Wild West Car Trip, part 1

I’m very much a Type-B person and I don’t like planning things far in advance. I’m not Type-B enough that I never like to have a plan–I really, really do. I love having a plan!– I’m just allergic to having one long before it’s needed. Settling down and committing makes me very nervous and cagey. What if I change my mind? What if something better comes along? What if the world ends and we’re living like I Am Legend by then?

So naturally we didn’t come up with “Our Summer Vacation” until school was about to let out. This was quite irritating to our various family members who don’t feel the same aversion to planning that I do. Eventually we were bullied into committing to plans for the summer. These bullies were the same people who demanded that we spend time with them. These are also the bullies that we love most in the world so we were actually quite willing.

Our family agreed that being in Oregon this summer sounded pretty hunky-dory. Much of Mister’s family lives in Portland, and my brother and his wife do too. Oregon especially sounds lovely when the alternative is sitting on the surface of the sun, also known as Texas in July and August.

We agreed that we would spend several days with Mister’s Family in Central Oregon, and several days with my family at the Oregon Coast.  You may wonder why we split it all up instead of hanging out with everyone in Portland but we have learned from past follies that trying to split up one trip between two families in the same city is a recipe for a complete marital break-down (“We spent the last two days with your family!” “So what, my family is more fun!” “Yeah, but my dad is sick and this will probably be the last time we see him!” “That’s what you’ve said for the last three years!”)

Once we nailed down the main portion of the trip, light bulbs started to go off in my head. Little thought bubbles like, “wouldn’t it be kind of cool to drive up to Oregon through California?” Or “hey, we’ve never been to Yellowstone and it’s practically on the way home!”  Before we knew it, I had formulated a plan in my pretty little head. Since all we’ve ever seen of California is the small stretch between San Diego and Disneyland, I thought it would be oh-so-fun to drive up the entire state of California.

After the Oregon portion of the trip, the older kids would be dropped off at a week-long camp in Idaho  and, wow, wouldn’t it be cool to drive home through Montana and go to Yellowstone? And then we could drive back to Texas and the older kids could fly home from camp once it ended?

This might sound like a terrible idea to you, but I thought it sounded pretty awesome. And then I decided to make it even more awesome: we would camp along the way.

Keep in mind that at this point my fabulous trip Out West was clocking in at over three weeks long. The rental houses in Oregon were paid for before we left; that would leave several more days–weeks, even–in hotels. Which adds up very, very quickly. Camping wasn’t really about adventure as much as it was about saving some money.

The last time I went camping was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina when I was 15 and all I did was sit in my tent and sulk about how stupid my family was and listen to “Somebody” by Depeche Mode on my walkman. But surely camping must be fun if so many people do it!

By the time our camping plans became vivid in my mind, the summer had almost arrived and most campsites around the country were already booked. I had no idea that you can actually reserve individual campsites in advance! What a great idea! Fortunately most of the good campgrounds had waiting lists.  Each of the campgrounds we were hoping to stay at had a space open up by the time we left Texas. It pays to be patient!

Mister couldn’t take four weeks off of work so he decided to fly out to Oregon, go to both family reunions and fly home. I would be the one driving four kids all over the Western half of the United States. Finn has his driver’s license so he would be able to help with the driving and “protect us” (as much as a 17-year-old kid can).  Finn had just gotten back from two weeks of camping at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico when we left but he was a good sport about the family’s Summer Camp-a-Thon.

Because I’m not a total glutton for punishment, we brought along a lot of pre-made food in coolers rather than cook from scratch while we camped. Our meals just had to be heated up at the campsites and along the road. Thank goodness for Costco, which fed us quite a lot over the trip. We also had a loaf of bread and some peanut butter and jelly to feed us when there were no other options. There is no way I could eat fast food for three weeks straight. As much as I love eating crap, I do have my limits.

Betsy, our trusty minivan, had recently gone to live with another family and we ended up with a Suburban as our new car. As much as I hated moving from a minivan to an SUV, I must admit that the larger car made for more legroom.  Friends let us borrow a car top carrier and rear carrier, which gave us enough space to put our tents and sleeping bags, camp chairs, fire wood and all that miscellaneous camping junk. I sure would enjoy camping a lot more if it didn’t require so much stuff. This was pretty much us by the time we were all packed up:

Hillbillies

OK, not really. But it felt like it with four kids and a ton of miscellaneous gear.

Camping Suburban Nancy

Because I have learned my lesson the hard way, I not only bought a separate GPS for the car but three (!) atlases as well. I may not like to plan ahead but I cannot stand being lost. It stresses me out more than just about anything in life.  I must know exactly where I am and where I am going at all times.

With our plan in order, GPS set, and coolers full of food and drink, we set off towards the sunset. Tune in tomorrow for the grand adventures of our Wild West Car Trip!

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