July 27, 2005

Our bags are packed

We will be off first thing in the morning for another camping adventure. Just the six of us, this time. In August, it is our annual tradition to go on a vacation that does not include extended family or extras. (I should add too, that first thing in the morning does not mean with teenagers what it means with the rest of the population. If we get going by 10 am, I will consider ourselves lucky.)

Our August vacation changes from year to year. Last year we camped in the sand dunes at Assateague, a barrier island off the coast of Virginia. We swam in the surf, flew kites on the beach, and stared at the herds of wild horses that were actually not very wild but more like tame scavengers who tromped around the campsite begging for food. When a hurricane began moving up the coast, we had the excitement of trying to sleep in a tent that was swaying in gale force wind. We woke at dawn to the sound of poles clattering all around us as everyone in the campsite hurried to be the first off the island.

The year before that, we drove to Shenandoah National Park for some hiking through gorgeous lush woods and mountains so misty that it was like moving through a cloud. In Virginia, we spent an afternoon at an amazing underground cavern, with all kinds of cool red rock formations in weird shapes, before driving on to Cape Hatteras, where we camped in the sand dunes and spent every day at the beach. We were at Hatteras for the full moon so our vacation included romantic late night walks on the beach.

The summer before that, we spent our August week in West Virginia, at a remote farm in Appalachia. We were volunteers that week, all six of us, and that vacation included getting up every day at 6 am to do chores around the farm before putting on long pants and boots to go work construction on the homes of people who could not afford to hire anyone. The record high temperatures (over 100 degrees and humid) made that experience a bit surreal. I recall sitting in the hot sunshine on a roof, two stories up, absolutely melting, and watching my seven-year-old son nailing in roof shingles, one slow stroke of the hammer at a time. The best part of that vacation was watching how hard my kids were willing to work in that situation -- and catching a glimpse of the wonderful adults they were going to be some day.

The summer before that, we camped at Acadia in Maine, yet another beautiful national park. We hiked on trails that took us on cliffs above the ocean, explored rocky beaches, swam in the icy ocean, and watched a sunset from the top of a mountain. My kids, who were still pretty young, made me nervous by walking near the edges of cliffs, and I made them nervous by screaming at them whenever they did so.

No matter where we are headed each August, everyone in my family loves a road trip. Spouse and I will spend our time up in the front seat, talking, while Smart Beautiful Wonderful Daughter keeps peace amongst her brothers. Shaggy Hair, owner of an iPod, is in charge of the music this year. Boy in Black, once he gets going, is very funny and can usually be counted on to entertain us in ways that would be impossible to explain to anyone outside the family. With-a-Why, who insists on bringing his special soft blanket and pillow along with a herd of stuffed animals, will snuggle up to one of his siblings, so quiet that I will have to turn around once in a while to make sure he is still there.

We stop pretty often on trips. Bathroom stops. Food stops. I can't pass up a Scenic View sign or a historical marker or wonderfully tacky tourist places. Spouse likes roadside diners that serve dreadful greasy food and weird specialty milkshakes. In the days before cell phones and iPods, when our kids were younger and the adults got to be in charge of the music, Spouse used to stop at pay phones to call in requests to local radio stations. "You need to play it soon," he would say pleadingly, "I'm just passing through."

I cannot read in the car because it makes me motion sick so I expect my family to entertain me. And they do. We play games, we reminisce about other trips, they mock me out for my taste in music. Mostly, we just enjoy each other's company. The kids are growing up fast: my daughter will be a sophomore in college this year, and my oldest son a senior in high school. I don't know how many more of these vacations we will get, all six of us together as a family. So this week, I am planning to savor every minute of it.

22 comments:

Kathryn said...

Have a wonderful time...It all sounds so exciting...and as if the weather might on the whole encourage camping.
I've just seen my loudest and youngest off for 10 days of Scout Camp up in Cumbria...where the rain is guaranteed on a daily basis. I expect the only thing that will come home dry is his faceflannel!
Anyway...take care, all of you; this will probably be our last family summer too, so you have my sympathies.x

BrightStar said...

