Austin Goes to Texas

9 days on the road with a 6-month-old from Wisconsin to Texas and back. This was definitely going to be a challenge. There would obviously be more planning and logistics involved with this. However, that didn’t deter me. Our son Austin did well on the trip to my hometown of Marshfield. He also did well with me being gone overnight in Illinois.

Victoria and I both figured we could make things work to visit Texas. Austin would then be able to meet his great-grandparents and great aunts and uncles. We would be specifically traveling to Bryan, TX, with a quick stop in Plano, TX. We planned to drive around 6 hours each day. Since the drive is 18 hours, we’d take 3 days down and 3 days back. This was a familiar route we had driven many times. We knew there’d be enough stopping points to feed Austin every 3 or so hours.

We booked the hotel rooms way ahead of time. On the way down, our stopping points would be Kansas City and Norman, OK. On the drive up, we’d stop in Edmond, OK, and then at the same hotel in Kansas City. We chose Edmond on the way back since hotel rooms in Norman were expensive. I think there was an OU football game around that time.

This would probably be the most planned road trip I’d take. If you know me, I typically just hit the road with a backpack and a few other things. Victoria and I had to sit down and really figure out everything we needed for the trip.

One thing was formula. Trying to scoop formula and mix up a bottle sounded super messy to do in the car. Luckily, we have disposable formula bags. We were able to prefill these bags with formula. Then, all we’d have to do is add water and shake the bag. As you can see, we pre-made a lot of bags.

We just purchased a new minivan, and we’d be taking this for our trip. It has way more room than my Focus. We definitely needed that for everything we packed. I swear we had more stuff with us now than when I moved down to Austin, TX!

Besides the baby, we were also bringing our dog, Maya. She and Austin would share the back seat.

Since this is Victoria’s new van, she wanted to drive. I was perfectly fine with that. That meant I could sit back and observe many things I’d typically miss since I was paying attention to the road.

We made a quick pit stop at Kwik Trip for breakfast and then hit the road.

Our first feeding stop was the Wisconsin Welcome Center near Dubuque, Iowa. It was nice out, so we fed Austin outside.

On this trip, I would learn how hit-and-miss things were in terms of family friendliness. Some places were great. They had family bathrooms with changing tables. Other places really had nothing at all. This particular rest stop was in the middle. It had a designated area of the counter for changing.

Each stop to feed and change Austin would be around an hour. So after spending an hour at that Wisconsin rest stop, we were soon in Iowa.

The Dubuque County Courthouse is one of my favorites. I love being able to see it from the road.

You only drive through Dubuque a while before you’re into the rolling hills of Iowa.

For some reason, the GPS took us on US-30 instead of I-80.

I guess we didn’t notice. Sadly, you have to second-guess everything. It’ll often take you a different way than you originally planned. Other times, it suggests complete idiotic things. For example, turning down a back road and adding over an hour to your trip:

Going on US-30 was the first kink in our plans. We knew I-80 had a fair amount of rest stops. Fortunately, we were able to stop in Toledo, Iowa. We first went to Hardee’s for our lunch and then fed Austin in the parking lot of the Kwik Star.

After we were all nice and full, we hit the road again. We ran into an interesting tractor convoy along the way.

We also spotted a convoy of vehicles in tow. Judging by my past experience, I had a feeling these vehicles were headed to Mexico.

We were soon in Missouri.

It was time to mix up another bottle and feed Austin again.

We also got out and took a picture by the Missouri sign.

We were back on the road, and things were clouding up around Kansas City.

We were soon at our first stopping point for the night. The room at the hotel was pretty nice.

They luckily had a crib, which saved us from setting up the pack-and-play.

We started looking for somewhere convenient to get food. I noticed a pizza joint just down the road called Minsky’s. I got The Louie Pizza. It is a St. Louis-style cracker crust pizza. I also got some jumbo wings. The food was absolutely amazing!

While the bottles we used had disposable bags, the nipples were reusable. We’d have to wash the nipples every night before bed and let them dry overnight.

The clouds from the night before hung around. It was rainy when we woke up in the morning.

I quickly loaded the van and then pulled it to the front of the hotel, where the canopy was. This allowed Victoria to get Austin and Maya loaded into the car. It started to absolutely pour. We decided to skip the hotel breakfast and get something to eat on the road. There was a McDonald’s across the street, so we had that.

The drive in Missouri was wet, but it got drier as we moved to Kansas.

