As I loaded my iPod with music in preparation for our ‘Summer Road Trip’, I knew my mother, my sister, and I were going to be spending many hours together in the van. Our starting point was Tempe, Arizona, heading for Disney World (Yes!) in Orlando, Florida via mini stops in Austin, Texas, and New Orleans, Louisiana. After celebrating my birthday in the grand style of Disney, we would be taking a “slight detour” through Wisconsin to visit with relatives, before heading back to Arizona. Evidently my mother wasn’t very good at geography.
The weeks leading up to our road trip were filled with anticipation; mostly I couldn’t stop thinking about Disney. I love all things Disney: Disney movies – my favorite is Mary Poppins; Disney princesses – my favorite is Rapunzel; Theme Park Songs – There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow; even food tastes better at Disney!
Our trip was a whirlwind of driving and changing scenery, from the siennas and tans of Arizona, to the blues and teals of the Florida ocean, to the greens and golds of the Midwest. And Disney World was wonderful. But as I look back on our road trip, I realize that while I had been looking forward to the grandeur of Disney, it was all the small adventures and random outings that I remember most.
Take Café du Monde in New Orleans, for example. We were at the back of an unmoving line, not only waiting endlessly, but also standing in a drizzling rain, all for those renowned and delicious powdered sugar-covered beignets. My mother pulled out her phone to take a photo, in an attempt to pass the time, just as a worker came out. He stopped, jumped into the picture with a big smile, and then proceeded to take us out of line (and the rain) straight to a table! Warm beignets on a damp, soggy day from a friendly face. Just what we needed!
Another memorable stop was in Pensacola, Florida to visit my mom’s cousin and his daughter that I had never met. As we chatted, I found that we shared a common love of art. To discover that artistic talent runs in the family just fuels my inspiration, as well as making me feel even more connected to my new-found cousin. For all the adrenaline-filled excitement of Disney, it was the relaxed connecting to previously unknown family that stuck with me most.
While we visit relatives in Wisconsin every summer, we also explore the area and find new adventures, history, or culture when we are there. This summer we spent a day in Wisconsin Dells. That, itself, was a delightful slice of Midwest Americana. We ended our day by experiencing a magic show at the Rick Wilcox Magic Theater. As magic is a passion of mine and I spend a fair amount of time learning and performing magic tricks for my friends and family, my thrill-o-meter was off the scale when I was able to meet Rick Wilcox after the show and garner some words of inspiration that I will cherish.
So I guess what I am saying is, Disney World was wonderful. Magical even. But, when all is said and done, and the van is parked back in the garage, it is all of these unplanned memories and unrepeatable experiences that shaped the trip.
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