Remember the song “500 Miles Away from Home” popularized by the band Peter, Paul and Mary?
My husband and I went on a two-week road trip driving almost 5000 miles together: surely an exercise in marital companionship! We drove more miles than we ever imagined when we first started planning it, and overall had a wonderful trip. Although it certainly had its, umm, moments.
When you embark on a long journey, you learn to be flexible and go with the flow. We joined my sister’s family, which has grown a lot over the years, and also visited my husband’s cousin who has been fighting cancer for several years.
When we finally got to our first four-day destination in Estes Park, in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, it was supper time. We were hungry, but I knew we needed to buy a few groceries for the first couple days at the cabin we’d rented with one of our daughters and her husband. I’d brought lots of staples but we needed some fresh things.
McDonalds was loaded but a very nice couple gestured that we could join them at their table. Complete strangers. Spanish-speaking couple but very proficient in English, which felt really welcoming. After wolfing down our hamburgers, we hurried to the nearby Safeway and were blown away by a checkout line that was half-a-basketball-floor long.
I sent my hubby to get in line while I dashed madly up and down aisles to find what I thought we still needed. Once we actually got to our cabin I was flustered and exhausted as we unpacked our van.
But that first Safeway line was nothing compared to the jammed-up store two days later when I helped one of my nephews get the grub he needed for the dinner he was in charge of that night for approximately 35. I volunteered to help him since his wife had been unable to come but she coached him over the phone regarding her yummy goulash recipe. The line at the store that night, at approximately 5:30 pm, went half way around the perimeter of the store — a very big store.
Nephew Bob has the amazing ability to be chill: I would have been frantic that we were still in the store at 5:30 pm and he still had to cook a huge amount of food. I noticed there were a lot of other men in line at that hour. Supper went well-despite the rainy evening where we had to move the meal inside to one of the larger chalets rather than the outside picnic area.
After the family get together, our destinations were the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone (Wyoming); Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monument (South Dakota); and some other minor attractions. We also hit the Wisconsin Dells which we’d heard much about. Then it took two long days of driving from Wisconsin to get home to Virginia. Though tiring, my husband was very happy to have seen as much of the country as we did.
I had never been to the Tetons or Wisconsin so those two items on my bucket list were very special—especially the Grand Tetons. They were well worth the drive and I’ll never forget their towering presence right up from the ground—and the glaciers that were still apparent in the middle of July.
My favorite lodging however was in the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone that I had surveyed in awed silence as a 12-year-old, wishing so hard that we could stay in the Inn. But we were camping in a small travel trailer. So my childhood wish finally came true many decades later. But more important for us as a couple, our time together gave us space to have conversations and share thoughts that we rarely take time for at home.
Just don’t ask me how much “fun” we had trying to drive through Rockford (near Chicago) without getting on a toll road. Next time, we old country folk are going to have to purchase one of those EZ passes rather than fight modernity!