Early Wednesday morning we started our long trip to Fort Polk.
We had over 1,100 miles to travel but the thought of all of us being together as a family again, even if just for a few days, made the trip all the more exciting.
Natalie took a lot of pictures on my camera, and I'm thankful that she did.
They all three brought along their books to read, homework to do (we took three days of military leave from school), Ipods to listen to, DVD player, pillows and a blankets.....they were ready for the drive.
Katie was the only one who brought her DVD player. It had a battery life that lasted three hours, after that three hours she fell asleep and slept for a few more hours.
The first day of driving was a long day.
I kept driving until I knew I had to stop for the night. I managed to get eleven hours of driving in.
We checked in a hotel not far from Jackson, Mississippi.
By the time we all had our showers, brushed our teeth and put our pajamas on, it felt so good to climb into bed, stretch out and get some sleep.
I slept until 8am Thursday morning. I had done most of the driving Wednesday and knew I would be able to make it to the base to meet Jerome when he was able to leave.
We ate our breakfast, packed up our suitcases and reloaded ourselves into the car.
Then we were on the road again.
This time, knowing we didn't have as long of a drive to go and that at the end of the day we would all get to see Jerome.....we were all really excited.
We made it through an awful hail storm that only lasted about 5 minutes but it felt like it lasted forever. The sky was beautiful, the weather was beautiful.....I couldn't have asked for better traveling weather to drive in....minus the hail storm.
Spencer was the official window cleaner.
Every time we stopped to fill up the Escape on gas, I filled up while he cleaned the windows.
Spencer took this picture with my cell phone as we crossed the Mississippi River....
We made it to Louisianna finally and the driving was completely different to what we had had for the past thirteen hours.
We drove through miles and miles and miles of farm land.
It was very flat, you could see the sky and the land go for miles and miles.....not like the mountains we are used to.
It was very pretty, I kept watch of the gas tank, making sure we had plenty of gas to get us where we were going. There was one long stretch of road that seemed to go on forever. The gas tank was down to a fourth of a tank and there was nothing but farmland as far as you could see. I was beginning to worry that we were going to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere.
Finally we came to a little country gas station along the road. I was very relieved.
We all got out to stretch our legs. I filled the tank up while Spencer cleaned the windows. Then we all went inside to grab a snack. It was hot out so they all three picked Choco Tacos ice cream to eat.
Natalie and Katie were loving having the wind blow their hair all around and having some fresh air. They played hand games in the backseat while I drove. It made me happy listening to them.....it reminded me of when I was younger and doing the same hand games with my sisters.
We passed a fresh Pecan and Praline shop. The kids all begged to turn around and go back. It was just a little country store alongside the road.
We bought two pecan pies, a large bag of fresh pecans, and a bag of sugared pecans and pralines. I knew Jerome and his fellow Chiefs in his room might enjoy a fresh pecan pie and I also knew my mom would love to have one too. I'm freezing the pecans and saving them for Thanksgiving this year.
The elderly woman in the shop was asking where we were from and the kids all happily told her where we were from and why we were traveling to Louisianna. She then told them, "Well, as my Mama would always tell me.....you are on the last leg of your trip here".
Once we got to Alexandria, LA I knew we didn't have that much further to drive.
We passed an older man, a farmer, along the road who had a stand set up selling fresh strawberries. I knew Jerome didn't get much fresh berries and knew that he would love the strawberries. I bought a whole flat of strawberries....I knew they would happily be eaten.
We stopped for lunch in Alexandria and then made our way to Fort Polk. I had planned on checking in our hotel, getting a shower and meeting Jerome looking not as "wind blown hair, driving for hours" look as we did.
As it turned out his convoy was heading into base right as we were headed into town. He called and wanted us to just meet him there. He wanted our kids to be able to see everything, the convoy and it's troops coming back from a long day at the range.
I made it to Leesville and the sight of all the yellow ribbons tied on all the trees in town was a beautiful sight to see.
I have never seen so many trees with so many yellow ribbons.
It was just beautiful.
We made it to Fort Polk and saw the convoy Jerome was with as we pulled in. He told us where he was and that we had to stay in the car and he would come to get us when he was finished.
We were all looking for him. Finally we found him among all the soldiers and convoy trucks.
Once we was finished he came to get us. We all had lots of hugs and kisses for him.
Then he took us to the MRAP that he drives and took the kids into it to show them where he rides and some of the things that he does.
We all left the base. We went to the hotel, we all took showers and got cleaned up and then went to dinner.
Jerome had to be back at the base that night. He wasn't free to stay with us at the hotel until Friday.
It felt so good to feel like a family again.
To feel home again.
No matter where we are in this world, being together just feels like home.
141. the feeling of being all packed up and starting out on a long journey in the early morning.
142. sleepy kids in the backseat
143. my helper, the navigator, Spencer, who sat up front with me the whole time
144. crossing the Mississippi River and knowing we are closer to Fort Polk with every mile
145. driving through all the farm land in Louisiana will make you thankful for a little gas station alongside the road after miles and miles and farmland
146. the warmth of the sunshine in the South
147. watching the kids enjoy an ice cream from that tiny gas station
148. being asked where we are from, because of our "Northern" accent
149. glancing over to see Spencer enjoying reading a book during the drive
150. long hair blowing in the wind
151. the sound of the girls hands clapping and rhyming games behind me
152. remembering playing the same games with my sisters
153. arriving in the town near Fort Polk and seeing all of the yellow ribbons
154. the feeling that swells up inside that comes from these yellow ribbons
155. looking at a convoy and trying to find my husband in the middle of it
156. seeing him for the first time
157. the sound of our kids voices yelling "Daddy" out the window
158. being a family again
(I love the words and music in this video below)