Off on a new adventure tomorrow, this time the Southeast. We have an aunt and uncle south of Tampa, so we decided to fly into Atlanta and rent a car and just wander, their home the final destination. The trip will include Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, and finally, Florida and Bonita Springs.
Years ago we took our family (our five kids ranged in age from 13 on down) on a cross-country trip from Montana to Long Island. Going there I felt a need to schedule, to have a booked motel at every stop. One of those stops was Monroeville, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh. My stereotype was steel mills, air pollution and devastated landscapes. We arrived late in the day, and the last part of the journey was through the beautiful forests of Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh is part of that, a beautiful city set in rolling hills.
The trip back was delightful – until we got to North Dakota and Eastern Montana, of course. (OK – I might have had a temper tantrum in the Eisenhower Expressway around Chicago.) We had learned how to travel with kids. Each morning we would get up very early, and I carried them one-by-one to the Dodge B300 van, the Blue Zoo. I had built a platform in the back so that between that and the seats there was enough flat space to accommodate all five of them asleep and still have a hold underneath for luggage. It was not safe, I know. One-by-one as they awoke we had an ice cold juice waiting for them, so that it would be a pleasant memory. Then we would stop for a late breakfast. I am not sure how pleasant those memories are for the kids, but we tried to make travel less grueling. In late afternoon, say 4 or 5 PM, we got off the road and found a motel with a swimming pool, and let them go to release all of their pent-up energies.
So the trip, the fact that we traveled, changed me and the way that I looked at Pittsburgh and the way that we should accommodate kids as we force them to sit in a small space for long periods of time.
(New Jersey was just as I imagined, a place that one has to endure on the way to somewhere else.)
It is always interesting to travel, to have formed notions about places and then to learn that those places are not at all what we imagine. In doing so, we open our eyes and ears and hearts. I think Mark Twain had something to say about that too.