Weeklyish Challengey Thingie: Indiana Family Road Trip

December 24, 2012


Christmas came a bit early for me this year.

No, I’m not talking about presents or decorations or decked out trees.

Although, my mom has been throwing twinkly lights on pretty much anything on the farm that’s not an actual animal since the beginning of the month.

Possibly the most festive chicken barn ever.

Possibly the most festive chicken barn ever.

And then she started putting up the Christmas trees.




Because why put up one tree when you can put up three? Plus, she needed two trees just to hold her extensive collection of chicken ornaments. Because, really, you can’t live on a farm and not have a poultry-themed Christmas tree.

Or two.

I think it’s a law or something.


One of the two chicken-themed trees. Honestly, I’m surprised there aren’t more.

What I’m talking about is the true meaning of Christmas:


Ahem, so maybe Indiana family road trip is not exactly the true meaning of Christmas.

But it is what I think about when I think about Christmas.

Is that a barn & a cornfield in the distance? Well, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! In my mind, at least.

Is that a barn & a cornfield in the distance? Well, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! In my mind, at least.

You see, my family hardly ever traveled when I was kid.

I guess that’s just one of the things about growing up in a family with five kids. I mean, think about it. Would you want to go anywhere with five kids? My parents may be a bit unhinged at times, but they’re not complete lunatics.


My mom. Okay, maybe a little bit of a lunatic.

But the one trip we were guaranteed to take every year was the Christmas road trip to Indiana to visit our grandparents.

The trip could take anywhere from ten to eleventy-billion hours. Depending on how many times the family van broke down.

It would begin with my brothers and sisters and I staking claim to our “territory.” This meant deciding where everyone got to sit and devising complicated laws to determine who got to use the armrests and for how long. And then yelling at each other should those laws ever be broken.

Taken right before we all tried to murder each other.

Obligatory pre-road-trip photo. Taken right before we all tried to murder each other.

The rest of our time was spent begging our parents to allow us to eat at McDonald’s rather than from the bag of ham sandwiches that my mother always had packed.

And then when that didn’t work (because it never did), we’d beg to stop at every single rest stop along the way. Because there was always the chance that something magical might happen at the rest stop. Like we might be allowed to get something from a vending machine. Or the bathrooms might have hand dryers instead of paper towels.

And then about five hours into the trip, we’d start asking, “Are we there yet?”


Until we were there yet.

As you can imagine, it was THE BEST FUN EVER.

Mostly because it meant I got to read books for about ten to eleventy-billion hours straight without anyone telling me to go outside and play. (Yes, I am a big book nerd. What-of-it?)

And because it meant we got to have three Christmases instead of one – one at home before we left and then one at both of my grandparents’ houses. And even though we only ever got socks at my one grandparent’s house, I think we can all agree that three Christmases is better than one.

Even if there are gift socks involved.

These better not be socks.

These better not be socks.

This year the Indiana family road trip was quite a bit different than during my childhood years.

First of all, rather than going over Christmas, we went last weekend.

Secondly, it was only my dad and I on the trip.

And, sadly, these days I only have one grandparent to visit: my father’s mother, who lives in a nursing home in Indiana near my aunt and uncle.

But, on the plus side, I didn’t have to have a thumb war with anyone to gain control over the use of the armrest. So there’s that.

Before hitting Indiana, we stopped overnight in Ohio to visit my aunt and uncle.

Upon arriving at my aunt’s house, we were informed it was Bunko night. Which apparently is, in fact, a thing.

Shortly after our arrival, sixty-year-old women in Christmas sweaters and holiday-themed jewelry started descending upon the house. They invited me to play and assured me that I would catch on quickly even though I had no idea what a Bunko was. And I had a sneaking suspicion it involved math which scared me.

Lulled into a false sense of security, possibly by the gentle ringing of their jingle bell earrings or, more likely, by the free-flowing wine, I agreed.

2012-12-13 19.28.08

Not as easy as it looks. And it doesn’t look very easy, does it?

And that’s when I learned you should never trust women who wear Santa sweaters unironically.

These ladies meant business.

We played Bunko for four hours straight.

I am not even kidding you.

There was no time for idle chit-chat or bathroom breaks.

It was all Bunko, all the time.

By our last round, I had lost all ability to count. I suspect this had something to do with the fact that didn’t have much counting ability to begin with.

But still.

Luckily, when we arrived at my uncle and aunt’s house in Indiana the next day, we were not greeted by more Bunko. I’m pretty sure my brain couldn’t have handled that.

But we were greeted by booze.

Which, I assure you, my brain handled just fine, thank you.

Okay, so THIS STUFF, you guys.

Okay, so THIS STUFF, you guys.

We also were greeted by my grandmother. Who is ninety-four, but you wouldn’t know it by the way she kills at crossword puzzles and can kick back a martini.

She makes a point of carrying lipstick with her at all times and won’t leave the house without doing her hair. I haven’t even figured out how to apply lipstick yet. And, yeah, my hair hasn’t seen a brush since 1986. One day when I grow up I want to be half the lady she is.

Obviously, I have a ways to go to catch up.

We only got to spend one evening visiting with my grandmother, but it was a lovely night.

We went out to dinner at a fancy restaurant with my uncle and aunt. My grandmother drank a bright blue martini, and I ate trout stuffed with lobster stuffed with awesome.

And we all got to meet Orville Redenbacher. Because apparently that’s just what happens when you go to Indiana.

Hey Orville, thanks for the popcorn.

Hey Orville, thanks for the popcorn.

The next day we drove home.

