Burning Up in a Hell of a Road Trip


Note: I want to start off by saying that this adventure took place in June of 2012. I originally posted the accounts of our event on the Notes section of Facebook. – Larry McDonnell (The Dad)

Let me start out by saying that this past week has been rough on me and definitely the family but most certainly Jessica.

Earlier this year I was notified by the associate program director from Norwich University that I would be attending the 2012 Residency Week instead of 2013. Residency Week at Norwich University is a time during the summer for online graduate students to get together for lectures, presentations, and graduations. Attending the residency week is a requirement in order to graduate with a master’s degree. I am currently working on a master’s degree in Business Continuity. This past year’s enrollment for the program has been low. So I can have an opportunity to meet more people in my field, I was asked to go ahead and attend this years Residency Week. I do not regret it at all. I made some great connections.

Since the school is in Vermont; my family and I decided we would run around the northeast and make it a vacation after I completed my residency week. To say the least, this trip will be unforgettable. This past week we have experienced times that were exciting, inspiring, uplifting, boring, anger, and down right pure misery.

Saturday, June 9, 2012 8:00AM (give or take a few): The family and I get in the car and start heading down the road to a long much anticipated trip filled with fun. First stop: Niagara Falls!

Nice early summer morning, temperatures slowly rising and we are almost out of Charleston when we realize the car’s are conditioner is not working. After long and miserable trip in a car that has no A/C to Niagara Falls, New York, we arrive to our Holiday Inn Express where we discover our room has a living room and kitchenette. We cool down, get directions to dinner at Hard Rock Café, NY, USA and climb in the car to go see the falls. Fun Fact: If in big city the McDonnell Family goes to a Hard Rock Café.

The girls are in awe of the falls and it is very lovely in upstate New York. While we are their looking at the falls and enjoying the sites, we realize we need dessert. So we go to Hard Rock Café, Ontario, Canada. My wife and kids have become international travelers. (It wasn’t my first time, sorry Jessica)

Sunday, June 10, 2012: On the road again, and heading to Vermont. As we drove through upstate New York, we really enjoyed what it had to offer. We even stopped off in Amsterdam for an hour or so to cool off from being baked inside of our car. We make it to the school around 7:00 pm or so and I get checked in. The campus is beautiful. I learned that we will be residing in the newly (2009) built dorms for the days to follow. The girls love the school. Olivia is already considering her college choices for when she is older. She says that the best investment in life is a college degree Maybe daddy adlibbed that, but she did say she wanted to go to daddy’s college.

When I think of the northeast and being so far up in Vermont, I figured that the temperatures would be slightly warm throughout the days. I was expecting temperatures to range from mid 70s to the low 80s if we are lucky. As our luck had it, not only was it warmer then usual, none of the dorms have A/C units. Misery ensues. To add to the misery, we have no cell phone service.

The first night we slept there, Kitkat fell off the bed and hurt her knee.

I would also like to add that Victoria turned a year old.

Monday, June 11, 2012: First day of school. I make friends; I hang out with one of my sisters who’s also graduating from the same school as me. Jessica and the girls are confined to a hot room while doing homework. This results in Olivia getting sick and vomiting on our bed, bathroom, and her brand new shoes. I continue to make new friends. Jessica is cleaning vomit the rest of the day and her homework is still not getting complete. I am finally finished for the day and watch over the girls while Jessica works on her homework.

During the second night, Kitkat fell off the bed and hits her head. (She is ok’ish)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012: Second day of school. The longest day of them all. I am stuck in a hot class room all day long. However I continue to make connections and pass out business cards. Jessica laid in bed with the girls and cried because of the heat being unbearable. By the way, her homework is still not finished and is a day late. After much frustration, Jessica and girls hopped in the car to drive around for a while. She said she found backwooded areas that made WV seemed civilized.

Throughout the day I kept missing my family by a few minutes. One of my new friends would come up to me and comment on how I had such a lovely family and they had just seen them. Of course I would go and try to find them and would miss them. I finally make it back to the dorms 12 hours later. Jessica was shell shocked, miserable, and was about to explode. The girls looked like zombies. Jessica finally finished her homework.

All of us sleep in the floor to keep from falling out of the beds!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012: After reviewing my schedule I realized I had met all of my requirements once I went to the roundtable discussion. I looked at my new friends and informed them I was leaving and heading to Montreal. We exchanged cards, and took pictures. I hopped in the car and headed out of the country. Montreal here we come!

