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  1. Default Going Across AL/MS/AR/TX Family Trip

    Hi, all! I'm new (Well, "we" are, since I signed us up as one person, I guess) to the forum, and to RTA, but hopefully not too new for too long. The only vacations we take are trips to see the in-laws, and since it seems silly to waste an 1100+ mi. opportunity for a road trip, I've decided this year that I'll build them into our treks to see the family. (Previously, we've driven like madmen to get there and spend as much time as possible with the family, then hurried to get home before everything imploded. I am tired. I love the family, but that's no way to travel.) I'd love to be wholly spontaneous, but we have five children and they add enough general spontaneity to the outings. I'd like to build in at least a rough outline before we head out this Spring, going from Alabama to New Mexico for a family gathering.

    The NM portion of the trip is pretty well wrapped up, since we're "going home", and we know what we'd like to see there. What I'd love to hear suggestions on are places to see in Mississippi, Arkansas, and North/Central -to- West Texas. Our route isn't nailed down, yet, although we're hoping to avoid getting on I-10, just for length of travel on this venture. The kids are great - adventurous, helpful, enthusiastic, and willing to try new things or do something different. I couldn't ask for a better traveling crew, and can hardly wait to put this trip together.

    I've thoroughly enjoyed the few threads I've read so far, and look forward to reading more! What a great resource RTA is - thanks to all who contribute and share their experiences and trip planning!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default A Little Help, Please

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    It is nearly impossible to offer you any meaningful advice as your questions now stand. We don't know where you're starting from or going ('Alabama' and 'New Mexico' are awfully large targets). We don't know what your interests are. We don't know how old the children are or what their interests are. We don't know how many hours a day you would like to be in the car vs. doing things, or how many days total you are willing to devote to a one-way transit. We don't know what attractions, if any, you've already visited in your previous trips. In short, we know nothing about you, your family or your trip. Generic advice already abounds here, so what - exactly - are you looking for?

    AZBuck

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default On the other hand....

    ... going by the response you posted in this thread, which I am sure will be much appreciated, you sound like you have a good idea as to how to approach the planning of a road trip. With more information, as requested, I am sure we can fill in the blanks, and help fine tune your trip.

    Enjoy the planning.

    Lifey

  4. Default My attempt to be flexible backfired and left you very little to work with.

    Sorry!

    There are 7 of us. Myself - part gypsy, always up for a road trip and an adventure. My husband - he puts up with me, and would rather avoid urban centers and large crowds. The children are:
    * son, 13yo (foodie, loves all things geeky and math-oriented, affable and willing to try whatever sounds good, dry sense of humor, loves to navigate, and *never* sleeps in the car - he has his eye on a Segue tour of San Antonio next time we're down that way, but I don't think we'll go that far South this trip);
    * son, 11yo (also a bit of a foodie, although more down-to-earth fare appeals to him than the things his brother seeks out, loves all things outdoors and active - from archery and shooting sports to biking and history, dislikes being idle, quite a goofball and a huge help);
    * son, 8yo (not *as* adventurous on the food as the other two, but will go anywhere if there's food, loves the absurd - he'd be the one to angle for pulling over to see the World's Largest, Nastiest Ball Of Something Weird - hiking, running, swimming);
    * daughter, 5yo (she just likes being with her brothers, doing whatever they're doing - she is truly the most magnanimous, flexible child - as long as she can wear pink, she's happy);
    * son, 3yo (total payback for having four compliant children, this one -- but he keeps up well.)

    The kids are great travelers, and we usually take our adventures when my husband has to travel for work - either we'll go with him and explore the area during the day, or, when he's not going anywhere interesting (or can't smuggle us along) we'll head out somewhere new on our own. We've done day trips to the Indian Mounds and Cathedral Caverns in AL, taken in the Akhenaten exhibit in Nashville and the Audubon exhibit in Huntsville, as well as longer trips, down to Okaloosa Island in FL, and hiked all over Yavapai County (in AZ, when we lived there) and Southern NM.

    They would love to do some hiking, swimming, and exploring. If there is a family-friendly hot springs anywhere along the route, that would be a big hit. (I remember one in CO that was fantastic, but everything I've looked up here in the South seems to cater more to private baths and spas.) I love architecture and history. We all love finding the off-the-beaten path restaurants. You know the ones - the parking lot is packed with local license plates, the exterior isn't necessarily what sells it, and it's not part of a chain. (It's frustrating, asking a local, "What's a good local place to eat" and hearing, "There's a Denny's just up the road!") My husband really just wants to get there and see his family, so I don't want to drag it out too long, but by the same token, it's already a long drive. The rest of us would like to get more out of it than crampy legs, and I'm willing to swing North or South off the direct path to make it a little more fun.

    So. That's a little background.

