Imagine the scorching deserts of the Sahara, the sparkling mysteries of the Taj Mahal, the glowering solemnities of Windsor Castle, the glittering splendors of the Vatican…
Our family is the traveling type. We escape the heat of home for more than five weeks in the summer, then again when the leaves start to fall, during the chill of winter and again in the hopeful days of spring. In the past nine years, the Darcey family of five has traveled no less than one hundred thousand miles together. Actually, crammed together in a van. Although it’s true that we’ve never actually been to Africa, India, England, Italy or even out of the continental United States, our travels have seemed to be just as diverse, rich and inspiring. Where do we go, specifically? Back and forth, to and from a tiny town high in the mountains of Utah.
When expounding on our travels, we are immediately met with skepticism, but I assure you, a little town in Utah can be just as awesome as the greatest countries and cultural experiences of the modern world, and I am fully capable of backing these claims with accurate facts…mostly.
We travel from Tulsa, Oklahoma (a twelve-hundred mile trip) about four times a year. It’s a 19 hour drive, Dad informs me, and he should know as he drives every minute of it, from the bleary hour of one or two a.m. to nine or ten o’clock p.m. that next night. The one-night exodus evolved after our family spent two long years making the journey in two long days, when Mom suddenly and abruptly came to the realization that she was fresh out of her games and sick of our songs (we’d start at 99,000,000 bottles of coke on the wall). She also realized that someone (she) would probably mortally wound someone else (me) in very little time if the trip wasn’t quickly shortened. Since we couldn’t move half of a continent closer, someone else (Dad) figured out that sleeping kids make happy kids (and even happier parents) and the idea of the non-stop exodus was born.
But hey, that’s not to say that our road trips are total snores, devoid of suspense and adventure! About a million miles of Wyoming and Kansas are barren wastelands, well deserving a lengthy snooze, but the rest of the trip’s excitement definitely compares to running through airplane terminals, attempting another tongue while trying to direct taxis, and speed scanning schedules for train times. For example, there’s the gut-wrenching thrill that comes with the words, “Mom I think he’s going to throw up”, or the anticipation of, “If you do that one more time I swear…” Foreign travel is child’s play when compared to the anticipation of no hotel at four a.m. on the weekend of the Fourth of July, or the adrenaline rush after being shaken awake by the sound of rumble strips with Dad yelling, “Mom, if you fall asleep one more time I’m gonna drive until I’m brain dead!” The drama of a terrorist threat is equal to the relief after a frightening thirty minutes of “I’m serious Dad, if we don’t find a bathroom in five seconds…”
Our trips are full of experiences that surely rival all the must-haves of a trip out of the country. We sample the most exotic foods, including Chez de Wendy’s and “whatever in the cooler”, and the classiest French wine must be less expensive than quenching the van’s thirst every three hundred miles. Instead of a comfortable, beautiful bed and breakfast in the Italian countryside, we spend rare nights in a cozy motel in an adorable town with a personality all its own, and an annual New Year’s Eve Bonfire. But what possible replacement could we think up for the great architectural masterpieces of all of history, the pinnacles of man’s achievement, all the art and beauty of the world?
Standing knee deep in clear, cool water, gazing open mouthed at the blushing canyon walls on either side of us, my family realizes the pinnacle of Nature’s achievement here, in northern Arizona, on the latest diversion from the beaten path. A tiny slot canyon we would not have seen if we had not passed while playing “eye-spy” will now be a family memory for which we would never trade a rushed foreign voyage. Enjoying one another, learning about each other’s personalities, and becoming closer as a family are the true fruits of our travels, and they’re worth every minute.
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