While driving up to Montreal, Jessica asked what some of things I wanted to do were. I said “Let’s go to Chinatown!” A fantastic idea she thought. She drove through big international city traffic. However I commented on how six years ago she would not take the interstate anywhere let alone drive in traffic like this. She is an excellent driver. I can remember my dad driving in the littlest traffic huffing and puffing. Jessica is on a six lane interstate and is on one side and needs on the other…no problem in rush hour traffic. I sucked seat, Jessica was cool calm and collect. All she cared about was the fact the hotel room has air conditioning.

We pull up to our hotel; it has a pagoda on top of it. I did not realize our hotel was in the epic center of Chinatown. We unload and sit in the room for an hour to cool off. We make our way around town. We caught the last of the Francofile Concert for the day.

Beds are comfortable and A/C is on full blast. No one falls out of the bed. We also have cable TV. Life is good!

Thursday, June 14, 2012: We wake up and run down to breakfast. This is where I really have a difficult time in processing two cultures at once. Montreal is in Quebec, Canada. Most people speak French and English. We were in Chinatown, so there was plenty of Mandarin being spoken while they were speaking French too. Breakfast was good and we got the heck out of there to view the city. We made it to the water front and we also went to the newly built subway. Fun Fact: New subway terminals were built in the past couple of years and cost several millions of dollars. Built by the smartest architects around, but there is one slight problem. THE PLACE WAS NOT HANDICAP ACCESSIBLE!!! Not a damn elevator or a damn ramp in the city! (Pardon my French!)

During our long walk in the city, my travel scooter died 2 blocks from the hotel room. Fortunately I made it back to the room. The scooter will not charge it all. I guess I will be buying a new one.

However I did meet a guy I had done business through my work. Very nice guy and my girls fell in love with his roommate. She is now their new best friend.

Friday, June 15, 2012: We leave! Pissed off because we cannot get into any establishment so we leave! As we are making our way back to the States, we are stopped by border patrol. As a son of a cop, I know to give straight forward answers. Apparently they do not want straight forward answers.

Border Patrol Agent: Why did you go to Montreal?
Us: Vacation
Border Patrol Agent: Why?
Us: We wanted to see the city
Border Patrol Agent: Why?
Us: We hear it is beautiful and we are on vacation
Border Patrol Agent: Yeah, I know…but why Montreal? What event made you go to Montreal?
Us: No event, just vacation.

Mr. Border Patrol Agent thank you for protecting our borders from a 3 foot tall dwarf and a 6 foot tall mother of three, but you should try to take a vacation. Apparently he has never had one and did not understand the concepts. It is like asking a person “why did you want to go to Disney World?” “I am on vacation!” No what ride brought you to Disney World?

Back to Niagara Falls! As we arrive, we realized that some dumbass is walking on a tightrope from the US side to the Canadian side. No Border Patrol Agent to stop his ass. They just let him right on through.

We get to the hotel we had just previously stayed in the weekend prior. Ah, A/C! We rest momentarily and proceed to make our way back to Hard Rock Café. We paid $20 to park because apparently we arrived while the guy was in the middle of walking to Canada on a tight rope. We ate desserts and bought HRC merchandise and returned to the hotel.

Saturday, June 16, 2012: We ate breakfast and made our way home. While going through Buffalo we saw a motorcyclist lying in the middle of the interstate after being involved in a collision with a car. I am happy to report he has a bad case of road rash and was later released from the hospital.

We arrived to the house and stormed in it like the beaches of Normandy because we were in a house with air conditioning.

Sunday, June 17, 2012: We woke up and began to make our way to the lobby so we can get our free complimentary breakfast. We soon realized there would be no breakfast, no lobby, no cable TV, and no housekeeping staff to cleanup after us. We were back in our home.

Now it is time to plan (and only plan) for our next journey.

The End

For the people who are reading this and would like to learn more about Norwich University’s College of Graduate and Continuing Studies, I recommend it. I also recommend getting a hotel room while staying for residency week. You have a better chance of getting a room with an A/C unit. I also recommend forgetting your cellphone and internet connection because it will not happen in Vermont. I saw grown people upset because they could not access Netflix. Jessica offer to let them watch the kids for entertainment. No one took the offer.


Welcome to the McDonnell Family Adventure!

It has been a day or two since I have posted to this website. However we are working on new content. We are looking to write blog post about our travel adventures with planning advice for an enjoyable get-away. We will also write about how to deal with the stress of finances; the topics Dave Ramsey, Ramit Seti, and Suzie Oreman do not cover in their books.

McDonnell Family

A new site following the adventures of the McDonnell Family.

More to come later!