This blog is a different type of blog than what I usually post in my series, “Rambler of a Traveler.” But since it is summer and the family time to travel, I thought I would veer off my usual course of International travel. Next month, I will be back to taking you around world with my rambles. Thank-you for taking the time to read the Ramblings Series. #1 Who Gets to Come, Establishing the Ground Rules, Getting out of town
SELECTING WHO GETS TO COME
Now there is only one way to do this. You will want to pick a variety of family members. The elders, the babies with colic, the teenagers that hate everything in site including you, the middle aged dad who is experiencing his own kind of change-of-life-over-the-hill syndrome who lacks patience on every level except for prior, current, or future thoughts beauty queens or their runners up. If there is a family member who is adamant about NOT going – she/he is for sure the one you want along – preferably in the front seat. And the opposite is true. If you recognize a family member who really wants to come in the worst way, the one who has been planning, packing, researching all winter, that’s the person you will want to leave home to take care of the house, pets, and mailman. Also keep in mind, everyone you bring along MUST have a purpose and MUST add something meaningful to the trip. We don’t know for-sure what purpose Gramma will serve as yet, but maybe we will figure that out as we go along. Now, this is NOT a blog about a dysfunctional family (all families are “dysfunctional” it’s just a matter of what degree). Chevy Chase and his family summed a family vacation up nicely in any of the, “Vacation Lampoon” movies, and who am I to try to match or pretend to improve on those American Classics? You should know me well enough by now to know I am a traveler, not a family counselor. I haven’t got time for family issues.
This is a driving vacation. We have chosen family members according to the above laid out rules. The vehicle of choice was a small to semi-small, semi-uncomfortable car, with semi-limited viewing out all windows. We chose not to take our a nice roomy SUV/minibus as we thought it might be dangerous in that everyone might go to sleep for long periods of time & miss the many important landmarks along the journey.
We also made sure we chose to go somewhere a long, long way away so the drive would be tedious, boring, mind-numbing with hours and hours spent in the tight confinement of the small to semi-small car. A family vacation road trip must NOT be a 1 day-reach-the-destination-type trip. This type of trip needs to drag on and on so everyone will appreciate the final destination so much they will never want to get in the car again. When choosing to go on a car trip, the leader must establish some ground rules ahead of time or the entire trip can to erupt into chaos and end up in a total melt-down, which NO one wants. The following tips/rules are well thought out, but I bet you can think of a couple more.
FAMILY VACATION ROAD TRIP GROUND RULES/TIPS TO STRICTLY ENFORCE
- A Family Vacation is NOT a democracy. Only one member of the family (the designated driver) will make all important and minor decisions, and everyone WILL follow his/her directions. There WILL be no family meetings, no discussion, no opinions of any kind, and everyone will continually be reminded how darn lucky they are to get to come.
- Everyone WILL have all electronic devices charged up to 100% before leaving the driveway. In the same vein, everyone WILL have GPS on all their personal devices and full access to Google Maps (even if internet connection will be mostly nonexistent where we’re going). The driver MUST have at least 3 paper maps of the same area in different colors beside him/her at all times.
- Everyone MUST be thoroughly pottied and have taken all hygienic measures necessary for close confinement (i.e. recent shower with water and soap, teeth brushing, underarm deodorant). There will also be NO taking shoes off in the car, for obvious reasons.
- It WILL be made clear before leaving the driveway when the scheduled stops are to be and that there will be no stops in between, no matter what! Individual family member impromptu/unscheduled stops can get out of hand real quick. This includes NO needless or frequent stops at gas station minimarts. Snacking, drinking, and eating have NO place on a family vacation car trip.
- NO luggage except 1 small duffle bag per person (luggage size limits MUST be strictly obeyed) for a 1 or 2-week vacation. Any excess baggage will be given to the closest homeless shelter or thrown out in the city park as the family vacation car drives by.
Everyone WILL keep in mind that the family vacation is an experience to covet, and will never happen again as long as every member stays on his or her best behavior through out the entire trip.
LEAVING THE DRIVEWAY
The best time of the day to depart is around noon to mid-afternoon. At that time, rush hour traffic for lunch or early homebound business office traffic can be at its peak and navigation through the city streets will be painfully slow. The late start will also guarantee a very, very late hour for reaching the first day’s destination and more fun time spent in the cramped vehicle. With all our major plans re-viewed, re-made, de-planned, pre-planned, and re-planned our trip is ready to proceed out of driveway. YIPPEE! WE ARE READY AT LAST! HERE WE GO!
GETTING OUT OF TOWN
So after stopping at 563 traffic lights and spending 2 1/2 hours navigating through very hot, humid, polluted, noisy, smelly, congested, clogged, bumper-to-bumper major city total chaos traffic AND another 1hr spent getting out of the suburbs, which can even be worse. . . . . . . . . . . . .we finally breakout in the open to a remote, deserted, flat, boring country side, or as some would call it – bald ass prairie – I mean there wasn’t even a prairie dog out there. I mean miles and miles of nothingness as far as the eye can see. It seemed like we were traveling right off the face of the earth getting nowhere quickly or even slowly. Finally we saw off in the far distance, a little house on the prairie, but on closer inspection, we realized that even they had moved to the city. There was something very sad & forlorn about the lonely, empty sight. The prior occupants probably moved away because they couldn’t find anybody to house sit when they went on a family vacation to a nice beach somewhere. Just a thought.
