THE JOY RIDE is a series that will be running from July 10-Aug 11, 2013.  I'm headed out on the road trip of a lifetime with my two sons, the goal of which is to push all my buttons at once (embracing uncertainty), while spreading joy and creating connection with them and my global community.  Follow the adventure here on the blog, on Facebook, and on Instagram. -

Rochester, NY | Niagara Falls, ON | Toronto, ON | Indiana Dunes| Chicago

Lessons learned so far (or things I'm constantly reminded of):

  • Breathe
  • Move
  • Surrender
  • Ask for what you want (free parking, sure!)
  • Don't push, enjoy the ride (even if you need to be someplace; you'll get there exactly when you need to)
  • Send love out even if you are feeling frustrated, stressed, or overwhelmed
  • You can choose to be joyful and share that joy even if you don't feel it in that moment
  • Listen to your intuition and speak your truth (ie setting boundaries, being honest)
  • Allow for downtime and playtime
  • Don't assume technology will be there for you (ie have a backup plan, ask for help when needed)

Day 2, 7/11/2013, Rochester, Niagara, Toronto

I have been in the car a lot this past week. My husband Mark was with the boys and I and we were able to travel longer in the car as such, in order to reach a place we could stay for a longer period of time.

We drove to Rochester on the first day, and got there after 8 hours or so. We stopped a few times at rest stops, doing bootcamp type exercises to make sure we got a little movement and woke up each time we stopped. We stayed with Jim, a high school friend of mine, and his roommate, Dave, and we had a terrific time together. Dave is an actor, and for every story he told, he would take on the accent and the mannerisms of the people in the story; I haven’t laughed so hard in years.

Jim and Dave were both very excited about the mission of our trip.    While we were at the farmers market the morning of our second trip, Dave, who was with us, kept introducing us to people and telling them all about it, and how they should follow us on Facebook. Jim, later that morning, joined us at the National Museum of Play, and helped us make crowns with special sayings (create joy and you’re beautiful).

Dave also tasked Connor with writing postcards to him and anyone else he felt like sending them too. He gave Connor ten of them with stamps already on them, and said now go spread joy. Jim suggested Connor send one or two joy cards to random people in the phone book of the places we stop (love that!). It was a wonderful first stop on our trip.

One thing that will stick with me always (and especially during this trip) that Dave mentioned when I was telling him I wanted to improve my relationship with Connor…to remember to use the first rule of improve…Say YES AND, and see how that changes things.

We left for Niagara Falls Thursday afternoon (day 2) around 3pm directly from the museum, and got there two hours later. The women at the border crossing almost didn’t let us through because I had a full size mattress in the back (much more comfortable than a blow up mattress for camping!). Finally we made it through, went and found parking and enjoyed the falls.

Later, Kieran and I gave out pipe cleaner hearts (which we made at the Play Museum) to people at the restaurant we had dinner at (Connor passed, as he was a little shy). Kieran loved it so much, he said more after he gave out every one. Everyone was delighted, and he even ended up sitting with one family after giving the two women hearts. He didn’t want to give out hearts to men, and I was fine with that…he loves the ladies, after all. 

After dinner we faced a dilemma: we forgot that in a different country, our phones and data plans don’t work unless we pay a lot to get an international plan. Being on a budget, we didn’t want to spend the extra cash, and the address of the place we were staying in Toronto was stuck in facebook messages (and we couldn’t use google maps without wifi). I went around the restaurant asking if anyone would let me use their smartphone to let me log into facebook, and a generous man instead suggested I use his phone as a wifi hotspot, so I could log into maps and facebook and get what I need that way. He even taught me how to take a screenshot on my phone (top button and front button at same time). I was able to get the address and what I thought were the right directions, and we left the restaurant to take the boys on the huge ferris wheel that you can view the falls on (the kids loved it). We left Niagara around 8:30pm, much later than planned, tired and happy.

When we started driving to Toronto, Mark and I found that the directions we had were not to the address I plugged into the phone, but some random place that only got us to the outskirts of Toronto. Mark suggested we stop at a hotel and get them to print out the right directions for us, and then he went in and did it. I was really proud of him, as he doesn’t like to put himself out there for rejection often, and he stepped up to take care of us, and make sure we got where we needed to go.

We finally made it to the place we were staying at 11:30 at night (ugh!), and the parking gods were with us: we got a spot in an underground garage right in front of the door to the elevator of the building we were staying at. And we found out that the normal $30 per day parking fee was going to be waived for our stay, as there was flooding on the residents level a few days prior, and as residents had to park on the visitor level until it was cleaned it, no one could be charged. Heaven.

After getting everything in the condo (which was generously donated to us from a friend of a friend I met just a week prior in Portland, Or), we got our wifi on (it seemed like days instead of hours that we weren’t connected), and headed off to bed near 1ish.   Have we only been on this trip for two days? It seems like weeks!

