Trip Checklist

We’re about to head out on a serious road trip. And by “serious road trip,” I mean 16-ish hours in the car. Thank god we upgraded to a gas-guzzling SUV recently; at least we will be comfy.

I embrace road trips, though. You’d think I’d banish them seeing as how this was the only way we ever went on vacation when I was a kid (and we did not have a comfy SUV then). But I actually enjoy them. Or maybe I just like the idea of them. Talk to me a week from now and I may be singing a different tune.

We’re driving from Chicago to Sea Grove Beach, Florida on Friday. And according to trusty Google Maps, we’re looking at a drive of about 16 hours or so.  Needless to say, we won’t tackle it in one day but stop a little more than halfway on Friday night.

Having taken more than my fair share of road trips, I have my road trip survival kit down to a science.

  • GPS – duh. No-brainer. One can’t always rely on Google Maps — trust me. Because while all-knowing Google knows most streets, it doesn’t know them all (and we’ll be traversing timbuktu — not where I want to get lost).
  • Atlas – just for extra backup. And preferably the State Farm version. My family has had these in our cars for as long as I can remember. (You’d think with a brother-in-law for an agent, I’d have a recent copy, but no…)
  • Snacks – unless you’re one of those weirdos who forbids eating in the car. I like a good mix of salty and sweet. As kids, we always had Pringles which I suppose was genius because of that handy crush-proof can. Now I prefer some kind of Chex-like mix, trail mix, peanut M & M’s and Jolly Ranchers. And of course gum.
  • Literature – no Oprah’s Book Club selections here, only the most high-brow publications for me. In my defense, I get nauseous if I do any serious reading in the car, so I save that for the beach and stick to things that have pretty pictures and few words instead.
  • Sunglasses – there are few things as annoying as driving into the direct sunlight with no eye protection.
  • Port-a-bowl– one of the two necessities for Daisy, the port-a-bowl is great for eating or drinking on-the-go. Or, nearly on-the-go. Usually when we stop we fill this little bowl with water for her, which she surprisingly laps right up; I was skeptical that she wouldn’t drink out of it at all.
  • Hammock – we don’t go anywhere with Daisy in the car without this lifesaver. Best $50 we’ve ever spent on her. (Actually, it’s a toss-up between this and her custom-made winter parka.)