So we’re packing up the car-top carrier and hitting the road for what is most likely our last whole-family vacation. My daughter heads off to college in the fall and I know our lives will never be the same, so this is it — the ultimate (def. #2, adj. – being the last or concluding element of a series) vacation. That’s a lot of pressure on six people in an eight-year-old minivan (aka Bessy).
This time, it’s not our semi-annual trek to visit the grandparents in Florida. No, we are taking an honest-to-goodness two-and-a-half week car vacation from Chicago to Seattle and back, complete with my stepson’s wedding smack dab in the middle. Door-to-door-to-door, it’s 4,132 miles, but that doesn’t count all the little side steps my husband has planned along the way.
In preparation, we took Bessy (whose odometer already sports 120,000 miles) in for a complete checkup. One new muffler/tailpipe combo and $403 later, our trusted mechanic swears she will get us there AND back. In a brilliant move by my DH, we are shipping our rehearsal dinner/wedding ensembles out ahead of us so we don’t have to share limited car space with four suits, four dresses and eight pairs of dress shoes. (Don’t do the math — girls have to wear different dresses and different shoes to each event — it’s a law.)
We also joined AAA for the first time, and in the first argument debate of the trip, my husband is driving me crazy because he insists on calling it “A A A” instead of “Triple A” like a normal person. This does not bode well. The TripTiks of my youth, however, have been completely updated with cool techno tools that let you drop additional stops right into your itinerary, avoid construction delays, and even find the best fuel prices en route.
Call us crazy (most people do), but we’re kind of looking forward to it. We’re doing the whole Western American shebang — Mt. Rushmore; Glacier, Badlands and Yellowstone National Parks; whale watching off the San Juan Islands; and maybe, if we’re lucky, the world’s largest ball of twine. You just can’t put a price on experiences like that.
I’m not a complete Pollyanna. Four adolescents and two adults stuck in close proximity for weeks on end is likely to produce a freakin’ horror show some tension. If we get away with one third great, one third miserable and one third tolerable, I will consider the trip a huge success.
Still, there’s a nagging sense of melancholy hanging over my anxiety anticipation. All these changes — the graduations and the weddings and the goings off to college, they’re all happening too fast. I don’t want this to be the last family road trip.
Oh wait. Three weeks after we get back, I’ll be driving the girl from Chicago to Massachusetts for freshman orientation, so I guess it’s not the last road trip after all. Just another 1,848 miles on the ol’ odometer. Don’t worry, though. Bessy and I are up for it.