I am not in the habit of quoting televangelists, but a friend's blog closed with this question that is often attributed to Pastor Robert Fuller. It's a great question, and certainly one worth asking yourself at any age. It's also a fitting title for this blog entry, an answer to blog reader Paula who asked for more details about how we manage to travel.
Mr. B is a great husband who's there for us whenever we need him. He's a willing participant when asked to take part in myriad activities and adventures, but after working away from home all week, sometimes all a person wants to do is relax at home. For some people, the idea of packing up in the kids in a minivan and heading cross country would be a kick. For most, I believe, this idea represents pure insanity. Decide for yourself which half I represent. In this instance, he's on the other half. So when I get a hair-brained idea like this one, he condones it, supports it, but doesn't necessarily want to take part.
The options that I see, then, are either stay at home and skip the adventure or live life to the fullest and enjoy the expedition with his best wishes and hopes for our safety. The girls and I miss him when we're gone and often think he'd enjoy the places we end up, the activities in which we take part, the adventures we find. He says, however, that he enjoys his time at home, and typically gets some projects completed while we're away.
Most of our adventures are weekend treks or local exploration, but in 2005, '06 and '07 the girls and I packed up the minivan with camping gear and headed out. In 2005, it was a >3,000-mile trip that looped through Washington to visit friends and family. We saw 500 bagpipers at a homestead near Canada, rode horseback with friends in Sedro-Woolley, took a dip with other friends in the Puget Sound at Dockton on Vashon Island, visited an incredible doll museum north of Seattle, saw the Coulee Dam and toured the inside of Chief Joseph Dam. There was a hike to a glacier, washing newly acquired teddy bears in the Ohanapecosh River, and countless other outdoor adventures. In 2006 it was a journey to Utah with the express purpose of visiting Native American sites, a dinosaur dig and visiting family and friends who live too far away for our taste. On that trip, we experience four seasons in as many days, discovered dinosaur bones where they had been resting for millions of years, stood within inches of petroglyphs and enjoyed geographically intriguing campgrounds to which we returned with Mr. B when he joined us on our 2007 adventure to Yellowstone National Park, Grand Tetons and points between here and there.
We typically travel by means of minivan, a Toyota, and sleep in a tent, which isn't always ideal. But the van is versatile, easy to park, and we get far better gas mileage than our trailer-towing peers do. At least those are some of the arguments I use with myself when the RV neighbors pull in and have dinner on the table before we've even finished popping up our relatively quick campsite. By removing the back seats from the furthest reaches of the vehicle we're able to stow all our camping gear for the trip including: tent, pads, sleeping bags, one giant plastic tub for the kitchen, another giant plastic tub for other camping supplies including day-hike backpacks, extra flashlights for the kids, tarp and rope (our canopy), coats, one or two suitcases depending upon the length of the trip, an ice chest and a cook stove. I typically pack the smaller loose items in the bins. Soft, unwieldly items like bedding go on top of the pile with pillows in reach of the girls in the backseat. We also keep coats handy. If I take along fire wood, I wrap it in a sheet (to protect the tarp), then a tarp (to keep the wood dry) and secure it on the roof rack so any spiders left in the woodpile MIGHT not end up freakin' us out while we're on the road. We keep the ice chest accessible, and the girls pack their own goodies around them for easy access and self entertainment.
We stay with friends and family along the way where possible, and otherwise camp. On the Washington trip, I found myself pushing on to keep up with campground reservations I'd made rather than remaining in any particularly great spots as long as we might have wanted to. Reservations are great for a sense of security, but they really did a job on the leisure aspect of the trip. They kept us pushing forward when, really, it would have been just fine to stay in, for example, Mt. Rainier National Park and cut out the other planned stops. (It didn't help that I'd already paid for the others, either.) When we headed to Utah the following year, I opted to make reservations only for those campgrounds that I knew could be heavily impacted (Arches National Park and Goblin Valley State Park), but at which I was bound and determined to camp. In other areas, we had no reservations, and in every case, we were fortunate to find great camping spots along the way without hassles.
The Best Big Adventure '08 is fairly scheduled at this point, but I'm trying to leave a bit of room to accommodate extra nights' stays at particularly spectacular camping spots, to move ahead or hang back as we all see fit. It takes a lot more work, however, and I'm still in the process of identifying potential boon docking spots clear along the route to provide as many options as possible.
Paula and others have asked what we do to keep safe. Well, as I get older and wiser I find myself more nervous, but I don't want to forgo the adventure of travel for fear of any of a number of tragedies that could befall us. So, I plan ahead, then hope for the best. We don't camp near cities, for example, and when we find a good campsite in the boonies, we don't stay if there are signs that it's a popular party spot, shooting spot or otherwise leaves us feeling uncomfortable about our safety. The girls help with all the camp chores, so that keeps them nearby, and we all trek to the bathroom together, whether it be brick-and-mortar or bush-and-shovel. I don't advertise that we're traveling without a male, and most people just seem to assume he's in the restroom, out for a hike, or napping in the tent when they see the three of us in camp. (When we get to know friendly neighbors, they're often shocked to find out we're on our own.) Oh, and getting to know the neighbors can sometimes offer a sense of security, too. Another traveling mom said that, after feeling out the neighbors, she lets some know she's traveling alone with her kids and asks them to help keep an eye out for the family.
Tomorrow...maintaining EVERYone's sanity as we move on down the road.