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The Road Warrior rides again — my first solo trip with the kiddos!

And yes, those ARE my new Coach rose gold aviators! Swoon!

And yes, those ARE my new Coach rose gold aviators! Swoon!

When I met The Hubs, I gave up a few things, including my apartment and seafood. I also gave up long-distance driving and freeway driving. It’s not because The Hubs is some control freak who insists on driving. It’s just that he is a terrible passenger. He can never relax, perched at the front of the seat like some hawk-eyed driver’s ed teacher. He doesn’t mean to grind my last nerve, but he does. He would never, ever in a million years close his eyes. So I figured, huh, why shouldn’t I just let him be happy? I discovered I much preferred passengering to captaining because I could sit and read for hours, uninterrupted. I could spot places I wanted him to pull over so I could shop. I could commandeer the radio and our lunch spots. I could even sleep.

I haven’t driven further than Abilene by myself in 14 years, and I haven’t driven in Houston, Austin, San Antonio or Dallas in 16. Truthfully, I don’t miss it. I have become increasingly paranoid since we always have the kids in the car. Now it is summer, and we are ready for some fun, but The Hubs is out of vacation time. Our two choices: sit at home or hit the road — alone. After much thought, I decided I should reaffirm my own independence with a solo road trip.

Anyone who has ever traveled with little ones knows it is exhausting, and I wondered whether I could manage a week on the road. We had several stops to make. Could I pack, unload, reload, buckle, pack, unload, reload and buckle over and over again? In this heat? But I really wanted to visit my Spice Girls in Abilene, see the grands and spend a few days with a longtime friend and her family. So I decided to suck it up and planned a Texas tour that included stops in Cisco, Abilene, Dallas and Texarkana. Seven days, eight movies and roughly 30-plus hours in the car. One marathon Allen outlet mall shopping trip. Holy moly.

When we were kids, my parents never went to all the trouble today’s parents go to. I got a book and a Coke. My dad stopped only once for potty breaks. There were certainly no boosters or seat belts involved, and I spent plenty of time laid out across the back windshield speaker ledge of my mom’s seafoam green Buick LeSabre reading while my brother played in the back bench seat. Cringe.

Mack Daddy was an amazing driver. Somehow he could power down the highway, never resting, talking or listening to the radio. He could swat you with one of his giant meathook hands without ever taking his eyes off the road. I am not that coordinated. Hence, all the activities to keep the kids occupied. My brother and I would never have dreamed of telling him we couldn’t find something in the car if he told us to. Of course, there was a lot less to look for. A Coke can, a book and a travel size Connect Four. And you better find all those darned pieces, kids!

To his credit, my dad never yelled at us in the car. Didn’t have to. We would be carrying on and next thing you knew, meathook. If he tapped the brakes to pull over on the shoulder, you better get ready because you were about to get it. So after we were in first or second grade, we knew how to behave. My kids are so not there yet.

But to their credit, they battened down the hatches in Dallas traffic. And I finally figured out how to

use Bluetooth Audio and Google maps. I never missed a turn. What I did miss, however was exactly how to pay on the toll roads. I couldn’t figure out the stick figures on the freeway signs. It’s hard at 75 miles an hour when you’ve never used a toll road before. I passed at least seven sets of toll booths coming and going on the Bush Turnpike, never paid once. I’m sure I’ll get a bill in the mail.

Even though my Pinterest-inspired travel hacks were a fail, I did have a few strokes of genius halfway through the trip. I thought I should share them with those of you wanting to cram last-minute trips into the schedule before school starts and save you the hours on the computer trolling through my Pins.

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