Day 3, Toronto

Slept in til almost 10am. Kids were up and playing, Mark was making breakfast. We spent a leisurely morning getting ready and deciding what to do. We figured we would just start walking down to the Harbour and see what was around.   Our host (who was traveling in Ireland at the time) lives in the Distillery District, and we walked outside to find shops and restaurants and really cool sculptures. We window shopped for a little while, and then headed off on foot to the harbor (approx. 1.5 miles away). On the way, we stopped at a park, and then went across the street to a place that had water features for the kids. Since they didn’t have their swim suits, they ran fully clothed into the water (it was warm, and they loved that they were able to get soaked and not get yelled at). From there, we headed to the bathrooms to dry the clothes. We finally made it to the habour after another hour, and were greeted with a free concert (80s pop).  I love this city!

The kids had a blast running on the grass around the stage, making new friends, and running up and down this crazy ramp (check out our facebook page for that video). Tried to stay to listen to all the music (til 11pm), but decided to head back around 8:30pm.  The kids were exhausted and so were we.  A lot was packed into the 3 days, and I was starting to feel it.

Day 4, Toronto

Mark want to headed out on Sat to Chicago, but after being in the car so long on Thursday, I convinced him that we needed another day in Toronto. After I went rollerblade shopping (there was a store only 3 miles away, and no stores in PA near me!), we took a streetcar to Chinatown, Kensington Market, and then got a free pedicab ride back to the Habour-talk about manifesting a free ride!  We headed home after a few hours, and started the packing...plan was to leave Toronto by 9am Sunday morning to make sure Mark got a few hours to hang with my family before flying home Monday morning.


Day 5, Toronto, Indiana Dunes, Chicago

Packed quickly and made it out by 9:30am...didn't stop in London to see Storybook Gardens as originally planned (one of my only family trips when I was a child) in order to make it to Chicago as quickly as possible, but did hit a few rest stops (more bootcamp and made up obstacle courses).  I drove for a few hours and then let Mark drive the rest.  After about 9 hrs in the car, we hit rush hour traffic in Indiana of all places, and decided to make a detour to the Indiana Dunes, which were only a few miles off I-94 (and got us out of traffic!).  It was just as I remembered it as a kid: the water was about 70 degrees, sun was bright, sand was soft and best of all, no salt water (still haven't gotten used to the ocean yet).  The kids were able to swim for 1/2 an hour and we again headed back on the road, where traffic was still busy-at 8pm! My moms house awaited us in only 30 miles.

Finally got to Chicago (or at least Crestwood, Il) at 9pm.  My mom's condo was such a nice sight.  As was her hug a balm to my tired self.  While I had no idea what awaited us the next two days, it was nice to be with my mom. 

Day 6, Chicago

We left my mom's house to drop Mark off at the airport and then head onto the city around 9am.  I was a little stressed in the morning, mostly because I didn't want Mark to leave.  I won't see him for at least three weeks.  We said a teary goodbye and the airport, and then the boys and I headed downtown.  I promised them we could go to the beach, and I asked the parking gods for another miracle, a free parking spot near the beach that I could walk the kids to (side note, Kieran and Connor names the parking gods poop and pee, so I wasn't too hopeful).  They came through again!  Not only did they give us a great spot, they gave us a great story.  Turns out our spot was being taken up by a scooter that was taking up two spots.  I asked a friendly guy on the street to help me move the scooter (yep, I did and yep, he did), and we got our spot with no damage to the scooter.  Then when we were walking to the beach, we wound up right in the middle of the Lincoln Park Zoo (score!).  Bonus points for location.  Kids were pumped.  We spent a little time at the zoo, hours at the beach, and then I got to rollerblade with them down the Lake Shore Drive bike path.  Kieran sat on Connor's lap in the jogging stroller and I pushed from behind.  Quite a workout, and so much fun. 


I love Chicago, and missed the path so much.  We then headed over to the zoo again before meeting my sister for dinner, where we gave out more hearts (this time, made from Wiki Sticks).  After dinner, we all went to the park to play, and then drove my sister back to her house in Wrigleyville.  The kids fell asleep within two minutes after dropping her off.  We all made it to bed by 10pm.

These days are so busy, I definitely plan to take it easy once its just me and the kids (without family or predetermined destinations).

Day 7, Chicago

My brother came up from St Joseph Il with my niece to see us.  We played at the park, had lunch, and then I napped (thank you Steve!) while he took the kids to an arcade.  After going out for dinner, everyone played a little more and then he headed out.  Finally, a day that wasn't packed with stuff to see or do, and with a nap to boot.    Planned to see an old roommate from college, but she got ill and has decided to see me off tomorrow morning (estimated 9am departure time).  We're headed to Denver, Co (1050 miles) and need to get there by Sat morning so I can see a friend that is hiking the Colorada Trail and leaving on Sunday.  After that trip, we have no dates and no exact plans.  Will probably stop off in Iowa City, and Omaha, NE, on the way to CO but will leave the agenda open just in case something cool comes up on the journey.  Wish us luck and safe travels!