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Archives for August 2010

Traveling the Mountain Highs and Valley Lows: Part 2

The Return Trip North

Part 1 of this road trip story can be read here.

I had planned on staying at my mother’s for a full month. After all, when on earth would I ever get a chance to take a month long vacation in the near future, particularly if I returned to work? By week three, however, I started to miss my husband terribly and decided to end our trip a little early. We had visited every swimming hole at least once, seen every waterfall. The girls dressed as fairies almost every day and wandered around my mom’s land like garden nymphs. We had played in the creek and built fairy pools. I even snuck in a fantastic hike with friends while my mom watched the girls one afternoon. I felt rested and restored, and I missed my husband. Plus, the weather changed for the worse and it began raining every day. With nothing else to do, we packed up our stuff and loaded the car for the long trip back home.

This time I felt prepared for the trip. I decided to take a less winding road back to the main interstate, thinking this would save me time. The girls couldn’t read or watch a DVD until we got out of the mountains, but I had hoped they would listen to music and entertain themselves with stories or games during the initial leg out. To my surprise, they both fell asleep.

At first, I saw this as a godsend. I could listen to Allison Krauss without objection. I wouldn’t have to entertain anyone. Yes, this was going to be a fine trip home.

They woke when we arrived in Asheville. My oldest almost immediately complained she had a tummy ache. We still had about an hour until lunch so I didn’t want to stop. We weren’t entirely out of the winding roads either so I also kept reminding them to watch the road. I even slowed down and cracked the windows to let in some fresh air. I gave the girls some crackers and something to drink, thinking they were just a little hungry and thirsty after waking up.

Within 10 minutes, my youngest tells me she feels like she is going to throw up. I am on the highway at this point and there aren’t that many places to pull over nor are there frequent exits. I finally see an exit and tell them that I am going to pull over, but it’s too late. My littlest one pukes all over herself. Luckily, the damage is small. In the parking lot of a Burger King I clean her up. I was afraid to get them lunch right then in case the mountain roads were making them sick so I got back on the road and told them we’d stop in a half hour once Lil’ Bean’s tummy was no longer upset.

Not five minutes later and my oldest one pipes up from the back, saying “Mommy, I’m going to throw up!” At this point I can’t pull over. There are no exits and we are in the middle of an interchange. I get frazzled and tell my oldest one to try to focus on the road, but she pukes instead. She pukes a lot. Like eight times, and it’s massive and everywhere. I panic. I call my husband and tell him I don’t know what to do. I see an exit, but there are no restaurants and no gas stations advertised. The only thing at this exit is the U.S. Forest Service. I pray that they are nice and will have a bathroom they’ll let me use out of pity. Turns out they actually have a Visitor’s Center. I am relieved, though exhausted and dreading the clean up.

I get out of the car and strip my oldest daughter down to her bare bum. I didn’t want to bring her into the Visitor’s Center covered in vomit. While I was taking off her dress I noticed that her panties were wet. Because I hadn’t anticipated her falling asleep so early in the trip I didn’t put a diaper on her in case she peed in her sleep. So, as luck would have it, she had peed during her nap. Now there was not only vomit all over her and her car seat, her blanket, and all the bags that were at her feet, but her car seat was also wet with pee. I had just enough paper towels to mop up most of the vomit and soak up some of the pee. I dug around in the trunk for our buried suitcase and got a change of clothes for both of the girls. We headed to the Visitor’s Center to wash faces and hands.

Thankfully, no one behind the desk gave us any trouble or said anything disparaging. I cleaned the girls’ hair as best I could, washed their faces and hands, changed my youngest one’s diaper, and tried to get them to rinse with water. On our way out we even stopped to look at some of the pictures in their exhibits.

Back in the car the smell of vomit permeated everything. We were now located in an area where there would not be another exit for about 45 minutes. I was terrified to feed them anyhow, though in retrospect some of the vomiting may have been due to low blood sugar. It’s just that I thought the crackers would’ve helped with that.

