Our night of sleeping behind a man made wall for water was over. We were looking forward to the next major stops on this leg of our journey. World famous, many have traveled thousands of miles to see them. They’ve adorned to covers of nature and geographic magazines as well as the hallways of middle and high schools across the country.
For me however, much of their fame came from a 2006 Disney movie (via Pixar) about an arrogant race car.
Cars. Yup. A children’s movie.
We packed up our hastily set up camp and let the boys run around and throw as many rocks as they could until their little arms gave out. The dogs got their last run and…well…time to do their business. We rolled out on the same bumpy road we had come in on, now only in the morning light.
A five hour journey of road time lay before us until bed down. That didn’t even include sightseeing, the consumption of food and the inevitable diaper changes.
Even more, the stops for fuel and the ever-so-adventurous need to test the mobility and maneuverability of our new adventure trailer donated to us by Opa. He had recently come to spend much of his time perusing a website which seemed to be a match made in heaven for him: GovLiquidation.com. It had every bit of available hobby starter that military surplus could bring him. Tents, trailers, the army truck from Rambo. Lots of them. He was like a kid looking into the window of a candy store.
And here we were, adventuring with one of his gumballs. I made sure to put that trailer to the test as often as I could. This included driving it up on random road maintenance rock piles, forgetting all the camping gear was not tied down inside it.
We scuttled down the road as quickly and efficiently as we could and finally made it to the border of Zion National Park. It was magical. The entire trip through the park was on paved road, understandably, but not without its excitement. There were switchbacks upon switchbacks as we climbed our way through the park in “The Bear.” There were tunnels which seemed to be from the imagination of a ten year old wanting to be a civil engineer. One particular tunnel had periodic windows which allowed you to gaze out over the majestic valley. The rock, in all its orange, red and tan splendor flashed through the stoney panes spaced what seemed to be only stone’s throws apart. I could sit there for hours on end just looking at one face of rock, reading the thousands upon thousands of stories written in striated lines.
We pressed on as quickly as we regrettably dared. The day was moving on and we knew we had to be. I made one last stop at the Ranger’s Station to find myself bewitched by what seemed to be a warm snowfall. The cottonwood trees were lofting magical white puffs through the air as I walked into the book store to purchase my ritualistically acquired map. The golden air was like a breath of youth in my lungs. Nostalgia now brought me back to when I lived in Oklahoma in springtime. The world outside these canyon walls disappeared in my mind like a mist and the weight of everything modern left me. This was truly the point at which I broke free from where we had left and found myself planted in the middle of a voyage with the one thing that meant everything to me: my family. This must be why they call it Zion.
I quickly purchased my map after asking three different workers for a waterproof copy. After licking two or three to test their impermeability, I discovered a few people looking at me queerly. Luckily enough, there were so many from foreign lands that I felt I could feign a Dutch accent if they demanded to know what I was doing. That would explain away my absurdity. I had to have my waterproof map.
Minutes later, I jumped back into my Captain’s chair and our voyage continued. The boys had just awakened from their periodic slumber (thank God, for our sanity, they slept). We made one final stop before leaving the park for the boys to stretch their legs and enjoy the sights, whatever they could glean from them. I know I remembered much of what I had seen at Some Boy’s age. To me it had been linked mostly to the emotion linked to the experience, so I knew it was important to pass this time on to them.
We shot down the road to Bryce Canyon, hoping to make it to our destination before sundown. The KOA in Cannonville was quaint, but hardy. The small rock-laden road crunched under the weight of our truck as we made our way in. The staff greeted us with the Midwest hospitality I had missed for so many years.
A simple hello was destined to turn into a friendship, so long as you didn’t kill it with some type of hostility. Chelsea got to see firsthand what I meant when I had told her all the stories. And, she agreed, these were some of the most pleasant strangers we could meet.
We set our campsite up. We still based it out of the trailer and with the little time we had left, made the decision to sleep in the back of the truck. Chelsea in all her wisdom had decided to bring our memory foam mattress topper for cushioning. The dogs got a blanket and I had them stay in the trailer on the chance someone got too close.
I woke early to the open and unobstructed view of the Milky Way spiraling overhead. Being used to feeling so large all the time, I actually reveled in the moment, wrapping myself in the thought of how small I actually was.
Some Boy was the first to wake, as a newly pregnant Chelsea exclaimed, “Just take him…I…I’m going back to sleep.” She’s so selfish. I wrapped him in the spare fleece blanket and set him on a fold out chair, firing up the cookware for the first time to make the best untrained camping breakfast I could. Some Boy, having supervised my efforts, declined every bit of the delicious food in favor of a cup of milk.
We took a morning walk, while Chelsea and Sidekick continued to waste away the morning sleeping. I realized how awesome it was to be a dad. I wondered to myself if it was the same way my dad felt when my brother and I were young. I mean sure, Some Boy didn’t (couldn’t) understand what it meant to be on this trip,. But still, there was the look on his face when he looked up at me. His unquestioning faith as we strolled the scenic grounds of the KOA instilled a greater sense of pride in my heart. A patience washed over me as his curiosity took him from rock to twig and rock again. He was amazing.
Here, where nothing else mattered, I found the greater value and joy I longed for in being Some Boy’s father.