It was a cool, sunny day. Colder than most in April. It wasn't supposed to get warmer than 34 degrees today, which is quite a bit below normal. Seems like a good day to drive. There was no reason to be outside anyway...
We got up around 6:30 AM and finished packing our car. Jenny, like she always does, had worked hard getting us all packed and ready to go. We packed most of the car on Thursday night before watching "The Office." That morning all we really had to do was to take showers, throw some snacks in the cooler, and get in the car. The drive started on time at 7:30, nothing forgotten, nothing left behind.
We had to first travel over to Madison where we would meet my dad. My parents were going to take Barley for the week while we were gone. Normally Micky and Tim would have watched her, but Micky was going to India for the week and another furry animal added to the mixture could have pushed that family to the brink. Luckily my dad had a meeting in Madison that day and didn't mind going a little out of his way to pickup Barley, his "granddogger." Of course she would have to sit in the car all that cold, sunny day, but the only real difference from most days was that it would be cool. She would still get to sit in the sun like she normally did, and still just lay around, again, like she normally did.
Grandpa and Grandma Grady could not resist sending along some gifts for the trip. For Jenny and I, they had a card with some Easter wishes and a little something extra for the trip. For Ethan, though, a booty that would prove genius for the long trip ahead of us. In his carepackage, our elders had placed a coloring book, markers, candy-filled eggs, a chick that chirped, among some other miscellaneous stuff. Ethan loves getting presents, and he loved this stuff.
With that behind us, we finished up some McDonalds breakfast, got back in the car, and started the long haul by 8:40. The trip went without a hitch. We stopped periodically. First in a town called "Tonica," as in "Gin and Tonica." It is a pretty "cracky" little town in the middle of Illinois. (As an aside, "cracky" is a synonym for "crappy." A couple of weeks ago Ethan decided he was going to wear the same thing I wear to bed, a pair of shorts and a "crappy" shirt. Jenny heard this, and after stifling a laugh, she had to tell Ethan that crappy is not such a nice word for a 5 year old to use. So instead, he decided to use "cracky.") Jenny had to use the restroom, so we got off the interstate and hunted for the advertised Casey gas station in this town. Unfortunately, the station was a little more than a mile from the exit, a little further than we would have liked. As we were going through town, Jenny and I were commenting on how old and run down most of the places looked. Ethan decided that it was a great town and that he wanted to move there. After discussing different "cracky" buildings, Ethan said that when he got older, he was going to bring his wife to this town to live.
From here the trip was quite uneventful. We grabbed a quick lunch in Normal, Illinois and dove on to St. Louis. Our trip was quicked considerably by a book on CD we borrowed from a guy I work with. "The Paris Option" by Robert Ludlum, a 12 disk book read by some guy that does different voices and everything. Some of the voices were histerical, but the book was adequately engaging. We listened to 6 of the 12 disks on this part of the trip. For Ethan, the trip was sped along by the coloring book and markers that Grandma and Grandpa had sent. By the time we arrived in Branson, he had colored almost every picture in the book. We were accosted on several occasions to pick our favorite Spiderman, "the red one, the black one, or the green one." He also colored an Easter present for each of us that we weren't allowed to look at while he colored them.
The only other notable spot in the trip was in St. Louis itself. Here, Ethan fell in love with St. Louis and Missouri and decided that he wanted to live there when he got older. We told him he could go to college anywhere he liked. In fact, I've heard good things about the University of Washington in St. Louis. Ethan was quite upset about us leaving the city with "the big buildings." We explained we were moving along towards Branson, which he decided to call "Franson."
After a quick buffet meal at Ryan's in Springfield, MO (buffets seem to be quite prevalent in Missouri), we made the final 40 minute push to Branson. The Ozark region of Missouri is very hilly. On several occasions I mentioned to Jenny that it would be very difficult to bike in this state. At any rate, before we knew it, we were cresing a steep hill and looking down on our condo which we had rented for the week.
The remainder of the day was spent unpacking and talking about what we were going to accomplish tomorrow. Ethan, having been cooped up in the car all day, spent at least an hour running all around and outside the condo. After we finally got him to bed, Jenny and I sat down to watch several minutes of television before zonking out ourselves, resting for our first real day of vacation...