Monday, July 11, 2016

Chapter 4: Everything's Up-to-Date in Kansas City

Monday, July 11, 2016

9:00pm. Overland Park, Kansas

The past 48 hours in the KC metro area have been tremendous!

Our hosts have been nothing short of amazing: not only did they open up their home to an itinerant family of hyperactive young men, but they treated us to some amazing meals (be sure to check out Cinzetti's and KC Joe's next time you're in the area) and acted as tour guides around town.

They even set up a session at an escape room, from which we broke out with just two minutes to spare!

Thank goodness we escaped or my kids would
have learned some inappropriate new words.

And remember how concerned I was about sleeping conditions and bathroom access? Well, the beds and bathrooms here are even better than at home!

In short, there's some talk about canceling the rest of this trip and just hanging out here for two weeks.

But that wouldn't make for much of an online diary, so I guess we'll stick with the plan: up at 6:00 am, and by 7:00 be on the road towards our first night of camping in the Rocky Mountains.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Chapter 3: It Begins

Saturday, July 9

5:00a. Home

Pop quiz: do you know what happens if you get stung on your face and then go to bed? You wake up looking like this:

This vacation is awesome. I’m not even going to be able to drive if I can’t open my eye. I guess I’ll start packing the van.

9:00a. Home

It only took four hours to get packed. (Which isn’t bad considering it took almost 90 minutes just to get my contacts in.)

The good news: the swelling on my face has gone down. (Literally, the swelling has gone down from my eye socket into my cheeks and chin. I look like I just had a stroke.)

Well, we are off in just a moment. Our goal is to make it to Kansas City tonight, where we’ll be staying with my sister-in-law and her main man.

It’s almost 900 miles and Google predicts nearly 13 hours of on-the-road time. This should be fun.

This "End Boring Area" sign in Ohio was not accurate.

12:30a. Overland Park, Kansas.

Here we are! That actually wasn’t terrible. The kids did great and so did their old man. My face stopped actively hurting somewhere in Indiana.

My sister-in-law greeted us with homemade chocolate chip cookies, which couldn’t be more awesome.

Day 1 of the grand adventure is in the books. Our vacation has officially begun.

Today’s stats:

  • States visited: PA, WV, OH, IN, IL, MO, KS.
  • Miles traveled: 888.5
  • Travel time. 16 hours, 22 minutes

Friday, July 8, 2016

Chapter 2: The Eve of Vacation

Friday, July 8

7:00a. Home

It’s the last day of work before our vacation. I am actually super excited! Forget all the moaning and groaning about sleeping and bathrooms. This is going to be awesome! Just one more day. I can’t wait!

3:00p. Work

My company has “3 o’clock Fridays” in the summer which means my vacation just started! Woo hoo!

3:30p. Ace Hardware

I stopped by the just-opened Ace Hardware (in the old Hoss’s restaurant) in Moon Township to pick up a few things. They’re having a sale on tarps! Only $2 for a 6’ x 8’ tarp! I just bought five tarps. You can never have too many tarps!

4:30p. Library

Stopped at the local library to get a book or two -- and ran into my wife and all my kids! They are checking out -- no lie -- about 50 DVDs to watch in the car. I LOVE THE LOCAL LIBRARY!

I joke around with my wife and my kids and the librarians and I am totally in a good mood because we are going to have an EPIC WONDERFUL VACATION!

5:00p. Backyard

So here’s the plan for the evening: I need to mow the lawn because we won’t be home for two weeks. That’ll take me a couple of hours. Then I’ll pack the van. Should take another hour or two. Then it will be 9 or ten and I can have a beer and relax with my wife and then get to bed before 11 and we can be up by 6 and on the road by 6:30. WE ARE GOING ON VACATION TOMORROW AND I CANNOT BE MORE EXCITED!

6:42p. Backyard.

Some bee or wasp or hornet or something JUST STUNG ME ON THE TEMPLE ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE. My face hurts* so GD much!

Screw mowing the lawn and packing the car I’m going to bed I’ll take care of it in the morning this vacation hasn’t even started and already it sucks. DAMMIT.

(* I know: it’s killing you.)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Chapter 1: The Calm Before the Storm

Thursday, July 7

9pm. Home.

In less than two days time, my wife, my six sons, and I are embarking on a two-week journey to and from the American West, with stops in Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone Park, Mount Rushmore, and other exciting landmarks along the way.