We got on the Kansas Turnpike and eventually stopped at a travel plaza.

This specific travel plaza had a “family bathroom” with no changing table. It was also cramped in the regular bathroom for the changing table. Luckily I had a pad in our diaper bag and was able to change Austin on the floor.

While we could feed Austin outside in Wisconsin, it was too hot everywhere else. So we’d feed him in the van with the air conditioning running. Austin is very observant and likes to take in the scenery. We quickly found that we had to feed him in the back seat. If we didn’t, he’d get distracted looking around at everything happening. I also found his burp cloth doubled up great to block both the sun and distractions.

We were back on the road again and in the area where you could see for miles.

We decided to stop at the last travel plaza in Kansas. We’d feed Austin again and have another meal at McDonald’s.

Before you know it, we were in Oklahoma.

Around Oklahoma City, it started to rain hard.

Luckily, it had stopped by the time we got to the hotel in Norman, OK.

That was good since there was a lot of stuff to lug to the room.

It was also nice that the hotel had actually read the notes I put in my reservation and had a crib already in the room.

While we tried to split the driving up 6 hours each day, it didn’t come out completely even on time. We actually drove about 7 hours the day before. This day was a bit shorter. We had some time to spare in the afternoon, so I figured we could visit a courthouse or two. Norman is the county seat of Cleveland County.

Our hotel was only like 3 miles away from the courthouse, so it would be kind of stupid not to visit. So we all got in the van, and Austin and Maya got to visit their first courthouse with me.

We then realized that Purcell, the county seat of McClain County, was only 15 minutes away. Victoria’s grandpa on her dad’s side was also from Purcell, so this would be a special courthouse to visit.

For supper, we wanted something quick and convenient. We hadn’t had Whataburger in a while, so we got that and brought it back to the hotel.

The past 2 nights, Austin was waking up multiple times in the middle of the night and screaming. He has been sleep trained for a while, so this is abnormal. We knew he hadn’t eaten as much on the road, so we thought he might be hungry. When we fed him in the middle of the night, he ate 5 ounces. That seemed to support our hypothesis.

It was only a few hours later, and he was screaming again. We haven’t fed him overnight in a long time. He couldn’t be hungry again! Did he basically unlearn all the sleep training we did with him? In my half-asleep state, I came up with another idea.

I noticed that the crib was much smaller than his crib at home. I also know he is a stomach sleeper and tends to roll. I saw he was at the edge of the crib and couldn’t fully roll. I moved him to the middle of the crib and then gave him his pacifier. The crying slowed down, and he was quickly asleep. He ended up sleeping the rest of the night. I finally think I figured it out!

The following day I took Maya out to go to the bathroom. Suddenly, she got skittish and moved quickly from where she was. I’ve always feared walking in an area and stepping on a snake. Growing up in Wisconsin, this wasn’t an issue (I was more scared I’d come across a bear or wolf).

Down South, I was always on the lookout for snakes. I never came across one until now. I don’t think this one was poisonous, and I just walked away and kept my distance. It was kind of dark and hard to see at first, so I’m glad Maya was on top of her game.

After that, we loaded up the car. We went through the Whataburger drive-thru again. Finally, we got breakfast before our last stretch of the drive.

After a little bit of driving, we finally made it to Texas!

We stopped at the Texas Welcome Center to feed Austin and then got a picture by the Texas sign.

We decided to make a pit stop at Buc-ee’s for some lunch.

I tried to think what I could get to eat here that I couldn’t get in Wisconsin. I think Fajita Flavored Chicken and a Big Red was at the top of that list.

After Buc-ee’s, we stopped in Plano to visit Victoria’s uncle.

We visited for an hour or so and then hit the road for Bryan. But, first, we drove through the big city of Dallas.

We needed another stop to feed Austin, so we stopped at one of my favorite smokehouses in Texas, Slovacek’s.

I made sure to get some jalapeno beef sticks as a snack.

TX-6 took us the rest of the way to Bryan.

We drove a bit further into College Station and stayed at a La Quinta there. It looks like we were upgraded a bit on our room, and we really appreciated the extra space.

I stayed at the hotel to watch Austin and Maya. Victoria went to Layne’s and got some of their amazing chicken fingers.

It was our chance to take it easy for the next few days. We’d try to eat at our favorite places and just take some time to relax. We got what La Quinta had to offer for our first breakfast in College Station.

The coffee was kind of weak, so Victoria got some Starbucks for us later that morning.

