Dear Jack: You’ll Be Turning 8 Years Old Next Month!

7 years, 10 months.

Now that it’s October, it occurred to me: You’ll be turning 8 next month!

Just like for your 5th birthday, you have chosen a family road trip to Destin, Florida; instead of a birthday party.

Considering that we’ll be staying for free using hotel points and that Chevy will be sending us a Suburban filled with a full tank of gas, we’ll actually be able to have a pretty amazing road trip cheaper than it would cost to throw you a birthday party around here in Nashville.

I think you’re making a very smart decision. Why have a party when you can have a road trip with the fam?

 

Dear Jack,

Love,

Daddy

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Dear Jack:  Our Break from the Real World (Ride the Lightning 2017 Toyota Prius Road Trip)

6 and a half years.

Dear Jack,

After nearly a week of adventures in Florida, our vacation was coming to an end. The treasure hunt. The go-karts. Watching UFC and the ongoing Harry Potter movie series before bedtime at the condo.

Undeniably, our family’s “Ride the Lightning” tour of Destin would not have been the same without Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca there with us; as they drove over from Pensacola to join us. I’m so glad you got to spend quality time with them, as they stayed at the condo with us for the last part of our trip.

At Miramar Beach, you got to attack Uncle Joe at the beach with goopy wet sand. He just went along with it.

Back at the condo, you were able to introduce him and Aunt Rebecca to the Jack version of the rules of Monopoly…

It had more to do with “unlocking” the animals from the kennels after making enough money to buy them.

Even your sister played. She was eager to get her hands on that money…

While it might sound crazy to say that we took you and your 1 year-old sister on a 7 hour trip to Florida, and back, I’m just grateful we were all able to get away with it.

We needed a break from the real world. We got it.

And our successful trip proves that we can, and will, do it again.

I loved how on the last day together, as we had lunch at Whole Foods, Aunt Rebecca asked you, “Jack, I’m going to miss you. Are you going to miss me?”

Very emotionless, very monotone, and without any thought, you instantly mumbled back:

“I dunno.”

You may not have the capacity to truly express missing someone yet, but I can answer for you:

Yes. Yes, you will.

Love, Daddy

Dear Jack: Our Go-Kart Race against Uncle Joe (Ride the Lightning 2017 Toyota Prius Road Trip)

6 and a half years.

Dear Jack,

After our lunch at Don Pedros, in which I took Mommy’s food to her out in the Prius, as she stayed back with your sister who was asleep, we made our way to The Track to race go-karts.

This event was a year and a half in the making, as it didn’t work out last time we were in Destin, due to rain, and then you falling asleep in the car.

You and I were in the double go-kart and Uncle Joe was in the single. We were about halfway back in the starting line-up and he was the very last. However, his kart was faster than ours.

For 4 fast and furious laps on the 3 story spiral track, you and I did our best to pass other karts; as we learned how much the downhill loops made it possible to pass other people if we rode the inner track and sort of bumped the other go-karts of the way.

At the beginning of the final lap, I looked back and saw Uncle Joe gaining on us. I spent half of that final lap with my head turned around to keep an eye on him, to make sure I kept him blocked out from passing us. You even said, “Daddy, turn around, we’re going to crash!”

But we didn’t crash. And we didn’t let Uncle Joe pass us.

I guess in the end, we technically tied him, though. Because by the end of the race, we finished middle in the line-up of the double go-karts and Uncle Joe finished middle of the single go-karts line-up.

The three of us walked back to the Prius, nearly talking over each other, as we excitedly recalled the details of the race.

It is obvious that we will have to visit The Track every time we go back to Destin! I even heard you mumble something about wanting to race cars when you get older…

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: The Pirate’s Treasure and Saber Tooth You Found at Miramar Beach! (“Ride the Lightning” 2017 Toyota Prius Road Trip)

6 and a half years.

Dear Jack,

During the weeks leading up to our recent road trip to Destin, you had been telling me, “Daddy, I think we’re going to find treasure at the beach. Maybe even some bones. Maybe we can find a saber-toothed tiger skull because they’re the hardest to find in the whole world!”

I kept assuring you that if you looked in the right places, we just might find a buried something.

So during our 2nd morning at the beach last week, while your sister was out with Mommy and Grandma and Aunt Rebecca as they took the 2017 Toyota Prius Three to the outlet stores, you and I went out searching on the shore.

Just about 5 minutes into you playing in the sand as the water kept washing up and flooding your feet, I called you over to me, as I was just about 15 feet behind you.

“Jack, come over here. I think this would be a good spot to dig! The sand looks sort of different where this spot is.”

You rushed over.

After you dug down about 8 inches deep, there it was… a scratched up treasure chest!

With great excitement, you pulled the black metal box out of the sand. Fortunately, there was no lock, so you were able to open it right away.

Amazingly, there was a letter right there on top. We read it together:                                                                                          

July 1, 1733

To the Person Who Finds My Treasure,

If you are reading this, it is too late for me. This means my ship sank on the sea. I was keeping my gold safe in the sand, but now it is all yours. And one more thing, watch out for the dinosaurs and saber-toothed tigers…

Henry the Pirate

But you were more impressed by the gold coins inside the treasure chest. You counted them all: “Daddy, there’s 73 gold coins!”


This immediately inspired you to continue searching, as now you were becoming preoccupied with finding some bones in the sand. Just a few minutes later, a few feet away from where the treasure chest was buried, I started digging.

“Here, why don’t you take a turn now?” I suggested to you..

It couldn’t have been a minute later that you shouted, “Daddy, I found something!”

Without me having to explain anything, you figured it out:

“It’s a saber-toothed tiger’s tooth!”

