Our Family Cruise January 7th-14th, 2007
(Taken from Jen's Cruise Journal)

The trip down to Galveston was fairly uneventful.  Our biggest worry was Dylan sitting in the car so long, as he hates to be in his seat even traveling 15 minutes to go shopping in Hutchinson. He faired better than I expected however.  We left on Friday, the 5th of January at 9:30 AM.  We stopped at the Burnsville Mall to purchase some walkie-talkies to have on the ship when the older kids were on their own and we wanted to be able to get a hold of them. Mark also found some sort of gadget that you plug into the portable DVD player and into the cigarette lighter/power supply and you could pick up the sound from the DVD on the radio station. It turned out to be one of the best purchases we made! Then I got behind the wheel and drove for about 4 hours.  We told the kids that they couldn't start to watch their new movies until we reached the Iowa border, which is about 90 minutes, give or take.  My 4 hours got us about 30 miles south of Des Moines, where we stopped for lunch, got gas, and stretched our legs.

In the car, somewhere in Kansas

Mark then took over driving, and drove for another 4 hours, stopping at a Walmart to just walk around, a Sonic Drive-in for supper, and then finally at a rest spot on the Kansas Turnpike to sleep for the night. NEVER AGAIN will we try to save a little money by spending one night in the car. When it's just Mark and myself, not a problem. Some blankets and the reclining seats are perfect.  But Dylan had taken a nap just prior to stopping, so he was bouncing off the walls until 1:00 AM, it was cold outside.  We all awoke and were ready to eat breakfast and just get moving. Mark again took the wheel and drove us another 3 hours to an information/rest stop 20 minutes away from the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. Mark got a key chain (which he collects) I got some bottled water, as I was starting to see my feet swell and I was feeling some slight contractions and knew I was dehydrated, we got directions to the Memorial, and stopped there.  The last time we went it was around 11:00 PM and going during the day time is a different experience.  It was relatively empty and still peaceful and touching, though not quite as serene as being there at night when the wind is blowing and you feel as though the people who died are speaking to you. It is amazing to me that you can be in the middle of downtown in a major city and only hear peace and quiet.  We parked on a different street this time, and were able to see a memorial wall used by loved ones to put trinkets, shoes, pictures, etc. to remember those who have passed. It was terribly sad, and I wept in pain for them, especially the children and babies. There was also a 'Jesus Wept' statue across the street that the local church erected that I don't remember seeing last time, and was quite poignant.  We stayed about 30 minutes, teaching the kids about the history of the site.  Alisabeth asked a lot of questions that were hard to answer, especially when she asked about the 'bad man who did it' and where he was now.

Oklahoma City National Memorial

I then took over the driving, and got us as far as a suburb of North Dallas, where we stopped for lunch as a restaurant I never heard of called 'Chik Fil A' which thankfully had a play area. Mark then took over and I told him to get us as close to Houston as possible, which is the LONGEST and most boring stretch of driving for the entire trip. By the time that was over I had some of the movies the kids got for Christmas memorized, even though I hadn't yet seen them!  In South Houston we stopped at a hotel, using one of the coupons from a travel guide that I grabbed. Those things have great deals, and amazingly, unlike when you book online, they don't ask the number of kids so we only requested one room. I spent the evening doing laundry, we ordered pizza and watched Pirates of the Caribbean II, and had a great night's sleep.  The next morning we woke up and had breakfast, and were ready to head to Galveston, which was about 28 miles away. Our hotel was 2 blocks from the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (NASA-Mission Control) and so we drove by to see that and tried to take a picture. On my list of things to do before I die is to see a shuttle take off, so it was exciting to me to even drive by. We then took off for Galveston, which was an exciting drive, as the land became more boggy and filled with bayous. We went over the bridge and took the main street directly to the terminal to get our first sight to the cruise ship which looks HUGE when it's in port.  The kids were in awe of it. We drove around and looked at mansions, stopped at a Walmart to get swim diapers for Dylan which I had forgotten, and then went and played on the beach, where the kids got their first view of the Gulf of Mexico, which doesn't look that different than Lake Superior.  There were lots of rocks and seagulls, and shells which Alisa and Dylan loved to play with.  We checked our watches and saw that it was time to embark, so we headed for EZ cruise parking where we would leave our car and take a shuttle to the terminal.

Dylan and Mark on beach in Galveston