There were a lot of unknowns with planning a vacation last year because of the pandemic. We ended up flying to Denver and had a great time! We thought it would be even easier to plan this year, but we felt like we had so many options that we couldn’t make a decision. (Such a first world problem to have, right?). We thought we had narrowed our destination down to 2 or 3 locations, but we still couldn’t decide.
A few months into the year, my youngest brother announced that he had enlisted in the Army National Guard. Our travel plans immediately shifted to making sure we could be there for his graduation… in Fort Sill, Oklahoma! We talked about trying to fly somewhere too, but being pregnant and recently putting our house on the market has slowed us down.
Our original plan was to fly to Lawton, Oklahoma. When we looked into flights, we were shocked to learn that just the flights were more than our entire trip to Hawaii! We had it in our travel budget, but the thought of spending that much on flights made me sick. We could have flown into Oklahoma City much cheaper, but by the time we added a rental car and another couple of hours of driving, the costs quickly added up. That’s when we decided to make the 12-hour drive from Alabama to Oklahoma with an almost 2-year-old that hates riding in the car longer than 2-3 hours.
As luck would have it, I had to be in Orange Beach for a photo session the day before we planned to start our road trip. That meant that we could caravan with my parents from Mobile, which made the drive a little more manageable! We knew it would be pushing all of our limits to drive 12 hours in one day, so we collectively decided to stay overnight at the halfway point in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Thanks to some really great long distance travel tips from our friend, Rachel, Camryn was actually content for most of our road trip! Camryn had asked us for her own cell phone and a pair of blue sunglasses earlier in the week, which we bought right before the trip and surprised her with in the car. She was so excited! We also purchased a Water Wow, which is the real MVP of the entire trip. Why did no one tell us about these things a year ago?? Camryn has never been that quiet in the car except when she is sleeping!
Since Monroe, Louisiana was on our route, we made sure one of our rest stops was at the Duck Commander store. It was a lot different than we imagined based on how popular the Duck Dynasty series was, but they had real ducks outside that made Camryn’s day.
We drove the last 6 hours to Oklahoma. I think we made a few extra rest stops because Camryn got restless in the car, but we were all thankful for the breaks. While we were resting in the hotel before dinner, Camryn asked for “Chickie-lay” (Chick-fil-A) and to watch the “O-yimpics” (Olympics). She was too cute not to give her exactly what she wanted!
The real reason we drove to Oklahoma was to see my youngest brother, Nick! He left for boot camp in May and we have only been able to communicate with him via snail mail or the occasional 1-minute phone call. We finally got to see him on Family Day and take him off base. In his letters, he said the first things he wanted to eat were Chick-fil-A and Outback. My parents took him Chick-fil-A for breakfast when they picked him up. We planned to go to Outback, but they were only open for dinner. He eventually settled on Olive Garden for lunch and Chick-fil-A (again!) for dinner.
Between meals, we also took Nick to Great American Cookies for his sugar fix. He brought us back on base to tour the U.S. Army Field Artillery Museum.
It was finally graduation day! Hundreds of graduates and their families gathered on base to celebrate the end of boot camp and the beginning of their military careers. We got to see Nick for a few hours, but none of the graduates were allowed to leave base. Nick had to report back to his unit promptly at 11:50am, which meant families had to leave the base.
Everyone except Nick grabbed a quick lunch and drove about 40 minutes to Marlow, Oklahoma. What is in Marlow, Oklahoma? One of my mom’s high school friends and her ranch – DT Ranch Country! We were all excited to visit a ranch, but we didn’t know how much of a treat it would be until we arrived.
We were first greeted with a skunk, prairie dog, and a bunny inside. Outside, we got to see goats, alpacas, a pig, ducks, peacocks, a zonkey (cross between a zebra and a donkey), horses, and a calf. The stars of the show were the alpaca that kissed Weston and the “baby horse” that Camryn adored.
The “baby horse” is actually a horse that has dwarfism. He requires extensive medical care every other week. If you would like to make a contribution, you can send donations via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org. To give you an idea of how much Camryn loved this baby horse, she stayed by his side about 90% of the time we were at the ranch. She also said these phrases to him multiple times:
“Where is he going?”
“Come on” as she hugged him.
“Take a picture? Huh?”
“Hey, baby horse!”
Camryn also got to bottle feed a calf!
The white alpaca seriously could not get enough of Weston! Camryn was slightly alarmed at how close he got to her face though haha.
After an eventful afternoon, we drove back to Lawton and made a stop at Braum’s for ice cream. Camryn fell asleep in the car, stayed asleep while we enjoyed our ice cream, and kept snoozing until we got off the elevator at the hotel. That’s when an inconsiderate teenager decided to scream at the top of her lungs at everyone getting off the elevator. The girl’s mother was right next to her and laughed at the entire thing. We were less than thrilled that the obnoxious girl not only woke up our toddler, but also scared her to the point of tears.
We got an early start the next morning and stopped at a cool hedge that was cut to spell “Lawton.” I definitely wanted that one touristy photo since we drove all that way and didn’t have much time to explore.
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful and we made it safely to Shreveport, Louisiana.
Finally! The home stretch! We got another early start in hopes that we could make it home in the early afternoon. We decided to stop in Jackson, Mississippi for lunch and then we would part ways with my parents – they would drive back to Mobile and we would drive back to Selma. This lunch stop took almost 3 hours – definitely not what we had in mind! It was a 30-minute wait for a table. Then another 30 minutes before they took our drink orders and another 15 minutes before we got them. Camryn was so sweet and tried to order lemons while my parents were ordering their food. Camryn very seriously looked at the waitress and said, “Lemons… I have lemons… write… gotta write!” So glad we got that one on video!
Side note: We were a little frustrated that it took so long for lunch; however, we all agreed that God was probably protecting us from something by keeping us there. When it was time to leave, our waitress thanked my dad for how nice our table was to her. It was her first day by herself and her other customers had not been so pleasant.
We finally made it home! We spent 6 days traveling and 24 hours driving over 1,576 miles! It may not have been the vacation we imagined when we started planning this year, but it was an important vacation. I’m so thankful we got to be there to see my youngest brother graduate!