Wednesday, July 29, 2015

West Virginia / Pittsburgh Recap Part I: In Which We Are Mostly In theCar

Sometimes vacations are restful and relaxing. And sometimes “vacations” are a code word for spending hours in a minivan with my kids and my parents, driving from St. Louis to Cincinnati to Canaan Valley West Virginia to Pittsburgh to Cleveland and back to St. Louis over the course of twelve days while also attending a wedding and sleeping four to a queen bed (turns out the “family bed” only works for us when we are in a king-sized bed and the baby is in a crib).

In order to make the blog posts manageable, I’m going to break up our trip recap. So here goes…

Last Friday we drove to Cincinnati. We loaded up a rented minivan and packed plenty of snacks for the road.

(Can I just say that traveling in a minivan did NOT sell me on it at all. One of my friends rented a minivan on her vacation last summer and then she came home and bought one even though she only has two kids and has no plans to have more. I know people LOVE their minivans. But the Toyota we drove was unimpressive. It had no bells or whistles, and my mom and I were stuck in the way back because the latch system only worked in the captain chairs in the middle row or in the center of the backseat. So that was annoying. I’d hoped to put the two car seats in the way back. The ride wasn't that smooth or quiet, and I am still satisfied with my little Honda.)

(Also the van could definitely have been cleaner. I wiped all the seats down with a Clorox wipe because it seemed gross to me. But it was the only minivan available at the rental place, so we took what we could get. And we got a good deal on it, so there's that.)

ANYWAY, we managed to get out of town by 9:25am and we hit the road for Cincinnati. It was a bit out of our way—we could have made the drive to our condo near Davis, WV in about 10 hours, but we’d never been to a ballgame in Cincinnati and stopping there broke the drive into two six-hour days, which seemed about what we could manage.

The drive on day one went really smoothly. We cruised along for three hours with Zuzu enjoying the scenery and chatting pleasantly. We stopped to pick up sandwiches at a Jimmy Johns and ate them at a nearby park. We rolled into Cincinnati right on schedule.

We just had a little bit of luggage.
Unfortunately, our hotel was not super ideal. We chose it because the location was perfect (close to the ballpark), the price was right (cheap), and it had suites and that seemed perfect for staying with my parents and the girls (my parents babysat for us at the hotel while David and I went to the game). But it was pretty old and grimy. The top of Coco’s feet turned black from crawling around on the carpet, which totally grossed me out. Sometimes you do get what you pay for. Ew.

Anyway, the funny thing about it was that my best friend from her high school and her husband were also in Cincinnati that evening—they’d stayed with us earlier in the week on their way to a conference in Columbus, then gone on to Louisville to see friends, and then went to Cincinnati for a night before going on to Columbus. So we ended up in Cincinnati on the same night, going to the same ballgame, and staying at the same hotel. Without even realizing we were going to be in the same city on Friday until two days before. Serendipity!

Mind blown that Ellie Kate is in Cincinnati with us!
David and I had great seats at the ballgame, but a storm rolled in with wicked lightning and some rain after the third inning so the game was delayed. 

At the ballpark (obvs)
We hung out for a while, trying to be optimistic, but when the radar showed another storm rolling through around 9:45pm, I told David that we had to figure something out because both Coco and I were going to be uncomfortable if I didn’t get back to nurse her before bed.

We decided to leave through the re-entry gate, but we didn’t end up going back to the game since it got late and we needed to be up at a reasonable time to make the second half of our drive. I felt bad for David (plus we had splurged on really good seats!) but that’s how it goes. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.

Saturday morning we had planned to get up and on the road after letting the girls swim. But the hotel’s advertised pool was actually an agreement with a nearby YMCA that hotel guests could swim for $5. We were not impressed. Instead, we decided to walk down to the waterfront park on the river and let the girls play in the splash pads and playground.

It turned out to be a great way to spend the morning, and Monica and Ellie Kate met us down there so the girls had tons of fun and we stayed two hours longer than planned, but it was totally worth it. The sun was warm, but there was a nice breeze in the shade and the mist from the splash pads cooled everybody off. I got crabby because we left the diaper bag in the minivan when David dropped us off and went to park and when I called him to tell him to bring it, he told me it was “too late” and so I had to wait until he got to us and then get the key and stomp off all pissy to where he parked the van because the diaper bag had the swim suits and sunscreen and wasn’t really OPTIONAL for a splash pad. I don’t know how it got overlooked—I had my parents and David helping unloading girls and loading up the stroller and I didn’t take a sufficient itinerary before we got started. Lesson learned!

Coco and Bop

Ellie Kate having a thoughtful moment
Zuzu cracked me up in one splash pad because she was pretending to be Elsa and the water was her “powers” and she was running around singing “Let It Go.”

"LET IT GO...."
The morning ended with a carousel ride, courtesy of Monica. I’d told Zuzu we weren’t going to do the carousel, but she cried and David was still checking out the Reds’ gift shop, so she ended up getting to go with Ellie Kate. Hashtag spoiled. Also Monica paid for them to have three rides, and when they were both upset that the convertible car on the carousel was already taken, Ellie Kate’s grandma “Mimi” sat in the car to reserve it for them the next two times. Hashtag totally spoiled rotten.

She's so pissed that she's not in the car.

So satisfied.
The rhythm of the day was a little bit off then because we needed lunch early on and we’d gotten such a late start and we really wanted to find our condo in West Virginia before it got dark, but we also stopped to buy groceries, which took slightly longer than expected.

As it turned out, it was pretty dark by the time we made it, but we did make it. We arrived at the condo, which Zuzu called “our little house” around 8pm and unpacked and relaxed and jerry-rigged a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs using the ironing board, much to Coco’s dismay. 

FREEDOM! (About to be withdrawn.)
Once we'd blocked the baby from the stairs, we were officially "on vacation"!


  1. First, I must say that I wholeheartedly agree on the minivan. I can't stand them, or anytime I've ever ridden in one. I'm not even crazy about SUV's either. The third row is worthless because no one enjoys sitting back there, not even kids.

    I'm also one of those people that doesn't get overly grossed out by much - like I can handle public places and public restrooms and I'm not always constantly wiping things down or feeling like my kids can't touch a grocery cart or a museum exhibit or a restaurant table. But, I feel you on the ewwy hotel. I can't do it. I've become such a hotel snob, and the extra $$ spent is always worth it. We also seek out hotels without the thru-wall split system heat / cool. More than general grime, I really can't stand the noise and the crappy air quality of those things.

    And now that I sound really picky and annoying and have lots won'ts, I'll say that I love the fountain photos, and also Go Reds! My childhood team. I love Cincinnati.

  2. I have a minivan, but I consistently move 2 kids in car seats plus 3-4 adults in in, so it's sort of a necessary evil. And they are kind of going extinct! Glad the trip went fairly well, the kiddos seem to have had fun!

  3. Still love my minivan. Don't get too attached to LATCH, you have to use seat belt installs with most seats and cars when your kid gets about 40-45 lbs anyway. (There is a weight limit that includes the car seat's weight on the LATCH system itself.) I wish we had splurged on Odyssey though. And I definitely don't think we could fit with my parents and the kids all the way to PA in it, I think you'd need a huge suburban or something. I'm glad the kids handled the drive well!

  4. My SIL drives an oddesy (we are a Honda family) and it's nice and smooth and practical, but you could put me in the fanciest minivan and I still wouldn't want to own one :)

    How fun that your BFF was there too!