It’s spring break in Grand Haven, but spring break or not, we’ve always been a family that travels. For a week or sometimes just a couple days, we hit the road whenever we get a green light to go. We are privileged in this way, having been able to show our boys so much of this country at such young ages. Their excitement each time they discover something unexpected, something new, makes the work of these trips worth it. Burrowing down into crisp hotel sheets at the end of a full day with all of my children gathered in the same room, I listen to them drift off one by one until I am the only one left awake. This is when I finally recount the hours, tucking the highlights away for a bit of warmth on a day when it’s hard to find the sun.
“Wagon Wheel” pounds from the radio, and we are headed south. “Louder,” shouts a kid from the back. I should insist on manners but don’t. I’m so tired of talking. “Where we going?” says the baby. “Mama! Where we going?” he repeats. “To the mountains,” I say. “Where?” “To the mountains.” “Where?” Forget it. It’s impossible to hear in this car, but the song and the sun beat against my chest, begging me to turn it up, so I do. We are calling in the good spirits to bring back that joy we lost all those months ago. Joy was a fickle friend last year, and the warmth soaking through the windshield says she promises to change. She means it this time; I want to believe it. As the chorus hits, my husband points out a waterfall charging down the rocky roadside, a scene created by heavy morning rain. The kids keep count of each stream leaping off the edge. Eventually, an argument erupts. There is a cheater in our midst, someone fudging numbers to claim all the glory for himself.
“Did you know that some people charge two, even three dollars for a cup of coffee? Coffee!” the cashier scoffs as my husband hands her $1.25 for the gas station blend that’s been sitting on the warmer since dawn. It’s pushing 1 o’clock, and we are the only patrons in this forgotten town.
“It’s really about the anticipation of the trip - not the trip itself,” I overhear the tired mother tell the eager insurance salesman over coffee. He nods his head and says something about a pricey trip to the ocean, thousands of dollars spent and nothing remembered by ungrateful children. He’s trying to make a sale; she’s trying to be heard.
Traditions are important. For the past eleven years, my husband and I have reserved one weekend to travel to a Lions football game, choosing a new stadium each season. We’ve remained dedicated to this tradition every year (with the exception of Year Seven when our middle son arrived five weeks early and we gave up... Continue Reading →
A few summers ago, I convinced my husband to join me, our rapidly growing fetus, and our two-year-old and ten-month-old boys, on a 3,500 mile, 13 day trek to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. This Canadian adventure was the very first of what has become our annual (sometimes semi-annual) family road trip, these unruly journeys that have cemented themselves at the very top of my favorite way to travel.
The past two weeks have been a lesson in slowing down. Like most lessons, this is not one I have openly embraced. In fact, I raged against it forcefully, as I often do, and the universe kept busting my chops until I finally conceded.
I haven’t showered since Jackson Hole. That was Day 4. This is Day 9. I am disgusting. My hair is slicked back into a disheveled bun using a mixture of sweat and dry shampoo. I am wearing glasses because my eyes rejected contacts this morning after hours of staring at the road. My armpits and breath compete for most offensive. We are somewhere near the bottom of Wisconsin and our energy reserves. Our youngest has been asking for home for the last two days, and it’s starting to break me.
We leave on a Tuesday around dinner and make it to North Dakota exactly two days later. The drive takes 19 hours, but with three kids, a business meeting, 27 potty breaks, a roadside picnic, three underwhelming fast food experiences, one temporarily closed water park, and a whirlwind tour of the North Dakota Heritage Center, two days feels right.
I am sitting on my couch listening to the slow whine of my youngest child from the other room. It’s 10:30, and he hasn’t quite adjusted back to Eastern Standard Time following our vacation out west. The neighbors aren’t helping. Outside, fireworks erupt in a never-ending chorus of pops and crackles with the occasional resounding... Continue Reading →