Road Trips With Wild Women // proof you can’t take my family anywhere

Greetings one and all, friends, comrades, and very large moths!

Back in May, a Christian conference was being held in North Carolina with some of my family’s favorite speakers, like Paul Washer and Scott Brown and all those other fellows no one’s heard of before. Due to an insidious evil known as “work,” my dad wasn’t able to go, and since neither Mom nor I wanted to make the seventeen hour drive to North Carolina by ourselves, we decided to prey upon her sisters and talk them into coming with us.

My aunts can be convinced into almost anything if promised food. They were easy targets.

So, bright and early one spring morning (it was sleeting), Mom and I set off from Michigan for Maryland, where my aunts live. We spent several days resting and visiting with Mom’s family. Normal people on vacation tend to read books, sit in lawn chairs, or – if they’re feeling especially adventurous – go on a hike.

Meanwhile, this was me and Mom on vacation:

Highlights of this video are Mom screaming like a banshee and Sarah cackling like a bloated witch. If you’re starting to think we’d never been through an automatic car wash before, you’re absolutely correct. We definitely got the most out of that experience.

(Ten seconds before the water started, Mom somehow forgot how to shut her window. Huge shout-out to Randy the Helpful Service Attendant for patiently showing her how.)

(I must also mention that we went again the next day. Even though our car was spotless. Just because.)

(There were rainbow-colored lights, guys.)

Finally, the day came when we set off with two of my aunts for the bright and distant land of North Carolina. There are a few things you need to understand about my aunts. They seem fairly normal on an individual basis, but don’t let appearances fool you; get any of them together, and all brain cells exit the situation. Think Merry and Pippin. The company of Thorin Oakenshield. The wombats in Ant Man.

So with that in mind, here I was, in a car with two of them plus Mom. Three women above sixty and I felt like the oldest person present. We were not three minutes on the road when Aunt Wendy (who was in charge of navigation) piped up with the immortal question, “How do we get there?”

And Aunt Marcie, who was driving, “I don’t know. Where are we going?”

Meanwhile, Mom, who’d just eaten breakfast: “I’m hungry!”

We were off to a good start.

As with all things, we spent the first hour and twenty-seven minutes discussing food, while Mom signed up for dozens of mailing lists to obtain every free birthday meal from as many restaurants as she could find. Eventually, we settled on Chik-fil-A. In the brilliant words of Aunt Wendy, “I think Chik-fil-A is almost better than McDonalds.”

…what sacrilege is this.

Meanwhile, Mom: “I have to go to the bathroom!”

For me, the concept of “going on a trip” means you get in the car and drive directly to your intended geographic destination, looking neither to the right nor left and stopping for no one. For my family, “going on a trip” has completely different connotations:

I think we stopped at every single thrift store in the State of Maryland. Four hours later and we hadn’t even gotten to Virginia yet. But on the flip side, I found Anna’s birthday present!

If this isn’t the most hideous thing she’s ever seen, I’ll be disappointed.

Meanwhile, Mom:

Around midday we stopped in the sticks of Virginia at a podunk little restaurant renowned for its peanut soup. Until that moment, I didn’t know there was such a thing as peanut soup. A member of our party who shall remain nameless thought it would be a great idea to get peanut soup and eat it right in front of me.

I’m allergic to peanuts.

Suddenly it was a group effort. They were all eating the peanut soup. They were spilling the peanut soup everywhere. Our table was being overtaken by peanut soup.

I learned very quickly how to pray with your entire soul.

After the peanut soup debacle, they collectively ordered cottage cheese. I don’t know why. They were very proud of it. I was just thankful to be alive.

We headed on our merry way, and not ten miles later, happened upon a charming oddity.

A TELEPHONE BOOTH LIBRARY. WITH BOOKS. Not good books, mind you, but books all the same. I demanded we pull over to look at it and they were happy to oblige, though I soon realized their benevolence had sinister ulterior motives when someone promptly locked me in the library book box and all three stood on the sidewalk cackling at my plight.

Moving on from the library telephone booth (regretfully), the next stop was to find liquid balm for our weary souls.

