The night was interesting. The window in our room was above the ice and vending area. People were out there late partying and a couple got in a loud argument. Unsurprisingly, my kids slept through most of it. We got up early and hit the road to drive to Sweetwater, TN. We were happy to leave those accommodations behinds. We stopped for donuts and juice for breakfast. We chose to eat in the car so we could get there faster. We had heard that finding a parking spot was going to be difficult. We had a bit of a drive so we didn’t want to waste anytime.
We made good time and got there early. We drove around a little bit and decided to park in a field next to a hardware store that was away from the big festival that was going on in downtown. We were there to see the eclipse and spend the day together. We were not there to spend the day surrounded by tons of people at a big festival. They parked us at the very edge because they were thinking that there were going to be a lot more people coming. A few other people did park there but not many. It turned out to be an amazingly intimate moment with a handful of like-minded strangers.
We explored our little area to help pass the time. There was an A&W within easy walking distance. The little girls had never been to A&W and Ivy doesn’t remember going when she was little. Octavia enjoyed sharing her first root beer float with Ivy. We checked out the hardware store we were next to. They had some really cute suckers. The big girls each got one.
We went back to the field by our car. The kids played around outside in the grass for a while. We went for another walk. They had horseback rides in the hardware store parking lot. Isabella rode the horse. We decided to have lunch at Sonic before heading back to our car. We shared a large order of chicken tenders and cheese sticks. It was miserably hot so we each got large slush to go, except Octavia who got an ice water to fill up her sippy cup.
We met the nicest people who happened to be parked next to us. They were from Connecticut. We waited for the eclipse with them. We were not able to find enough glasses and they graciously gifted us with a couple extra pairs that they had. They also shared some experiments with my girls. This is one of the reasons I travel with my children. I want to show them that there are some really good people out there in the world.
I have no photographs of the eclipse but I do have a memory that I will cherish forever. Sitting there with my girls as the day became night was a treasure. Isabella’s awe of the moment as what we had been telling her all finally made sense. It was well worth the drive. Road trips are some of my favorite times. This one was so different because Michael couldn’t make it. We made some amazing memories and had some hilarious conversations that you can only have while there are miles of road ahead of you. There is pure magic in road tripping with kids. You suddenly have time for all those conversations that you simply don’t have time to properly engage in at home when everything needs to get done. I’m not talking about the big important talks but that sometimes happens too. I’m talking about hearing about favorite new games, the last book they read, what their school friends are like, and their favorite thing about their new teachers. In the end, all these little things are all that really matter. These little things are shaping our children into the people they will be.
The trip back home was none eventful. There was loads of traffic which we all expected considering how many people came to watch the eclipse. It started to clear out eventually as we got farther away from Sweetwater. I’m going to leave you with this final photograph taken somewhere on the road out of my dirty windshield. It’s beautiful but a little messy which is just like taking a road trip alone with three kids.
We were lucky enough to be less than 8 hours from viewing a total solar eclipse. I managed to get a couple days off work and the big girls were able to take a day off school. Michael was unable to get a day off so we ended up making it a girls trip. I looked into our options and we decided to view the eclipse from Sweetwater, TN. The only issue was that I only got the day off on a last minute trade and finding a hotel in the vicinity was not going to happen. It was too far to drive the day of the eclipse so I had to find a place closer than where we are. I finally found a place outside of Chattanooga, TN and booked it online.
We packed our overnight bag the night before. We got up early to have a quick, healthy breakfast at home before hitting the road. The goal was to make it as far as possible before having to stop. The little girls did amazing and we didn’t have to stop until lunch time. We found a McDonald’s with a play center. The girls had a chance to get out of the car to play and eat for 45 minutes. After lunch, we stopped at a Walmart and picked up some snacks to get us through the rest of the trip to Chattanooga. I filled up the gas tank before getting back on the road.
We made decent time and got to our hotel just before dinner time. We checked in, picked up our key, and found our room before heading to dinner. Remember me saying that hotels were in high demand and I took what I could find. This was not a nice place to stay. It was questionable. It was a non-smoking room but there were burns on the blankets and furniture. There was black hair in the bottom of the bathtub. It did seem safe enough and there were no bugs. Every trip can’t be fancy. I’m not complaining. I’m just stating the truth. Sometimes it’s enough to not have to sleep in the car.
