We did it again. We experienced more family bonding time in the van. This time it was to warmer weather. Yep, we picked a good week to skip out on Minnesota’s sub-zero temperatures and enjoy the warmth and sun of Phoenix, Arizona.
My children are experiencing a very different childhood than I did. Growing up, our vacations were pretty much limited to going to grandma’s house (less than 30 minutes away) or the lake (even closer) and the big outing once a year: the South Dakota State Fair in Huron, South Dakota.
Yes, there are moments of tension, especially on the heavy travel days when all six of us are in the van too long with too much stuff surrounding us on all sides, making personal space a limited luxury.
But, that’s how we roll. My husband, Marv, enjoys doing the driving (much to my delight). I have no problem reading in a moving vehicle. The kids watch movies or play games while we traverse the country to get to our destination. We take a lot of pit stops for gas, to go the bathroom (especially when I drink too much coffee or Justine chugs her entire water bottle within an hour) or to take in a local attraction, like we did on this trip when we noticed the Cathedral of the Plains not that far off of Interstate 70 in Victoria, Kansas.
Some people would call us strange. We — more accurately Marv — honks the horn whenever we cross the border into a new state. We hold our breath when we go through a tunnel or past a cemetery. Emma writes down a list of all the license plates we spot trying to find one from each state. We count the number of train cars — and compare the results — whenever a train goes past. And, much to Justine’s disappointment (because she’d rather stop for fast food or, better yet, eat out at a restaurant), we pack lots of sandwich fixings and snacks, thereby saving time and money (and eating a little healthier as well).
We enjoy going places and doing things together. I think the kids realize that not every family gets to do this. Yes, we are very blessed. These trips have many teachable moments not only in geography, history, science, wildlife and nature, but also in family dynamics and lessons in love.
This trip’s highlights included Arches National Park in Utah, the Grand Canyon in Arizona (south rim only; the north rim is closed in the winter), and staying with my cousin and her husband in Flagstaff prior to our five-night stay at South Mountain Preserve in Phoenix.
Phoenix is a hiker’s paradise. Stepping out our front door and taking one’s pick from the myriad trails was my idea of a good time. The Ridgeline Trail, with its vast views of the city, including downtown, uptown and Camelback Mountain, was my favorite.
Probably the best part of our stay though was catching up with our friends, a young married couple originally from Minnesota now going to school in Phoenix. It seems no matter where we go or what we do, it’s the people we connect with that leave a lasting impression on our trip.
“Perseverance.” That’s my word for 2018. “Purpose” was 2017’s. I feel like I have a clearer picture of my purpose. Now, I must “persevere” in my “purpose.”
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3).
I know there will be trials and challenges in 2018. May I do what God is calling me to do — my purpose — and may I do it joyfully and without hesitation. May I persevere in my faith, clearly expressing the love of Jesus to others. Happy New Year!
Rita Meyer is married and the mother of four children. She and her family are members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Meire Grove. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.