Maybe This Country Just Needs to Go on a Big Road Trip

I love road trips.

I love the idea of getting in a car and driving across the country, seeing things you can’t see at home, experiencing places you only read about in history books or see in documentaries you stream on Netflix, eating food you can’t get close to home, and talking with people whose life experiences are different than yours.

I grew up taking road trips, thanks to my missionary parents.  Every summer from my 1st grade year until my freshman year in High School, my parents and my brother and sister and I loaded into whatever vehicle we had at the moment and traveled from Seattle to Indianapolis, and then from there to everywhere else.  By the time I graduated from high school, I’d been through the entire lower 48 states.

I’d seen Yellowstone.  Devil’s Tower.  Plymouth.  Washington, DC.  Trenton.  Lexington and Concord.  Niagara Falls.  You name it, we’d been there.  You can read about our country all you want–but when you start seeing it, living it, experiencing it, it does something to you.

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It helps you realize that everyone isn’t like you,  that there is greatness in people who talk different from you, who eat different foods.  We share the same nationality, but we are all as wonderfully diverse as our country’s landscape.  The coast of Maine is not like the prairies of Kansas or the tree-lined roads of Alabama or the huge redwoods of California or the small towns of Texas.  And the people who live in each of these places are wonderfully different from each other, too.  When you actually sit and talk to people, you realize that although we are different, we do share a common heritage as Americans.

So this is a value I grew up with, and something I am excited to pass along to my children.

People think we’re crazy.  Six people in a minivan, driving more than 4,000 miles across the American landscape.  But if you don’t drive that far, you’ll never see it.  You can’t fly to most of the most amazing and beautiful parts of our country.  And like the Pixar film Cars so aptly celebrated, if you don’t get off the highways and onto the old two-lane roads, you miss the small towns and amazing people that make America great.

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In less than thirty days, our family embarks on our next great road trip.  We will be traveling from Washington to Idaho to Utah, through Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.  We’re going to get off the interstate, on to some small highways, and stay in small towns and eat in local restaurants that aren’t part of a large corporation.  We will visit National Parks like Arches, Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Joshua Tree, and more.  (Yes, we are squeezing in a day at Disneyland, but that’s just a bonus.)

As the National Park system celebrates 100 years, there’s nothing better than getting in the car and going.  Get out of your routines and the normal places you travel.  Sure, it make take some getting used to, driving hundreds of miles for hours to get to a location, but when you get to see the sunrise over the Rocky Mountains, experience the heat of the afternoon sun and the clearest skies in the United States at Rocky Mountain National Park, you realize it’s worth it.  Visit Wall Drug, drive on Route 66, and walk the towpath of the Erie Canal–and talk to the people in these places and discover just how great these crazy places, and the people who live near them, actually are.

If you need to stay closer to home, that’s fine, too.  But don’t be content to just stay at home, and don’t get on a plane.  Visit a local National Park (they are all over the place, and sometimes they are in your backyard–we just visited the Ebey’s Landing National Historic Preserve a short drive from our home and loved it), take a drive and get ice cream at a local place, stop  at small store and get a soda.  There’s a lot of fun to be had out there, you just need to get out and find your family’s adventure.  You’ll discover you have a lot more in common with folks than you realize, and you’ll have some fun along the way.

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It’s just a thought, but maybe if we all took a few more road trips and traveled through the towns and neighborhoods of our country, seeing just how incredibly beautiful it is, we’d see each other in a different light, too.  There’s a huge value in the road trip experience, because not only does it create memories and bring your family closer together, it can bring you closer to the incredible ties we share as Americans.

 

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Recipe: Summer Salad

One of my favorite things about the lazy days of summer is putting off dinner until 8:00 at night.  I know, it’s not parenting at its finest, but I love getting in every last bit of summer fun outside!

But who really wants to prepare a full meal when it’s that late?  So, one of my go-to meals for this time of year is salad. And I love a big, good hearty  one with lots of “stuff” in it.  Seasonal speaking, salads are perfect for this time of year.  From romaine to spinach and berries galore.  Produce is fresh and cheap which makes it a great idea from  all aspects.

I created this salad recipe last week when I needed something patriotic-looking for our Independence Day festivities.  I wanted something fresh and healthy with red, white, and blue.  This salad was so good that I made it again last night to go with our grilled t-bone steaks.  Luckily the dressing makes about 16 servings so I had plenty left over.  Just make the dressing in a mason jar or another container with a lid, so you can save the extra as you won’t need it all for one dinner.  So easy to just throw everything into the bowl and pour on the dressing right before you serve it.  I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!

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Salad:

5 Cups of Spinach

2 Cups of Strawberries, quartered

2 Cups of Blueberries

1 Cup of Gorgonzola crumbles

1 Cup of Walnuts, chopped

Dressing:

1 Cup of Olive Oil

1/2 Cup of Balsamic Vinegar

1 Garlic Clove, minced

1 Teaspoon of Oregano

Salt and Pepper

 

 

It’s Not What You Think It Is

Our first big road trip to Disneyland as a family took place when my oldest daughter turned three.  Her little brother was barely a year old and we loaded up the Honda Accord and took three days to drive the 1800 miles between Seattle and Anaheim.

In the thirteen years since, we’ve done the trip a few more times, and we’ve improved on our travel time, cutting the trip from three days to less than eighteen hours, driving overnight and stopping at the same stops along the way.  The system has proven to be successful, with the kids sleeping through the night and waking up as we drive into the Disneyland Resort.  It’s a nice way to wake up, and we do the reverse system on the way home.

Last fall, we drove home from our October trip and let’s just say the return trip was less than ideal.  Late start, Los Angeles freeway system completely shut down and pushed onto side roads, barfing children, and an eventual rest stop for yours truly because of some truly troubling stomach concerns.  When we finally got home, my wife and I turned to each other and said, “We are never driving again.”

When we announced this to the kids before our most recent trip, you would have thought we told them we were killing the pet kitten, Figaro.  (Yes, our cat is named after the kitten from Pinocchio.  Big surprise, right?)

“That’s our favorite part!  We HAVE to drive!”

This was not just the little kids, but the teenagers, too.  Turns out that predictable 18-hour drive, with predictable stops at Sonic Drive-In, Starbucks, and In-n-Out, with lots of Disneyland music playing, games being played, books being read, pictures being drawn is a highlight of their vacations to Disneyland.  To them, it’s as essential to the experience as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or a picture with Mickey Mouse.

This is what I mean when I say it’s not what you think it is.  You may think the big thing is what makes memories with your kids, that it’s those “wow” moments that are their favorite parts of their lives, but the truth is different.  That crazy, long drive is one of their favorite family memories.

Looking back on my childhood, it’s the same for me.  Sure, I remember the National Parks, the trip to Washington, DC or New York City, and the road trips across the country.  But what I really remember with fondness as a highlight of my childhood are those smaller, everyday things that I’m sure my parents didn’t even realize were essential to my childhood: the kick-start of our annual summer road trip with the marathon drive to Missoula, Montana and the elderly couple who always had dinner ready for us; the annual summer blockbuster with other missionary kids at the offices in Greenwood, Indiana (Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom come to mind); the drives to my grandparents’ home in San Diego; the bike rides to Dairy Queen; the summer nights where we sat in the backyard and just laughed and listened to music.

As parents, we want the “big” thing that we’ve saved up and planned for to be what our kids remember, and they will.  The kids won’t forget those moments.  But let’s not forget that memories are made in those smaller things, too, and we need to spend time creating those moments, too.