Back in college, I remember reading Travels with Charley and falling in love with the idea of the road trip. I was living on the East Coast but not fitting into the suit it required. This, however, this meandering seeking for soul, felt real to me. At the age of 17, I had been on a few road trips, but most were short stints, weekend trips to “visit prospective colleges” (aka check out the party scene and get an obscene speeding ticket). No, the open road had never stretched out in front of me and after diving into the good book, I was chomping at the bit to partake in my own dog-by-my-side travels.
Throughout my teens and twenties, I dipped my toes into road-tripping and fell in love with the unknown the journeys provided. What would happen? Who would I meet? All questions unknown, soon to be answered. Fast forward to the end of my twenties and enter Alaska where suddenly the idea of a road trip took on a whole other meaning. What used to seem like an eon in the car was suddenly just a trip to the grocery store. 8 hours? Nothing. 16 hours in a weekend? Bring it on.
Just like how a “hike” in AK (an all-day event complete with vertigo-inducing heights, scrambling up scree, dirty from head to toe) doesn’t mean the same thing as it does in CA (medium terrain, snacks at the top, back down in time for Happy Hour. Heck, it can even just mean a walk, nowadays), what I would have called a road trip (anything over 2 hours in the car) is suddenly just a trip.
However, due to my love of roadtrips, I easily became comfortable with the new meaning an 8-hour drive and treated them as adventures. What would happen? Who would I meet? Countless things, countless people. Some drives I’ve started in the company of an acquaintance and finished with a newfound friend. Some I’ve spent alone, in complete and much needed silence, just me and the road. I’ve had Travels with Leto, Travels with The Chief, Travels with girlfriends and new friends and now…
Hooooooey! If I didn’t think Alaska amped things up a notch before, I certainly do now. Enter: roadtripping with a newborn, Alaska style (aka a Town Run).
There are 24 hours in a day, but apparently, there can be 24 hours in a roadtrip (one that normally takes 16 hours).
I had an inkling. I’d done the drive before with a 6-month old and there were LOTS of stops but decided to up the ante with a nearly 2-month-old (tomorrow!).
So, how’d it go? A little like this:
Monday through Wednesday: Prep for Town (which is turns out is A LOT slower when you have a newborn strapped to your chest. I didn’t realize how often I bend down until I started trying to avoid squatting an extra 13 fidgeting pounds. It’s difficult, it turns out.
Wednesday evening: Have the typical What time should we shoot to leave tomorrow? conversation. My vote was to wake up extra early and bail…
Thursday morning: I was up by 6 am with the baby to address his requests: Milk! Diaper! Milk! Diaper! Smiley play time! Milk! Milk! The Chief slept in (after two straight weeks of 13 hour days) until 8 am and…we were off, right?!
By noon, however, we were off! The road out, our 60 mile driveway, if you will, normally clocks in at about 2 hours. By 4 pm we had made it to the end. This was due to be a long day. Had we thought about introducing a bottle pre-trip? We sure hadn’t! Did we wish we had? We sure did! Just before the clock struck midnight that night, we tucked into bed in Anchorage. We’d already done one load of laundry.
Welcome to Town.
Friday: The next morning, we were up early again and off to doctors appointments but not before making the rookie mistake that would plague us all day: we didn’t eat breakfast. By 9 am we were at the midwife and…hungry. By the end of the appointment, we decided Leto needed a stroll. We’d get food afterwards. One lake walk (I made it all the way around for the first time since Ollie was born!) + one bathroom mission + feeding the baby later and suddenly…it was time for our next appointment.
Still no food. We raided the diaper bag snacks. Jerky for breakfast anyone?
At the next appointment, it turned out that my wrist problem was an actual problem and they wanted to get me into a specialist that day. Our day of 3 appointments suddenly turned into 4. Oh joy! Oh boy. After scrambling to set up this new appointment and schedule an earlier time for Ollie’s checkup there was no time again for…you guessed it! Food. By this point it was late afternoon. Off we went to the pediatrician. After a battery of boohooo inducing shots (actually, he did quite well. A few tears quickly resolved by a little cuddling and a lot of milk) it was finally time for FOOOOOOOD! We ordered and ate as we drove to the next appointment at which they suggested I go to one more appointment that day for my problem wrist. By then it was 5 pm.
By the time we got home, we’d been gone for nearly 10 hours. Thankfully, we’d had a few hours left with our post-birth helper and she did our ENTIRE Costco run for us. We wouldn’t have made it that day. She also brought in a haul of garden goodies. After everything was packed away and processed and everyone was fed, Ollie, ever the champ, was ready to settle in after his pokey procedure, leaving The Chief to manage the remaining chores.
Saturday: Up early, out early, right? You know the drill by now and so do we but somehow we thought we might escape the time suck that is packing up and hitting the road. A little before 11 am we exited Anchorage and again, the first 6 hours of the drive were pretty rocky. We stopped to nurse which turned into a diaper change, which turned into multiple diaper changes and back to nursing and finally back to the road. One stop was over an hour yet back on the road we ventured and by early evening Ollie was ready for a long snooze. Off and on he slumbered all the way home as we pulled in the drive at 11 pm.
As it turns out, just because you make it home, doesn’t mean you’ve made it home scot-free. The next few days we paid for our expeditious adventure with newborn wails of a timber we hadn’t yet heard. The Chief also received his first phone call from us at work where we were both crying. Oh joy! Needless to say, it was a rough week but as the distance grew between us and our covered distance, things mellowed, patterns returned, lessons were…learned?
We will see. I still haven’t decided which was the lesser of two evils: doing a Town Run with only one day to run about Town or returning home and having The Chief return to work the next morning. Both are unweildy options. Both are the options we have.
So, Travels with Charley? I’d give an 8 out of 10. I don’t remember thinking the prose was as poetic as his other works but it inspired me and that’s nothing to ignore. Travels with Ollie? Ten out of ten, all the way.
Ten?! Reallllllly, Julia? Ridiculous.
OK, OK, in the moment, in the Crying So Hard He’s Turning New Shades Of Red I Haven’t Seen Before moment, sure, in that moment I’m wondering if I can give it a rating below 0. But overall, it was one of those Alaska moments. One of those longer, harder, rockier “hikes” than planned but the one that left you feeling accomplished and adventurous and…just a smidge insane. I think those are pretty solid components to a good life. And now that it’s done, I know that we can do it. Am I looking forward to the next time? In a way, yes (OK maybe that’s the insane portion speaking a little too loudly). But honestly, I love bringing Ollie into our fold and creating memories with him on a journey I’ve traveled umpteen times without him, dreaming of him someday coming to be. It’s not always easy, this life of ours, but it is rewarding. Remind me of that next time the baby cries himself crimson.