Have you ever been on a cross-country road trip? There are some people who can’t imagine a worse experience, spending day after day driving through one state after another. But my wife, Teri, and I have always enjoyed these types of excursions. In fact, we did a number of such road trips when our kids were young, traveling the highways to my home state of South Dakota to visit family.
We had the chance to relive those past experiences this month. My daughter-in-law, Stephanie, and our new granddaughter, Charlie, came to live with us in early June while my Navy diver son, Daniel, relocated from San Diego to Panama City, Fla., where he will be stationed for the next three years. The plan was for him to get settled in their new home and we would then drive in Stephanie’s car from the Oregon coast to the panhandle of Florida to reunite the family.
We left Newport on Aug. 3. The most direct route would have been a journey of slightly more than 2,800 miles – but we’re not the type to take the direct route. Instead, our trip would head across the northern U.S., taking us to South Dakota so Stephanie could meet some members of my family and so they could ooh and aah over my new granddaughter. It ended up adding an extra 1,000 miles to our journey — taking us through a total of 14 different states — but it also provided some of the highlights of our trip.
I knew from the get-go that I wouldn’t be the one calling the shots on this trip. In fact, neither were Teri or Stephanie. It was baby Charlie who determined where and when we would take our breaks. That can be an interesting way to travel, but it also gave us an opportunity to reminisce about a similar trip we made cross-country when our youngest son was about Charlie’s age. Even Charlie got into the spirit of the adventure — while we were crossing the Continental Divide, she ceremoniously filled her diaper at that exact moment.
Although Teri and I have seen all of the countryside between Oregon and South Dakota a number of times, it was a new experience for Stephanie, and we enjoyed viewing it all again through her eyes. We marveled at the sight of Mount Rushmore and also encountered countless motorcycle riders making their way to and from the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in the Black Hills of South Dakota. We wandered around the legendary Wall Drug and basked in the beauty of the Badlands. We even stopped by the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D. — Google it if you have no idea what that is.
While in South Dakota, we spent one night each with three of my siblings, and yet another with a brother in Minnesota. From there, we took the direct route to Florida, completing the journey in another three days with stops in places like St. Louis and Nashville.
We arrived in Panama City on Day 10 and spent the next several days relaxing and recovering from the road trip, while also doing a few small home improvement projects around the Florida Cards’ new home.
That final weekend before flying home, we enjoyed a mini-family reunion. Our youngest son, John, and his girlfriend, Shannon, flew down from Philadelphia. Our daughter Shannon (yes, the duplication of names does lead to some confusion) and her boyfriend, Jeff, drove over from Ridgeland, Miss. We had a great time together and made many new memories, which we will think about whenever we look at the pictures we took of all of us on the beach.
In the midst of all of this, Teri and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. About a year ago we had been talking about what we should do to mark this milestone in our marriage, and while this month’s adventure was not what we envisioned at the time, it proved to be a wonderful way — in the company of our immediate and extended family — to commemorate our life together.
Since returning home, we’ve slipped back into our normal routine here in Newport. Our house is a bit emptier now without Stephanie and Charlie living with us, but in some ways, we were looking forward to it being just the two of us again. That said, we treasure the time we had with our new granddaughter — and our daughter-in-law, too, of course. It was a special time, as was our Florida adventure, and one we will always remember.