Clearly I didn't read the invitation properly. "Would I like to spend a week test driving a Chevy Orlando Crossover in Orlando with my family?" Sure - kids were finished camp, I had caught up on my work, let's go to Florida!
I guess I missed the fine print which said something about driving the entire distance from Toronto to Florida in the car - without a DVD player or Navi. By the time I figured out the amount of time I would be forcing my kids to endure in the back seat of a car, I had already agreed to the trip.
Here's the itinerary Adria at GM had put together for us:
Day One - 8.5 hours to Sutton, Virginia
Day Two - 10.5 hours to Savannah, Georgia
Day Three - 5 hours to Orlando.
Day and a half - having fun in Orlando. Fly home.
We left the house at 8am on Monday morning. We were supposed to leave by 7 but we had to get all wired up. Here's what we brought:
1 loaner iPad for my son with a bunch of rented movies
1 loaner iPad for my daughter with a bunch of different rented movies
1 iPad for me with my book Invisible Bridge
1 laptop for me to work
1 laptop for hubby to work
1 iphone for me
1 iphone for hubby
2 headphones for the kids' iPads
1 MiFi for US roaming (a loaner from GM)
1 mobile multiport power charger
5 charging/connecting wires
And we're off. You may be rolling your eyes at the insane amount of technology we took with us, but let me assure you, it helped us survive the ride. The kids were in movie heaven taking in film after film.
Here's what they watched: Oliver, Soul Surfer (three times), Annie (three times), Princess Diary 1, Princess Diary 2, The Sandlot, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Second Hand Lions, Wizard of Oz, Parent Trap (the original), Goonies (twice).
After a couple of movies, the kids turned off the iPads for a bit of charging and read their books. (We also found a charging usb hidden underneath the radio console so we could charge 2 iPads simultaneously).This was the only time we heard the occasional whine from our intrepid back seat travellers.
We tried to time our rest stops with our pit stops - fuelling up when we peed. And every time we stopped, I made the kids do crazy things like calisthenics and run races to burn a bit of energy. We also ate in the car rather than waste time lounging in restaurants.
Gotta say we were a well oiled machine. The first night we stayed at the Cafe Cimino Country Inn in Sutton, West Virginia where we met up with all the other families on the same crazy test drive as us. No rest for the tired. We were up at the crack of dawn for Day Two of our marathon drive. Did I mention I'm not a morning person?
As we headed for Savannah and another crazy long day of driving, my husband refused to give up the driver's seat. He says it's because the car was surprisingly easy to drive. And I quote, "I feel like I could drive all the way to Alaska. I could close my eyes and feel like I'm driving something sportier than the minivan."
I think he refused to let me drive because of our rule that the person driving gets to pick the station we listen to on XM Radio. Music from The Bridge, The Bruce Springsteen channel and The Spectrum kept us rocking the whole way.
As we cut through the gorgeous mountains of Virginia, Born to Be Wild blasted through the speakers.
While Terry drove, I read my book on my iPad, while switching to Google Maps to watch our progress. I took my job as navigator seriously. I mean really - I didn't want to have to go a mile out of our way if at all possible.
I couldn't believe how patient the kids were back there in the Orlando. The combination of movies, books (ok...and a bunch of junk food) and they were good to go.
When we arrived in Savannah at 4:30 that afternoon, it was super hot. We jumped in the Avia Hotel's pool, showered and had dinner at Paula Dean's restaurant (which was deep fry hell). We didn't have time to explore the city that night, so on Wednesday morning we drove through the old historic town. We saw the mansion where they filmed part of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and visited the third oldest synagogue in America.
With Starbucks in hand, we hit the road headed for the 195 South to Orlando. Only problem was headed in the wrong direction and only discovered our mistake after I checked in with Google Maps. This miscalculation added three hours onto our five hour drive. Frustrated, my husband stepped on the gas to make up for lost time.
Wham! A policeman nabbed him on the highway going 20 miles over the speed limit. We had to follow the cop 10 miles off the interstate to the station where my husband was presented with a $700 bill which had to be paid in cash on the spot. Not sure if this is even legal, but what the heck were we supposed to do? Sounds of Deliverance played in our heads. We had to get to a bank to withdraw the cash. While the coppers held my hubby's licence, I finally got to drive.
An hour later we were back on the road heading for the Sunshine State - four hours behind schedule. I stayed behind the wheel - and tried to keep the car to just above the speed limit, but that darn crossover was surprisingly zippy!
As we approached Orlando with no directions to our final destination, we finally got smart and called OnStar. What an awesome service. We gave the OnStar lady our address and she downloaded step by step directions into our radio. If only we had known about that service before, it would have made our trip waaaay easier.
So, was the drive worth it? Hell, ya! The Chevy Orlando was surprisingly fun to drive, not to mention comfortable, we spent lots of time with our kids in close quarters and we had a blast in Orlando for a couple of days.