Eastward, ho! After a month-long adventure, mostly on the west coast of the United States of America, the Lees troops headed for New Jersey and home. We drove back, as we drove out; slowly. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s important to stop often when driving long distances with children. Stopping often is good practice for anyone traveling distances. You want to rest your eyes from the road and stretch your legs and shoulders to work out any kinks. This is imperative if you have been driving in high traffic.
Stopping often allows for bathroom breaks and meals. It aids digestion to eat meals out of the vehicle. We like to picnic at rest stops as we always travel with nutritious foods. Don’t get me wrong. We eat treats. Where my husband is powered by coffee, I’m powered by dark chocolate. –But don’t tell the kids. They don’t realize how much of it I eat. It’s my mother’s fault, really. She’s a chocoholic too!
To drive back across the country, we did it in hops. Seeing a few sights we had missed going out to the West Coast.
|The twins fought for time on the layback bicycle.
The bikes were in high demand at camp.
I’m not sure if we were just ready to be home after this long trip or what, but we slowed the pace a little, entertaining ourselves at the kid-friendly campgrounds where our kids fished, fed some farm animals, and swam or rode those funny layback, three-wheeled bicycles. We watched brilliant sunsets, saw the Milky Way fill the black canvas of night. We played clue and scrabble as we headed eastward.
We broke up driving days with smaller side trips. In Wyoming we saw Devils Tower. It looked like a giant old rotted tree stump to me. However, at the Visitor’s Center—I love visitors’ centers!—we learned it was made of igneous rock formed underground and pushed upward into the sedimentary rock. The sedimentary rock eroded away, but the tower of hardened igneous rock is left standing.
|You know, Devils Tower also looks like the
petrified insides of a volcano. Geologists say no.
It really is intriguing to see. Of course, the children wanted to climb the crevices and repel down the columns of the Tower as we watched experienced climbing groups do. We spoke to one of the guides and she says it takes all day to climb and repel.
I tried to stress to our children the important word in our conversation with the guide: “experienced” climbers do this. Luckily we didn’t have enough time to even consider it, although my son says he wants to return and do it.
“When you’re older, son,” my husband said.
I agreed. I also told the kids to tell me AFTER they finish their daredevil escapades. My nerves!
I forgot to mention that on the way out west, we stopped in Brule, Nebraska, near Rt. 80 to see the ruts of the original Oregon Trail. A piece of history, we told the children, with its chest high prairie grasses, thistle rod, and cattails. We didn’t realize there is a whole trail system you can visit. We learned that once we returned home. At the time, we simply took the photo you see while the children told us to hurry up so they can get to the West Coast to “see something really interesting.”
|A tiny piece of the original Oregon Trail in
Nebraska. Pretty cool it’s still here.
On our last night out, it rained and rained and rained. We didn’t care. Tomorrow we would be home.
But then we had to break camp. Here is a lesson in how NOT to break camp in the rain:
Line four kids up in raincoats between tent and van
Shove fifth kid in van at the end of the receiving line
Empty tent supplies along kid line to the dry person in van to stow behind seats
Allow husband to “crank down” trailer while wife is still shoving in sopping wet canvas
Tell kids to climb in van
Parents climb in van
Discover supplies piled on every inch of floor space
Find kids bunched together at door, raincoats dripping onto supplies
Realize the driver is miserable because he’s sopping wet
Driver shouts for anything dry to change into
Six people frantically search a fog-enclosed van that smells like wet dog and come up with swim trunks and a sweatshirt
Driver stops at the restrooms on the way out of camp to change.
It finally stopped raining but remained cloudy on our drive home. We were four hours away from home, in western Pennsylvania, after travelling across the country twice, before our passenger van broke down. We needed a new fuel pump. Guess what? They didn’t have one. But the shop could get one in three days’ time.
We left the trailer chained to a rest area guard rail in Pennsylvania, told the state police about it and our car trouble. Left the van in the shop and rented a tiny “7 passenger minivan” to drive home in. We took our wet clothing, dirty laundry, and any food we had left, and drove straight home, arriving about 1 a.m. at the house.
The neighbor who was watching our home while we were away had filled the refrigerator with cold drinks and sweet rolls to welcome us back. We celebrated our accomplishment—surviving a cross-country trip with the family—by devouring the drinks and sweet rolls; then crashed in our own comfortable, sweet-smelling beds until midmorning the next day.
Have you ever taken a long, long vacation with children? Were you all ready to come home by the end of the trip?
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