Let it be known that Starbucks made my excessively expensive drink wrong and I’m still bitter about it.

At long last we reached our destination, in twice the time it would’ve taken had we forgone the multiple detours for thrift stores and superfluous sustenance. The conference center we were staying at was large and rambling with many little roads forking off into nothingness. We got lost several times. But at long last we found our building, and Mom took it upon herself to direct the Aunts to a parking spot.

We attempted to unpack.

Why it took so many of them to unpack one car has been added to the list of World’s Unsolved Mysteries.

“Why do you want the top bunk?” someone asked.

“Well you see,” I told them, “it’s so much easier to spring down upon some poor unsuspecting soul’s head.”

The next day, we discussed the pressing issue of breakfast. (At this point I discovered that no one had packed any food because they wanted the excuse to eat out as much as possible.) We found some hole-in-the-wall biscuit joint, and let me tell you, despite the restaurant’s somewhat nebulous exterior, they served the best biscuit I’ve ever been privileged to eat.


If you’re ever in Black Mountain, North Carolina, do yourself a favor and go to the Blue Ridge Biscuit Company. You’ll thank me later.

Meanwhile, Mom bought herself a bag of coffee and was pursuing her new passion of Coffee Sniffing.

The conference didn’t start for several hours yet, so we had time to spare. Did we spend it going on grand and glorious adventures, finding exciting locations and committing daring deeds?

Nope. More thrift-shopping. This was the back of our car after only an hour. If you zoom in, you can see the life leaving my eyes.

We finally headed back to the conference center for the beginning of the seminar. At this point, I realized it was actually a singles’ conference. As the only single in our party, I felt very called out.

I found us a nice discreet table near the edge of the room, and Mom’s inner two-year-old decided to make an appearance.

“We won’t be able to see,” she fussed. “My favorite speaker is here and I want to be able to see him. I think we should move somewhere else.”

As she was speaking, Mom’s favorite speaker ambled his way to our side of the room and sat down at the table directly next to ours. And then, not a minute later, ALL the conference speakers sat down at the table directly next to ours. Their families too.

Mom had a silent existential crisis of internalized fangirling, and I felt vindicated.

Once the seminar was over for the night, we returned to our room. I hadn’t had anything to eat since the Holy Biscuit that morning, and my stomach was protesting its situation. We had some leftover mac-n-cheese, but nothing to heat it with. Aunt Wendy mentioned she’d seen a microwave in the conference center’s little coffee shop – which, for the record, was on the other side of the retreat – so off Mom and I went, trotting purposefully through the retreat grounds at 10 o’clock at night, me clutching a heaping bowl of cold macaroni to my chest like it was the holy grail.

We received a few odd looks.

I decided to try being discreet. Every time we passed someone, I would pretend I was lost and hold my map up to shield the offending victuals.

“You’re making it worse,” said Mom, forgoing the two-year-old and momentarily assuming the role of an embarrassed teen. She suspiciously chose the darkest, least frequented paths to get to the coffee shop.

Once the mac was sufficiently heated, we returned to our room (still choosing the loneliest paths) and marveled at the complete disaster four people had rendered upon it.

We’d only been there one day. How did we do that.

I’m still puzzling over why I chose to plant myself directly in the center of the room to eat my mac-n-cheese when there are at least three chairs behind me.

The Legendary Baran Family Photo-Bomb lives on.

We were up early the next morning for the last few sessions of the conference. (Which was amazing, by the way, singles or not.) Once it was over, Mom saw her favorite speaker walking away, and, desiring photographic evidence that she had, in fact, existed in the same space as him for approximately three hours and forty-two minutes, whipped out her camera. At this precise moment, he walked out the door.

“I don’t think this is legal,” I wailed, trailing after her as she followed him out. She ignored my objections and shoved her camera at me.

“Get a good picture!”

Not entirely sure how I ended up with maternal approval to be a creepy stalker, I took a few casual pictures of the scenery. Just nice, touristy stuff, aaaaand…

Oh my, what’s that in the bottom corner?

(Yes, I blurred out their faces. I’m not completely without scruples.)

