We are leaving on Friday (this week already!) for a 17-day midwestern road trip, in which will be visiting eight cities in five states. We will be crossing off one of my favorite bucket list items, and will be visiting three new baseball stadiums in pursuit of Eric's goal of seeing a game at all 30 (this will bring his total to 20!).
Are we crazy to do this with a toddler? Oh, you bet. All I'll say is that Ellie has gotten much better at sleeping in the car as of late, and as you saw during my Sea World recaps she is clearly able to fall asleep in the carrier (this is a new and very welcome development), and we reserved almost all suites hotels so she can have her own space at night to keep any potential disturbances at a minimum (that did work out well at Sea World, so we're hopeful). Aside from that, let's just not talk about our temporary insanity, okay?
Instead, let's talk itinerary. Obviously we know that with a baby in tow, we can't do these marathon days where we see a bajillion things in 12 hours like we used to do on these sorts of trips. We've had to scale it back quite a bit, allowing for naps (so optimistic!) and early bedtimes. Instead of a set itinerary at each destination, we have a rough idea of what we want to do on each day (usually just one or two things) and plan to be flexible based on Ellie's needs. So, although our destinations are set in stone, our daily itineraries are a little vague. (Also, our food plan is a little sketchy in some places, so if any of you have any "Must Eat!" tips for any of these cities, please share!)
In general, this is our plan:
On Friday, we will fly to St. Louis, Missouri. We will rent a car and check into our hotel. If we have time/ambition, we might check out the St. Louis City Museum in the evening. It looks incredibly cool, unlike any museum I have ever seen before: made up of all sorts of things to climb on and through, up and down. Sort of like an enormous playground, I think. I'm not sure how much we'll really be able to do with Ellie tagging along, but it just looks so cool that I'd really like to just see it. And apparently there is a toddler section, so naturally we'll be sure to head there.
St. Louis City Museum
The next day we'll just be hanging out in St. Louis. We'll probably head downtown, check out the Gateway Arch, maybe do a riverboat tour. You know, play it by ear.
The Gateway Arch
On Sunday morning if we're feeling up to it, we'll check out the St. Louis Zoo for a couple of hours. Then, midday we'll hit the road in our rental car and head to our next destination: Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
St. Louis to Milwaukee
The drive from St. Louis to Milwaukee is about six hours, so we'll arrive there on Sunday night and hang out. Monday we'll be going to an afternoon Brewers game (MLB stadium #18 for Eric), then on Tuesday, Eric will golf at Whistling Straits while Ellie and I have a relaxing girly day at the hotel pool.
We will depart Milwaukee early Wednesday morning, en route to Cleveland, with a stop for lunch in South Bend along the way to check out Notre Dame. We'll arrive in Cleveland Wednesday evening.
Milwaukee to Cleveland, via South Bend
We will be in Cleveland until Monday morning for my annual family reunion. We plan to have dinner with my friend Megan on Thursday, then Eric and other Hesterman folk will golf on Friday. On Saturday we're all going to an Indians game (the second stadium of our trip, although it's a repeat), Sunday will be church and Monday will be departure. I'm pretty excited to see all these people again, especially the three great-grandbabies, who will be far more mobile this year - look out!:
Group shot at last year's family reunion! Look at all those little shrimps in the front. They sure have grown in the last year!
When we depart Cleveland on Monday morning, we will drive the four(ish) hours to Cincinnati, where we will catch a Reds game (MLB stadium #19 for Eric) and try to eat some chili or some such thing. We'll stay the night there.
Cleveland to Cincinnati
When we leave Cincinnati on Tuesday, we will be headed to Memphis for my most anticipated stop of the trip. But first, we'll stop midway for lunch in Nashville (BBQ, naturally). We'll ultimately arrive in Memphis on Tuesday evening.
Cincinnati to Memphis by way of Nashville
Memphis is going to be awesome, because let me tell you about why we're going to Memphis: we're going to march with the ducks at the Peabody Hotel. Are you familiar with this? At the Peabody Hotel, they have several ducks that live in a little Duck Palace on the roof and spend their days swimming around in the fountain in the hotel lobby. Each morning, the Duckmaster goes up to the Duck Palace and brings the ducks down to the lobby on the elevator, and then they walk up and into the fountain via red carpet. HOW ADORABLE IS THAT. Here, perhaps a video would help you fully understand the awesomeness of these ducks:
VIDEO: Peabody Ducks on Animal Planet's Most Outrageous Pet Digs
This, my friends, is Item #36 on my bucket list: Stay in the Peabody Hotel to see the Marching Ducks. Hence, Memphis.
But it doesn't end there. Thanks to my incredible husband, not only are we going to see the ducks, but I get to be an honorary Duckmaster. Oh yes, that's right. We will stay in the hotel on Tuesday night, and on Wednesday at 11:00 a.m., we will go up to the Duck Palace with the Duckmaster, retrieve the ducks, escort them downstairs in the elevator, and walk them along the red carpet. We even get an honorary Duckmaster cane to use! Aaaaah! I am beside myself with excitement about these crazy ducks.
This is going to be me!!!
After we march with the ducks, we'll spend the afternoon exploring downtown Memphis, including the National Civil Rights Museum and Beale Street.
When we (read: Ellie) have had our fill of downtown, we'll go check into our new hotel (we're only staying at the Peabody one night), eat some more BBQ for dinner and relax. On Thursday morning, naturally we'll hit up Graceland. Because, duh.
Thursday afternoon we'll bid Memphis farewell and head back to St. Louis.
Back to St. Louis, completing the loop!
Yes, this is weird. But you know what else is in St. Louis? Another baseball stadium, home to a team that does NOT have a home game during our weekend in St. Louis at the start of our trip. So, back we go to catch an evening Cardinals game (MLB stadium #20 for Eric), and maybe eat a Bratzel Dog:
Yup, that's a bratwurst wrapped in a pretzel. I'm guessing it might taste mighty fine accompanied with a nice, cold beer.
Then, we'll be leaving St. Louis yet again - possibly that evening right after the game, or perhaps the next morning (a detail still to be decided!). Either way, from St. Louis we will drive the 2.5 hours to Bloomington, Illinois to my cousin Molly's house.
Up to Bloomington - retracing our previous route!
We will be there from Thursday night/Friday until Monday morning. Molly's son Santiago will be celebrating his first birthday that Saturday, and we are so excited to be able to attend his party! We'll spend the rest of the time visiting with Molly, Arturo and Santiago and checking out their new house (well, relatively new, but we haven't seen it yet!). I can't wait!
Can't wait to spend the weekend with this lovely family!
Then, on Monday morning we will head back to St. Louis yet again, but this time, it will be to catch our return flight home. And that will be it! Seventeen days, 33 hours worth of driving, five states, eight cities, three new baseball stadiums (plus one repeat), two rounds of golf, one bucket list item accomplished, one family reunion and one birthday party. That, my friends, is a road trip.
Now, let's all join hands and pray to the nap gods to bless Ellie on this trip. Amen.