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Guest Post: Memoirs of a Road Warrior

Paige asked me to contribute to her blog and I was happy to do so. My name is Jan McIntyre and Paige is dating my son, Zachary, who has written a few posts. I should be in a 12 step program for travelaholics, but then why would I want or need to stop? Maybe those 12 steps will lead to somewhere new and amazing.
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Wanderlust is a term with which I am intimately familiar. Another appropriate term is Road Warrior. As long as I can remember, driving off into the sunset (or more appropriately, sunrise) has been a highly anticipated event. Growing up, the annual road trips with several other families were unforgettable. Our caravan saw a great deal of the western part of the United States, and I can remember biting off the ends of a licorice twist and using it as a straw to drink the then dime-sized bottle of coca cola while we played the alphabet and license plate games.
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As a child coming of age in the 60’s and 70’s, two round trips to California in a 1963 VW convertible were adventures I would most certainly not allow my kids to do. That car limped through Kansas dying as it rolled into my parents’ driveway when I returned from a failed attempt to move to the golden state. No cell phones then.
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When my husband and I moved to the Kansas City area from New Jersey with our two small children, the complexion of my road trips changed. The Italian American family in New Jersey is an important part of our lives, so at least once a year from 1992, Zachary, Olivia and I would pack up the van and head out on an adventure to visit family. Joe would fly in order to work as much as he could. In those years we have seen “everything” from Kansas City east to the Atlantic Ocean, as far north as Toronto and as far south as the Southern Most Point in Key West, FL. A trip that normally would take one night on the road might stretch into a week for us. Although the places we visited along the way changed each year, some things were and still are constants. Call me crazy, but I have a spread sheet that gets printed out each year to help with the preparations. Everyone had a plastic tub for the clothing and items they wanted to bring. A dedicated hotel bag contained things needed for the getting there. Household items are needed because staying at the grandparents’ house is like camping. And, most important– there is specific trip food, and any deviation from that is risky. Heading the list is real Ranch dip and veggies.
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Jan in Key West, FL
Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 9.20.23 AM The Spreadsheet
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When the kids were small, we would begin with a good breakfast and cruise for a couple of hours to the cultural destination for the day. We would spend a generous amount of time and energy at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH or the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA, for example. Then everyone back in the van where a tray of healthful snacks including cheeses, Cheerios, veggies and dip, and more was served with water or juice. Inevitably they would fall asleep and I could drive uninterrupted toward our 5:00 pm destination. At the hotel, we would swim while we waited for the pizza to be delivered. We would get a soft drink from the machine, jump on the beds, fall asleep and do it all over again the next day. Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, Lincoln’s boyhood home in Indiana, the Louisville Slugger Factory, Williamsburg, VA, Boston, St. Louis Arch and more. Our AAA travel books are dog eared and care worn.
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Metropolis, Illinois
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Seaside Park, New Jersey
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Once in Nutley, NJ there is family to visit, reconnecting with old friends, eating real pizza everyday—yes, everyday! Lyndhurst Pastry Shop Italian ice, Zinacola buttered rolls, 24 hour ESPN! We always look forward to the one and only New York City where just walking among the crowds is exhilarating. And, because New Jersey has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, we always go “down the shore” to sit on the beach and listen to the surf, smell the ocean, ride the waves, watch the people then walk to the boardwalk for, you got it, Maruca’s pizza.
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Zinacola’s in Nutley, New Jersey
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.New York City from Liberty State Park
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Packing up to return to Missouri is bittersweet. Our trip food has been replenished. We are sad to leave, but excited for what we’ll see as we make our way back home. The moist kisses on each cheek from a tearful Italian Grandma have been wiped away and the van is loaded up and smells of fresh Italian bread that is bagged and packed into a duffel bag brought specifically for that purpose. Anyone up for stopping in DC?

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