Journaling our first big family road trip with our
old and rusty well-loved Dodge Caravan.
(Mississauga – London – Sarnia – Michigan Border – Frankenmuth – Linwood).
Road time: 6 1/2 hrs
June 24 (Saturday).
Ian’s alarm went off. It was still dark outside. We kissed, and he slipped out the door to meet the guys for an early breakfast, and to drive them to the airport for their flight to Manitoba. The girls were both up and exploring the room when Ian came back from the airport. We started packing some of our things and went down at 9:45 for a family brunch, bringing some of our luggage with us. It was the same food selection from yesterday except for the fruits. We loaded up our plates and enjoyed another feast. The day was definitely warm but with cooler breeze this time. We left the hotel around 11:30 AM. Ian played some Jazz music on the radio. Diane and I both fell asleep.
When I woke up Mira was still singing some nursery rhymes repeatedly. I took a video of her. She noticed what I was doing and blew me a kiss. My heart melted! My finger quickly hit the camera button on my phone. I was ecstatic I was able to capture this precious moment! What a sweetheart! ❤
From the horizon, I could see billows of fluffy clouds in a bright blue sky. It was beautiful. The clouds look so soft.
We stopped in London around 2 PM to stretch our legs and grab some supplies. Outside the Dollar Store we parked and ate our packed left over food, and then we hit the road again. Diane stayed awake this time; talking to herself, giggling and making lots of cute noises, sometimes even singing. Mira on the other hand, took a nap.
We stopped in Sarnia around 4 PM to gas up. Mira just woke up. And the girls had some yogurt. I went for a washroom break and bought us some ice cream. Mira was thrilled to see the treat in my hand! Diane quite enjoyed it too!
We crossed the border into Michigan after we finished our ice cream. We drove across on Bluewater Bridge. (See picture below).
We were held in the customs’ office for 15 minutes for further inspection and documentation. The officer who interviewed us is married to a Filipina too and was very friendly towards us. He even shared with me his wife’s secret recipe for making shanghai rolls, a Filipino delicacy I grew up eating and a must try if you have not tried it yourself. (I’ll try to post a recipe on that. So keep reading!). Once everything was sorted out, we were back on the road.
We stopped at the Michigan Tourist Center at 4:30 PM to grab a map and take a family photo.
We really don’t have any definite plans on where to go in the States and where to stay. The only thing certain was we wanted to reach Manitoba in 3-4 days. We drove on I-69 for an hour, and then on I-475 for a few minutes. We saw 2 summer fairs along the way. There was a huge car and race show on the left, and a carnival on the right. We decided not to stop though. Eventually we hit Frankenmuth, where the world’s largest Christmas store is located according to the pamphlet I grabbed at the visitors’ center. We thought that was worth stopping so we let our GPS navigate our way.
We noticed 3 antique stores already just few minutes upon entering Frankenmuth. I thought to myself someday I’d like to come back to this town and check them out. After a huge corn field was a sign Canada Road. We felt welcomed already. We both smiled.
At 6 o’clock we reached Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. The place was humongous! We hopped out to stretch our legs and look around. When we entered the store, they were handing out maps of the store to shoppers. If that doesn’t tell you how big this place was, nothing else can. We entered through the South Entrance and took a family photo. There were life-size Christmas displays almost everywhere. It was like entering a huge Christmas production on TV. Christmas songs were playing in the background. I hum along as we stroll around the store. It felt like Christmas in the middle of summer. We came out in good Christmas spirit with some pictures taken and souvenirs bought.
It rained for a bit as soon as we left the store. There were some dark clouds in the west so we were debating whether to look for campgrounds to set up our tent or stay indoors for the night. We drove some more, without a clear destination. The sky up north where we were heading was looking heavy with clouds. Swirls of white fluffy clouds hung low from the sky.
We snacked on some chips as we drove around looking for the right spot to stop for the night. We decided to check a campsite in Linwood.
Linwood is a small sleepy town, with corn fields and gravel roads flooded from the recent downpour. We arrived in our campground unsure whether we were still thrilled with the idea of tenting out. The ground was wet and some pools of rain water were collecting in little pockets on the road. Ian stepped out of the van to check the campsite, while I sat in the van with the girls. I rolled my window down as I was waiting. Not far from where we were parked, I could hear a guy playing a guitar and singing a sweet country ballad.
The air was warm and there’s hardly any breeze. Clouds were moving slowly, dispersing then coagulating to thicker and larger groups of clouds that seemed to be stationary. The guy that was recently playing a sweet ballad has moved on to playing light rock music. Ian came back with a piece of paper on his hand where we would be tenting. I found out from him that there’s a fishing derby going on, hence the music.
It was getting late but we still had enough daylight to set up camp. They gave us Lot No. 3. It was a small section of land facing a creek. There was a blue picnic bench sitting under the shade of a cottonwood tree. The blue paint on the bench was peeling off. Across the center of the picnic table attached to the benches was a capital M (for Michigan) in yellow paint.
I brought Diane’s car seat to the picnic table, with her in it, so she can see us as we set up the tent. Mira came out of the van too and was eager to help get our sleeping quarters ready. Once the tent was up, the queen air mattress was pumped and in the tent it went. The playpen for Diane sat beside it. After I put all the bedding, we packed the girls again and went out to look for food.
We went to a convenient store in Linwood, but we came out empty handed. So we ended up eating supper at Arby’s. Mira had her first meltdown before entering the restaurant.
We got back to our campsite with our tummies full. The live music was still playing. I wondered when the party will be over. The air was cooler so I took a mental note of putting the girls in long sleeves pajamas before hitting the sack. Mira went down quickly. Diane did too for a little bit.
Ian and I were talking in whispers to avoid waking up the girls. But then we heard some rustling in Diane’s playpen, so we stopped talking. In the dark, we could see Diane, standing in her playpen and looking around. We pretended to be asleep. She sat and then laid down. As soon as Ian and I started talking in whispers again, Diane stood up once more, looking at our direction. We dared not to speak, nor move. She talked for a little bit. But no one talked back at her so she laid down again; kicked her legs in the air and talked to herself some more. Soon enough, there was silence in our tent.
I dozed off for a little bit, and woke up with Mira snuggled in my right arm, sleeping quietly. Ian was also fast asleep, hugging me from behind. He snored occasionally. Diane chimed in with her dad. Hers was more rhythmic and constant.
I noticed the music outside was still playing. I wasn’t sure what time it was. I made a guess and then searched for my phone. The bright light from my cellphone made me squint. It read 12:20 AM.
“I’d like to go to sleep now”, I thought to myself. I hoped the party will be over soon. I heard cars going in and out. Occasionally, there would be people passing by our tent, chatting. Another group went by with a dog barking. I clenched my jaw. “Seriously?”, I muttered.
Eventually silence visited the campsite. No more music. No more cars or people passing by, just the sound of the rustling leaves. And that’s when I finally able to close my eyes and dreamed away. And this marked the end of our third day.