The thing I love about blogging is that it allows me to share some pretty cool experiences with my friends and family and record it for looking back and reflecting.  That said, in this page of my autoblography, I take us all on a family road trip to visit my dad, or “Papa” as Madison says.

Many of you know that orchestrating a family trip can be like herding cats! It may be a real challenge, but I knew that it had to be done.  My dad has been living in Iowa most of his life, and yes, my early upbringing was in the land of the Hawkeyes.  I do not shun or smear my home state too bad, but if you know anything about the transition from Minneapolis, MN to Cedar Rapids, IA then you know it is like hopping in your DeLorean and going back a decade or two. I digress…

As grown kids, my brother Justin and my sister Janeen and I knew that we needed to repay my father for the countless times that he has commuted to the cities for holidays and family gatherings.  A many thanks are due.  Therefore, we finally got our priorities straight and put a plan in action.  It was to be a covert in and out operation, 24-36 hours tops!

Our trip promptly began at the end of the work week. This is typically when I leave out of the office about an hour early and chase out to Wisconsin to pickup my little peanut butter Madison. Once I got her and delivered the news about a weekend road trip with her cousins to Iowa, she flipped (in a good way). So excited she literally was shaking in her seat. It made me feel great to have the means and desire to bring our family together. I had already taken the liberty of packing her things for the weekend, so next stop was to swing by and snatch up my sister and her girls Chloe and Scarlet.

Thankfully everyone had there things ready to go and once we got the girls from daycare we began southbound to our brother’s place in Winona. He graciously offered to put us up for the night and to feed us. On our way down we played the radio rotation game where we all took turns sharing and singing along to our favorite tunes. From my sister’s sizzling hunk Bruno Mars to my nieces Disney theme songs we stayed entertained the whole time. When we pulled into town and made it to my brother’s we were eagerly greeted and yes, I parked my car in the wrong spot again! Justin and Liz were busy preparing dinner for us and had arrived just in time to put the finishing touches on a couple of hand made pizzas.

Sidebar – It has been nice seeing them work together and be a team. Especially now that they are planning their wedding!

Great din din thanks to Liz and my bro; Super glad to see my nieces; Probably the most awesome blanket fort on the planet (one night only, hehehe)!

Great din din thanks to Liz and my bro; Super glad to see my nieces; Probably the most awesome blanket fort on the planet (one night only, hehehe)!

Once we ate it was already close to 9PM and the girls hopped into their jammies and crawled into their fort made from blankets and sheets. This was complements of my sister, she goes the extra mile to make memories for these girls that will last forever. Soon it was lights out for them and time for the adults to enjoy a few glasses of wine and a game of Yahtzee and Clue. Admittedly I am terrible at both, however, Justin apparently had colluded with both Janeen and Liz. I was oblivious to all of this and it made for some good laughs at the end. Who was it again, Mrs. White in the Kitchen with the Revolver? Yes, I lost and to that I say goodnight!

The next morning we woke early and enjoyed breakfast prepared by Justin and Liz. I had also brought down a fresh half loaf of banana bread, compliments of my Grandma Barb (rest her soul in eternal peace). Everyone had a slice and much to the chagrin of my sister, they loved it. We have a little rivalry going at the moment. Sorry sis, you can’t top perfection, lol muahhaha!

With the cars loaded up and some good-eats in our bellies we hit the road; we were Iowa bound! It was decided that we would take two cars, so I rolled with Justin in his Vibe while Janeen and the girls tailed us in my Sportage, doing it this way just gave us all a little more sanity and allowed for us to be legit, car seats and all (later this decision will have proven us wise). As we rode down, my brother and I were able to catch up on some things and jam to some good tunes, what up AWOL!

Traveling through IOWA will almost certainly make you think of slitting your wrists from sheer boredom. Every time I visit, I prepare myself to shave a decade of technology and progress off of society, but I do not care to go overly negative on my home state, but it was obviously enough to have Justin calling our mom and leaving her a VM thanking her for bring us to the burbs of Minneapolis.

Upon arriving at an interesting trailer park in Cedar Rapids, early reminding me of my first memories as a child, we were greeted by our Dad. I have come to understand that my father is just the most comfortable in places like these as he likes life moving at a slower pace, hey sometimes I can’t blame him for that. Quickly he invited us in and his ‘lady-friend’ Mary offered us up some sandwiches for lunch. Adamant not to eat the nutrition-lacking sustenance provided, Justin politely refused and a weekend long joke had unofficially started.

As planned, we all soon went bowling at a local alley and got a chance to comfortably catch up. Pops had easily put on thirty or more pounds and was looking happy. His demeanor is always pleasant and he loved helping the girls get their bowling balls and shoes. We decided to play a couple of rounds and we all fared rather well. I still laugh about Dad’s thumb getting stuck in the bowling ball; that’s been happening since we were kids, lol. Must be his painting fingers or something.

Good times at our Dad's local bowling alley.  Apparently he still cannot beat me, lol!

Good times at our Dad’s local bowling alley. Apparently he still cannot beat me, lol!

I was bowling with a spin as usual and catching several selfie-style pictures with the family. Everyone was a good sport, well except for Justin. The whole time he was distracted with his phone and overall had the appearance of being inconvenienced. I knew that my grumpy brother wanted to hurry up and make our way to the hotel so that we could drop our bags and go for a jog. So we made haste and hit the road for the Double Tree in DT Cedar Rapids.

