About a year and a half ago, when Mattias was 15 months, we did the same trip. It was truly terrible to be in the car for 10.5 hours with a 15 month-old. Give me airplane or train travel any day. But a car trip - no, thank you! I finished THAT trip vowing never, ever to do it again. Did I change my mind? Or did I forget? Well, I'm pleased to report that this trip was much easier: a 2.75 year-old has A LOT more stamina for sitting in the car. Still, it was not easy. At mile 883 both the boys were done, just done, with being in the car. And they still had 774 miles to go.
As my grandmothers have gotten older and experienced more health concerns, it's become increasing complicated to visit them. One grandmother has moved into assisted living. The other grandmother is no longer at an energy level where she can host. (Or at least, we're really not comfortable asking her to host us.) They both live in small, rural towns about 3 hours outside of Des Moines, and 2 hours away from each other. Visiting them from out of state, especially with little kids, presents a logistical challenge. This time, we stayed in 3 different hotels over 5 nights. My father picked up the bill for most of the hotel stays, and for that I am entirely grateful: this trip would not have been financially possible for us had that not been the case.
At the same time, I found myself thinking quite a bit about the impact of living out of suitcases (and the car!) on the boys. Not enough running around, too much time trapped inside, not enough independence to explore their new environments, very cold weather foiling outdoor plans. When cold, windy weather made even the run between the hotel and the car unbearable, their behavior plummeted. By the third day of visiting, they were atrociously, embarrassingly beyond parental control. By the time we turned westward and headed for home, Fritz and I had all but given up: "Hey! Let's stop at that big box retailer so they can run around a bit." If you live in Nebraska and a two year old sprinted in front of your shopping cart, nearly causing the whole thing to dump onto the floor when you swerved to avoid him, while his mother deflatedly followed muttering apologies without correcting the behavior: yes, that was me.
I'm still muttering apologies: I'm sorry. He really needed to run. It was, like, mile 1106 of car travel and night 5 of staying in hotels.
I keep thinking: how could we do this better next time? What could make it more enjoyable (for everyone)? I don't have many answers, but I know the logistics of visiting relatives become a really important part of life when you live so far apart.
I once thought Long Distance Relationships were for young, unmarried adults. Turns out, there's a whole life-long art of the Long Distance Relationship. I'm still trying to figure it out.