The days after my trip have left me with a mess of maps, notebooks, pictures and memories. As I arrange myself back into everyday, real, adult life, I hold onto a longing for the freedom that is the open road and no plan. My vacation was completely immature; an itch to satisfy curiosity and wake up every day to an adventure. I took my baby,my toddler and two teenage girls away from their comfort zones. I risked tantrums and eye rolls and bickering about who has to lean over the seat to grab the truck Jackson has thrown for the twentieth time. We ran out of everything, diapers, milk, cell phone data, patience, money, batteries, tolerance for camping and even sunny days.
Being back to adult life now, I can only relive the journey by writing about it. There are so many pictures and moments and stories that I am excited to share. We did it. We drove six thousand miles in two weeks with four kids. We are better people because of it. The best place to start? right in the middle.
We are driving somewhere through Idaho. Potatoes, Napoleon Dynamite. Why do I keep saying Iowa? What do I expect? Even now, I can’t fully describe Idaho. It was everything. Farmlands sprinkled with mountains and corn and windmills. Lava rocks, desert, sand dunes. The landscape has more colors then Sherwin Williams and every hue glows. It was surreal, like the way Dorthy must have felt when she walked out of her house to a world suddenly filled with color.
I looked over my shoulder and the babies were peacefully asleep. Tired out from a morning of swimming and another day of new experiences. They were snuggled into their car seats in the midst of a snoring contest. The girls are in the way back. Like typical teenagers they have headphones permanently attached to their ears and some electronic attached to their hands. Their faces are fixated on the window. The miracle of Idaho. More wondrous then the appeal of YouTube. More interesting then the feed of Instagram. They stopped to stare. We all did. We couldn’t stop looking. The radio was singing Band of Horses to us.
“But no one is ever gonna love you more than I do. No one’s gonna love you more than I do”
I looked over at Josh driving and held his hand. We were all here, in this moment in complete awe. I knew it was coming. I felt the urge in the back of my throat. Tears. I don’t even know why. The sky, the water, the mountains, the music, my family, the moment. It all hit me. And for the first time in a while, I cried over something good.
“Where are you going on vacation?” random person asks.
“We are going to Oregon. Driving from Ohio. For two weeks.”
The reactions were priceless. Some were more polite (while inner questioning of my sanity)
Driving? Yes. With four kids? Yes. 39 Hours. Each way. Six thousand miles, in two weeks. Where are you going to stay? With friends some nights and some nights we will camp. Some are perplexed. Some are vocal. Some are in awe and some tell me they took a road trip as a kid and it was their most memorable vacation. I hear the voices, and the doubtful ones are the loudest. What were we thinking?
The truth is, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Josh and I had one of those nights where we probably drank too much wine and started fantasizing about this magical family road trip. I became Clark Griswold and started thinking about this adventure to Wally World. (Or in our case Oregon). The writer in me took over. It became this Kerouac meets Hunter S.Thompson meets Harry Potter dream world I cooked up in my head. I don’t know what we were supposed to find driving for days and exploring the Northwestern part of the United States. I knew it was missing. It became boggled up in the stress of our life. For me, the stress has become cumbersome. The kids felt it, and Josh felt it. I could no longer function as adult. I needed a break.
Today, we have comfortable settled into our nomadic, gypsy life. We faced uncertainty and found the flaw in our lax attitude toward planning. We had our Wally World moment (that’s for a whole other story). Today, I found the point of this trip – the journey, the adventure, started to reveal itself. As I actually see “purple mountains and amber waves of grain” I know that my soul feels this. It is happy to the point of tears and every day we are out on the road is another brilliant fucking adventure.
We arrived at Bruneau Dunes State park. It was in the middle of vast farmland and we had been the only car on the road for miles. The landscape opened up and there they were: Sand dunes. I had never seen such massive sand dunes before. There were maybe thirty campsite and enough people there that it wasn’t creepy but not too much for over crowding. The sites were shaded under trees in an otherwise desert area. The dunes outlined the landscape like they were looking over the sites and the land ensuring this was a safe place to be. There was no attendee just a card we filled out that claimed site 21 just for us. As we unloaded our tents, I made a pact that I could run to the top of a dune. no problem. (easier said than done). Olivia was anxious to swim. (her goal everyday). We found a lake and it was what exactly we needed. This was our greatest camping experience. It was the reason we took this trip. After our nightly ritual of cooking hot dogs on a fire followed by S’mores, the girls took Jackson in the tent and he fell asleep nestled between them watching the Lego Movie for the millionth time. (next road trip note: have more than two movies downloaded to tablet). Cece was snuggled in my arms asleep with her thumb in her mouth. I didn’t want to go to bed because it would mean the day was over. Josh and I sat there in our American flag camping chairs with our wine under a clear sky sprinkled with stars and the sound of a coyote howling in the distance. We are halfway between Denver CO and Eugene OR and miles away from everything else we know.