Once we arrive and unloaded, we checked in and saw our new digs for the evening. It was going to be comfy living which is what I wanted! So as planned, BT (Janeen’s nickname) took the girls and adventured around the hotel to find the pool, meanwhile eating warm cookies from the check-in desk. Now it was our chance to go do a run before anyone could stop us.

Justin and I got our running attire on and made tracks. I was determined to run the moodiness out of him! He starts out of the gate pretty hot, but no sweat we quickly found our unison pace and really had a fun time. His run and preferred shoe is much different from my style. He sports more of a natural barefoot sole type of shoe and practices a shorter (and more skimpy) stride. I think his style is best suited for the trails and not the concrete jungles that I prefer. On the other hand, I have nice cushion-soled shoes and have a longer stride. Neither seemed to be the better and the just both worked.

We actually were having fun and were able to crush just over 7 miles in less than an hour. I recall the weather being perfect and there being enough sun shining on us to feel the warmth through my shirt. Probably my favorite part of the run was destroying a sizable parking ramp structure on the outskirts and heading back into the downtown space. The fresh air did us good and when we returned we saw a cute note from BT on the flat screen, “took the girls to the pool”. Quick as a flash we hoped into our trunks and headed down to meet them.

Swimming with the girls was a blast.  They have really begun to open up and trust me a lot, #loveit!  They were also very happy that Papa jumped in and swam around with them!

Swimming with the girls was a blast. They have really begun to open up and trust me a lot, #loveit!
They were also very happy that Papa jumped in and swam around with them!

My sis was watching as the girls were splashing about. Madison the only true swimmer out of the bunch was sure to look out for both Chloe and Scarlet whom had reserved the right to cling to the pools edge. That was no longer the case after I jumped in. It was slightly colder than I expected, but decided to get warmed up by wrestling with the girls and getting splashed. Finally, my Dad and Mary made it back and joined us. Given the opportunity to swim with his grand kids, he couldn’t refuse, and thankfully Justin was there to capture some of these family treasures.

Waterlogged, we headed back upstairs to get cleaned up. It was about seven by now and everyone was getting hungry. I figured that we would be stepping out for a bite as a family but to my surprise Mary had prepared more than was expected, so we decided to combo ordering some pizzas and eating in. Apparently Justin isn’t a fan of the Dominos (my preference) so we got a Hawaiian and a pepperoni from Pizza Hut. Once delivered we are as a big family! We had a full spread of wings, salad, and Pizza!

*Travel Tip*
If you are in a hotel room and need a table, leverage the rooms ironing board is a good alternative!

With the remaining energy the girls had, we played ‘Go-Fish’ and chatted! Meanwhile, the adult kids cleaned up while Pops and Mary once again ran home to let their dog out again and to bring back popcorn for the girls. By the time they got back the girls were knocked out and Janeen and I were already into playing a few hands of Gin Rummy.

We decided to clear out of their room so they could get settled and hit the hay. Once next door it was the three of us adult kids and a deck of cards. Justin totally whooped Janeen and myself in cards, but in true Justin fashion, he quit early and tried to sleep. Not an easy task for him with sissy and I making a bunch of noise. We went around the table swapping old stories and childhood memories. It was the best reconnection moment that I have had with my sister since my undergrad days! Cracking up hysterically at some of our adolescent shortcomings we were at peace just chatting and rekindling our close bond. This went on until about 2:30AM and finally we both agreed to get some sleep. Awkwardly we bunked up back to back. Justin was happily asleep by this time so we decided to tuck into bed with him, his beloved ham and white bread sandwich, hahaha!

Frustratingly we were awoken only a few short hours later to our father and Mary packing up. Apparently Mary had to go to work that morning early and also had to let the dog out as well. At this point I am just super agitated but before I had much time to digest and react, they were gone. Nicely, Justin offered to go and sleep in the room for the rest of the night as to not further wake the girls. When we woke a couple of hours later our Dad requested that we meet at his place for breakfast. Previously we had agreed to eat at Perkins so all the grand kids could order whatever and we enjoy a stress free conversation. Guess that plan was ruined, oh well; much to our reluctance we decided to pack up and rendezvous at his place for our meals and to say our goodbyes.

By the time we made it to the opposite side of Cedar Rapids we were less than pleased to see that Mary had gone to great lengths to cook an elaborate breakfast for us all. In and of itself, it was a sweet gesture but not what we had wanted or expected. We sat and ate that which appealed to each of us. Which for me wasn’t much, but I ate it anyways. Dad reassured me that this is one of Mary’s love languages, however, our eating and cooking habits are different but I digress. We all finished up and said our farewells.

We said our goodbyes and made tracks.  Love my Carroll family!

We said our goodbyes and made tracks. Love my Carroll family!

One last pic was snapped and were headed north on the fastest route possible. I doubled up with BT and the girls and made tracks home. I wish this were the end of my tale bit it is not. After a short while of driving and chatting with little sis, apparently my foot got heavy and I was nailed for speeding 82 or so in a 60 (I think) anyway the officer gave me a warning after double checking all of my information. Janeen and the girls get the credit for getting me outta this one! How could anyone give a ticket with all these cuties in one car! 🙂

Look at these cuties... and Madison's hand creature???  No wonder I got off with a warning!

Look at these cuties… and Madison’s hand creature???
No wonder I got off with a warning!