We began at 4:00 am. We picked our mascot the night before, a giant blue Puffle…a stuffed, well, puff-ball of sorts. We had snacks sorted and we had the cooler with water. We had little surprises wrapped and we had stops planned.
I had spent the required hours on Pinterest planning the Road Trip.
We planned for pictures like this.
Did you notice someone is missing. Yep.
That is because Maddie was running down the sidewalk at the rest stop and Steve was chasing her. The blue puffle, however is in the picture. After I stopped being stubborn and I let the boys pose how they wanted.
Then we started having fun.
Honestly, I don’t need Pinterest. My kids are used to this. We do it every year. Nearly 3,000 miles of driving to get to our destination and get home, plus driving around while we are there. They know the drill, and they actually are really good at the adventure. On the way home Maddie, 2, and Sammy, 7, sat in the far back of the truck for the duration and Maddie only really fussed about 7 minutes of the whole trip. Not bad. We stopped a few times and found some cool stuff…like an old caboose we hadn’t seen before, and we even got Maddie to stop running long enough to get in the picture.
Folks always think we are crazy to drive when we could fly, but with six of us it is still cheaper to drive, and honestly…you don’t get to just pull over and pee on bushes when you are flying. Or, when you are really desperate and pull into abandoned gas stations you might find things like this:
Seriously, though, you can’t see things like this from the airplane:
I know there are great adventures in flying, and we loved our trip to California last Fall, but we love driving as well. Of course, the final destination is part of the adventure, and that is what makes the journey worthwhile. The objects we can find in the clouds and the snakes we can outrun and the cabooses we can climb on…they are fun, but we still have to climb back into a small confined space with sweaty siblings who annoy us after awhile.
We still have to listen to the Wiggles more than we want to keep the 2 year old happy, but we do it so we can end up in a place where we only get to be for a week out of the year.
A place that has a special hold on my kids, a hold it had on me when I was a kid.
We have had this place in Colorado since I was four years old. When my Dad built the house and garage that now stand there, we tore down an old barn that was built with wooden nails. I remember swinging from a rope in the hayloft and spraining my ankle.
Now my kids run around the place with their cousins and make their own memories. They never complain about making the road trip to go out there, and they always want to stay longer. When I ended up in the hospital with some complications after Madeleine was born there was a day Sammy had been shuffled around a few places and was feeling frustrated (he was 5). Someone asked him where he wanted to go, and without hesitation, this was the place he named.
No wifi. No stereo.
Limited electronic games.
Lots of stories.
Finding out your Grandpa played Badminton competitively in college and has a thing or two to teach you.
Yes. It is a long drive. It’s a hassle. It is so worth it. Next year we might fly if prices come down and the payoff of time with family versus time on the road is worth the cost. All things balance out. Still, the giggles of playing the license plate game and finding shapes in the clouds never gets old.
Oh, and if you happen to be from North Dakota and drive a black SUV and have the family stickers on the back with four kids…and were passed by a dark blue SUV with a car topper and a bunch of crazy people people waving from TN: we laughed for a long time that the dad put his head down and tried to avoid waving while the Mom not only gregariously waved to us and honked, but got off on the same exit AND went to the same gas station so said dad had to say hello to us. Oh yeah, that mom understood the needs to keep the kids entertained on long road trips!
If you have followed this blog at all you know our family’s journey with my mom’s dementia, and you know this is part of the reason this trip is important. The trip is important just because we love being with family, though. I love seeing my kids run around where I ran around, and I love seeing them unplugged and I love seeing them interact with their cousins. They are finding who they are as they interact.
They are finding their place in the story of our family and as they find that they find their own voice. Right now is their time to listen to the stories and to watch the slide shows and to find out who everyone else is…but there will be the time that they are the story tellers. Now they are laying the foundation and it is time to pay attention. That does not mean that they have to sit up straight and take notes. It means they have to run around and smell the smells and see the sky and hear the sounds and when they are 40 years down the road they will be amazed how familiar it all is and how they can see it still as if they were 4 and swinging on the rope in the barn and spraining their ankles.
I guess I am just saying that sometimes the hassle of the journey brings us to a place where we can just be, and in just being we become. We are given the space to explore and to be surrounded by those who love us and who hope for the best in us. Hopefully when we are running the church halls and the halls of our homes and of our schools and of our playgrounds and our neighborhoods the same thing is happening. Hopefully this is the environment I am setting up for them in life and not just this special place…but this special place brings it into focus for me each year. And there is something special about this place, because every year all my brothers and all their kids are drawn back. From 2 year old Maddie to 30+ year old Ryan…it doesn’t get old to grandkids, or the kids, or the grandparents. That is special…and that makes us have roots and know who we are, and I know that I am richly blessed.
This trip I had more time with my Mom and as things played out I had more time with just me and Maddie and Mom…most of the activities were not conducive to Maddie tagging along so she stayed with me, and Dad had a couple things he had to do so Mom stayed with me. I found out that a 2 year old and a 77 year old with Dementia are on a remarkably similar wave length…but that requires a blog post all its own, hopefully in the next few days.