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FINALLY REVEALED: ALL ROADS LEAD TO OREGON
Our leader (the one driving the car) decided to reveal that our final destination was to be somewhere in Oregon. Its like what happen to the beach with palms trees family vacation? Most of us had never heard of Oregon, didn’t want to admit hearing about Oregon, or even gave a rats ass about Oregon, much less ever thought we would ever be going to Oregon with or without the family.
DETOURS & OTHER SITES
Our leader also thought it might be fun to see some very select, not-to-be-missed-highlights across several states before arriving at our final Oregon destination. This would involve taking several detours, thus dragging the road trip out even longer. The 1st such highlight took us on a small detour to Pine Ridge in the great state of South Dakota to see Chief Red Cloud’s burial plot. Now you have to admit, not everyone can say they have been there.
Not the best looking chap in the great western frontier, but according to Encyclopedia Britannica, he was a pretty kick ass aggressive sort of guy who didn’t put up with a lot of crapola from anybody including the US government. Red Cloud led 3 tribes into a two-year war (starting late 1865) with the US government, and as it turned out Red Cloud kicked the government’s ass. Red Cloud refused to “negotiate” and told the government to stop building a road (Bozeman Trail) through the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho’s hunting grounds. Finally the US government made the very wise decision to abandon all posts and go home. Now some say, that the only other ruler to ever do that to the US government was Ho Chig Minh in Vietnam. That was sort of cool. We, in the car, ranked the Red Cloud detour a 5 out of a possible 7 ½ based on the informational content. As you can see, Chief Red Cloud’s wife didn’t get much of monument, but in those days, women took the back seat on the saddle to men. Her monument is the little white cross, but at least she is next to Chief Red Cloud and aced his horse out of that spot. I am so glad equal rights for women have change so drastically for the better in this country since then.
The 2nd cool highlight literally appeared out of nowhere as were driving, and driving, and driving down flat, barren landscape (remember above, I said something about mind numbing). The site was none other than Devils Tower in Wyoming. This was a major surprise, and some of us rubbed eyes to make sure we weren’t seeing things. The natural-made rock stuck out of bald ass nothingness and soared somewhere toward heaven. An Indian legend has it that a big bad bear made claw marks on it a long time ago. O.K. at this point in the family trip, we would believe anything. Finally, the car slowed down and we all scrambled out. We got to run round the tower, about a mile and a half on a paved little footpath. There was even a snack bar/lunch counter that we got to look at. Remember ground rule #4 above, (no snacks). We got to visit the visitors center to read up on how the thing was formed from middle earth and how there actually was NO devil involved in the rock’s inception only a bear and bear claws. Devils Tower is really high, and there were brave or stupid souls, depending on how you measure souls, that were climbing the rock. You can see some of the crazies in the picture below, if you look really hard. We rated this site a 6 out of 7 1/2 because there was a much-needed potty break attached, and it really was pretty amazing. 3rd highlight of the day was Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. Most tourists who come to Mt. Rushmore walk up to the front entrance, pay their entrance fee, buy a few made-in-china souvenirs, get a snack, take a quick look at the cravings in the mountain, and go on their way. I think I saw a few more faces craved into the mountain than I remember, but having never been there before maybe its as it should be? We are not like most tourists. We went around the back way to avoid the tourist areas. Also, we were having a heated argument/debate about what was on the other side of the president’s faces craved in the mountain. There were many theories in the car that day. The most popular theory looked something like this because someone in the car saw a popular postcard somewhere:
Imagined Reality Postcard Turns out, these want-to-be theories about the backside of Mt. Rushmore were all wrong. All there was on backside of the cravings in the mountain were lots and lots of mountain rocks.
The 4th awesome highlight of the day was the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. As several of us were waking up from a restless, uncomfortable, short nap in the back and front seat, our eyes gazed out the right side window. The entire carload of eyes feasted on the Grand Teton Mountains. They looked so close that one could touch those majestic beings if only the car would pull over to the scenic roadside turnout. These were the most gorgeous mountains we had ever seen. Being city folk and all, most of us had never seen actual mountains before. There are not enough adjectives to describe these quiet beauties, so we all just starred out the window in a goofy sort of way. NO, we did not get to stop.
We ranked this highlight 8 out of 7 ½ partly because it was drawing close to the end of the a long car trip day, and we were starting to get on each others nervous, or did the getting-on-each-others-nerve part start when we were still in the driveway. We stopped for the 1st day at a small ski town named Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We felt very much like we were out west and out of our element. We stayed at a small hotel made out of wagon wheels or something like that I think the sign said.
Some of us got a quick beer (this is a family vacation after all) at real super fun cowboy bar where you get to sit in a real saddle to have your chosen brew. I have a very strong suspicion the leader of our family vacation revisited the saddle after we were all asleep. Oh yeah, did I mention the Badlands in South Dakota. Those suckers are really, really bad. Can you imagine the 1st wagon train humming along on the bald ass prairie and running into these? Like – what the “H” do we do now?
Sometime during the 1st day’s trip, a yelled threat from the family vacation leader (the one driving the car) was that if we didn’t behave pronto, we would all be dropped off in the middle of the Badlands and would have to walk home. None of us actually got the impression he was kidding around this time, so we shaped up pronto. Turns out, the 1st day of this family vacation was sort of fun. We never knew what to expect, and no one got killed, only threatened, and best of all no one had to walk home from the Badlands. Wouldn’t quite call the 1st day out “thrilling, beyond thrilling”, but more is yet to come.
Till next time,
Ramblings of a Traveler, Family Vacation #2 The Oregon Trail is coming in a week or two. Stay turned or you might miss something unforgettably amazing.