We had the great idea of having all of the girls sleep over at Melissa’s to make our departure time of 5 a.m. a true possibility. We made sure that the girls were all bathed because we really did not know how long it could be before they got a real bath again. As they settled in and actually fell asleep, Melissa and I were busy assembling breakfast burritos and packing the coolers… at 10 pm!
It was after midnight before we were done in the kitchen and began to seriously assess the plethora of back packs, pillows and sleeping bags, amongst the other necessary items to be packed. Wow… time to go to work… after midnight.
We organized as we loaded the van. Everyone had their own backpack under their seat as well as their pillow in preparation for the hopeful hours of quiet nap times. Our snack box – which literally looked like the honor system vending boxes you see in commercial offices- was purposefully placed up front where it could receive adult monitoring.
We were so wound up from the packing and loading, that we seriously considered just leaving when we were loaded… at 3 a.m. I had to convince Melissa that it would be best to get at least 3 hours of sleep before our journey which meant we would be leaving later than planned. Breathe… it’s ok to start this journey off-schedule… this is a
vacation field trip…
Bright and early, the girls were cheerfully climbing into the van and settling in. We made our way down to Debra’s place to pick up her and Katrina. Ohhh myyy, there are more bags… I had to laugh at the thought of forgetting that we needed to deliver some left behind belongings to her college son… at the end of the trip! We found room. We settled in. We began pulling out of the driveway. Then we quickly had to turn around… we needed pencils… we are going on a homeschooling field trip and we forgot pencils…?
It is always funny to me that kids are eager to dive into their “to-do” bag immediately upon starting a road trip. All five of the girls were busily working on their Pioneer Field Trip education packets before we were even off of the dirt road.
The sun was rising as our journey finally began. This is going to be fun…. or at least a test of friendships… six days… five girls (7-11)… one infant… three women. We can do this… we can do this.
Our schedule for the day was to leave early enough to drive almost across Kansas and then head north into Beatrice, Nebraska to arrive at the National Homestead Monument. 483 miles… just under 8 hours. We would be there by 3 pm and be able to spend an hour or so at the monument, then head to Grand Island and set up camp late in the evening. This was our longest scheduled day with the most miles planned. We can do it… just focus... the rest of the trip will be a breeze.
The breeze came. Shortly after crossing into Kansas, our beautiful sunny sky turned into a wall of darkness. Traveling speeds slowed a bit as the wipers sped up. Toes began tapping as the minutes seemed to pass by like seconds on a wall clock.
Debra was at the wheel during the heavy rainfall when suddenly a large work truck veered right into our lane as if our large 12-passenger van didn’t exist. We were immediately praising the Lord for her quick reflexes as she carefully swerved out of the way. It is unsettling to be faced with the reality of how quickly and easily our lives could be altered. The driver, completely unaware that he put anyone’s life in danger, swerved back into his own lane and continued his texting. Little did we know at the time that this was only the first example of God’s hand during our trip.
With senses heightened, I made the call to the KOA campground that was prepaid to inform them that we would not be making it there tonight as we have spent hours in dusk-like darkness as we traveled through Kansas. Thoughts of the whole Midwest being under a blanket of rain were put to ease as she informed me of the beautiful clear skies there just outside of Grand Island, Nebraska.
We debated on a plan B as the miles slowly passed. It was evident that we could make it to the Homestead National Monument before they closed but we would have mere minutes for our visit. This simply was not going to be acceptable as the whole trip was centered on our first stop. We would need to search for a place to stay but unfortunately – we were still in Kansas – and neither of us seemed to have decent cell coverage while we were traveling. If only I could click my heels… there’s no place like home…
We stopped at a McD’s for a bathroom break and free wi-fi and made the decision to attempt a hotel room… hoping we could sneak the kids in…?
Plan B fell into place better than expected. Within a couple of hours we were in Beatrice and quickly settling into a nice-sized hotel room (we didn’t have to sneak the kids in as the clerk felt sorry for the three ladies with all of those girls in tow). We were happily enjoying dinner when we began to pay attention to the eeriness of the hotel that we were staying at. As the sun descended into the horizon the hotel
guests residents began to come out… literally. Grills and beer coolers were being rolled out of rooms and the outdoor party began. We began sensing several eerie eyes watching our moves… counting the girls… uhmmmm, I think it’s time we come inside… and pray.
Us mommas exchanged the knowingly-yet unsaid-looks as the happy-go-lucky girls settled in for the night. I couldn’t help but have flashbacks of Children of the Corn flow through my mind. I know… I know… but I’m from Nebraska, I can say that…
As the morning came and the party ceased we loaded up and made our five mile journey to the monument. We eagerly greeted the day with absolutely no clue of what obstacles we may face… and you’ll have to wait for the next posts to hear all about the hand of God and His protection on our trip…