Having satisfied the Supreme Mother, we embarked on the long journey home, once again beset by Goodwill and food breaks at every exit. Jesse, meanwhile, weighed in with his opinions.

He’s still hoping that if he marries me off, I’ll torment my husband instead of him. He’s so naïve.

We made a pit stop (one of many) at Starbucks. Normal people go to Starbucks, order a drink, and leave. My people order drinks with seventeen modifications and then stand in the lobby for forty-five minutes shuffling their drinks between four different cups in the hopes of creating the “perfect blend.”

“Here Sarah.” Mom handed me what was supposedly an iced coffee. “I ordered it without milk, espresso, or sweetener, so you can add your own!!”

I wondered what was even in it, if not milk and espresso.

And in that moment, Aunt Wendy was me and I was Aunt Wendy. At last, solidarity.

We made it back to Maryland in the wee hours of the night. The next day was spent Porch-Sittin’ with my grandparents, which is a high-energy activity mainly involving sitting on a porch. A pipe beneath the sink burst while we were there, and pandemonium ensued. We cleaned it up amidst much screaming, and afterward, Mom, in her attempts to fix the pipe (having no clue how to do anything other than get wet), reached under the sink and accidentally touched a dead mouse.

My natural bullying instincts are thinly suppressed at best. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to document her pain.

Truly, she suffers.

At long last we bid our family a reluctant farewell and returned to the frozen wastelands of Michigan, where poor Dad had been living off of a huge pot of refrigerated soup for the last week. He was glad to see us. Probably more for the change in his meal plan than anything else.

And that was the end of the Great North Carolina Adventure of 2021. Thrift stores, stalkers, mice, and all.


37 thoughts on “Road Trips With Wild Women // proof you can’t take my family anywhere

  1. THRIFT STORES *eye twitches* (my mother and grandpa LOVES shopping, and will turn any trip into… well, a shopping spree at various questionable yard sales and thrift stores. While myself and the rest of my family, who are introverted grumps, sulk in the car, bemoaning the precious minutes we could be using to GETTOOURDESTINATION XD).

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Hey, I like thrift stores! Certain ones that is. Some are just creepy. The old neglected mannequins with faded creepy faces lurking in the corner. horrors.
        That library thing is SO COOL! I want one.


  2. BAHAHAHA this was incredibly entertaining!! You have such a hilarious way of telling stories. I never knew peanut soup was a thing, but apparently peanuts are relatives of lentils and peas, which make perfectly acceptable soups, so maybe peanut soup isn’t that odd after all?? And that library telephone booth is AWESOME. 😍

    NOW. *clears throat*

    As a loyal employee of this most hallowed company, I feel it is my duty to inform you that the proper spelling is Chick-Fil-A…not the…dubious…way you spelled it. 😛


    1. Hey, I didn’t know that about peanuts. I feel like the things that make peanut butter have no business being related to peas, but here we are… 😂

      First of all, you just became a celebrity to me for working at the legendary establishment of… of… of however you spell it. The closest one is (tragically) three hours from where I live so I can’t be expected to understand such high and weighty matters as the nuances of spelling. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh man, now I feel crummy. I actually had a fleeting panic attack when I was reading through this post again and saw Chik-fil-A, wondering if Chik-fil-A was actually right or if I had failed you in pointing out something necessary. I always thought it was Chik-fil-A too, but apparently, we both were misled by our subconsciouses. Wow. Ow. Perhaps someday you can forgive me. Truly sorry.

        (Apologies, Loyal Employee of Said Hallowed Company. I happened to proofread this particular post, and I missed that. I am ashamed.)


        1. Hehe on behalf of that hallowed establishment, I absolutely forgive you. 😉 Truth be told before I started working there I messed up the spelling too, but now it’s seared into my subconscious. 😂

          Also, not sure what website you visited (this is the standard one: but the misspelling you saw might be because Chick-Fil-A’s representative cow has spelling issues, so he says things like Eat Mor Chikin, for example. 😛


          1. You’re very gracious and I thank thee. 😂

            Well, it was that same website! Every time I saw the restaurant name it was Chik-fil-A. How fascinating.😅 The cow’s spelling issues are certainly rampant, I just didn’t think it would affect the actual title. XD Eh well.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel the need to click on your blog posts as soon as I see the notification now, in case they might have not been intentionally published. XD (Wow that biscuit. 🤤 I want it.)

