You asked great questions!
Hello everyone. Thank you for all the questions...there were actually so many that they can’t answer them all in one post. Therefore allow us to welcome you to the first installment of our “mailbag” and we’ll have another coming up soon.
Would you encourage other families to do the traveling you have done? What would you tell them are the benefits/blessings?
We kinda have to say yes to this don’t we? Fortunately the real answer is yes. Yes, we would absolutely encourage families to do this. The opportunity to spend this much time together fluctuates between “rare” and “will this ever happen again in our lives.” To be there for so many of the children’s firsts…off the top of my head: Fall, snow, power outage, bison, wolves, warm rain, and so so many new people. We know our kids better than when we started. We all know each other better than when we started.
So yeah, we would do it again. In fact as it’s coming to a close we’re loosely thinking about when we can do this again.
If you could magically change your car into something else, what would it be and why?
Since we’re going magic I think the answer should clearly be a floating house. It would be spacious enough for us to spread out but we could still travel and see everyone without having to sit in any traffic. Plus, if there was a bathroom do you know how many emergencies that would have spared us?!
Who do you wish was in the car with you, real or fantasy or animal and why?
Reny: Some bats (Did not expect her to say that. Pretty sure that’s the last thing Gina wants in the car.)
Kaleb: Umm...Daddy, Mommy, Reny, and the baby. (he may not have understood the question properly)
Mommy: I keep going back to Oprah being in the car for us...but she may only make it an hour with us yahoos. Maybe I’d like to have my grandpa I never met...lots of time to get to know him. Or Lisa (a dear friend who passed)...lots of time to catch up.
Daddy: I should have gone before Gina. Her answers make what I was thinking (Eddie Murphy around the time he did Delirious) look rather immature. So if I did a “real” answer I like the idea of Ricky Deggelman. It’d be great to hear some of his stories and to hear his take on many of the stories I heard about him growing up.
Warmest place you've been ~ Carmel
Coldest ~ Chicago
Wettest ~ Nashville. We got caught in a wonderfully warm rain storm there that the kids loved.
Biggest ~ Yellowstone
Littlest ~ Buffalo, Wyoming (pop 4,500)
Happiest ~ Disney World. It’s the happiest place on earth.
Friendliest ~ Tough call. Really tough call. Too many friendly people to choose from. We’ve met some incredible people all around the country. One of the biggest lessons in this whole thing was just the reminder that we may not be as divided as it seems. People are friendly and kind the vast majority of the time.
Fastest ~ Los Angeles
Slowest ~ There are lots of small towns that could win this one but if we go slightly larger than the answer is probably Lexington over winter break. It was real slow and quiet.
Scariest ~ US - Mexico border. I tell that story in more detail down below.
What state did you like driving through most and why?
R: Yellowstone. (Not a state, but it’s tough to argue with the answer...Yellowstone was pretty great to drive through.)
K: Hawaii (Nope. We didn’t go through Hawaii but he stands by his answer.)
M: Wyoming. The whole thing was beautiful. The whole thing.
D: This is a really hard one...if you ask me again I may have a different answer but as of this writing my answer is New Mexico. The desert and the cacti that gave way to the rocks and mountains was pretty incredible.
How have your children changed during this adventure?
How have your children changed emotionally from this that you can see?
They seem to be more resilient. They are certainly better at playing with each other then they were before. They can be off together and having a blast in some world that we don’t understand for significant chunks of time now. (“Significant” is probably a poor choice there. It’s more like 20-30 minutes but it feels like a long time for us.)
They are 5 and 3. Children at this age obviously grow taller and improve verbally.
They have a basic understanding of so many animals and climates. We had a discussion while going through the desert about the different types of landscapes we have been through: forests, beaches, grasslands, deserts, snowy tundra, mountains, and even a little bit of swamp.
If I had to narrow it down to the biggest growth change it would be that they are more worldly and aware. We experienced the beginning and end of life during this trip with the passing of their dear Nonni and watching Gina’s pregnancy up close. They know more about life than they did before.
We’ve had lots of real conversations.
An example being:
Ren: Daddy, where was I before I was in Mommy’s belly?”
Me: That’s a really good question Ren. You know, nobody really knows. But lots of people think that you were in heaven and then came down into Mommy’s belly.
R: Then after we die we go back to heaven like Nonni?
Me: Yeah, that’s exactly it.