Thank you for reminding me that road trips are about the process of travel, the journey itself, and not the destination. I tend to be one of those, "are we there yet?" types.

have a fantastic time!

and I love the idea of calling a local radio station for a request while passing through. Good one! did it ever work?

RussianViolets said...

Oh, how fun! I haven't done an honest to goodness road trip in years. I'm always so focused on the destination; thanks for the reminder that it's about getting there being half the fun.

What Now? said...

Have a fabulous time! Does your family have the same experience that I just did, that the road trip at the beginning of vacation is restful and exciting and fun, while the roadtrip at the end of vacation seems a lot longer and less interesting?

I hope that you and your family have a wonderful time together.

jo(e) said...

Brightstar: Sure, most radio stations are more than happy to play a song for someone passing through.

What Now?: On the trip home, everyone is so tired that the kids sleep most of the way. It's nice actually because it gives Spouse and I some time to talk about the vacation.

9 am ... and I am still trying to get my teenagers moving ... I am hoping to be out of here within an hour ...

halloweenlover said...

What a wonderful tradition Jo(e)! I hope I remember to do this in the future too!

Have a fabulous trip, and take lots of pictures for us!

Phantom Scribbler said...

Oh, it sounds so wonderful. The the Austin family camping trip in L'Engle's The Moon By Night, only with iPods and without weird gender issues.

Have a fun drive, and a relaxing trip! We'll miss you!

(And, for myself, I sure wish you were going back to Acadia this year, say around the middle of August...)

Ianqui said...

It's like you're talking about my trips! Camping in Assateague, Shenandoah, Acadia...We did those too and have wonderful memories. And while I haven't repaired houses in Appalachia, my travel companion in Europe last week had just come from eastern Kentucky, where he was doing just that. So while I wasn't there, I certainly feel like I know all about what it entails!

Me, I'm going to lounge on a beach in Mexico this year, and in the evenings make sure that the baby turtles on the nearby turtle preserve are safe from their predators.

Have fun!

Yankee T said...

It sounds terrific! We, too, are facing possibly the last year of the family vacation, but I sure hope not. I love traveling with the kids!

Friday Mom said...

You're probably gone already (at least I hope so). Have a great memory-making time!

Volleyball Girl said...

Dear Jo(e),

Love reading about your adventures. It's 11:14 Wednesday and I imagine you must be on your way. Tomorrow I will be on my own mini-road trip from New York to Buffalo via Finger Lakes. Which lake? Still up in the air. But I am looking forward to getting out of steamy New York City.

Not Scott said...

Godspeed. Say hi to the home country for me.

Running2Ks said...

Have a wonderful trip. We'll miss you and keep the blog warm :)

Lorna said...

sounds great.

our kids fought so much in the car we quit driving anywhere. Now though they are past the worst, I hope, but we still haven't tackled more than a 5 hour drive once a summer.

15 year old son and I had a fabulous drive up though on the longest day of the year. It was the highlight of my summer, probably the family highlight of the year to be honest :)

Piece of Work said...

I love hearing about your family times, jo(e)! Reminds me of my family, though our trips were to different places. Family trips make such great memories!

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Have a wonderful trip, Jo(e)! And all of you! I love hearing baout your family and wish I was close enough to be a part of it.

Going by us on your way?

Have fun?

Dr.K said...

Have fun, everybody!

purple_kangaroo said...

Have a great trip!

YelloCello said...

Oh, what wonderful summers you describe. (Do you think you could adopt me? Or take me on as the Alice to your Brady Bunch?) Have a lovely time and safe travels. Here's hoping this family tradition can continue well into the future.

Laura said...

Oooh, sounds fun.

Mieke said...

Assateague?!!! Go to my blog at once and type in Assateague or Chincoteague. My family has owned a house on Chinco for 38 years. The summers there were the best of my life. I ended up becoming an ocean life guard for National Park there. I love it there. You were on the North End of the Island so you may not have gotten to Chincoteague. When I am on Assateague, standing on the shore, staring at the waves I am the purest me that I can be. It is my heart. I am thrilled you were there, even if it was "windy".

SpookyRach said...

I am green, green, green with envy! Your vacations sound incredible. Hope you have/had a wonderful time!