As I mentioned, we were in Ohio for Easter. Getting to Ohio entails a loooong drive. Back in the PL days (that's pre-Lucas) I'd pack lunch, snacks and drinks to eat in the car and we'd make the drive in approx. 8 hours. Not too bad. With Lucas in the backseat, however, it is a 10-11 hour trek.
With approximately two round-trips a year we've pretty much become masters of the drive and I am very pleased to report that both the to and from of this Easter trip were our best ever. Lucas was so good both ways. He kept himself entertained, sang some songs, "read" some books, played with a cool driving toy (his first video game! according to my brother-in-law), enjoyed looking at the trucks and mountains and rivers. No DVD player in our car! (Although I was about ready to cave on that one after our last two trips were horrible!) Sure he got cranky at the 7ish hour mark. But heck, so did I!
When traveling long distances with Lucas, we generally stop every 3-or-so hours to get him out of the car and work off some energy. This is a big part of why our trip is now 2-3 hours longer than it used to be, but it is also critical to any hope of a decent journey.
One of the best things about the actual drive to Ohio (the only good thing?) is our stop in Cumberland, MD. We discovered Cumberland on our first drive to Ohio with Lucas and now I really look forward to stopping there.
We go to Canal Place which is literally two turns off I-68. The first two times we stopped there we simply enjoyed a picnic lunch at the picnic site along the C&O Canal. The next time we explored the Western Maryland Railroad Station and discovered the Tree House Toy Shop. On this stop we didn't pack our lunches but enjoyed really yummy sandwiches at Karmer's Deli.
I really can't say enough about how wonderful Canal Place is. But I'm going to try.
First, any woman--and especially any mother--knows the value of clean, spacious public restrooms with a changing station. There are two restrooms here that fit that bill--one inside the train station and one near the shops along the C&O canal.
Second, there is a lot of room for a rambunctious toddler to stretch his legs. Not only is there a nice-sized grassy area, there are almost always 1-2 real live passenger trains parked at the station, there's a replica canal boat and a nice brick walkway along the water that leads to the shops.
Third, there is great food! We can heartily recommend Kramer's Deli. The food is so yummy (lots of specialty sandwiches) and the owners are the kindest people. For example, they have a kid's menu and the little shtick is that if you finish your meal you go back to the counter to let them know and they give you a cookie. Even though we didn't pack our own lunches, I did pack food for Lucas so we didn't order him a kid's meal. The wife in the couple that own the place still came over to ask Lucas if he finished eating (clearly from our own tupperwear!) and offered him a cookie. And...wait for it...bubbles!
Finally, great toys. We simply adore the Tree House Toy Shop. It is a smallish toy shop with all your favorite brands and old-fashioned toys you haven't seen in ages. We aways pick up a few things. Our most recent discovery is Nuchi--adorable wooden trains which are compatible with Thomas yet have a very "generic" look--great for building imagination! We purchased a starter figure 8 set for Lucas and he loves it.
So, if you find yourself travelling through Western Maryland on I-68 or are lucky enough to live close to Cumberland (only a few hours from the DC metro area!) then definitely stop by Canal Place!