    What I have of the itinerary so far is that we're heading out from Huntsville, AL (Northern AL), bound for Corona, NM (Lincoln County - it's the big empty spot on a map of NM - ranching country, there). We'll stop in Tatum, NM (about an hour West of Lubbock, TX) for a few days to help MIL with home repairs before heading on to our main destination.

    Everything from our point of departure to Tatum, NM is wide open. I don't have anything much penciled in, here, and this is probably the best place to add things. (Memphis is about four hours out from our departure, and if the weather is nice, I think Mud Island would be a good stopping point for a break on that first day, if it's open mid-March.)

    After we leave Corona, we'll stop in Ruidoso, NM for two days for some skiing and to top off on all the green chiles and rellenos we can take before heading back East. I'd love to stop in Dallas, TX to take some friends out for churrascaria. This leg of the trip always kills me. It's too long to make it home in a straight shot, but we haven't found anywhere to stop along the way that's really made us say "wow". We generally stop to see more family near Lamar, AR, and if we do that, then we can certainly take our time on both legs - from Dallas to Lamar, and then from Lamar back home to Huntsville.

    Once I have an idea of some things to see/do along the way, I'll be able to plug them in (for example, we could easily do the Dallas stop on our way in, if there was something great to see/do that would be better done on the way back, or taking a different route), mix it up with KOA and hotel accommodations, plan the road menu, and play with the other little details of the trip.

    Did that help?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Wow!

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles & Dy View Post
    ... as long as she can wear pink, she's happy);
    Yeah! I can relate to that. And now granddaughter is the same.

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles & Dy View Post
    * son, 3yo (total payback for having four compliant children, this one -- but he keeps up well.)
    Love your sense of humour. Then with five children, one needs it. And even though my five are now all adults, your script looks so familiar. And yeah, mine too grew up with mother's wanderlust.

    I'm sure someone more familiar with the area will be along soon to comment on the rest.

    Lifey

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default With That in Mind

    OK - that's better and by the way, I grew up as one of six kids doing semi-annual RoadTrips between the East Coast and the Upper Midwest, and I still love them. There are a few key things to keep in mind as you plan and execute this trip. The first is that the difference between a "driven like madmen" trip and pone where everyone has a great time and you arrive at your destination relaxed, refreshed and having had a great time can be as little as a couple of hours a day with the right attitude. The second, related thing is that stops don't have to be long or of Disney World proportions to have an impact, especially with kids in that age range. So with those in mind, let's see what's available on a basically direct route between Huntsville and Tatum (for starters).

    To begin with, in Memphis there's a great place for the kids to explore and blow off a little steam (and maybe learn something, but don't tell them that). And that's Mud island, a place dedicated to the Mississippi River - in which it sits. For all its other attractions, the thing I've found most fascinating about it is its scale model of the entire Mississippi River from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. Next up that fits your list is Hot Springs AR. besides the National Park, Quapaw Baths offers co-ed pools in addition to the traditional 'bath' experience. Also near by, for something totally different, is the Arkansas Alligator Farm where your older children may be up to petting an alligator. Not too far down the road, but a little bit off I-30 in Murfreesboro is Crater of Diamonds State Park. This is the only known diamond mine in the US and the only place in the world where one can dig for and keep diamonds. Now to be fair, digging in the dirt (the main activity) can get tedious after a while, and I would suggest that you keep the children away from the serious diggers (they're obvious), but if you're looking for unique, this place qualifies. On to Texas. If you have any interest in history, then stop in Dallas at the Sixth Floor Museum.

    Now admittedly, those are the biggies. but they needn't be the only things you see. In the decidedly quirky category fall such sites as the giant rocking chair in Lipan TX, and the statue of a white buffalo in Snyder TX. Then there are the uncounted state and local parks near the highway that are often the best entertainment around and usually free. Also, I sympathize with your efforts to find local eateries. I find the best way to find good local food is (yes, ask) to drive into small towns - I find those with about 3,000 to 5,000 residents to be about the right size - and see what's available. these are typically too small to be of interest to the chains, but large enough to be able to support a few to several competing restaurants. And since they are competing for repeat business in a small pool of potential customers, they generally offer hearty portions of good food and friendly service. Things you won't find at the exit ramp chain outlets that count on never seeing their customers again.

    Finally, let me suggest two further things to help your planning: 1) Get the kids involved Show them the maps and let them come up with a few ideas. 2) Look for a completely different route for the way back. Often you can experience an entirely changed atmosphere and scenery by just adding one or two hundred miles to your journey. Any further questions, just ask.

    AZBuck

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    If you are going to be going through Memphis and possibly Hot Springs AR, you may want to look at heading north from there to Branson MO. There is a lot of family entertainment there, quite a bit of which is hokey! About 30 minutes north in Ozark MO is one of the greatest foodie joints in the country - Lambert's Cafe - the "Home of the Throwed Rolls". FYI, you also have a Lambert's in Foley AL, there are 3 of them in the country.

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