Road Trip Review

This is not an advice blog.  Nope, it is not that.  While I might sometimes give recommendations and suggestions based on our family experiences, I would never think I was in a position to dispense advice.  I also have a policy of never giving unsolicited advice.  However, upon reflecting on our recent road trip and what I might do differently next time we undertake such a journey, I had some thoughts I thought might be worth jotting down here.  Maybe someone can learn from my mistakes.  Hopefully that person is me.

  • I am a micromanager when it comes to vacation planning.  It is part of my being a major control freak and also part of my desire to cram as much as possible into each travel experience, as much bang for my buck as possible.  I generate spreadsheets of options, lists galore, and sometimes even hand drawn maps.  When Mr Pict and I went to Rome for a short break a few years ago, I drew a map of the city centre that was both colour-coded and number-coded.  I make lists of what needs to be packed and check off the list as each item is added to the specified case (each person having their own to keep things organised).  And yet, despite all of that micromanaging, despite all that researching and organising and list making to the nth degree, somehow my husband and/or kids will throw some kind of curve ball that makes it feel like I failed to manage all the possibilities.  On this particular road trip, I apparently relinquished too much control immediately before setting off on our trip.  As we ushered the kids into the car, it transpired that the 10 year old had left his shoes at his friend’s house the previous night.  Somehow my husband had collected him and brought him home without noticing he was barefoot.  Impolitely early, therefore, we had to drive by the house and pick the shoes up.  And then, absolutely astonishingly, we arrived in Pittsburgh some hours later to discover that our oldest son had gotten into the car without his shoes on.  He had to spend the first hours of the trip in his Dad’s beach clogs and I for once had cause to be thankful that he has massive feet.
  • No matter how I try to dress it up and make it interesting, my children will not be interested in either topography or architecture.  I can try ad naseum to engage them in the subject but I will fail.  They will, however, monologue endlessly about Harry Potter while I try to take in the topography and architecture.
  • Even in this age of electronic payment options galore, we should always travel with more cash than we think we might need – or at least more than $14.
  • On a related note, one should never purchase a one way ticket unless assured of the ability to fund the return journey.
  • I made packed lunches most days so that we wasted neither time or money on food in the middle of the day.  What I learned from this is that my children will moan about the very packed lunches they would usually regard as a special treat during the school year.
  • Booking non-chain motels is a lottery and will reveal that my kids know tropes from serial killer fiction despite never having seen a slasher movie.
  • My children, who normally beg and plead to have sleepovers in each other’s bedrooms, will argue endlessly about having to share a hotel room with each other and will make decisions about who shares a bed with who feel like hostage negotiations.
  • All hotel showers will be engineered differently and have their own idiosyncrasies making each morning’s ablutions feel like STEM learning.
  • On a related note, one bonus of staying in hotels with pools is that it is possible to persuade yourself that your younger children do not need to be showered on evenings when you just want to climb into bed and sleep.
  • One hotel toilet between six people – five of them male – requires the mother of the group to have the bladder of an elephant.
  • At least one child will vomit in the car with not much warning.  Any warning will sound like, “Mummy, I feel a bit blarfbleughslop!”  As such, despite the fact none of my children have worn nappies (diapers) for years, I still travel with fragrant nappy sacks within quick and easy reach in the car and force my sicky children to have one in their hands at all times.  Their aim is improving, I am happy to report.
  • My children can turn anything into a competition including who can fill the most barf bags on any given stretch of winding road.
  • If we give four kids two options for things to do that day there will be a guaranteed 50/50 split and incredibly often four way splits as two children invent options that were not even presented to them.  Note to self that sometimes parenting has to be a dictatorship rather than a democracy.  If the kids are lucky that dictatorship will be benevolent.
  • Kids who rarely appreciate sculpture will absolutely always 100% adore fountains, especially if they can get entirely soaked to the skin.  Conversely, any fountain that they cannot at least dip a finger into will be anathema to them and the absolute “worst thing ever”.
  • I can research and plan and construct elaborate spreadsheets to my heart’s content but the “of mice and men” maxim will inevitably undermine it at some point – spectacularly so when a child breaks their arm.
  • The things the kids end up loving the most about the trip were not the things I anticipated but were instead the random diversions, the time fillers, and the unexpected.  Our youngest son actually declared that his highlight of the trip was spending a night in a “horror hotel“.  Another child stated that the best thing about being away from home was getting to come home to the cats.
  • The car will start out looking more immaculate and pristine than it does for most of the year but will end the road trip looking like a cross between a biological weapon and an experiment in finding the latest antibiotic.  Utterly gross.

So that’s that then.  Those are my immediate post-road trip reflections.  We have already started discussing what route the next road trip might take.  Perhaps by the time we embark on the next epic drive we will have absorbed some of these lessons.  Probably not.  After all, where would be the adventure in that?