I called my husband and relayed the news. I became worried that perhaps they were ill. The fact that both of them vomited concerned me. What was I going to do? How were we going to get home? We were too far away from my mom’s to head back and doing so involved driving through the mountains. Home was at least eight hours away. So, I drove on and told the girls that we’d stop at the next exit for lunch and a rest. If need be, we’d stay overnight until everyone got better.

About 20 minutes into the drive my oldest complains again, telling me she thinks she is going to throw up. Until now I had been calm. I hadn’t raised my voice or anything. This time I commanded her to get a grip, as if somehow my anger could control her body. She really tried, I think, poor thing. I was just desperate. I didn’t have any more paper towels. I didn’t have anywhere to stop except on the highway. And I didn’t know what to do with more vomit.

She lasted about 15 minutes more before she protested. I could tell she was serious and, not knowing what else to do, I swerved off the highway onto the shoulder and pulled her out of the car while she was retching. We were within the city limits at this point. I knew there was a Chik-fil-A somewhere nearby where we could stop. I hoped that food would stop the vomiting, but I was also scared that it would just come back up. I had decided to stay there for at least an hour before determining whether or not we would try to continue our journey home.

A police officer saw us pulled over on the side of the road and stopped. I explained that my daughter had gotten sick again and that we were looking for the Chik-fil-A. He stayed with us and offered to guide me to the restaurant once my oldest felt okay to get in the car again. The idea of chicken nuggets appealed to my 4-year-old (and to my patient little toddler), so we got back in the car and followed the police officer.

I wasn’t sure what would happen after they ate, but they both seemed to bounce back and behave like their normal selves. We stayed for an hour and went for a small walk so I could get a cup of tea. I called my husband in tears because we were so far away from home and I was scared to get back in the car. He suggested I drive for a little bit and see what happened. If they started puking again I would just find a hotel and stay until they recovered.

Fortunately for me, they were fine and I pressed on until we reached a town where the next day’s travel would be about five hours. My husband had even scoped out the town and told me where I could drive for dinner. He also found a hotel that had a pool, which I knew would be a welcome activity for the girls.

The car still reeked. The vomit-covered clothes and blankets were tucked away in the back, but they needed to be washed. The hotel had a coin-operated laundry facility on premises, which saved me a trip to the local laundry mat. I bought Febreeze, Lysol, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and paper towels at the grocery store down the road. I cleaned the car while the girls watched TV in the room. The smell wasn’t great when I was done, but it was better.

After dinner, I washed the laundry while I gave them a bath. By morning, everyone and everything was clean. The clothes and blankets smelled like Mountain Rain (or something like that). The slightly sickening smell of vomit still lingered in the car, but it was tolerable.

In the end, there really is something miraculous to me in our ability to still enjoy pieces of the day despite all the hurdles we faced. Traveling with small kids is a challenge like no other. I have often wondered why anyone goes anywhere with small children. But they will remember the good times as much as the bad times, and the good times are as important to them as the rough ones. We are building stories for them to recall as they get older and providing a foundation and framework with which to cope in the real world. I hope that my kids take the good and bad of our summer vacation with them and one day weave them into their identity, making it part of who they are. After all, I believe they are richer because of it.

About the Author: Ruth(aka DoodleMommy) is a happily married woman and mother of two young girls (with one on the way) living in the Northern Virginia area. She is a Beta mom wannabe, an NPR junkie, and studies rocks for a living. Her husband is an incredible cook and does laundry. She is a lucky gal. You can connect with Ruth on her blog or on

Nitrogen Filled Tires

Are you or your family looking for ways to save money, increase gas mileage, and decrease your carbon footprint? Nitrogen filled tires may not be worth the expense, but there sure has been a lot of buzz about it lately. I’ll do my best to explain it to those who are wondering what the buzz is about, as well as offer our stance on providing this service.

What is nitrogen filled tires?