R: That’s right Daddy. I was in heaven before I was in Mommy’s belly.
What are your technology rules on the road?
What do you do when the kids are fussy? Pull over or iPad?
We lumped these two together because the answer is pretty similar. We do our best to use technology “when needed” and not as an expectation. If there is a long day of driving they will get a movie or two and they know that, but not right away.
When the kids are fussy we pull over, try to get them to go potty, and try and run them a little bit. Then we pile back in and give them an iPad, or our computer to be more precise as our iPad actually died on this trip.
All movies are watched by our children together and this means that we can recite Frozen, Moana, and Cars by heart.
Where would you go next to do another adventure like this?
This is a fun thing to think about. I’d (Jon here) like to get to places we didn’t get to this time so I imagine shooting through the middle of our country, northern Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and then heading south towards Louisiana and then over to Georgia would be a blast.
The only real hangup is that I would love to get to North Dakota or Maine. Those are the two states left before I get to all 50 but I fear they may need to wait for another trip.
Also, we have been talking a lot about “should we do another adventure like this soon or is this it for a while?” With the little one coming it stops any talk about what is next pretty quickly but we are both sad to see this adventure coming to a close.
(For the record Gina is already planning another trip next summer while the baby is little and manageable. She wants to go abroad this time.)
What was the funniest moment? Most freak-out/scary moment? Calmest moment?
There are several funny moments and several calm moments (there is something about driving through open space that is incredibly calming). There weren’t too many freak out/scary moments but I’m going to write about the last one we had. We were driving along the southern border and I (Jon) was trying to point out the Rio Grande and on the other side is Mexico. The kids couldn’t really see and what they could see just looked like more houses.
“It doesn’t look different Daddy.” (Profound statement kid.)
I had the bright idea that we should maybe take the kids to Mexico. It was right there. Growing up in California I had been across the southern border into Mexico a handful of times and every time it was real easy to get back in the country. (No, I did not take into account the current political climate as much as I should have.)
While driving through El Paso I convinced Gina, who was driving, to just take a left and let’s see how long the line is to get into Mexico. It was short so we continued on and after paying a quick toll we were in a different country.
“Look Ren and K, we’re in Mexico now. What language are all the signs in?”
“Muy bien Reny.”
We drove around for maybe 10 minutes and then decided to find our way back across to get to our hotel for the night in New Mexico.
The line looked fairly short and when we got to the front we realized why. We were in the wrong line. A wonderful officer instructed us in Spanish that we needed a chip and so we were going to have to turn around (there was not much space) and go to the other border crossing. I asked her where it was and she gave us directions. (My Spanish started to come back real fast as my heart rate started to go up thinking that maybe this wasn’t going to be as simple and easy as I thought.)
“Good Spanish Daddy.”
We drove on and after a couple wrong turns found the bridge to take us back across the border. There were LOTS of cars trying to fit into two lanes to get to the border. Not to mention the hundreds of people on foot.
It took us 3 hours to go about 6 blocks.
The whole time the kids were angels while Gina and I were having thoughts like, “please don’t have to go potty.”
After all that time we still ended up in the wrong line.
Me: “I’m sorry...we messed up.”
Border Agent: “Yeah, you did.”
After talking to the border agent for a while and explaining that the entire thing was just a terrible idea by me. We showed her my passport (which we fortunately had in the back) and Gina and Reny’s (which unfortunately were expired) but we had nothing for Kaleb.
Border Agent: “Excuse me, what is your name?”
BA: “What is your name?”
K: (quietly) *Kaleb Reed Paul Gordon*
BA: “Are these your parents?”
K: Nods with frightened eyes.
Gina: “I’m so sorry about this.”
BA: *looking at Gina’s pregnant belly* “You look like you need to rest. Go ahead.”
Just like that we drove back across into the United States.
There is no doubt this is an example of our privilege. Yes, we are citizens of the US...but this would have been different if we looked different. It is from this place of privilege that I can say this is not okay. It gave us a fuller understanding of what has been happening at our southern border with children being separated from their parents. I cannot imagine. Kaleb was scared just talking with the border agent. To have people being taken from their families is something that ….goes against everything we stand for as a country.
Okay, my rant is over. Thank you for reading. Thank you for your questions. There will be a part 2 coming soon that will address more of your questions and I promise will end on a more lighthearted note.
~ Us 5 with love