My first ever trip to the US was in 1995 and I have been several times since then and before relocating here but I have never, not once, eaten in a Wendy’s.  Technically I still haven’t since Mr Pict brought the food home with him when he was on a library trip with three of the boys but I have now consumed a Wendy’s product.

Fast food is mediocre anyway so the kids and I did not have high expectations and yet still those expectations were dashed.  The fries were limp and had no potato taste and the only interesting thing about the burgers was the fact they were square.  I do not eat red meat so I had a chicken burger and it was just about OK but very dry and just dull.  Our 8 year old had chicken nuggets and he liked those.  Everyone ate their food, so it wasn’t horrid, but I think food has to be better than horrid for us to spend money on it.  The limited novelty of the burgers being square just isn’t enough if flavour and texture are substandard, even by the minimal bar set by other fast food burger places.

We don’t often eat fast food anyway but I think that might have been our first and last Wendy’s meal.  

Here are some of the photos of the mini-Picts with their Wendy’s food just because I document every first experience with photos.









Candy Review

Post-Halloween, I stated that my kids would like to use my blog to review all of the American candy they had never tried before.  This, therefore, is that review.



The boys had had Reese’s pieces before but not the cups.  That was something new.  Essentially they are little chocolate cups filled with a peanut butter flavoured unction.  They liked that they were very “peanut-buttery” and that the mixture of chocolate and peanut butter was delicious. They scored 17/20.

3 Musketeers is a bit like a UK Milky Way, with a whipped gooey centre coated in chocolate.  Two of the boys thought they were “awesome” and two thought they were “fine” so they scored 15/20.

Nerds can be purchased in the UK but my kids had never had them before Halloween.  They are essentially packets of tiny, brightly-coloured, strongly-flavoured crispy candy fragments.  The 10 year old liked them because they last a long time apparently.  This is a child who has to be compelled to eat his chocolate Easter eggs before they go off because he likes to hoard sweets.  Clearly the longevity of this product alone was going to score highly with him.  The 8 year old liked that they were hard but then had a sugary burst of flavour and the 6 year old liked the texture of them.  They scored 16/20.

Dum Dums are just standard lollipops, boilings on a stick, but the flavours of the ones the boys tried at least were very American.  The 10 year old was disappointed that they were just a standard lollipop, nothing new or exciting.  The other three liked the strong flavours and the 6 year old appreciated the fact that they were really hard so were difficult to crunch and consequently meant he had to “sook” on them for a long time.  Dum Dums scored 15.5 / 20.

York Peppermint Patties are dark chocolate rounds filled with a dense mint cream.  My 8 year old was enthralled with them!  He loved the flavour and also the fact they were “squishy and not stable at all” on the inside.  I don’t really understand that analysis but if he could have given them triple full score then he would have done so.  They were a hit with his 6 year old brother too who reported that they were “like a mini chocolate pie with mint icing inside”.  York Peppermint Patties received full marks at 20/20.

Butterfingers are a bar of crisp peanut butter centre, perhaps approaching peanut brittle but I’m not sure since I’ve never had one, all coated in chocolate.  The boys reported that it tasted like “caramel toffee” and “tastes kind of buttery inside”.  They scored 15/20.

Tootsie Rolls are like chewy toffee but with a chocolatey flavour to them.  The older three boys declared that they were “delicious” and the 4 year old decided they were “yummy”.  They scored 16/20.

Twizzlers are like strawberry liquorice straws, a bit like when Bertie Bassett does the red thing, and are in a sort of twisted yarn shape.  My 4 year old did not like them at all.  Amusingly the 6 year old determined they were “awesome but really unhealthy”.  They scored just 11/20.

Whoppers are somewhat like British malteesers in that they are balls of chocolate containing a crisp centre but somehow they are just not the same.  The centre is more brittle and less light and the chocolate is not as thick on the surface.  The 4 year old loved them and the others thought they were pretty good but nothing to rave about.  Only the 6 year old felt they were as good as maltesers.  They scored 15/20.

Unlike me, my children believe that Hershey’s is just as good if not better than British chocolate.  They, therefore, scored Hershey chocolate as 18/20.

Almond Joy is like a UK Bounty but with almonds running along the top of the chocolate.  The boys liked the mixture of almonds, coconut and chocolate so it scored highly at 18/20.

Smarties are not like UK Smarties, which are chocolate dots covered in a crisp coating a bit like m ‘n’ ms.  Instead US Smarties are like UK Refreshers, little pellets of hard sherbet-type stuff.  My 8 year old thought they were “kind of weird” and everyone else thought they were mediocre so those scored just 13/20.

Life Savers are a bit like fruit polos in the UK but bigger and chunkier, round halos of brightly coloured boilings in essence.  My 8 year old felt they were “sort of sour” despite being sweet.  The 6 year old felt they were “awesome because they are really sooky”.  The oldest and youngest felt they were “good but not special”.  They scored 15/20.

York Peppermint Patties are, therefore, the winner of Pictish Candy Wars.