A Different Kind of Summer

In the Summer of 2010, I packed up the dogs and the boys the day school ended and headed West. At the time, I was home with the boys and had the luxury of having this summer free.  I desperately wanted to break routine and do something different -make the most of it. Driving across country and seeing parts of the United States I had never seen seemed like a perfect fit.

I had many hopes and aspirations for this first ‘family’ trip across country (two more were to follow). First and foremost, I wanted to expose Liam (7) and Michael (5) to the great outdoors and its natural beauty that give both my husband Mike and I enjoy so much.

I wanted them to be able to freely explore, wonder and question without the constraints of our urban environment — in essence enable them to “be children and boys”. I also looked forward to spending time with them, one on one, away from the daily demands, drills and discipline of home. With this trip I hoped to be a “kinder and gentler” mother (ha!) — letting go a bit — in an element I love so much. The summer was to provide all of us a balanced break from the pace and pressures of East Coast city life and a respite from the heat and humidity of summer in DC.

My plan was to camp most of the way, on top of the car and in tents on the ground. We would make a 2 week pit stop in Snowmass, CO, and stay for 3 nights in a motel in San Francisco. Otherwise – all tents, all the time. Laundry would be done at laundromats along the way and showers at campgrounds that had them. We would stay away from commercial campgrounds and try our best to find those that were “tent-only” or “primitive”. We hoped to stick as much as possible to two-lane backroads. Groceries would be bought along the way — farmers markets when possible — and stored in a large cooler.

We would also have our two Weimaraners with us, Monty (12) and Oscar (1). They would travel on the boys laps from DC to Colorado, then back to DC. We planned to board them in a kennel in Boulder, near friends, which would allow us more flexibility to stay in and visit the National Parks, State Parks, National Forests and towns/cities as we made our way further West.

Above all, we would be flexible with our schedule. If we wanted to stay in one place for a bit longer — we’d do it. We would not have a set itinerary with
specific places we needed to be. For the most part we would just take it day by day, deciding the night before around the campfire where we wanted to go next and how best to get there. It was to be extremely liberating.

When all was said and done, we traveled almost 10,000 miles through 20 states in our trusty Landrover LR3. We stuck to our original plan and spent 90% of the trip in our tent — caving just a few times to the weather and lightning storms overhead. Inevitably our most memorable adventures came after working a bit harder to get somewhere or up something. Primitive campsites along stunning rivers with not a soul in sight made for ideal “naked” swimming holes and “glass of wine with a book” moments. Together, we experienced parks and wildlife and stunning scenery that we before had only seen in National Geographic — our only regret being that Mike was not with us the entire time.

This trip provided us with stories and memories that will last a lifetime.  And we loved the freedom and adventure so much, we repeated the journey the following two summers – taking different routes across the country and into Canada.

For a fun overview of that first Summer in 2010, this from the perspective of Bill Baker at Landrover Monthly:  163_LRM086_BILLBAKER-2