The easy explanation is exactly as the question implies. It is the process of filling tires with nitrogen. The claim is that regular air is corrosive due to the oxygen content and can eat away at the tires from the inside. However, the same air is on the outside of the tire, which in my opinion debunks this claim. Tires are going to be exposed to air.

What is the ARGUMENT for filling tires with nitrogen?

Nitrogen filled tires are supposed to improve your gas mileage and not fluctuate (tire) pressure as much, in extreme temperatures such as ours in Minnesota. Nitrogen is stable and rarely fluctuates at all, or so is the claim, whereas most standard air tires will fluctuate between 3 to 7 psi  during the changing seasons. However, I believe it is dangerous to make customers think they can rely on steady tire pressure and not have to check on tire pressure as often. At the TireZoo, we recommend that you check your air pressure AT LEAST monthly, if not more frequently.

Are Nitrogen Filled Tires a Greener Option?

The way that this is seen as a “greener option”, is IF filling your tires with nitrogen substantially increases gas mileage. How much of an improvement in gas mileage will nitrogen filled tires make? I am not sure. I know that people desire to find more ways to make travel “green”, which I think is great. However, there seems to be a lack of any statistical proof, at least that I’ve seen, which makes this issue so controversial. Google “Nitrogen Tires”, and you’ll find a plethora of sites discussing this issue. There are as many sites recommending it, as sites calling it a scam. 

At this time, I think it’s an expensive add-on and gimmick. The TireZoo does not offer this service.

Do you have another question you’d like answered? Please let us know by leaving a comment here or emailing

Traveling the Mountain Highs and Valley Lows: Part 1

Part 1: The Trip South

Last summer I took time off from work because my job was not covering the costs of my daycare bill. Since I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d be working in the coming summers I decided to take my two girls, ages 4 and 2 at the time, to visit my mother in western North Carolina while my husband stayed behind to work. The car ride from northern Virginia (where we live) to North Carolina is about 11 hours. The final two hours of the drive takes place in the mountains. Without the mountains, the drive west from Asheville would probably only take about 30 minutes to an hour at most. The closer we get to my mom’s house the more switch backs we encounter, which invariably means everyone in the car gets nauseous. Those in the back suffer the most. This, of course, means my children, seeing as how they are too young to ride in the front and are required to remain strapped into their car seats.

When I was a girl I did not ride in a car seat. I don’t think car seats even existed for babies back then. My mother held me in her lap when my father drove her home from the hospital. Whenever we drove to visit my grandparents in western North Carolina, I could stand in the middle of the back seat so that I could see the lines on the twisting road. Or, I was allowed to sit in the front seat. This prevented the nausea, though not always.

I began the journey down to North Carolina early, knowing that we’d have to stop halfway through at a hotel. I wanted to make the trip in two days. Before I even got out of our suburban neighborhood, however, I discovered that our DVD player was not working. I thought it was because it was broken. I stopped at Target and purchased a new DVD player, desperate to have some form of entertainment for the troops for the long journey ahead. Little did I know at the time that the fuse to my lighter had blown, as the new DVD player had about an hour of battery that enabled us to play a movie while I scooted down the road. We hadn’t even made it to the next interstate when the DVD player shut off suddenly.

I called my husband in a panic. Should I turn around and head back home? How would I drive 11 hours without a DVD player? How did my mom make the trip back in the day without one? My husband couldn’t explain why the DVD player wouldn’t play, but he agreed to look into it and get back to me. I kept driving. Surely I could manage to keep the kids occupied for a couple of hours until we fixed the problem. If my mother could manage, so could I.

About this time I suggested we channel Wonder Woman. After all, the girls had been watching her on the DVD player when it quit. Wonder Woman didn’t need a television to survive. We were brave souls and we would cope. The girls agreed. So, on we went.

To my surprise, they managed quite well without the DVD player. We had CDs to listen to and books to read and games to play. We stopped for lunch and played for awhile. They napped in the car after lunch.

