We left the New Mexico desert with a sense of excitement as the asphalt of Route 20 pulled us on into the heartland of Texas. Route 20 was to be the final interstate running East/West that Tracy and I had yet to travel.
The saying "save the best for last" does not apply here.
Now I'm not out to offend Texas. I'm sure there are plenty of things to see along this stretch of highway, but Maisy's increasingly loud car-seat protest was beginning to wear on all involved and we decided to skip the detours and beeline it straight for Atlanta, our next oasis of relatives and rest.
Not allowing time for sightseeing, our exposure to Route 20 was a mixture of oil fields, bad coffee, and quite possibly the worst Motel 6 room in the world. It was the one time we ever requested a refund on a room. Odessa Motel 6 - clean your sheets!
We did quickly realize that marathon driving sessions were not improving Maisy's temperment in the least and made plans to drop by a zoo - any zoo - for some distraction in the afternoon. The city of Abilene provided a close approximation to our request.
Things seemed fishy at the Zoo of Abilene from the get-go when they offered crackers with our admission tickets. "What are these for?", I queried with bewilderment. "Feed the animals", she replied as if I was from another decade.
Feed the animals?! The phrase was so general but I assumed it would be obvious once we were inside that the crackers were limited to a cute petting zoo section. This was not the case. I even spotted one man giving a cracker to his son so he could feed the lions !
We restricted ourselves to offering the Giraffes some snacks.
Now I don't want to harp on the Zoo of Abilene too much - it seems like they were making a sincere effort to keep the place alive in a rather difficult environment - but we did spot something rather disturbing in the reptile house.
The above photo is healthy turtles with their alligator pal. Nice enough...but this poor guy...
...was dead, possibly for weeks. His carcass was flaking off under water and it was placed at eye-level for Maisy to study closely. After that encounter we settled for a less adventuresome and way-more-tacky method of providing entertainment for Maisy: The Walmart toy aisle.
I'm sure we're not the first parents to resort to this and Maisy sure enjoyed the idea that all these toys were her personal stash. In our defense, we did purchase a toy and box of diapers for the two visits with Maisy. Regardless, you could tell we were getting desperate to reach Atlanta, which we did.
Maisy was enthralled to be staying with my Aunt Bev and Uncle Gary.
And we were pleasently surprised to see that my cousin Dylan was quite the baby whisperer. He tricked Maisy into eating an entire jar of green beans. Nice!
After the hell ride that was Texas, we reached our limit of daytime driving with Maisy and tried a new approach for the long stretch to Washington D.C. - the night drive. We hadn't done one of these in years and were both wary of the 10.5 hour run.
Successful but exhausted, we arrived at 8am in time for Maisy to meet some more kin from Tracy's side of the family. Fortuntaly, her cousin Amy and her son Gabe had plenty of energy to make up for our complete lack thereof.
Gabe had this super-cool balance board thingy that kept us all entertained for much of the two-day visit.
They also introduced us to a lovely swimming hole!
Despite a great time, the finish line was pulling us back toward Upstate NY, our resting spot for the better half of August. Eight hours of traveling was once again done during the graveyard shift after the success of the Atlanta-D.C. journey. Fairing just as well, we considered making this our go-to method for future trips. If you ignore the day of zombie living after the drive, it's not such a bad way to get around with a toddler.
And so we come to a well-deserved rest in our beautiful undisclosed hideout somewhere in the Adirondacks. We'll recharge for three weeks and then consider the final leg East and home to try on the domestic lifestyle once again.