She also picked lunch from Newk’s.

If you were wondering, this is how we utilized the extra space. This hotel didn’t have a crib. We were also finding it was easier to be consistent with Austin’s sleeping accommodations, so from now on, we just used Austin’s pack-and-play.

The sky was starting to get threatening, so I took Maya out to go to the bathroom.

That was a good call. In about 10 minutes, it was pouring!

We had to fight the rain a little bit and then went to Victoria’s grandparents.

Victoria’s aunt and uncle also came over, and everyone had a good time meeting Austin. We ordered food from Maria Mia. I got their flautas. At first, I thought I accidentally got the catering special with how big the container was. They were definitely good!

For breakfast the following morning, we decided to get another favorite, Fuego. This would be the start of me eating brisket at every meal for the day. I got a Dr. Pepper Cowboy and a Good Golly Miss Molly. Yes, those are Cheetos on the Good Golly Miss Molly.

We hung out in the hotel until lunch. We then drove to Cooper’s BBQ to meet Victoria’s aunt and uncle.

I had more brisket and some cheese and jalapeno sausage. I actually ended up ordering more meat than I thought, so I skipped the sides.

After lunch, we returned to the hotel to let our food settle. Some other friends from the Austin and Houston area would meet us later for dinner. They dropped by our hotel, and we were able to talk a bit. We originally intended to go to Freebirds, an awesome burrito place we like.

When we got there, we acted a bit on impulse. We noticed a Cotton Patch and decided to go there instead.

We had fried pickles for an appetizer. I then got a chicken fried brisket with mac and cheese and fried okra.

It was time to say goodbye to our friends and call it a night soon. We fed Austin and were quickly in bed. The next morning we went to Blue Baker for breakfast.

I love their Salmon & Cream Cheese breakfast sandwich, so I got that.

After breakfast, we made an H-E-B run. We definitely miss H-E-B now that we’re in Wisconsin.

I loaded the cart up with stuff we couldn’t get in Wisconsin. Yes, there are garbage bags in there too. The last set I bought in Wisconsin wasn’t that great, and we know these ones work. I can say this is probably the most unusual thing I’ve purchased on a road trip to bring back home.

Victoria wanted to get some Aggie gear for Austin, so after H-E-B, we went to Aggieland Outfitters.

While we didn’t have Freebirds the night before, we got it for lunch. I decided to go a little healthier with a burrito bowl.

It was a beautiful day outside. A bit after eating, we went to Victoria’s grandparents to visit some more.

For supper, we got takeout from Wing ‘N More. I got a chicken fried steak.

Later that night, it started storming pretty good. We didn’t know if Austin’s allergies were bothering him, but he seemed a little out of it. So after leaving, we swung by Walgreens and got a thermometer and some Motrin, just in case.

Luckily, he wasn’t running a fever and seemed to go to sleep right away.

The following day was our time to say farewell to Texas and start our 3-day drive back to Wisconsin. We first got breakfast tacos at Laredo Taco Company in the Stripes gas station.

We then hit the road.

By the time we got near Waco, it was raining like crazy.

Luckily, we could make a pit stop at Slovacek’s to wait out the storm. I took Austin inside to change him. I made sure to give him a look at all the great stuff they had.

I got some regular beef sticks for myself.

We fed Austin, and the rain started getting lighter. We hit the road again, and I kept watching the radar. The cloud definitely looked threatening at times, but things seemed alright.

We wanted to get food before getting out of Texas, so we stopped at Raising Cane’s.

We were soon in Oklahoma and stopped at the welcome center to feed Austin.

We then made it to Edmond. This is where we’d be staying for the night.

The room also had a nice area to put the pack and play.

I stayed at the hotel with Austin and Maya. Victoria went to Freddy’s Steakburgers to get dinner. I’ve never tried Freddy’s before. Their fry sauce on their shoestring fries was pretty amazing!

Since the next leg of the drive from Oklahoma to Kansas City would be the shortest, we had time to spare. I thought about other courthouses we could visit along the way. I started seeing what courthouses made the most sense. I found Logan and Noble counties were barely out of the way. Our normal route would take 4.75 hours.

Adding those 2 courthouses would only add about 15 minutes and bring the trip to 5 hours!

We went to bed, and the next morning, we got up and had breakfast from OnCue. I got a breakfast taco (more like a burrito) and a piece of pizza. It was pretty good.