Despite the late start and several stops we actually made it to the halfway point while there was still daylight. The TV didn’t work in the room we got, but I requested a new room and they switched us. We played in the pool after eating dinner at the Mexican restaurant near the hotel. All in all, we survived and even laughed now and then.

I should’ve been deterred by all the hurdles, but for some reason I just wouldn’t let them prevent me from giving up. Maybe it was Wonder Woman. Maybe it was something else. But, clearly, this vacation was a series of what my mother used to call “adventures.”

The next morning I woke early and left the room to get a cup of tea. My oldest daughter woke up at some point when I was downstairs. She woke up my younger daughter. They opened the door, but they didn’t see me in the hallway. They didn’t think to keep the door open, which meant they locked themselves out. They searched in vain for me, but they didn’t venture beyond the confines of the floor, probably because they were too scared and needed me to guide them. When I came back upstairs I found them lying face down outside our door sobbing. They thought I had left without them.

I nearly died.

“I just went to get some tea!” I cried. “I would never leave you! I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I promise it will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever happen again.” By this point I was crying, guilt oozing out of my every pour. Clearly, I had failed them. I should’ve just sat quietly in the room while they slept and, I don’t know, pushed through the hunger and need for caffeine. They usually sleep for at least another hour. I thought I had time! I was devastated by my poor parenting skills.

Needless to say, the girls refused to let me out of their sight for the rest of the morning. A stop at the local Wal-Mart enabled me to purchase a pair of needle nose pliers so that I could swap the old lighter fuse for a new one. The stop also involved the purchase of two new dolls for each of the girls, as the auto parts were conveniently located behind the toy section. Given my mishap that morning, I allowed them to pick one doll as long as it was no more than $20. Thanks, Wal-Mart.

We finally arrived at my mother’s later that day, fortunately without much incident. The return trip home, however, is a different story and one that also makes it into the record books as being unbelievably fraught with “adventure.”

Stay tuned for Part 2…Coming soon!

About the Author: Ruth(aka DoodleMommy) is a happily married woman and mother of two young girls (with one on the way) living in the Northern Virginia area. She is a Beta mom wannabe, an NPR junkie, and studies rocks for a living. Her husband is an incredible cook and does laundry. She is a lucky gal. You can connect with Ruth on her blog or on

Are you interesting in writing a guest travel piece? Do you have a great road trip story to tell, fantastic family vacation destination, or tips to help other parents cope while on the road? Email us at


How We Survived Our 936 Mile Road Trip

Road Trip with KidsAre you planning a long road trip for your family vacation? We did, and obviously we survived to tell about it. Our family of five decided to head cross-country to meet up with some friends for an extended weekend, making the long drive part of the “experience”. I can honestly say that our trip went better than we expected, and we’re even willing to do it again.

That’s not to say we didn’t worry about incessant complaining from our older kids or unstoppable crying fits from our two year old. We braced for the worst and prayed for the best. We landed somewhere in between with some great memories.

I attribute pre-planning (Hey, I’ll take the credit) to making a major difference in how well our trip went, as well as how quickly we were able to arrive at our destination. We crossed five states and 936 miles in 15 hours. We made it both ways with only one stop per state! Yes, that’s right. I’m happy to share what we did, and I hope you have a great trip too!

*Disclaimer: We have a Durango with plenty of room, a DVD player, and allow eating in our vehicle. If you don’t…I’m sorry.

