Route 66: Cross-country Travel with a Newborn and Toddler
Updated: Aug 5, 2022
It seems fitting to start this blog post with our 'halfway' picture. We were relieved to be at the halfway point, unscathed and sane, and these little ones in tow. When we decided move across the country via a 10 day RV trip, it made a lot of sense. But also bonkers, given that our daughter had just turned 1 month old on the day we started the trip.
Doing this 'Great American Roadtrip' has always been a dream of mine and we had the perfect excuse. We needed to be in California for a new job, we were in the middle of a pandemic, and we didn't want to fly with a newborn. Driving a house on wheels across the country, stopping and sight seeing along the way, made sense.
The RV trip sounded challenging and thrilling, so I talked my husband into it. He did all the driving so that I could tend to the baby. He was amazing. Driving a 30 foot trailer for 10 days, 45 hours, 3000 miles, through some pretty tricky routes, like high up the mountains, on our way to see the Sequoias, was no easy task.
RoadMap to Route 66
We planned to make the trip in 10 days, averaging 4.5 hours of driving everyday - some days with more driving and some days less. It was just enough driving to keep us moving but with enough breaks for the kiddos. We planned our route by looking up list of attractions on Route 66 and stopping at those that sparked our interest.
Route 66 has existed since 1926 and runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, cutting through 8 states. Today the route technically no longer exists. On a Route 66 trip, you technically get off and back on the route a few times. You can customize your drive to see the most sights that interest you while also keeping to a somewhat efficient drive, should you desire, by skipping some attractions, using alternate, more efficient routes.
After packing up our condo and saying our goodbyes (with Patrick's dad's help) we loaded our RV and car with everything the movers didn't take. Leading up to this moment, I had meticulously organized and packed our belongings. Items we needed for RV Living with a Newborn and Toddler for almost 2 weeks were organized separately from the other items we would need to settle into our new home, upon our arrival in California.
Those details are enough for a whole other blog post which will be coming soon. You will be able to read all about how we adapted to life one the move in a small space. We were even able to fit the crib in the RV bedroom! Truthfully, there were some real difficult moments but the good memories and experiences were abundant.
We ended day 1 with a stop at the grand parents', in Georgetown Illinois, a four and a half hour drive from our home in Grand Rapids. Patrick's dad drove our SUV so that we didn't have to toll it. Both grand parents had generously offered to drive our car all the way to California. Illinois was a perfect start for our journey on Route 66 proper the following day.
Soon after breakfast, we loaded up the kids and started our official journey on this historic route. After a couple of hours driving, we stoped at a classic Route 66 dinner near Springfield, Illinois for lunch.
A mountain of fries, and a breastfeeding session later, we loaded up for our next stop - The Lincoln Memorial.
Pandemic restrictions meant that we were not allowed inside the memorial. Although we were not happy about this, living at the height of COVID-19 uncertainty had prepped us for multiple disappointments like this one. We were determined not to let it negatively affect our overall experience.
The rest of day 2 was spent driving to Missouri. We had a few fun stops planned in Missouri. First was to our camping site in Meramac Caverns Natural Campground.
The Lincoln Memorial
There rest of the day was spent settling in our campsite and making dinner. We even had a pleasant visit from great grand parents who live in Missouri. Our campsite was on a picturesque spot by the Meramac river.
We woke early to make the 9 am guided tour to explore Meramac caverns which was an easy walk across the parking lot from our camp site. We all, especially Tobe, truly enjoyed exploring the caves and looking at the impressive stalactites and stalagmites. He liked the story of Jesse James hiding out in caves.
Tobe also liked the flowing mirror river in the cave. I go into all the details of this destination in a separate blog post. We also took lots of videos that can be found on the highlights on my Instagram page.
After exploring the underground caves, we packed up camp and got back on Route 66 with a few classic stops in mind. We stoped for lunch at Missouri Hick BBQ, picked up some fudge and a silly picture at Uranus Fudge factory, before heading to the Lake of the Ozarks to spend the rest of the day and camp overnight.
We enjoyed camping at the Ozarks. Tobe loved the beach. At first he didn’t believe that the lake water could be warm. Check out my Instagram story highlights to see how videos of how happy he was to learn that the lake in Missouri is much warmer than the lake in Michigan. The joyful expression on his face was priceless.
For dinner, we had a BBQ at camp. The grandparents offered to watch the kids after dinner while Patrick and I took a drive to the Scenic overlook for an evening view of the Ozarks. We stopped for a drink on the way home (shhh...) and ended the night listening to classic rock very loudly in our car.
