My family always went on road trips in the summers. We didn’t have money for hotels and my parents, perhaps remembering their days as camp counselors, seemed to revel in the back roads, camping with tarps as shelter, later with old army tents and finally the latest in family travel, the tent-trailer! Of course, traveling with five children in a station wagon without air conditioning across the United States (we lived in southeastern Washington, our grandparents in New York and New Jersey) required planning and a sense of adventure. The stories are legend, at least among us five children: getting stuck numerous times in the middle of one of the mid-western states with a flat tire, our father hitchhiking into town to find help, our mother with five tired, complaining (and sometimes scared) kids at the side of some out-of-the-way highway; having a skunk sneek into our tent while we kids stayed as still as possible, yet screamed as loudly as we could, before it left; raining for weeks on end while we stayed in a campground with gypsies in the lower quadrant; exploring every stream and lake along the U.S. highway system. I was very susceptible to being carsick, so usually rode in the favored front seat, slightly removed from the havoc in the back of the car. Yet, the memories are strong, holding us together after so many years.
My husband, boys and me never went on long trips, perhaps a drive to Sun River, near Bend, Oregon (eight hours), or The Sea Ranch on the northern California coast (4 hours), or renting a car when visiting New England (never more than five hours/day driving). We did not really like being in a car, so when my husband suggested a road trip this summer when moving stuff back from our home in Boulder to Sonoma, I was apprehensive. But since he’d driven there by himself, I felt compelled to accompany him back west. We wanted to bring back our bicycles, cases of wine (movers won’t ship) and some miscellaneous fragile things, so driving was necessary. We wanted to visit Moab and Boise, so we decided we’d do it, planning on breaking up the days with some hikes, off-the-beaten-trail sightseeing, stops along the way.
I do not like to sit still; my chronic hamstring injuries rebel after only minutes of car riding; my neck gets sore. Still, it was to be an adventure in how we would endure many miles of being together, different ideas about stopping (me: let’s stretch our legs every hour. Doug: a quick coffee stop and back on the road), listening to books and podcasts on his iPad, quiet stretches of open highway.
We drove about 1500 miles, stopping at Grand Mesa, Colorado, at 10,500′ to spend the night in a tiny cabin built in 1932, perhaps a WPA project; hiking Arches National Park to see the incredible, red-rock formations, magical, really; experiencing vistas of enormous magnitude almost further than the eye could see; the brilliant, ever-changing sky of open space above Utah and Montana and Idaho; visiting my brother in Meridian and his exclamations of excitement about his new home, bright sunshine, new beginning; the last day’s final push of ten hours broken up by listening to “How We Got to Now” by Steven Johnson, fascinating book about history from innovations perspective.
I do like routine and these past years, travel seems to have been the routine, never being in one place for more than several weeks. But I guess in many respects home is more important to me, preferring my travel in big doses: so I’m glad to have done this road trip, glad it’s over, glad to be in the routine of my daily life here in Sonoma.