In 2017, LaShera and I were planning our first cross-country camp excursion with our children. For us, it was ambitious — from Texas to the far western coast of California, up, and back again.
On that first trip, we contemplated whether we should go for the big bang and bite off a couple of days in Disneyland. After an initial price check, and after comparing Disneyland to Disney World, we decided that perhaps that once-in-a-childhood experience for our kids would need to hold off for if we ever took a Florida trip.
As you know, we are currently on our third summer cross-country trip. This time, we were Eastbound, with a trajectory straight through Orlando.
We slept in today and made a lazy morning of it before I called Ford to check on the timing of repairs to the truck. (Anything to help nudge them along.)
Because of the setback, day 5 became a maintenance day — hearty breakfast, dozing, camper clean-up and laundry. Somewhere between 3-4pm, we hoped to be on our way down the road toward Savannah, GA. Emphasis on “hoped.”
We have one essential rule when we camp (aside from no pooping in the camper): “Plan your trip. Work the plan. Be flexible.”
Sometimes things go wrong.
This year’s trip was an uncommon splurge for our family. We are doing more “commercial” things this year than ever before — Universal Studios Orlando, the Ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park, Kennedy Space Center, a fan boat ride in the Everglades, etc.
Normally, we are highly economical with our trips. We haven’t ever spent more than $1,800 for an entire 3-4-week family vacation. Even then, most of it was fuel.
We struck out this morning from Aberdeen, Mississippi. It was scheduled to be the longest drive of the trip, and it measured up. We crossed through Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and finished in North Carolina. Total drive time was around 11 hours.
The drive through Alabama and Georgia was beautiful — rolling green hills and beautiful pink flowers. Plus, I20 allowed for a quick pace.
We took one small detour near Birmingham, Alabama to eat at Shoney’s. It isn’t the swankiest of establishments. But, I have fond memories as a child. When we took family trips, somehow we always managed to stop for their breakfast buffet. For a husky child with an affinity for breakfast meats, it was a dream come true.
My mom said, “That was your dad’s and your happy place. Unlimited bacon.”
Indeed. Emmie was more than happy to eat her fill of sausage. And everyone enjoyed the french toast sticks, which were also enshrined in my childhood memory.
We finally rolled into camp in North Carolina in the dark. At this point, I know that our campsite is nice, since I could at least see that in my headlamp.
A fat raccoon paid an early visit, rustling through the foliage. He was brave — rising above the leaves to let his creepy eyes reflect the light back at me.
Beyond that, it was complete darkness when we arrived. So, I won’t know what the campground is like until morning. I do know that it has a marina, and there are at least 3 beaches nearby.
However, I also know that this place has ticks. Within 20 minutes of setting up, I felt a tickle inside my shirt and found that I had a passenger. He is no longer tickling anyone.
I did stock up on insect repellants for this trip. So, we will be testing 3 heavy duty options over the coming weeks.
Addie is experimenting with photography. Before the trip, she saved her money to buy a nice point-and-shoot digital camera. We have had discussions about composition, the rule of thirds, and Fib’s Golden Spiral. It is fun to see how her skills are progressing.
Oh, and I forgot one last thing. While we were pulling into camp tonight, I noticed a creaking in the front wheel well of my truck. It sounds like it may be strut or shock related. It could also be steering related.
So, in the morning, I get to try out a local mechanic.
Let’s hope it’s nothing serious. And, let’s hope I don’t have to spend the entire day in the waiting area of an auto mechanic.
I awoke today excited to revisit one of the many small towns from my youth. This one, Aberdeen, is the one I most closely refer to as my hometown because it is where I lived from the time I was 8 until I was 16.
Day 1 was a 9-hour migration from our home in Texas to my childhood stomping grounds in Aberdeen, MS.
Along the way, we decided to make a stop in Vicksburg. The tour was free. Plus, for Memorial Day, they provided live musket demonstrations. The girls were amused as the host attempted to load and fire 3 shots in under a minute. He failed.
It’s already April, and that means that our family is only a couple of months away from our third summer migration. This year, we will head East toward North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and back through New Orleans. The early highlight will be taking the children through my old haunts in Mississippi — where I will gladly show them the “house with all the animals.” (More stories on that to come.)
Hopefully you have made summer plans of your own. Whether country or cityscapes are in your future, remember to take time. Remember why you choose to trip to begin with.
And, if you need a reminder, this video may help.
When your finally breath comes, what will you think on? Will you wish you had spent more time in the office? That you burned a few more hours watching videos like this on YouTube?
Will you stare into that last bright light and wonder, “What if I had worked a few hours more and spent less time with family?”
Life is to be lived — to be shared with those we love — to be passed on as a story all its own.
If my life flashes before my eyes at the end, I don’t want a short film. I want it to be like the Hobbit — full of music, dancing, travel, friends and unnecessarily long descriptions of characters and places.
I want a 50-gallon drum full of memories, not an unchecked bucket list.
I want to be able to picture those purple mountains’ majesties, feel those golden plains brushing my legs, smell the wildflower meadows, and hear the waves crashing the coast.
I hope that you and I see the beauty of ten thousand sunsets.
And that we remember:
Blessed were the curious; Fulfilled were the adventurers; Those who knew the glories of a life fully lived; Who cast off the tethers of shore and set sail for new horizons; Who discovered new oceans with the courage to lose sight of the shore.
Life is short. The world is wide. Go.
Wherever you go, go with your full heart.
Store photos with your mind. Collect moments with those you love.
We don’t travel to escape life, but for life not to escape us.
As for today — I haven’t been everywhere. But, it’s on my list. You should join me.