In 2009, my step-father, Dan, lost his job – what a bummer. My mom is a teacher, so she had the summer off, and now Dan had a lot of free time on his hands. They decided to take their kids, all seven of us, on a cross-country road trip. Yes, most people thought they were nuts! However, we set off with a camper, a truck, and another vehicle (we couldn’t all fit into one vehicle!) and started out from Virginia, headed west. We called it “Lemonade Summer” due to the old saying, ‘when life hands you lemons, make lemonade’- and we made some serious lemonade!
I live with my dad so I could finish high school and not switch schools, so I was not very close with my five step-siblings. I was skeptical about spending so much “quality time” with these 15- to 24-year-olds that I don’t know all that well. Believe me, when you live in close quarters with someone for several weeks, you really get to know them fast! We started off in South Dakota at the Badlands, on to Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, Devil’s Tower, and Glacier National Park in Montana. We then headed further west to Portland, then San Francisco, and Half Moon Bay, California. Next was Sequoia National Park to see the big trees, then Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, and the Grand Canyon. We finished up the main part of our trip in Colorado, riding the Narrow Gauge Railroad up the side of a mountain to Silverton before heading across the southern part of the country on our way back to Virginia.
As you can imagine, we saw sights that we never dreamed of. The beauty of our country is astounding; photographs cannot begin to show the amazing views we were so fortunate to witness. I am from a very rural area, and we visited Vegas and San Francisco – the differences are immense. I feel so fortunate that at a young age I was able to see so much of our nation and to get a taste of life ‘outside my box.’ The cool things that we did on this trip included water-skiing on Whitefish Lake in Montana surrounded by snow-capped mountains, riding horses on the beach in California, riding crazy-scary rides on top of the Stratosphere casino in Las Vegas, hiking to the top of Mt. Washburn in Yellowstone National Park, seeing the carvings at Mount Rushmore, driving through Monument Valley, and jumping off a forty-foot cliff into a river in Oregon. There are so many more unforgettable things that I could list!
But here is the “epiphany” part: I found out that like my step-siblings. I really like them! My step-brother, Spencer, is the same age as I am, and most nights we camped in a tent and let the five girls have the camper along with “the parentals.” We had some great conversations at night, sitting by our campfire, eating whatever we had swiped from the camper, just getting to know each other. After the trip, I realized that I now truly feel like these people are my family, whereas before the trip those kids were just “Dan’s kids.”
During our “Lemonade Summer” I think all seven of us learned some valuable things, like how to have fun without technology, how fun camping can be, how awesome our country is, how to enjoy our national parks, how to take a vacation inexpensively, but most importantly, we learned how to really be a family. And that is the most important lesson of all.
http://www.horserentals.com/seahorse.html – Half Moon Bay, CA, Sea Horse Ranch
http://www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com/ – San Francisco, CA
http://www.nps.gov/index.htm – US National Parks (Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Sequoia, Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, Badlands, Mesa Verde)
http://www.americansouthwest.net/utah/monument_valley/ – Monument Valley, UT
http://www.durangotrain.com/ – Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, CO
http://www.visitlasvegas.com/vegas/index.jsp – Las Vegas, NV
http://www.traveloregon.com/Explore-Oregon/Mt-Hood-Columbia-River-Gorge.aspx – Columbia River Gorge, OR
http://www.visitsedona.com/ – Sedona, AZ
http://www.utah.com/playgrounds/four_corners.htm – Four Corners Monument, NM, CO, AZ, UT
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