And that tooth ended up being worth more to you than all that gold.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Your Little Feet and Hands in the Sand for the 1st Time (“Ride the Lightning” 2017 Toyota Prius Road Trip)

1 year, 1 months.

Dear Holly,

It was everything I had hoped it would be, seeing your reaction to the ocean and the sand and waves.

As your Daddy, it was so rewarding to see your precious little toes in the sand. I got to see how you used both your hands at the same to pick up the sand then let it run through them.

It became very obvious to me that if you could, you would be perfectly happy spending all day out there on Miramar Beach.

But your favorite part was when I took you into the water. As you wore your “Sweetie” bathing suit that I adore on you, I stood with you in the shallow water and lifted you up as each new wave came to you.

You just loved it! You weren’t afraid of the waves at all.

There were a few times when, as I lifted you up as a bigger wave splashed, you would shake like you were crying. But each time I looked down and saw your face, you were laughing instead.

I know it was asking a lot of you, at just one year-old, that Mommy and I took you on a 7 hour road trip to Florida with your brother.

Fortunately though, you slept through most of the driving as we journeyed on in the 2017 Toyota Prius Three. Perhaps it’s not necessarily normal for parents to drive all that way to take such a young little girl to the beach… I don’t know.

What I do know is, I’m glad our family was able to make this trip happen. And because of how well you handed it, you’ve now got Mommy and me convinced that our next trip to Florida doesn’t have to be another year from now.

Hmmm… maybe this fall? Yeah, we might need to make that happen.

Love,

Daddy

This is 36: Taking Shifts with My Wife, As the Baby Sleeps in the Car

As you know, our family recently spent a week down in Destin, Florida for a family vacation over Memorial Day weekend. As you can imagine, with a 1 year-old little girl in tow, we largely had to base our schedule and activities around her sleep schedule.

For example, on the way down to Florida, we left our home in Tennessee immediately after an early dinner so that we could get to our condo in Destin by 1:30 AM. This created an environment for our daughter to be able to sleep through the entire drive. Granted, we only stopped once during the 7 hour trip for a bathroom break; to help ensure she didn’t wake up.

Since this formula proved effective, we did the same thing for the drive back home from Florida. That’s right- just 2 bathroom breaks during the 14 hour round trip.

Uh… impressed much?

We continued to cater to our daughter’s slumber throughout the course of our vacation.

One day we took a day trip over to Pensacola where one of my brothers-in law and his wife have recently moved. After we toured their new home which is currently under construction, everyone decided to walk through some of the model homes in the surrounding neighborhoods.

So my mother-in-law and her husband (who were also in town for the weekend), my brother-in-law, his wife, my wife, our son, our daughter, and I successfully toured two model homes.

But as we drove to the next neighborhood, our daughter had fallen asleep in just a matter of minutes. I volunteered to stay in the driver’s seat of the 2017 Toyota Prius Three as our daughter took her afternoon nap behind me in her car seat.

There in the driveway of that model home, I pulled out the classic 1984 Ride the Lightning album by Metallica to enjoy for myself. Fortunately, the symphonic distorted electric guitars helped keep my little girl asleep. She’s not too picky when it comes to music, yet.

Even after my wife and son returned from the tour of that model home, they returned to the car, only to inform me that there was yet one more model home to visit before we made our way back to Destin.

Honestly, I didn’t mind one bit. It was peaceful and relaxing for me. It gave me not only a chance to think, but a chance to help my wife out by giving her some time to see something new and exciting and to take a break from constantly caring for a baby.

Of course, it was no surprise that less than 24 hours, my wife would be taking the next shift of “chill out in the car while the baby sleeps.” Because for lunch the following day, as went out for Mexican food for lunch, our daughter had fallen asleep in the car.

So I took my wife’s order, then eventually brought her food to her roadside, while the rest of us ate inside the restaurant.

This is just how it has to be right now. We’re used to it.

This is 36.

Our Family’s “Ride the Lightning Tour” to Destin in a 2017 Toyota Prius Three

What happens when two overworked parents in their mid-30s decide to drive their two young children in a Prius all the way from Spring Hill, TN to Destin, FL and back?

Awesomeness, that’s what.

Granted, we experienced our obstacles; that’s for sure, which you can read about here.

But my wife and I obviously knew there would be challenges involved in taking a 1 year-old and a 6 year-old on a 7 hour road trip. It didn’t matter to us. We were ready for a vacation, so we made it happen.

Map from Spring Hill, Tennessee to Destin, Florida 32541

When the folks at Toyota heard about my family’s plan to take such an ambitious road trip, they were quick to sponsor us by supplying us with a 2017 Toyota Prius Three for the week.

I was so happy about this, because I knew the Prius is supposed to average 52 miles a gallon, since it is a hybrid.

Fortunately, that wasn’t true. Instead, we averaged 55.5 miles a gallon. And for the entire round trip, which even included a day trip to Pensacola as well, it only took us two tanks of gas. (That’s less than $50 for the entire round trip!)

I decided to name our road trip “Ride the Lightning”, which references the (coincidentally same-colored) 1984 album by Metallica, and ties it into the fact the Prius has an electric engine.

So quite literally, our family rode the lightning to Florida and back.

Cargo space wasn’t an issue for us either. Even with our daughter’s travel crib, plus all our clothes and food, we still had a little bit of room to spare.

This trip made our daughter’s first visit to the beach- and she absolutely loved it!

It also made for the first time that my wife, son, and I experienced the glory of simply riding in an inflatable donut on the waves.

Sure, it wasn’t practical for my wife and I to take our young kids on such a long road trip, but we made the most of it.

And now that our vacation has ended, it’s simply a question of how soon we can do this again!

I’ve got so many more things to say about our trip, so be on the lookout for more stories about our family’s “Ride the Lightning Tour” to Destin in a 2017 Toyota Prius Three…