Illustration for article titled Tucson, AZ to Tampa, FL

I wrote recently about a family vacation I was taking. Myself, my wife, and two sons (ages 6 and 4) were driving cross country from Tampa to Tucson. The trip out there was great, and the boys behaved very well and dealt with long periods in the car just fine. The return trip was a bit more of an adventure. We drove straight through with minimal stops. Google maps puts the journey at approximately 29 hours. We did it in 31 hours. As best I can recall, this is the story of those 31 hours. Times are approximate. Enjoy!

Friday, 6/2/2017, 7:00 pm PST, Tucson, AZ: We have just filled up with gas, filled up a cooler with bottled water and ice and we are ready to hit the road. My wife has requested to take the first driving shift.


7:10 pm: The boys ask for their LeapPads. We oblige as we know they will not be able to play with them long before darkness completely sets in. A discussion immediately ensues about who will get to play which game.

8:00 pm: Darkness has set in and I ask the boys to turn off their games and attempt to get some sleep.

8:35 pm: We cross into New Mexico. Arizona does not follow Daylight Savings Time, so we have lost our first hour of the return trip. It is now 9:35 pm MST. The elder son is asleep. The younger son is understandably having a hard time getting comfortable in his car seat. This was a bit of a struggle on the way out, too. The last hour he was looking at my wife as I drove and screaming “when will we be there?!”

10:00 pm, MST: The younger son is kicking the driver’s seat. The problem seems to be he can’t get his legs comfortable. I crawl from the passenger’s seat to the extremely narrow space between the boy’s car seats. I wedge myself in there to try and calm him down. I end up holding his legs for him while he falls asleep. I contemplate what would happen if my wife made a panic stop. I don’t like any of the outcomes.


10:30 pm: I take my son’s blanket and wrap his legs in the position I was holding them in. I crawl back to the front seat, recline it a little bit and attempt to get some sleep myself.

11:50 pm: We cross into the state of Texas. There are over 880 miles of I-10 through Texas. This will be home for quite some time.


Saturday, 6/3/2017, 12:20 am: We make our first gas stop on the east side of El Paso. Both boys ask to use the bathroom. A guy on a sport bike needlessly revs his engine after he fills up with gas. Two guys on cruiser bikes pull in and rev their engines, too. I’m thankful the boys were already awake.

4:30 am, CST: We are in Fort Stockton, TX and have been in the central time zone for some time. I tried sleeping a lot during this stint as my wife continued to drive. I maybe got an hour or two. I have also had to go to the back seat again to try and help our younger son get comfortable. We are making our second fuel stop and a driver change. I fill up a travel mug with ice and Mountain Dew, my road trip drink of choice.


5:30 am: I-10 through west Texas is extremely lonely. The only good thing is the speed limit is 80 mph. For major portions of this stretch, our vehicle is the only one that can be seen. There aren’t even many truckers.

5:45 am: Possibly somewhere between Sheffield and Sonora, I spot an object ahead in the left lane. I am cruising alone in the right, traveling at exactly 80 mph. As I get closer, it becomes quite clear what the object is. It is a deer, standing in the left lane, frozen in his journey from the south side of I-10 to the north side. I slow, and move a bit onto the shoulder. He keeps staring westbound as I pass him. I contemplate what would have happened if he had made any moves. I don’t like any of the outcomes.


7:15 am: We are in Junction, TX and stop at a gas station with a McDonald’s attached. It’s probably not a good idea, but I get a Sausage, Egg, and Cheese McGriddle and a hashbrown. We make our third fuel stop at the same time. I share the deer story with my wife. I inform her that nothing “wakes you the fuck up” quite like having a close encounter with a deer.

7:20 am: Back on the road, we have been watching the navigation display for entertainment. When we first started, it said we should arrive shortly after 3:00 am Sunday morning. We think this would be great. It has hovered around 2:50 to 3:10 the entire journey so far. We have debated stopping somewhere Saturday night and finishing the drive Sunday morning. We decide to re-evaluate this evening.


9:10 am: We are driving through downtown San Antonio. We are well over halfway through Texas, but still have over 300 miles to go before we reach Louisiana.

11:30 am: We are in Katy, TX on the west side of Houston. We fill up with gas and switch drivers. We are approximately at the halfway point based on mileage. It is starting to seem like we will skip stopping for the night.


12:30 pm: On the east side of Houston it begins to rain. There is rain in the forecast along I-10 all through the Gulf Coast, some of it heavy.

1:54 pm: We enter Louisiana. I say goodbye to Texas by mumbling something along the lines of “good fucking riddance”.


3:00 pm: It is our younger son’s birthday (turning 4). Sadly, we are on the road and not able to throw him a party on his actual birthday. We celebrate by having some double chocolate chip cookies. I give each of the boys half a cookie.

3:01:00 pm: My oldest son has a bit of a look in his eyes. I contemplate what this means. I don’t like any of the outcomes.


3:01:10 pm: My oldest son throws up. In the car. All over himself, his car seat, his LeapPad, and some bags below his feet.

3:01:15 pm: I am in disbelief. My wife begins to pull onto the shoulder. It is pouring down rain. I get out, and grab some of our last remaining napkins to attempt to clean him up. I question literally every life decision that has put me in this position.


3:02 pm: I am now taking tissue paper from my other son’s gift bag to attempt to clean up the mess. I realize this is worthless and tell my wife to start driving and get off at the next exit.

3:05 pm: We stop in Crowley, LA at the nearest gas station. I go inside and buy a roll of paper towels, some baby wipes and ask for “a few plastic bags.” The next 15-20 minutes is spent dealing with the aftermath. My wife grabs some clothes and takes him inside to change and clean up. I use a combination of paper towels and baby wipes to clean everything up. Affected items include his car seat, his LeapPad, his headphones, the outside of a travel bag, the outside of a bag of popcorn and a bit of the floor mat. I am proud that I feel I have “saved the LeapPad”. A bag of white cheddar popcorn is the only victim as I wish to take no chances.


3:25 pm: My youngest son takes all of this in stride. He finished his half of the cookie while watching me clean up vomit. He remarks that his brother “doesn’t feel good.”

3:35 pm: In what may very well have been a tear-inducing moment for my wife and I, the son who has vomited types out “I am so sorry” on his LeapPad. My wife and I assure him that these things happen and tell him we truly believe he is a great child who is very caring, as is evident by the fact he typed that out.


5:00 pm: We need gas and food. We stop in Denham Springs, LA. The Shell station there is out of gas. We get back on the interstate and stop at the next exit. We stop at Chik-Fil-A for food. There is a nearby Shell station. It is closed. There is another one on the other side of the interstate. They too are out of gas. We stop across the street at a Pilot. We switch drivers. We know there is no way we are getting home at 3:00 am, but we refuse to stop for the night.

5:00 pm to Sunday, 6/4/2017, 4:40 am EST: The rest of the drive is mostly uneventful. I drive from Denham Springs to Tallahassee, FL where we stop for gas for the final time. My wife drives the rest of the way home. She hits a traffic cone on I-75. When she washes her car two days later, it buffs out. We completed 2046 miles at a bit less than 31 hours, for an overall average speed of approximately 66 mph. Everyone sleeps until 10:30 Sunday morning.

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