None of us have ever spent time in that part of the country, and we are extremely excited to see all of the amazing things out there.

Here's the itinerary:

  • Leg #1: Drive from Pittsburgh to Kansas City. Spend 3 nights in the KC area visiting family and sightseeing.
  • Leg #2: Drive to Colorado. Camp for 3 nights in Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Leg #3: Drive to Yellowstone Park. Camp for 5 nights.
  • Leg #4: Drive to the Mount Rushmore area. Camp for 2 nights.
  • Leg #5: Drive to Madison, WI. Stay in a hotel for 2 nights. Get showers.
  • Leg #6. Drive home to Pittsburgh.

As excited as we are for the trip, it has the makings of an epic disaster. Why? Let’s count the reasons:

  • We are going to be driving a LONG time
    According to Google Maps, we will be putting at least 4,000 miles on the family van in less than two weeks. That is A LOT of time in the car.

    Generally speaking, my family does very well on long car trips. That being said, in 2009 we tried to make it from Orlando to Pittsburgh in one day. A scheduled 12-hour trip turned into a 17-hour slog, and every single person in the car was crying or yelling continuously for the final three hours of the trip. It is a nightmare memory we are still trying to get over.

  • Most of the trip involves camping and we have no idea what we are doing
    We are not a camping family. As a family, we have spent only six total nights in a tent (3 of those in the past month) and we have never been responsible for packing in, preparing, and cleaning up meals. Now we’ve planned to spend ten consecutive nights in national park campgrounds.

    This would be a good time to review the definition of Hubris.
  • It only takes one person being miserable to ruin everybody’s good time
    And to be clear: the most likely person to do this is me.

    I like to think that I’m a laid-back, take-it-as-it-comes person. (This may not actually be true.) But there are at least two things that frequently put me into a lousy mood: (1) getting a bad night’s sleep and (2) not having quick access to clean and comfortable bathrooms. When I don’t sleep well, or when my unpredictable middle-aged digestion forces me to spend time in unpleasant facilities, I turn into a whiny jerk.

    So what is the centerpiece of this vacation? Ten days spent sleeping on the ground and pooping in the woods in campground latrines.


I am excited to see the Rocky Mountains and Yellowstone. And I am determined to be relaxed and to be fun-loving and to enjoy this tremendous opportunity to make lasting memories with my family.

But honestly, if I get through this without flipping out at least once, it will be a miracle.

So that’s where we stand! In 36 hours or so we’ll be pulling out of our driveway and embarking on our the Musial Family 2016  Great Western Adventure. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Prologue: Cast of Characters

I thought it would fun and maybe entertaining to keep a diary of my family’s 2016 summer vacation.

For reference: here are the main characters:

  • Me
    I’m a generic, forty-something, pudgy, pasty-white dad. Just picture an amalgamation of all of the dads in CBS sitcoms for the last three decades and you’ll be pretty close. I have a middle-management office job in a corporation, but I also spend some time writing and performing comedy and generally think that I can be funny. (This may or may not be true.) This diary -- if I finish it -- will be the longest thing I’ve written in years.
  • My wife
    My wife is amazing, but she doesn’t like being talked about in public. Just picture the most awesome person you know and you’ll be pretty close.
  • The 18-year-old
    My oldest son just graduated high school and is headed to college in the fall. We started planning this trip last summer when we realized that this might be the final summer that all of my kids live at home. (It probably won’t be, but you never know.)
  • The 16-year-old
    My second son shares a room with his older brother. We usually refer to these first two boys as ‘the teenagers’ (even though boy #3 is technically a teenager too) and often ask them to get things down from high shelves because they are both taller than me.
  • The 13-year-old, the 10-year-old, and the 8-year-old
    These three guys share a bedroom and are often referred to as “the middle kids.” Don’t read anything into the fact that I didn’t even give them their own bullet points.
  • The baby
    “The baby” is four (almost five). Think of all the stereotypes you know about “the baby in the family” and you’ll be pretty close.
  • The Big Family Van
    The big family van is a plain-white Ford E-350 12-passenger van. It’s great for moving people around but is actually pretty short on storage space. We bought a cargo rack to put on the back and we’re still going to be jammed tight with people and gear. Just picture a typical Church Van loaded up for a mission trip and you’ll be EXACTLY RIGHT.
Me and the Big Family Van in better times