Wednesday, December 22, 2010

over the rainbow

Reverb 10 daily writing prompt: Travel. How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year? (thanks, Tara Hunt)

Nothing quite brings me back to myself like a road trip. When I was in college, my boyfriend and I would frequently embark on camping and climbing trips conceived only hours before. We spent Christmas in Steamboat Springs, spring break in Moab, Utah. When school ended, we drove out to Seattle and then up the Alaska Highway. Once, early on in our relationship, he called me at work around 9:30 pm. “What time do you get off?” he asked.


“Any interest in driving down to the Sangre de Cristos and climbing Crestone Peak? It’s about a four hour drive. We could leave when you get off work, sleep in the truck, and start at sunrise tomorrow.”

I paused, considering the level of my fatigue. I was working 30 hour weeks in addition to the five classes I was taking. Then I imagined waking with the sun at the base of a 14,000 foot peak. “Sure,” I said, reaching for the coffee pot. “See you at 11.”

When Bryan and I got engaged, we were already in the midst planning a summer on the road. We decided we’d make our wedding part of the journey, and exchanged vows on Flattop Mountain in Anchorage, Alaska.

Air travel is no less thrilling for me. Four months before Dylan was born, I managed to squeeze in a quick trip to England for a Jane Austen conference. I suspected, but did not fully acknowledge, that this would likely be my last trip to Europe for a while. It never occurred to me, however, that I would not get on a plane again for at least seven years (still waiting for that next flight).

While road trips of the impromptu variety have, for obvious reasons, been a bit of a challenge to execute of late, Bryan and I have managed to cultivate a healthy wanderlust in our kids. In 2010, we camped our way out to Colorado and back, making miles in a 1982 Volkswagen Westfalia. When I began to envision our trip to the Rockies, we were, in my imagination, always seated comfortably on a jet—an air conditioned jet—watching movies and looking at the clouds. So, when Bryan suggested that we consider doing the trip the way we had always done it in the past, I laughed. A camper van with two small kids? But when we shopped—online—for a van like the one in which we’d spent our honeymoon, nostalgia crept in and warmed me to the idea.

I have already written about the vast differences between “kamping” (KOA-style, that is) and camping. The stars in a glorified parking lot are somewhat less magical than the stars above a primitive campground in Arches National Park. But still, we were on a road trip! And each time we crossed the border into another state, the kids would whoop and cheer, and Dylan would write the name of the state in his journal.

Our trip last summer was a far cry from the road trips of my twenties, and if I could have hit the fast-forward button through the flatter sections of Pennsylvania, and through Kansas, I would gladly have done so (no offense to the residents of those fine states). But even on the sweatiest of cornfield days, I remained in the throes of road fever (okay, there was that one campsite in Illinois that caused me to question whether we were truly in possession of our mental faculties, but otherwise, road fever prevailed).

But while van camping allowed me to reconnect with my inner crunchy-granola, it also made me think about the trips I haven’t taken, the trips sane folks take. You know, cruises and beach vacations in the Caribbean. Trips that aren’t so labor-intensive. Lately, it’s Mexico I hear calling, mostly by way of the monthly AAA newsletter that comes in our mail. And with our youngest child entering kindergarten next year, we won’t have to pay that preschool tuition check. Which means we might actually be able to travel beyond Vermont more than once every eight years.

I don’t know how far we will travel in 2011, but I do plan to put some of this “extra” money into an adventure fund. And maybe this time I will find myself reclining instead of ascending. At the moment, sitting across from a mountain of unfolded laundry, I think I might be ready for a vacation where my toes are tickling each other in soft sand, instead of sweating in Smartwool and hiking boots.

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