The next time you're en route to the grocery store and your kids
are squabbling about which DVD to watch and playing whack-a-mole on
the back of your seat, just think: You could be on a 2,100-mile
road trip in the middle of the desert.
One Chicago family found itself in exactly that position last
week, traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago along Route 66, one of
America's oldest and most iconic highways.
Ryan Salzwedel and Pascale Piron hit the road Aug. 18 with their
5-year-old son, Leo, as part of Sears' Exploring My
America Challenge. The family was one of 21 teams selected to
travel one of nine famous American highways and send back blog
posts and videos from the road. The Uptown couple's assignment was
the first half of Route 66, from Los Angeles to Amarillo, Texas,
which they completed in five days last week before driving back to
"We had been trying to go on vacation in August anyway and here
was Sears, offering to pay for it," Salzwedel says. "Plus, we've
spent a lot on appliances there" -- the couple recently bought a
new washer, dryer and grill -- "so this seemed like a good way to
get some of that back."
Ryan, Pascale and Leo aren't rookie travelers: Pascale is from
Belgium, and the family has taken overseas trips to visit her
family there. But jet lag is one thing, and four days in a car is
entirely another, even for Leo, who, as an only child, Salzwedel
says has always been treated like "one of the team."
"He did pretty well," Salzwedel says. "A little fussy here and
there, but I think he really got a kick out of the whole
His favorite? The Grand Canyon -- and Mom and Dad's, too.
"He was like, 'I wanna go out on that ledge' and point to some
tiny rock over this huge canyon that no one in their right mind
would ever set foot on," Salzwedel says. "He has no fear."
(Watch Team Windy City 66ers' video from the Grand Canyon and other stops
along the way at the Exploring My America website.)
And because there's nothing like the idea of a long road trip to
make any parent start sweating bullets, we asked Salzwedel to share
some pointers from their experience, sort of a "How to travel 2,000
miles with a 5-year-old and not lose your mind" kind of thing. Here
are a few lessons from the road:
Prepare. Keep your kids in the loop on your
vacation plans. Let them know beforehand what the trip entails. Let
them know not only your expectations for the trip, but also your
expectations for them. Successful vacations take a lot of teamwork,
so it's a must that they understand their role on the team.
Read Up. At Leo's Montessori school, he learned
that asking questions is how you learn. True, but it's also how you
give Mom and Dad throbbing frontal lobe headaches. So read up and
know a little bit about the places you are visiting. Be patient
with your child, and understand that even if you give an
explanation of the Grand Canyon that any geologist would be proud
of, it is inevitably going to be followed by "Why?"
Flexibility We always keep our car stocked with
water and, with that, the understanding that a child's bladder can
go from zero to full in seconds. You are going to have to make
"emergency" stops along the way. We were lucky -- it's easier with
boys -- but learn to take bathroom breaks when you can, choose your
rest stops carefully and be prepared for at least one time when
your child swears he doesn't have to go and then, just
minutes after getting back on the highway, you're looking for a
place to pull off. Like all other parts of parenthood, flexibility
See more of Liz's stories here.
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