10 Things That Got Us (And Our Kids) Through A Long Road Trip

  1. Early To Rise makes the kids crabby and parents tired, but with some good coffee it worked great. We were on the road by 5am, which means we were in a pool at our destination shortly after 8pm!
  2. Two Coolers of the smaller variety worked great for storing beverages right behind the front seat of our Durango, and putting food toward the back of the truck where our oldest could reach out food for the rest of us.
  3. Fast Food by way of packing coolers, saving money, avoiding extra stopping and eliminating excess calories is the way to go. I let each family member place his/her order ahead of time, and I shopped accordingly. I made up sandwiches and snacks that made everyone happy. Having food ready when someone was hungry was really great.
  4. Clipboards made travel games, writing, and drawing much easier for the kids. I put some crayons in baggies and clipped them to the clipboards. These were really handy and fit easily under the seats once we got there.
  5. Water Bottles with squirt tops that are hard to spill work great for the kids to sip on. We just kept refilling the water bottles or the baby’s sippy cup, as needed.
  6. Movies that have not been seen before by the kids hold their attention much better than those they have seen a thousand times. But you don’t need to spend money. I posted on Facebook to my friends that I was looking for some kids movies for our vacation, and I got an overwhelming response. We simply stopped at a friend’s house and “shopped” their movie selection.
  7. Travel Bingo and other travel related games were a huge hit with our kids.
  8. Mandatory Bathroom Breaks happened each time we stopped for gas. We multi-tasked big time, but it worked great. The idea is simple; every time we NEEDED to stop, everyone went to the bathroom (changed diapers). This way we got gas, bathroom breaks, and a much needed stretch all at once. We also threw away trash.
  9. The Element of Surprise works great and helps break up the trip if you can pack some fun items to pull out when the kids get bored. Some great ideas are pipe cleaners, fun foam, suckers, “I Spy” books, hair bands and barrettes to do each others’ hair (works good for girls).
  10. Kennel the dog. I can’t imagine throwing our dog into the mix. He pulled me aside and thanked me profusely for not subjecting him to the chaos anyway.

What about you? Do you have any tips for surviving a long road trip with kids? Any usual items you packed that came in handy? If you liked this article, you might also like: One Mom’s Story of Traveling: Traveling the Mountain Highs and Valley Lows

Are you interesting in writing a guest travel piece? Do you have a great road trip story to tell, fantastic family vacation destination, or tips to help other parents cope while on the road? Email us at

Family Road Trips Begin with a Trip to the Tire Zoo

With family vacation time quickly approaching, it’s good to be prepared for long distance road trips.

Checking your tires is critical!

Your tires will tell you more than most people realize.

Check the front tires first– Turn your tires sharp to one side and look at the tire wear. Are they worn evenly? If so, check the tread depth. To do this, use a penny and place it in the tread of the tire with Lincoln’s head down. The tread should be at least to his ear for a long trip (this would be about 50-60% life remaining).

If you have irregular tread wear, here are some possible symptoms:

  • If the tires are worn on the inside and outside edges they have been run under inflated.
  • If the tires are worn in the center, but outsides are good, they are over inflated.
  • If the tires are either worn on the inside or outside edge, your vehicle needs to be aligned.
  • If the tires are worn unevenly with bald spots, are cupped, or scalloped, it could be tire balance , alignment, or week shocks. If you are in need of an alignment you should replace the tires before getting the vehicle aligned.

Next, follow these additional reminders for a safe family road trip:

  1. Change your oil and all filters.You should also have your coolant and A/C checked.
  2. Have your battery load tested and terminals cleaned
  3. Check all the drive belts and hoses for any signs of wear and deterioration. Belts that are frayed, glazed, cracked, cut or have chunks missing should be replaced immediately. With the engine off and cold, look at each hose and see if there are leaks, bulges, cracks, or swelling. If they look good, give them a squeeze test. Hoses that are in good condition are firm but flexible. Any hoses that feel brittle or too soft should be replaced.
  4. Brakes: If you hear any grinding noises or feel unusual vibrations when you apply the brakes, or if the vehicle pulls to one side, take the vehicle in for a comprehensive checkup. It would be a good idea just to have your brakes looked. You definitely don’t want to worry about replacing your brakes 1,000 miles into your trip!
  5. Aspirin is always a good idea, right?

Safe travels from the TireZoo! Let’s us know if we can help with new or used tires to get you through your road trip. 1-800-421-2037