Day 4 of our Great American Road-trip was spent traveling from the Lake of the Ozarks to Oklahoma City. On our way, we stopped at a few Route 66 attractions.
The first was Kan-O-Tex station in Galena, KS. This stop was for Tobe. He enjoyed seeing characters from the movie cars in real life. We also had Lunch in Galena. If you are ever in Galena, I highly recommend Mi Torito. It was delicious Mexican food.
Next stop was the Blue whale. I have to admit this was a rather boring stop. Back in the day, this used to be a fun watering hole/splash pool for the kids. Now it’s just an old whale structure. We got some pictures, checked it off our list, and indulged in some shave ice.
Now a whole paragraph dedicated to talking about this ridiculous shave ice shop. The portion sizes and prices were ridiculous! I’m not really sure why. The one shown in the picture cost 10 dollars and it was more than enough for the whole family. We even had to discard a lot of it. Smaller and cheaper portions would have made more sense but that wasn’t an option.
After the blue whale, our final stop of the day was in Edmond Oklahoma. I showed my husband and son my alma mater, the University of Central Oklahoma, and we visited my godparents. We then drove to our RV campsite in Oklahoma City and spent the rest of the day there. We stayed at Twin Fountains RV park.
We took it easy on Day 5 because it was Independence Day! We focused on spending time with family and friends. We slept in, woke up to find Tobe in our bed so we stayed in some more while he played with the baby.
Next, we had brunch with my godparents and a close friend in OKC. It was such a great time. I recommend @earlymoodfood if you are ever in the area - great food and good service!
After brunch we made the 4 hour trip to our campsite in Texas. We drove the whole way without a break! Once at camp, we relaxed outside and at the pool.
Dinner was interesting. We went to the Big Texan Steak Ranch. It’s an old timey styled steak restaurant. It was very over-the-top and yet laid back and homely. They provide free limo rides to the restaurant, and have cowboy riffle games for kids (🧐), LOTS of animal heads on the wall (😒), cowboys as waiters, and a 72 oz steak that you can get for free if you can eat it all! This place was stereotypically Texan. We didn’t attempt to go for the free steak but the 24oz steaks we paid for was really good. I have a highlight video of this on my Instagram as well. After a good dinner, we returned to camp and watched multiple fireworks displays. It was a very good, easy day.
This was a long day of driving for us but it was well worth it. Before the major part of the journey, we made two stops. First was at the Midway Point of Route 66 in Adrian Texas. The cover picture of this blog post was taken at this stop. It was an important milestone to be officially halfway through our pilgrimage.
Next we drove to New Mexico before heading to our camp site, we made a very important stop at Walter White's house in Albuquerque. This was the location where one of our favorite TV shows of all time - Breaking Bad, was filmed.
It looked very different from the show because it is now a private residence. The current owners, clearly and understandably, were not thrilled by all the tourists coming to see the house. To respect their privacy we took pictures form across the street. We ended the day setting up camp at the Enchanted Trails RV park.
We woke at 6:30 am to begin a long day of driving. First we drove 3.5 hours form our campsite to the Petrified National Forest. It was a remarkable place with fossilized wood and painted deserts. We spent about 3 hours driving through the forest and sight seeing before we headed back on the road to drive another 3.5 hours to the Grand Canyon. The petrified forest is another one of our stops that deserves a dedicated blogpost, coming soon.
Upon arrival at the Grand Canyon, we made camp and had dinner. Afterwards, we walked the 1 mile from our campsite to the edge of the south rim to watch the sunset over the Grand Canyon. It was a wonderful highlights of things to come. We looked forward to the miraculous landscape we would be witnessing over the next 2 days we planed to spend in the Grand Canyon.
We spent the entire next day enjoying the Grand Canyon. We walked the stroller accessible trail of the south rim, taking in 2.5 miles of breathtaking views. We spent the evening at camp before returning at night for star gazing above the canyon before packing up camp and preparing for our drive the next day.
The Grand Canyon is magnificent. I recommend spending at least a couple of days here when you visit. A dedicated blog post on the Grand Canyon is coming soon as well.
On this day, we drove hours up the windy mountains to get to the Sequoias. We did get lost in the national park trying to locate General Grant but we succeeded. We stayed at the Newberry Mountain Recreational RV park. Our camp site was quite cosy with a fire and a lake nearby. This was officially our last night on the road and we were all looking forward to arriving at our new home the next day.
After just under 3 hours of driving, we ended this epic adventure by arriving at our new home in California. This was truly a dream come true for me, a true American dream. We did and saw so much. It is amazing that this was only a fraction of the wonders in this beautiful country we call home.