About ten years ago, my husband and I decided that instead of buying “things” to fill our lives, we would focus on experiences to do that. For us, the main experience became travel. We love finding out about new restaurants and events in our great city. It is amazing what you learn when you approach being a tourist in your own town! Experiences such as taking art classes or going to Broadway shows become great stories that enrich us later. Early on we were less daring in our travel, but now our main focus became, “What adventure will we take next?”
Covid summer has been different for everyone. The pandemic has changed how people move about their daily lives, and it has certainly changed how people travel. In the past, in order to get the most time for adventure we would fly to a location, rent a car, and explore the area. Last summer, we decided to do more driving. We bought an old Suburban from a friend, loaded up the kids and Lucky dog, and proceeded to spend a month driving across the country. We had a socially distanced vacation before it was necessary! We rented homes along the way, explored and ate on patios and at a lot of breweries because we wanted to bring the dog. Notice we used the dog as an excuse for this behavior like we were going to actually convince someone that the dog made us go to breweries!
We liked it so much that we planned a couple of shorter, similar trips for this summer. In June, we planned to travel to Maine. Obviously the pandemic caused us to rethink our plans. Is it safe for me to go? I am of the “vulnerable population”. After contemplating our options, we decided to keep our plans. If you feel good and have Stage IV cancer, you don’t wait…for anything. We were set. We had our packing list, we had a shopping list, and I prepared several meals in advance and froze them rock hard to eat in and limit our exposure to others. We packed our disinfecting wipes, our gloves, our hand sanitizer and our masks. We were ready! Four days before we were set to leave, Maine’s policy changed. No out of state visitors until July 1st. We were bummed…for about a minute…but then we regrouped. That’s what we do. We just figured out a new plan. It isn’t that it’s easy to do. As a matter of fact, out of everyone in the family, I do it with less struggle. Of course Lucky dog has me beat, but no one else in the family is as flexible. That’s basically how I have survived cancer for two and a half years. Have a plan, follow it as long as it works, get sad for a bit when it doesn’t work, move on and regroup. This doesn’t make me impervious to the shit cancer throws at me. It doesn’t care how I feel about it. But when people ask how I maintain my attitude, following a plan works for me. It is how I operated in my 26 years of teaching, and fighting cancer is my new, very important career.
So with a bucket list item put on hold for now, we got online and found a condo in Colorado. We have always had great success renting through VRBO and this time was not an exception. The owner, Kate, was awesome to work with and provided lists of hikes and things to do. You can link to her dog friendly condo here. Three days later we were on our way! I won’t bore you with a play by play of our road trip, but there are things I have learned in our years of travel around the United States. (I do have google spreadsheets of itineraries so feel free to email me if you want more information) First of all, always talk to the locals. They provide the best information on the area, and most of the time, they are happy to help. We have learned about beautiful hikes, seen vistas that we could have only dreamt about, ate at fantastic restaurants, and met some amazing people.
Second, we are so blessed to live in such a spectacular country! The news has been horrific lately, but nature never lets me down. The diversity of landscapes is amazing. Those states in middle America we consider “flyover” states? They have rolling hills and gorgeous sunsets. Obviously Colorado has the mountains, but also the most sparkling and clear lakes and rivers I have ever seen. The deserts of Utah have rock formations that defy gravity and change colors depending on the light and time of day. We never saw the same view twice. The Pacific Ocean with its crashing waves in front of you, mountains at your back, and marine life that makes driving all the way across the country worth it. There is not one thing that we saw, from cornfields to glaciers, that did not have its own special beauty.
Lastly, I discovered that I really love my Lucky dog, a lot. He is the perfect travel companion! He is never in a bad mood, never complains, is always open to a snuggle, and loves every place we go and everyone he meets. We joke that we are tagging along on his adventure. Lucky’s incessant tail wagging on a hike, swimming in mountain lakes and rivers, and enthusiastically playing ball wherever makes him my go to travel buddy. He has played ball in cornfields, the desert, the snow, a mountain lake, rest stops, and his favorite, the beach. In case you were wondering, sand is perfect for sliding into a sweet catch.
I was very resistant to the idea of a road trip. It seemed like too much driving and not enough action. I was proven wrong! Although we skipped out on the world’s biggest ball of twine, we experienced so many things that we could never be accessed from an airplane.
I would never have been able to tour the site of the Battle of Little BigHorn in Montana and experienced where Plains Indians stood in defiance against Custer and his forces.
I never would have been able to go to Marceline, Missouri, the town where Walt Disney lived in childhood and was his inspiration for Main Street in Walt Disney World.
I would never have seen the statue entitled “Dignity” in South Dakota.
But most of all, I never would have been able to take my Lucky dog! A road trip is a huge party, my friends!