We drove into downtown Chattanooga and ate at City Café Diner. This is our favorite diner and we were so excited to be able to eat here! This is the cutest little place with amazing food and great service! I would eat there again and again. We stop there every time we drive through Chattanooga or near enough that we can easily detour.
Ivy and I got gyros and fries. The little girls got mac and cheese. We have never had a bad meal here. The dessert really is the star of the show at this place. They have huge cases of cakes, cheesecakes, and other desserts at the front. They all looked amazing! It was hard to decide. We each picked something different.
I had the cheesecake in the bottom right photo. It was truly delicious. Their desserts are huge and incredibly well priced. Isabella couldn’t finish her chocolate cake and decided to take it with her. We left the restaurant and went back to our hotel to sleep for the night.
After leaving St. Augustine Beach, we drove down A1A to our hotel just north of Daytona Beach in Ormond Beach, Florida. It was a nice drive but we did drive through some fairly nasty storms on the way. They were short but the rain was so hard that you could barely see the car in front of you. Thankfully, Michael is a skilled driver and we made it to the hotel without incident. The storms had stopped by the time we made it there and we couldn’t wait to get down to the beach.
We stayed at Chateau Mar Hotel in Ormond Beach, Florida. We chose the ocean view double suite. It included two double beds and a sitting area with a pull-out sofa bed. There was good parking. We had an ocean view but it is onto the walkway as well. This means that if you have the blinds and curtains fully open to enjoy the view that people walking by can see right into your room. There was no true balcony. There is a sitting area with a couple chairs in front of the room on the outdoor walkway to the rooms. The best part of this hotel is that it is ocean front.
It’s so easy to check into a hotel that you booked online. All I needed was my drivers’ license and they gave us our room keys. We checked out our room. It was acceptable and clean. We brought up our suitcases and Octavia’s things before heading to the beach. It was getting late but we made it in time to see the sunset.
We walked along the beach as the sun was setting. The sky transforming right before us. Michael and I walking hand in hand as Octavia slept against my chest in the baby carrier. We watched Ivy and Isabella running, playing, hunting for seashells, and watching the birds. These are the memories I hope I hold onto until the day I die. Such beauty and wonder I had the chance to behold that night. There are not many photos from that time. I was a bit preoccupied admiring the scenery and the children I have been so blessed with. Eventually, the long day began to catch up with us. We sat on the beach, sometimes chatting, sometimes just listening to the waves until Isabella began to nod. We made our way back to our room. Michael carrying Isabella most of the way even though he was exhausted as well. The minute my head hit the pillow I was asleep. We all slept incredibly well, even Octavia only awoke to nurse before settling back to sleep. No alarm clocks to set or things to worry about for the following day. Just peace, quiet, and not knowing what the next day may hold.
We recently took the kids to dinner at Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers in Amelia, Ohio. The food is made fresh to order. The steakburger patties are thin so they cook very fast. I went with the classic. The beef was well seasoned. The shoestring fries are thin and crispy! They were very good. However, the star of the show is the fry sauce. This creamy sauce is the perfect complement to the crispy fries. Bottomless drink refills and unlimited fry sauce are at a self-service area near the food pick-up window.
The place is perfect for a fun, family dinner. It’s not the healthiest stop but sometimes it’s alright to indulge a little. The kid’s meal is basically slightly smaller portions of the same food. The whole family enjoyed themselves. I cannot comment on the custard they serve for dessert. We were too full from the large meals to want dessert. It is an affordable dining option with meals coming in under $10 per person.
We were on our way to Daytona Beach, Florida and we really needed a break. We had been stuck in a car with 3 kids for far too long. We decided to stop at St. Augustine Beach. This is a beautiful beach. It is clean and family friendly with ample parking.
This was Octavia’s first trip and her first time to see the ocean. She was two months old. Regardless of age, you have to dip your toes in the water the first time you see the ocean. She was surprisingly calm about her foot getting wet.
There is something magical about the ocean that always pulls us in. Isabella can’t help herself. Her excitement for life is one of my favorite things about her. She is always so joyous in the moment. She would happily spend her days running and playing outside in the sunshine. She was running in the waves and fairly soaked before we left. We changed her into a different sundress before getting back on the road. We took the scenic route by driving down A1A into Daytona Beach. It took a little longer but it was better for our sanity.