When my friends and I decided to set up a January
road trip to Indianapolis, there were, of course, concerns: The
weather could derail us, or with four families attending, any of us
could fall prey to the winter germs that have been particularly
brutal this year.
But I'll admit it - I had recently taken the kids
on a successful trek to the Wisconsin Dells and I was feeling a
little bit cocky.
Road trips - I got this. Besides, it was a quick
trip: down Friday, back Saturday. It involved only one night to
minimize meltdowns, yet was long enough to have fun and catch up.
Our plan was to attack the water park on Friday, then enjoy the
Children's Museum on Saturday until the kids were adequately
We popped our vitamin C, watched the forecast, and
held our breath.
I felt my first brief panic as my phone buzzed late that
Thursday afternoon, with three calls in a row from our hotel. The
water park at our host hotel had just notified the front desk that
they would be closed for the weekend for maintenance. Hmm.
That was a biggie. After a few quick calls, we solidified plan B:
The kids would swim in the still-functional hotel pool and we'd end
the day with an in-room pizza party. Game on.
The forecast showed some snow, which for anyone who
has driven on I-65 before knows, that means you'll keep your face
uncomfortably close to the windshield to maximize visibility,
tightly clutch the wheel, and every time you come out of an
underpass, the wind will knock you over at least half a lane.
Fortunately as an IU alum, I've navigated the terrain many times.
The "Frozen" soundtrack kept the kids
happy while I stayed as far away from skittering trucks as
possible. I even managed to bust out a little bit of work during a
stop using restaurant wifi.
Like I said - I got this.
It was when we arrived in Indianapolis that
I walked into the hotel. Strike that - I
attempted to walk into the hotel. One
of the "automatic" exterior doors wasn't working (at all), so I
nearly crashed before we'd even taken a step inside. When checking
in, I learned that the water park had actually been closed for the
previous three weeks, but the hotel hadn't mentioned it to us until
the day prior.
We settled into our rooms. I was a little curious
about mold, given some strange spackling and weird rows of drill
marks across my ceiling, but I shrugged and headed down the hall.
Aimee had the Internet up and running. Her car, which she'd only
had for several weeks, had been scraped by another vehicle in a
parking lot, so she was enjoying a leisurely stroll through the
insurance claim process.
The phone rang: D'Arcy. Her car ran out of gas
outside of Indy, uncomfortably positioned by where two highways
Aimee continued to work through her insurance
issues, keeping my kids while I drove back out onto the highway to
retrieve D'Arcy and her crew. Several illegal U-turns later, we
were back at the hotel.
As attempts were made to determine why the hotel
pool was locked since it supposedly had been open since 9am, I made
a critical error: I read the hotel reviews. Because several friends
had stayed there previously, we hadn't bothered to do that ahead of
time, and had no idea that our lodging had come upon tough times .
. . like the fact that the water park had mainly been closed since
August. Or that there were many complaints of roaches, dirty linens
and bed bugs.
My daughter has been bitten by bed bugs once before
and I am grateful we did not bring them home. I was not anxious to
test my luck again. I went back to my room and pulled back the
sheets, only to discover crusted blood. Not an old stain - it was
crusted on the sheets. As I looked at the holes in the pillowcases,
down at the sheets, and up at the strange ceiling, I knew that
there was no way I would actually be able to fall asleep
By the time the kids were done with their
ten-minute swim in the cold pool, I had decided to check out and go
stay with our friend Kristen and her family across the street at a
different hotel. From the immediacy of my refund when I notified
the front desk, I'm guessing this wasn't a rare
In the meantime, D'Arcy's husband zigzagged around
Indy buying fuel and maneuvering his now-functioning vehicle over
to the hotel. When Kristen's family arrived for dinner, we were all
ready for pizza.
With food, the mood lightened with giggles of seven
happy kids and five relieved parents. The kids, oblivious to any
hiccups throughout the day, were happy to play together and the
adults were looking forward to a quiet night and museum fun on
Kristen looked closer at one of her sons. They
began making trips into the bathroom. Finally, Kristen sighed that
they might need to head to a clinic because her son had an
incredible knack for picking up pink eye.
It was shortly thereafter that we decided to call
it a night.
And then there were three. Kristen, with her son's
illness confirmed, drove home first thing in the morning, having
traveled all that way for a few slices of pizza.
When we met for breakfast, the mood was light, which is
one of the many things I love about this group. We chuckled at how
the trip had been perhaps a bit more eventful than we would have
preferred, but everything was tempered with at leasts.
At least there was another hotel
At least Aimee's car was
At least D'Arcy and Andrew were so close to the
hotel when their car died.
At least Kristen's son had something minor
(that didn't involve vomit.)
As we drank our coffee and ate, even the at
leasts faded away, replaced by next time.
Next time we will stay at this
Next time we will stay for two nights for the
museum and zoo.
We made it to the Children's Museum without incident.
Both the kids and parents had a blast, surrounded by amazing
exhibits and demonstrations. Afterwards, everyone made it home
safely - and no one else got pink eye. While I think I'll take a
little break before my next road trip, I'm already looking forward
to next time.
"Smiling kids trump any road trip
Tracy Jensen, aka ChiMomWriter, is a writer, marketer, mother, fundraiser, marathoner, and music lover. She can be found at night ignoring the dishes and playing on Twitter.
See more of Tracy's stories here.
Let us plan your weekend with the best family events and activities in Chicagoland.
Start the week right with deals, prizes, parent life hacks and more delivered straight to your inbox.
Need last-minute ideas for a weekend of family fun? No worries. We've got you.
Get the inside scoop on the people, places and things we are loving right now.
Resources, tips, inspiration and more for parents of children with special needs.
Score exclusive offers from our fabulous advertisers.