When I got the call 1 1/2 weeks ago, that my grandmother passed away, we knew that we had to get to NY. With airline tickets being so expensive (would have cost us thousands of dollars), it was a quick decision to drive. I had worked a full day- 9 hours, and my husband had worked a full day- 12 hours, but we had to get to NY, and fast. The wake for my grandmother was the next evening, so we had less than 24 hours to get our family from TN to NY.
Imagine being faced with this drive after working all day, the emotional turmoil that you just lost your only living grandmother, and of significant importance- no sleep!! How does one confront a drive like that? Nashville to NY- 14-17 hours ahead of you. Well, think of a running, of course!!! How do I complete a marathon? Break it down into smaller increments!! So, we broke the drive down into states and cities. I would find a town I knew we should pass (based on map and signs), and just focus on getting there. It was easier to see the miles tick by this way on a 916 mile journey, in smaller sizes- 50-70 miles at a time! Little by little, we made it through.
We had 7 states to pass through, including TN to get there: TN, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland,Pennsylvania, NJ, and NY. I learned to hate several of the highways that we drove on because when we hit the highways, Siri told us that we had 210 miles to go! That is just daunting!! I no longer like I-81 or I-78. Too many miles!!! Too many hours spent driving on them!!
The larger states were harder to wrap your mind around. The longest seemed to be TN and Virginia. Being familiar with the towns in TN, it made it easier to mentally get through. We know major cities like Knoxville, so time passed quickly. We were full of adrenaline from only having a 9 hour warning about our drive ahead. Virginia, not so easy, more mentally taxing, but we pulled through.
The smaller states were easy. Maryland only took about 30 minutes to pass through. That was easy! It seemed like a huge accomplishment checking that state off our list. Even West Virginia was less than an hour’s drive. That made 2/7 states a piece of cake.
Rob took the first 3-4 hours and then I had the next 4 hour shift. Mentally, I knew I had to break it down like a marathon. I always break that into smaller pieces: the first 1/2 marathon, 5k’s and then down to single miles! Familiar towns made it simpler, because I felt like my mind knew those and could make it there quicker- like running on a greenway or in a town that you are familiar with. You know the distance, so your mind can conceive it and make it happen. It’s when you get into unfamiliar territory that it gets a lot harder. Getting to Bristol in TN and VA was our big goal to get us through TN. I thought that it was pretty neat that the town is right on the dividing line of the states. My next big goal was to get to Wyethville, VA. We didn’t stop there on the way to NY, but we got gas there on the way home and it is definitely NOT a happening town!!
At 6:34 AM, we stopped at Denny’s for breakfast in Mount Jackson, VA. I haven’t been to a Denny’s since I was in college! So, that was actually really cool. They don’t really have food for me to eat (being a vegan), so I was stuck with an english muffin, but the kids were really happy to get some real food. The kids were amazing, honestly, through this point in the car. They slept most of the way, which was incredible.
Pennsylvania seemed like a breeze. I went to college in PA, so it was exciting to drive through it. My college, Susquehanna University, is 50 miles north of Harrisburg. We drove through Harrisburg and by Hershey, which are 2 big places in PA. If we had more time, I would have loved to have stopped in Hershey with the kids. That would have been a great experience for them. But, time was not in our favor! Had to keep racing time to get to NY. We even drove through Allentown, where I almost went to college! I had looked at a very small school in Allentown, but realized that it was WAY too small for me, so I didn’t end up there. When the kids were awake, I was trying to share some stories about these places with them. They thought it was pretty cool that we were driving through some of my old stomping grounds!
We finally hit NJ! This was all me driving. Let’s just say, that none of what happened here was a big surprise. It felt like a nightmare. We knew we were only a couple of hours away from my mom’s house, but yet the time was NOT going down on the GPS. Why, you ask? Well, because the NJ Turnpike was literally shut down. Who shuts down a 6 lane highway???!!! Obviously NJ does. So, we had to find an alternate route, in a state that we are very unfamiliar with. The route took us zig-zagging around the state to get us onto another main highway- 80. Getting through NJ really was no easy task. Finally, though, we made it into NY. Traffic every step of the way! Our GPS had told us we had 2 hrs. 43 minutes left when we entered NJ. Let’s just that it took us well over 4 hours to make that part of the trip. Seriously, I would look at the time remaining and it would start to count down, 2 hr. 37 min, then 2 hr. 32 minute, next time I would look- 2 hrs. 50 minutes!! WHAT?!
We couldn’t wait to get out of the car when we finally got to my mom’s house at about 3:15PM. Driving from 9:15 PM the night before! Overall, it wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be- outside of NJ/NY. The kids were amazing- watching movies or sleeping! I was completely exhausted by the time we made it there, but no time to sleep! We had 3 hours to get ourselves showered, changed, drop the kids off at MIL’s house, and get ready to go to my grandmother’s wake.
Things that I have learned with traveling long distances:
- As a vegan, there truly aren’t any options for eating on the road. Need to be a bit more prepared the next time we make a long-distance trip. At least next time, I am hoping that we will have more than 8-9 hours warning, though.🙂
- ALWAYS leave at night. The kids can watch a movie and go to sleep. That is key!
- Grapes are a great snack to have on the road to keep you awake. You have to concentrate on eating them- biting them in 1/2, and then chewing really good to prevent any type of choking hazard! (Yes, grapes freak me out a little bit because of the choking hazard that they cause- that is the mom and doctor in me!).
- Long trips truly are amazing bonding time with your spouse. We both stayed awake for each other the whole time. I couldn’t have done it without him. We reminisced about the past, people we knew, fun times, crazy things that we did before kids, etc. We laughed, because this was the most “alone time” that we have gotten to just sit and talk, in more time than we can remember!!! Lol.
- Running marathons helped me mentally and physically make the trip. I was able to use my “mental toughness” that I have learned, to get me through, breaking up the trip little by little. Being awake for 43 hours straight is no easy task. But, with a little mental toughness, anything is possible!