Chelsea and I travel a lot. We hit the road for just about any reason we can. It’s not that we don't love our home. Far from it! No, it’s just that we love the road more than TV. We love having our children actually discover rather than watch it on the Discovery Channel.
The resolution of the real world is far greater. Plus, I prefer billboards to commercials.
We recently made a 3500 mile loop trip stretching from San Diego to Dallas and down through San Antonio, El Paso, Santa Fe, and Tucson. We even spent a night in the back of truck on the way out between Winona and Winslow, Arizona, just north of a massive meteor crater.
Our family all laid down between the wheel wells in the bed of our adventure mobile, the temperature dropping outside our Snugtop-windoored camper shell as the desert sun relinquished its claim to the rocks and sand only to turn it over to the night. The spirits of the great prehistoric celestial bodies watched over us as they sat glowing in the zenith above. The distant highway, ever-flowing with distant strangers, whispered on through the night as we drifted off into sleep.
We press on and marveled at all the new color and formations whisking past in a comfortable moving mosaic. No matter where we go or how fast I drive, though, we can not seem to escape time. As traveling parents, we learned long ago that extended time in the back seat has an adverse effect on the minds and spirits of little children. Even the distraction of a movie-laden tablet has no power in the face of ever surging hours.
Inevitably, we pass through vast expanses of area with little to offer as far as vistas. Boredom takes hold, giving way to restlessness, and eventually frustration. We camp frequently, but family life and hot summers don't always lend well to that rugged experience. Chelsea weaves our travels between our main sponsor hotel, Embassy Suites, mapped throughout the country. This is the place we can decompress and reset ourselves as though we were arriving home. Having learned that our prime traveling distance is a six hour sprint before the kids come off the rails, we’re always “close to home.” It makes our trips feel so much shorter and more enjoyable.
As a father of three, soon to be four, I enjoy seeing little cheeks and big smiles waking up in the soft glow of morning. The deep plush bed they nestle into keeps them floating in dreams all through the night. An indoor atrium in Lubbock guards us – at least momentarily – from the Texas heat. I'll admit that isn't always possible when traveling, but we appreciate when our journeys get modern touches of indulgence.
Mornings are met with a short journey to breakfast where the copious selection of family-style food await. Any edible whim our children have can be satisfied as Chelsea and I plan the days' route or expedition.
No, we don't always have everything laid out before we embark. Leaving gaps of unplanned time gives us a chance to talk up the bell hops and concierge, getting local recommendations for spots unknown. A swimming hole outside of Austin. A colorful art exhibition. A cave ripe for exploring.
Even on a longer layovers, the lobby of the Embassy Suites in San Antonio served as a pleasant diversion. The double-sided limestone fountain sparked the imagination and mechanical curiosity of Some Boy and Sidekick as they bounced happily from one side to the other, watching the water fall from the upper pool and flow down the small indoor brook.
When the day was long, we simply retreated to our room to enjoy family time and finish off the night ordering an in-room movie. There are always crowded theaters in town, but little boys like to make car sounds alongside the screen.
The next day, shortly after breakfast, the boys happily find their place in the back seat. They strap themselves in and ask, “How many exits [miles] is it to the new hotel?” After quickly finding our heading on my built-in GPS, I happily inform him “230, buddy.” With a look of satisfaction, they turn their heads to the windows and we are off again to a place far away and close to home.
Must-see spots along the journey: Albuquerque's Old Town, Santa Fe's Meow Wolf and Casa Chimayo restaurant near the bustling Plaza, Rudy's Country Store, The Alamo in San Antonio and San Fernando Cathedral's “The Saga” next to the inimitable Riverwalk, Rustlin' Rob's in Fredericksburg, Carlsbad Caverns. We planned many of our explorations for early-morning and late-evening due to the heat, and we missed much of Dallas as we were there the week of the recent officer shootings.