We hit the road, and our first stop was Guthrie for the Logan County Courthouse.

Next was Perry with the Noble County Courthouse.

There was a cool wrestling monument across the road from the Noble County Courthouse.

We hit the road for a little longer, and Austin started getting fussy. We stopped at a parking area to feed him.

We were soon on the road and in Kansas!

We had to go to the bathroom and were getting hungry, so we stopped at a travel plaza.

We did some more driving in the vast openness of Flint Hills. We eventually had to stop at another travel plaza to feed Austin.

We hit the road and kept driving. All of a sudden, something started to smell a bit. Thankfully the travel plazas aren’t too far apart. We were able to stop and change Austin.

Before you know it, we were in Missouri and back to the same hotel we stayed at on our trip down.

Minsky’s Pizza was so nice, so we had to have it twice. This time I got the deep dish Papa Minsky’s pizza.

Once I figured out why Austin cried in the middle of the night, the nights became uneventful. He would still cry once or twice throughout the night. I would then just reposition him in the pack and play, and he’d be good. I was happy I figured this out!

The following day, we stopped at QuikTrip (the other one, not Kwik Trip) for breakfast.

I got a breakfast taco and a piece of breakfast pizza.

It was kind of a dark and misty morning as we headed north in Missouri.

We made it to Iowa and stopped at the first rest stop to feed Austin.

We then started driving and smelled something again. Thankfully, another rest stop was nearby.

After a while, it was starting to get pretty desolate, so we found a Casey’s to get some food and feed Austin.

That Casey’s was so packed, it was hard to get gas. We weren’t close to empty, but we kept an eye out for the next gas stop. We ended up at a Kwik Star.

A little bit more driving, and we were back in Wisconsin. We made another pit stop at the rest stop we first stopped at on our way down. Then, it was time to feed Austin again.

We were finally in the home stretch! We followed US-151, and I was happy when we crossed into Dane County.

We stopped at Kwik Trip in Verona to get a car wash.

Soon we were back home in Belleville!

We pulled in and got everything out of the van. I took a look at my haul from H-E-B.

I would say this trip went well overall. After all of this, I noticed that Austin has become way more observant of his surroundings. He really seemed to enjoy looking out the window. Sometimes it was frustrating when he’d stop eating to watch something. But, on the other hand, it was great to know he’s taking everything in.

The biggest thing I learned is consistency is key. Try to maintain as many routines from home as you can. Whatever you do at home, try to emulate it as much as possible on the road. Also, make good routines for the road. We were able to keep Austin’s feeding and sleep schedule pretty consistent. I think this helped us a ton.

One thing that wasn’t consistent was the size of the place where he was sleeping. It was smaller than his crib. We saw the most issues from when he tried to roll like he usually would and couldn’t. He’d then become frustrated and started crying. This was easily fixed by repositioning. Once we found this out, we’d still have to wake up to his crying, but we could get him back to sleep in a few minutes.

For road routines, you want to be organized and have a standard process each time you stop. Every time we pulled into somewhere to feed Austin, I’d mix up a bottle. I then fed him in his car seat in the back. In the meantime, Victoria took Maya out to go to the bathroom. Since I had a water bottle to mix up Austin’s bottle, I’d also give Maya some water when she returned.

Depending on how Austin was eating, one of us would take him inside to change him. We would alternate who went inside. This meant we could always leave the van running with the air conditioning. Being able to tag team stuff definitely helped us.

We had everything organized in suitcases and totes, so we knew where everything was. It made it easier to bring things in and out of hotel rooms. When we got to the hotel, I’d usually check in while Victoria waited in the van. I’d then go to the room to see where it was. From there, I’d go out to the van, and Victoria and I would bring Austin and Maya inside.

I’d then start bringing in stuff while Victoria watched Austin and Maya. She then began setting things up, like the pack and play. We’d then figure out what we wanted to eat and what we wanted to do. Finally, after Austin’s last feeding, we’d wash the nipples and let them dry overnight.

The next morning, we packed everything up and followed the same routine. Obviously, this was way different compared to my regular travel. It was regimented and full of routines. But, in terms of traveling with the whole family, it was necessary, and I’d consider this trip a success.

My biggest fear when we did get home was Austin reverting with his sleep training. However, that wasn’t the case, and he started sleeping fine through the night again. I know traveling with a baby can be hectic, but it worked out well for us. I really hope I can instill the love of travel in Austin. I look forward to trips in the future with him and the rest of the family.

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