The Jones Westward Expedition of 2016: Day 1

Having heard a great deal about the great lands to the west—a land of vast prairie, soaring mountains, and people who don’t eat boiled peanuts*—we finally decided to launch a great expedition to see these things for ourselves.

*DJ doesn’t eat boiled peanuts either, but God gives me grace.

The plan is to go all the way from Virginia to California via Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona… and then, like the Wise Men, go back another way.

Assembling the traveling party was easy. We had four volunteers within minutes of announcing our trip. Actually, they didn’t volunteer. But they got assembled anyway: Bookgirl, Gamerboy, Sparkler, and Ranger.

DJ and I spent two weeks preparing for the trip. He plotted our route and got in touch with friends along the way. I created eighteen pages of lists and said bad words in my head daily.

We found a temporary home for the bunny. We were a little sad to say goodbye to him, but not as sad as he was. Because he’ll be in a cage for three weeks. If he kept a blog, it would be The NonAdventures of the Sulky Incarcerated Rabbit.

As the day approached, we shopped for provisions, checked stuff off the lists, and packed everything up. We took only the barest essentials—clothes, food, two phones, a Samsung Tablet 3, a Nintendo DS, Milano cookies, pillows, blankets, twelve music CDs, and approximately fifty books—but the van was packed full. We fit it all in the night before. We were ready to depart by sunup. (The sun is up by 8:00.)

Following, then, is a faithful record of TJWE16:

Day Before Departure
Two kids throw up.
We hate life.

Day 1:
Sparkler and Ranger had a hard night. Bookgirl and Gamerboy didn’t get a lot of sleep either. For that matter, neither did DJ or I. Every expedition has bouts of sickness tearing through the camp. But couldn’t we have at least gotten started?

However, the travelers were awake and excited by 7a.m. Sparkler insisted she was okay. Ranger dragged himself out of bed looking like he’d tried to die during the night but didn’t have the energy for it. DJ and I remembered the many other times we traveled with this very party. It seemed to be related more to what they ate than to an actual sickness. We’re seasoned. Vomit doesn’t scare us.*

We nodded at each other with steely courage and said, “Westward ho!”

*This is a lie.


I’d like to say that the 12-hour trek to Nashville, TN went well. You know, that all the kids either slept, read, or played electronics, or asked trivia questions. That they didn’t complain when we put a ban on all the yummy snacks, limiting everybody to Saltines and Gatorade until we were sure nobody was going to throw it back up. That we found a couple of parks to stop in, saw an old mill bridge, and got warned off by a tiger-mom of a goose with several ugly teenaged goslings.

The fact is… that’s all true. Even Sparkler, who really didn’t feel well for most of the day, was a fantastic traveler.

We arrived in Nashville in a soft, humid Tennessee evening. There was no better ending to a surprisingly good day than to bed down under the stars as the warm night fell, watching the fireflies blink as they sailed past. *

*Theoretically, anyway. We wouldn’t know. We don’t camp. We got a hotel.


Stops and Pictures:

The Virginia Safari Park in Natural Bridge. You drive among exotic animals like llamas, emus, antelope, zebra, deer, and lots of other beasts who all look kind of alike. You also get glimpses of giraffes (surprisingly graceful when they move); rhinos; bison; and yaks.

You can even buy buckets of food, roll down your windows, and feed the animals. If you don’t buy the food, they cluster around your car, gazing in your windows, smearing their noses on the glass. They’re obviously of the opinion that this Feeding Station needs repairs.


“Hey, hey, want to hang out? I’ll bring the drinks, you bring the food. I lied about the drinks. But you still bring the food.”

We stopped at a park for lunch. Gamerboy didn’t want lunch. He’d stayed up late the night before, then gotten up very early to help when Ranger got sick again. I kicked him out of the backseat so Sparkler could stretch out. So he moved to the front seats.


He was so asleep he never even realized he was in mortal danger.


The Cumberland State Park was a fun discovery. We could have spent hours there. By “we” I mean DJ and me. The kids were all done with discovering new worlds and really just wanted a hotel pool and Disney Channel.

Day 1 was a such a success that we’re tempted to end the trip right here. But no. We will go on. Today, we leave behind the East and head into the Midwest.


Stay tuned.


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