Well, I drove home. In a weird role reversal, my dad ended up reading books for ten to eleventy-hours  while I did most of the driving.

Which meant we got to stop at any rest stop I wanted.

And, even though I’m thirty-six and have stopped at a few rest stops in my day, I still find rest stops just as magical as I did back when I was a kid – if not more so.

Where childhood dreams come true. Kind of.

Where childhood dreams come true. Kind of.

Probably because I can buy anything I want from any vending machine ever.

2012-12-14 10.07.27

Vending machines: Awesome. And now educational.

I can even buy stuff from the gift shops if I so desire.

Because you never know when you might need a Jesus license plate.

2012-12-14 12.11.28

Plus, now all the hand dryers are the automatic, super-blowy ones.

Which I’m pretty sure means they’re powered by magic.

What’s your favorite family holiday tradition?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On December 24, 2012 at 3:36 pm sid said:

    We don’t really celebrate Christmas. Right now, Christmas means my parents vanishing for a few days to hike in a mountain. i guess that’s our family tadition . ..

  2. On December 24, 2012 at 4:54 pm Rose said:

    At least you got the armrest! I had to lay on the floor between the passenger seat and driver’s seat until somebody left for college! To this day the sound of going over a bridge muffled through the floor boards of a Dodge Ram van make me think of Christmas.

    • On December 25, 2012 at 10:21 pm Sally said:

      Ha ha. I remember being jealous of your place on the floor. You had such freedom! No seatbelts! Plus, you didn’t have to worry about being crushed by piles of presents, which would happen a lot if you got stuck in the back of the van.

  3. On December 24, 2012 at 9:52 pm Priya said:

    Your Grandmother is so cool. When my Grandmother was alive she was kind of crazy. But sweet. And even though she didn’t speak English, her favorite American television show was Everybody Loves Raymond. Uh, yeah, but I pretty much try to avoid anything relative/family related. It’s like we live in two different worlds. And there’s never any booze.
    Priya recently posted..My Awesome And Slightly Terrifying Day Last Week (Includes A Company Holiday Party, Sundaes, And Meeting Colin Wright)

    • On December 25, 2012 at 10:20 pm Sally said:

      Ha ha. Really? I had no idea Everybody Loves Raymond was the kind of show that could transcend languages. Who knew?
      Oh, and, yeah, I don’t think I could survive family get-togethers without booze. And I’m pretty sure most of my family couldn’t either.

  4. On December 25, 2012 at 3:09 pm budget jan said:

    My husband’s family has a weird Christmas Breakfast tradition where they eat pickled onions with ham and eggs. I am all for the ham and eggs but… I am a bit like your mum. I have chickens albeit only 3 and lots of chicken ornaments. I have yet to go down the track of the chicken suit, but hey give me a few years.
    budget jan recently posted..2012 Fun While it Lasted

    • On December 25, 2012 at 10:19 pm Sally said:

      Pickled onions? For breakfast? Whaaa?
      Oh, my mom has an entire chicken-themed kitchen, so I guess once you already have 2 Christmas trees & an entire room in your house devoted to chickens, the next step is a full-body chicken suit. So once you’ve got your kitchen all chickened out, then you’ll know it’s time for the chicken suit…

  5. On December 25, 2012 at 3:28 pm Selly said:

    My dad’s Christmas dinner. It’s just grilled chicken but his magical seasoning mix makes it super awesome. Afterwards there’s coffee and we chat for hours. Simple but perfect. Mind you, we sometimes go wild and have that very dinner whenever I come home to Germany to visit him so I’m not sure whether I can call it a Christmas dinner…

  6. On December 25, 2012 at 9:45 pm Tom T. said:

    Haha! Rose, I remember that spot. Also a good spot to have drinks spilled on you. Good times! Weird how it was so hard to fall asleep lying down on the floor of the van but I could now easily fall asleep sitting up in a chair without even trying. Must be getting old. Now pass me the icy-hot.

    • On December 25, 2012 at 10:17 pm Sally said:

      Wow, Tom commented on a post! It’s a Christmas miracle!
      And, yeah, growing old sucks. I used to be able to read all the time in the car, and now it makes me all woozy. What’s up with that?

  7. On December 26, 2012 at 11:51 am cosmoHallitan said:

    I love that your Grandma is 94 and still drinking martinis. Mine loved her some pina coladas but gave them up at 90. I like to think they were partly responsible for her longevity!
    cosmoHallitan recently posted..Snapshot: Christmas in Shanghai

  8. On December 31, 2012 at 2:11 am Daisy said:

    Thank you 🙂

    It sounds like you have had a wonderful break from teaching and a great trip planned!

    Have a very happy bacon and booze-filled New Year!
    Daisy recently posted..Auld Lang Syne: Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013

  9. On January 3, 2013 at 5:03 pm Serafina said:

    Hehehe, we have three huge Christmas dinners. I didn’t get to go this year because I live in another province.

    My great grandmother is in her 90s, and she smokes a pack a day and drinks like no tomorrow and still lives in her own place. I’m pretty sure it is the smoking that keeps her alive too… 😉

  10. On January 8, 2013 at 3:14 pm Grace said:

    These are great memories and the simple things that make family so special. Someone might think a trip to grandma and grandpas wouldn’t be fun but for kids there are all kinds of memories attached.

  11. On March 4, 2013 at 9:43 pm Ceri said:

    How did it feel to have a Christmas back home after so many years of being away? I’ve spent the last 2 Christmases away and do wonder what it would be like if I went back next time. 🙂

    Gotta love those rest stops! YES! They are magical! 😀
    Ceri recently posted..Scenes from the Museo de Arte Moderno


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