As parents before us always cautioned, “Time goes so fast, enjoy it before it’s gone.” Words of wisdom, and words we tried to heed in between those other moments when every parent feels that a little alone time would not be so bad? So it goes with the family road trip.
My recent travel consisted of acting as a companion to my son as he visited universities in Boston and Washington, D.C., while my husband and other son held down the fort at home with the four-legged family members. As my oldest son and I traveled together for the week, I was struck with the thought that our days of the week-long family road trip are probably over – the boys’ summer activities, social life and work schedules increasingly interfered with trying to schedule family time this past summer, and in not much longer than a year from now, we will see our oldest off to college. Time does go fast.
Our family’s road trips over the years are full of memories — the good, the bad and the ugly. So it goes when spending 24/7 together in a car, in a tent, in a small rustic room of lodging, on the trail, in the heat, in the cold . . . .
Our road trip a few summers ago to Glacier National Park in Montana involved the long drive across Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana to reach that stunning northwestern Montana scenery. But don’t knock the scenery in between — the prairie land of North Dakota, the endless yellow canola fields of Montana, the miles and miles of blue sky in all directions, and the wildlife along the way.
After several days of exploring Glacier National Park’s trails and the surrounding area (I shared one stunning example with you in this post on the Iceberg Lake trail), it was time to reverse the road trip and head back home to Minnesota.
The novelty of 18 hours in the car over two days wears off more quickly on the return trip home. Mom’s choice of music (driver’s pick) gets tiresome (or so I am told), my husband has trouble sleeping for nine additional hours each day as front passenger, and my boys have to continually find new ways of pushing each other’s buttons. Sure enough, with each trip, new and novel ways to entertain emerge. Enter “gum guy.”
“Raising a kid is part joy and part guerilla warfare.” ~ Ed Asner
“Gum guy” ended up in “time out” status on the dashboard before his reign was complete. He was the creation of my oldest son. We are pretty sure that gum guy’s sole purpose on earth was to torture my youngest son. I will say that gum guy left us in stitches before he was confiscated, as he had some witty one-liners in between his aggravating antics.
Seriously, though, when I think of the countryside we have explored by car together, sometimes traveling for hours by interstate, but often taking that road less traveled to see the nooks and crannies of the scenic side roads, I am grateful. I hope my boys will be, too, as they look back years from now.
Road tripping provides opportunity to stop and appreciate the wonder of a changing landscape. As one example of many from our road trip travels, we approached our stopping point for the night on the western border of North Dakota. Storm clouds moved in and let loose some heavy rain for a time. The clouds were still dark and heavy when the sun broke through on the horizon behind us. The result was the most rewarding scene for miles — a rainbow which blossomed into a double rainbow, so breathtaking in its beauty that it even had two adolescent boys exclaiming in awe!
Never have we seen a rainbow so vibrant, so large. We pulled the car over to a scenic overlook spot along the highway to enjoy nature’s special show. The sight left us believing that if we ran across that rugged landscape we would be certain to find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
I experience a period of frightening clarity in those moments when nature is so beautiful. ~ Vincent Van Gogh
As the sun began to set, the rainbows faded. My oldest son had discovered a geocache was located nearby; I called out for him to return to the car so we could finish our journey for the day. When he shouted back to me, I turned to see his silhouette atop of one of the buttes, making his way back to the car.
Our trips to the big cities have been exciting, full of interesting museums, historical sites, eclectic food, sometimes posh lodging. But our road trips in various directions across this diverse landscape of the United States have held memories you cannot create by buying a ticket or making a reservation.
“Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.” ~ Thomas Berry
Ciao! ~ Kat