What most people would consider to be a short trip can easily turn into a journey once it falls in my hands. I am not big on flying, not when I can be on wheels. The joy of driving through the landscape, stopping by to check out the local attractions, staying overnight at a roadside motel in a small town, steering out of way to visit a friend or family – the overall experience is quite exciting, lightly adventurous and heavy with memories. I have driven across America twice, 3000+ miles, once alone, once with Mili before the kids, and had always remembered the experiences fondly.
Since we had the kids going away in long trips became quite difficult. As soon as they turned old enough to tolerate the exertion from such a trip I planned one – to Florida, for almost three weeks. Zakeem and Farheen, at 10 and 5 already knew quite a bit about the Disney World in Orlando. While their mother was equally excited (as I was) in the smell of this journey, the only way to convince the little ones were obviously the Magic Kingdom – the major attraction for the young kids in the Disney World.
My plan was to drive all the way to Orlando and beyond only steering slightly away to see my long time friend Kaz in Atlanta and to visit the two major local attractions. On our way back home we would stop by in Connecticut to see my parents who lived in Bangladesh and were visiting my sister. A total of 7000+ KM on the road. I was a little worried, wondering how well the kids would cope up as they had continuously grown impatient to road trips longer than 40 minutes, the time it took to visit some of their dearest friends in Scarborough. Needless to say the trump card was the Kingdom. I invite you to come along to share our journey to the Kingdom.
Before every trip I meticulously plan, regardless of its length and distance covered, especially if the kids are accompanying us. In North America roads and localities are relatively safe but still trouble may lurk in places that one least expect. The last thing I would want is to put the kids in any kind of risk. Things do happen from accidents to crimes. Planning for a safe trip is not an easy task. Ensure the weather pattern is favorable, motels are booked and confirmed so no surprises when we arrive there late at night, routes are trouble free – no road works, difficult detours or other unexpected issues, localities are favorable for tourists – there are areas that I might want to avoid, hospitals are available – just in case the kids felt sick, necessary support and insurance for the car are in place– in case it breaks down on the way, best route has been selected that offers maximum opportunity to check out prominent road side attractions and the major area attractions – not all are open year around, etc., etc. I planned on paper, later created spreadsheets on the computer, and itemized every detail – from route to motel to food to attractions and more. I purchased the expensive Disney tickets on the net to get much better deals. They arrived on time to cheer the kids up. Vacation from work was arranged.
Everything looked good. Weather was going to be cold in the North but as we move to the South it would warm up considerably. We were all excited.
Even better, J and family would join us in Orlando. They’ll fly a few days later and if everything went well we would reach Orlando the same day. They have one daughter (let’s call her Tasi) who is 7. Kids like kids. All three looked excited.
December 16, Thursday. 3 PM.
We packed up all our stuff, loaded the family car – Toyota Sienna 2000 with 240K on it and going great, checked the battery operated food feeder of aquarium that hosted my two pet Japanese Koi (Fire – 5 years, Ray – 3 years), turned on the security alarm in the house, locked the front door and got comfortable inside the all familiar roomy vehicle that I sometimes fondly call – Duronto (the Daredevil).
I reset the trip mileage in the odometer to zero.
Mili chanted some religious verse (doa), insisted on the kids to repeat after her. I started the car and quietly wished – Let this trip be safe.