On these 21st and 22nd days, we were “headed” to Yellowstone, although we didn’t consider it our “destination.” Instead of a place, every mile, every jaunt, of the trip itself was our destination. This was practice I had developed as a youngster and Ron seemed to come by naturally.
When I was growing up in Michigan, my Daddy and Mama took our family on vacation every year – never across the country or to another continent – but to northern Michigan many times and to Virginia once. The destination was never our focus. The trip was our focus. We stopped along the way at roadside picnic areas where Mama tossed a tablecloth across the table and set out cold fried chicken and homemade lemonade carried in a glass gallon jar that had previously held apple cider vinegar. As we travelled, my brother, sister, and I played games in the car and occasionally fought like cats and dogs, while Daddy and Mama discussed sites we passed. My little ears and mind must have picked up their conversations, as I remember such things as The North Begins at Clare. I learned in those years that the trip, itself, was the destination.
Then, after Ron and I married, whenever we took our three kids, Matt, Kristen, and Amber, on trips – camping in the Upper Peninsula or the long drive to Florida – we tried to make the trip, itself, our focus, too.
That first travel trailer, a used 20′ 1971 Holiday Adventurer, was probably our all-time favorite – undoubtedly because with it, we created our first camping memories with the kids. We loved our little trailer, its cushions covered in a green flowered print, coordinating with the avocado green appliances. (I wish I had it today!) We had some great experiences in that trailer. The first time we took it out, our two new bikes fell off the new bike carrier on the back, and a tree limb took the antenna off the roof when we backed into the campsite. Camping was always an active adventure, from Kristen falling out of the upper drop-down bed to Ron and I yelling at each other nearly every time we backed into a campsite at a State Park!
In addition to camping, the hours spent on the road throughout two days of driving to Florida hold special memories, as well. I wrapped small gifts to keep the kids busy in the car: new crayons and coloring books, small magnetic checker boards, or my favorite – Colorforms.
The fascinating thing about those long drives was our mode of transportation . I particularly remember traveling in a 1976 Chevy Caprice Estate Station Wagon. Ron and I had driven a couple hours away to buy this used wagon, a few years old but in excellent condition. We lovingly referred to it as The Tank.
The Tank was huge – three full seats, each with plenty of leg room. Behind the third seat was a huge cargo area. The back gate rolled under and the back window rolled up (see the pic). Everything was automatic. It was all decked out with power options. When we went on vacation, we put the second and third seats down flat and placed a full-size foam mattress in the back and let the kids have at it (it’s a redneck term). I placed a suitcase beside each back door so the kids didn’t get near the door handles or automatic windows. Lunches and snacks were packed in shoeboxes, so we only stopped when necessary and for an overnight at a reasonable motel. They played all the way to Florida and napped only occasionally! It was a joyous trip – one for which we would be chastised today – but in those days . . .
Regardless, whenever we left for a vacation – either pulling a travel trailer or in a big old station wagon, my Daddy and Mama reminded us, “Remember now, your vacation starts when you leave home.” It was a statement they had made all those years ago when they took my brother, sister, and me on family vacations; they repeated it some years later to Ron and me and our kids as we left home for vacation; so Ron and I have the same mindset to this day: the destination isn’t the focus of our travel. Each mile of the trip, itself, is the focus.
So, on these 21st and 22nd days, the trip itself – not Yellowstone – was our destination.
The trip today took us further east, through the high desert region of Burns and Hines, Oregon.
The barrenness of the high desert region eventually gave way to bits of green, first found in small evergreens, then in pasture and hay fields, and finally in a few green corn fields, irrigated, of course.
Lunch at rest areas in 95+ degree heat meant finding a picnic table shaded by a small pavilion, as trees were rare.
To look on the map, one would think it a hop, skip, and a jump to cross into Idaho and up to the edge of West Yellowstone, but in reality, it was a long drive. It required another overnight, one which we had expected to spend at a Walmart parking lot or at a roadside rest area, but we had a problem with either: the intense heat, which permeated the surface of our trailer with no means of release without electricity to run the AC or even our little fan. So, I called ahead and booked us a site at Mountain Home, Idaho. The campground and campsite left much to be desired, but we were just thankful to refresh the inside of the trailer with AC!
Ron stopped along the road occasionally to cool the truck in this heat.
The landscape was fascinating. In spite of the heat, I was thankful for these two days of the trip itself through Oregon and Idaho.
Late in this 22nd day, the Tetons loomed to the east as we turned north toward Montana.
We settled in to our campsite just before dark. Behind us, chalets dotted the mountainside. To the west, the sun set, the end to another beautiful day of the trip itself.
Tomorrow, our destination would actually be Yellowstone.
Click here to read the next post in this series, #21 Mi tse a-da-zi