Scheduled to depart at 10:00 am, we pulled out of the driveway at 11:08 am, excellent timing for the Merck family! We’re off on our next trek of the summer. My husband’s company has an amazing sabbatical plan: after 10 years of service, every employee gets 8 weeks off. As my friend, Dan, clarified: in a row? Yes, in a row. People often add their vacation time to that, so Hal is taking 10 weeks off of work. His last day was July 1.
We’ll be spending some of his time off traveling . . . a road trip west to national parks, and a road trip east to family and friends and Harry Potter at Universal Studios. This week, the journey has begun. People have commented that we are making memories to last a lifetime. True. My term for this trip: once-in-a-childhood. Ten years from now, all our children will be out of the house (at least full-time, anyway), so this will be our longest time traveling together, well, ever.
Our family loves driving together. There’s lots of music; driver gets to pick. The kids play games or watch movies or read or talk. Because this is a road trip, I’m trying to draw the kids’ attention to the landscapes we’re passing through. My questions so far:
- What do you see in this landscape? How is it different from where we live and normally drive?
- Tell me about the topography you see.
- Tell me about the vegetation.
- Are there crops here? Are they different from Illinois?
- What do you think someone who lived here would do for a living?
My inner-homeschool-Mom is coming on strong. I’m not sure the kids are buying it, but I’m still trying!
Our children are perfect ages for travel like this: 14, 11 and 9. Not too young to be napping or slowing us down, not too old to be disengaged from the family and a family trip. We plan to do a lot of laughing and talking on this trip.
I have been thinking a lot lately, what with having a high schooler next year, whether there is anything that I’ve seriously missed in my parenting lessons. I mean, are there values that are near and dear to me that I’ve completely missed passing on to my children? Are there things I’ve thought I’d taught, but have missed in the hustle and the bustle of a full, suburban life? I’m hoping that this time together will offer opportunities to talk about those things: respect, responsibility, politeness, setting goals, investing hard work in accomplishing those goals.
Before I finish up Day 1, I must tell you about Sioux Falls, SD. In the context of our trip, Sioux Falls was intended to be an overnight stop-over, merely a place to rest our heads as we headed to the Badlands. It turned out to be a lovely, fortuitous (even providential, perhaps) beginning to our trip. With the Hampton Inn as our destination (lovely Hampton: always recommend Hamptons!), Hal noted that the “Falls” of Sioux Falls were in Falls Park. A quick perusal of our car’s navigation system showed us that it wouldn’t be far off our path to make a quick stop at the Falls. We decided that we would take a quick look and determine if it was worth taking the time to spend more time in the morning. It wasn’t part of the itinerary, but a trip is nothing if veering from the itinerary isn’t permitted!
Well, we were in for a treat! We noticed a number of cars arriving at Falls Park as we pulled in at 8:30 pm. We were glad to see that the park didn’t close at dusk. It was just about dusk and that was my biggest concern, that we’d find the park closed. As we turned in, we noted a sign that said: “Tonight – Sound & Light Show.” Well, folks, if you see this sort of sign as you pull into a park on a summer night at 8:30 pm, you know you have hit the jackpot. We got out of the car into the most breezy, warm, beautiful evening you’ve ever seen. The waterfalls crashed in the background. Families had begun to gather on blankets on the grassy hillside next to the falls.
Here’s a shot of the family in front of the Falls. This is the best shot with a flash, which put the Falls into darkness. And then here’s a shot of the family with the Falls in the background: fuzzy because of the darkness coming on. I’m not sophisticated enough with my camera to figure out if I could use the flash to make it a better people shot, but also include the Falls. You get the idea, though.
The Sound & Light Show began around 8:45. It gave some fascinating history of the area and how it was settled. We got a terrific introduction to the Western Frontier as we headed even further west. For us, Sioux Falls became the gateway into the West. I’m honestly not sure if they do this Sound & Light Show every night. The sign appeared permanently installed, so I might guess they do. The Show was 45 mins long. It got a bit long for our family, so we headed out in the dark to explore the Falls a bit more before heading out. Serendipitous is my word for today. A happy, accidental surprise! We would have missed it. We could have missed it. I’m grateful we didn’t.