A couple of months ago, JD and I decided to make the brave (and a little crazy) decision to take a road trip from Texas to Alabama with our two toddlers. A trip that usually lasts around 10 hours…without stops. Regardless, growing up, I had made the trip countless times, and seeing as our family currently has five generations alive at one time, we ripped the band-aid off and went for it.
I currently drive a Ford Edge, which I love, but realistically, spending that much time in the car with minimal space and no form of entertainment was going to make the trip a little challenging – especially with Noah potty training. It seemed to only make sense to rent a minivan!
I hate to say it, but I fell in love. There was SO MUCH ROOM. The van had two captain’s chairs for the carseats, a bench seat in the back to stretch out in or change diapers on, a DVD player, more cup holders than a human could need, and automatic door openers on ALL of the doors. It was incredible. Honestly, renting the minivan was probably our best travel decision yet. We could fit Noah’s potty chair in the row between the captain’s chairs in case he really need to go, there was plenty of space for toys and books, and a secret cubby to hide my chocolate in. #winning
Our favorite stop on the way to Alabama was definitely this adorable little restaurant, called Harvest Grill, in downtown Meridian, Mississippi. Their downtown area was so charming, with brick sidewalks, and an ancient clock that sounded at the hour. The food was fresh and super delicious. Definitely a place you want to check out if you are ever in the area.
When we made it past Birmingham, we ended up driving over an hour on backroads to make it to our hotel. By the time we arrived, it was right before 11:00pm and both of the boys were passed out. Despite the fact that we got in so late, I was surprised that the boys did so well with moving to our hotel room and all of us sleeping in the same space.
Unfortunately, the hotel only had two roll away cribs, one of which was broken. This resulted in Emmett sleeping in the crib and us having to share a bed with a two year old the whole trip. On the positive side, while we aren’t co-sleepers, we recently transitioned Noah to a toddler bed and ended up not having any trouble falling asleep in bed with us…thank goodness.
Our first full day in Alabama, I got to take the boys to Noccalula Falls, a place we always visit whenever we are in Northern Alabama. This place is great for anyone. If you have kids, there are plenty of walking trails, a miniature train that goes around the state park, and a petting zoo. There are a ton of older structures and history sprinkled throughout, and also their own natural waterfall. The story behind the falls is super intriguing, and if you don’t have small children, you can even go hike down to the waterfalls.
The boys had a blast, and loved getting to run around after being cooped up in the car the day before. It also felt pretty good to burn off some of those terrible road trip calories consumed along the way to our destination.
Saturday was our Johnson Family Reunion, and we finally got to unite five generations together for the first time. It was incredible getting to see family that I hadn’t been around since I was a child myself. Everyone’s faces lit up when they got to meet the boys, and it was truly an experience to remember.
After the boy’s nap on Saturday, we spent the afternoon strolling around Downtown Guntersville (Which by the way, is really just a couple of antique shops that close at 5:00pm. It also has a cute little coffee shop, and a post office.)
Since my parent’s were going back the next day, we went to my cousin’s house to hang out and let the boys play. It’s incredible to see how much joy they get out of picking flowers and playing with dirt – they didn’t need toys at all. It is surprising the things you realize you don’t need when you run out of room to pack them.
Sunday was our last full day on our trip, and I couldn’t resist taking the boys to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.
Fun Fact: Anytime we travel somewhere, I always try to check out the local zoo or aquarium. We love animals, and it’s a great way to get the kids out and exploring.
While we only got to spend a few hours in Chattanooga, I fell in love with the city. It is filled with family friendly things, cute restaurants, and a river running right through the middle of it all. There is a baseball field, and hotels in walking distance of everything. So pack a stroller, and get going, because there is plenty to do. In fact, I’m already trying to talk JD in to planning our next family vacation there, I loved it so much.
On the way out of town Monday morning, we found a cute little fruit and veggie stand on the side of the road filled with fresh produce, local honey, and boiled peanuts. It was AMAZING. JD had never tasted local honey before – it still had the honeycomb in the jar and is so incredibly sweet. The trip alone was made solely on that purchase.
Our last real stop on the way home was this tasty little tacos and tapas restaurant in Birmingham, called Babalu. Seriously, do not go to Birmingham without trying this place out. I got the shrimp and grits (which happens to look like a hand), and it was AMAZING. The service was great, and when they forget the chicken on the boy’s quesadilla, they took it off our ticket and gave us free dessert for the drive home. Did I mention they have Margarita Monday? Go. Now.
All in all, the trip turned out to be amazing and went significantly smoother than I had anticipated. The boys did well in the car (thank you, Blaze and the Monster Machines), slept great in the hotel, and loved every second of the simpler life. They chased farm animals, played with all of the rocks they could find, and enjoyed meeting long distance family.
We made a ton of memories, got to create all kinds of new experiences, and were humbled by what we have and sometimes take advantage of. I’m grateful that I got to take the boys to see a part of my life they’ve only ever heard of, and I know it’s a trip we definitely won’t forget.
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