There's an old adage about motor home living: “Entertains 6, feeds 4, and sleeps 2”.
Taking your two grandsons and a daughter on a 4-day birthday celebration to Pigeon Forge violates every bit of that adage. You would think I'd know better after a full year of RV living.
But grandsons are grandsons, and when one of them is turning 11 and you haven't seen him in a while, you agree to violate a lot of rules you've set for yourself.
For instance: Never golf with a four year-old. Even miniature golf. And especially mini golf in blacklight where no one can see anything in detail. Very tough to teach a four year-old with the attention span of a gnat fine motor skills when there is little sight, and lots of sounds.
11 year-olds are tricky. First they tell you they want to do something with you, then they use you as a “lab rat” - his words – so that you have to go first when he's not sure of the ride. Like on the Flying Ox Zipline Roller Coaster attraction where the 63 year-old grandfather is coerced to climb about 8 stories of stairs, then has to take the drop first
Or The Island Rope Course, where the 6-story simulated free-fall has to be done by Papa first (lab rat again!) – after he climbs most of the rope course with the 11 year-old.
Traveling with one grandson ensures that at the end of the day, you have a tired and quiet grandson ready for sleep. Traveling with two grandsons ensures that neither will be ready to crash at bedtime, because they play off each other's last remaining ergs of energy.
RVing with a four year-old can be challenging in more than one way. Many campgrounds have gravel roads or gravel sites, and four year-olds are attracted to rocks like iron is to a magnet. And all you have to do is turn your head away for 5 seconds to do something they wanted to help you with, and rocks may be flying. Oh, and the whole “Can I help you, Papa?” bit is just a ruse to get outside to find rocks.
Grandsons eat a lot. I mean, like locusts through a field, or sharks through a surfer kind of eating. Pack lots of food if you're going to be traveling with grandsons. Even for just 4 days. And given you usually have less room for, well – everything – in an RV, it's hard to keep them full sometimes.
Grandmothers are essential. Without "Mimi" there would be no pictures, and no one to carry all the many items needed during the day..
A daughter is allowed on the trip for one single purpose – crowd control. She's not there to socialize or visit with you; she's there to herd cats. And you have no problem bringing her - even if you have to ignore vehicle occupancy laws in a Mini Cooper - because her role is much more valuable than any moving violation ticket you might receive.
Four year-olds are a study in contrasts. While most of the time Jace lives in a shiny object or “Squirrel!” kind of world, when it comes to food or certain attractions he can be laser focused. His favorites were bananas and cheese popcorn, and Pirate Golf and the tornado that made the upside down house at Wonderworks (a very cool place to visit, btw).
Finally, plan for decompression time after your trip with grandsons. We're back at our favorite park in North Georgia – Leisure Acres – to rest and relax before heading out to our next decompression spot – Holiday COE on West Point Lake. Be sure to break out the wine you had to forego during the grandson's trip.
All-in-all, it was great to see them again, but it was just as great to see them off at the end of four days.
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're living the ultimate retirement experience - traveling the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, playing golf and stopping at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.