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I feel your pain, I have been part of a number of long road trips throughout my life, most of which included my abnormally large quantity of siblings, most of who get carsick, therefore leaving us to stop quite frequently for the ceremonial dumping of The Puke Bucket.

    So yes, I very truly feel your pain

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You have officially exposed this naïve, homely hobbit to the fact that not everyone’s travel concept is “Destination or Bust”. Let’s just say my family and I are more aligned to your idea of taking a road-trip. XD

    THOSE VIDEOS THOUGH. I nearly died laughing while watching them as well as hearing your cackles in the background. 😂

    *Flails* I NEED THAT LIBRARY BOOTH. AND THOSE BISCUITS. Being a book+bread lover, I think really those would be essential to my health. >.>


  6. It used to be nigh impossible for me to read one of your posts without laughing out loud. Now… nope, it appears the impossible still hasn’t become possible. BAHAHA THAT WAS HILARIOUS. Your mom sounds like a very entertaining human to share a house (or a car) with. Ah yes, my mom and her sisters also love thrift shopping. Must be a mother thing. Also I’m very pleased to hear you survived the peanut incident. That must have been terrifying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well I’m glad to be consistent in THAT, at the very least. 😂

      To be honest my mom and aunts are starting to corrupt me into enjoying thrifting too. I’m not sure if that means motherhood isn’t far from me, or I’m secretly a middle-aged woman at heart. Either way, I’m concerned. 😝

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel you. My sister has started to corrupt me in the same way… But only so far as enjoying it while I’m there. I rarely feel the urge to drive from the nether regions of the middle of nowhere to find a thrift store to begin with. (That was dramatic. Goodwill is only 25 minutes away. Still.)


  7. Hi! I’m new here (as you probably guessed) and stumbled upon your blog not too long ago. This post was hilarious! And as a fellow peanut-allergic person, I understand your plight. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Is that a game of Trouble but How To Train Your Dragon Version that I see peeking out of a bag in the car? Cause my family and I have the same game, also rescued from the thrift store. (Ignore the fact that to see that, I must have been zoomed in and trying to read all the titles of the things you bought)
    The first time we took my younger sister in a car wash she was probably three years old… the second the scrubby machines descended she turned to me with toddler eyes impossibly wide and screamed SISSY SAVE ME!! 🤣


  9. MAN I love reading about all your adventures. It sounds like y’all had a grand old time, and the fact that you felt like the oldest in group made me chuckle, heehee. My 12 year old sister sometimes seems like she should be older than me, her almost 19 year old sister, because I have an internal two year old that comes out sometimes. 😂


  10. Ahhh I love this XD It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to peruse your blog, and this was a GLORIOUS post to come back to. Road trips with you and the gaggle of sisters that accompanied you sound positively *phenomenal.*

    Can’t wait to hear about the next adventure! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Sarah, I’m Lily and I just recently subscribed at the urging of my younger sister to become a fellow minion….*haha*
    Anyway, oh my goodness! Your post is so hilarious! I loved reading it; it really brightened my day.

    My sister-in-law LOVES thrift shopping (if I may ask, how did you manage to get all your findings home?) My family and I have also listened to Paul Washer; that’s exciting that you got to go see him.

    I also now want to build a phone booth (it’s a miracle that they still exist!) and use it for a library.

    It was really nice to meet you; I hope you have a great week! 🙂


    1. Welcome welcome! I approve of your sister. 😉

      I think every family has that one person who adores thrift-shopping to a ridiculous degree. Fortunately for us, most of those thrifted treasure in the pic we’re my aunts, so we didn’t have to deal with them.

      Also, I’m just really excited to meet someone who’s heard Paul Washer… he’s such a niche speaker and most people don’t know who I’m talking about when I mention him. 😅


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