Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Road Trippin'

Our campsite at Sage Creek Campground in June, 2000
Very early in our relationship, David and I took a road trip to Kansas to visit my dad.  Later road trips have included a summer-long ramble out West with no firm destination, spending all our time either in the car or the tent, a mad dash from Oregon to Minnesota and back, without stopping for anything but gas and fast food, a road trip with friends up to Vancouver, British Columbia, and various shorter trips all over the place.

We made a lot of discoveries along the way.  We discovered, for instance, that I make a good navigator: ("Okay, so according to these three maps I'm consulting at once, you are going to want to make your way over to the left lane for a left exit in one mile.  There will be two exits off to the left before the one you are looking for.  Once you take the exit, you will take another left, followed by an immediate right.  Not this exit, but it's coming up next. And turn! Now, remember left, followed by immediate right.  YES!  And we're set for the next hundred miles, unless you'd like to stop for something to eat, which can be done in twelve miles, forty-six miles, or possibly seventy-two miles, although information on that tiny town is a bit sketchy"), and that he is not a good navigator ("Yeah! TURN RIGHT THERE!  No, I mean, LEFT, but...yeah...back there.  Um.  Let me figure out how we turn around.")

He is a calm pilot ("No problem, honey, I don't mind being boxed in by giant trucks on a winding mountain road while the rain lashes against the windshield and the lightning makes the world seem like a strobe light disco party.  It's okay that I haven't slept in twenty-two hours and I've had to pee since we were in South Dakota and the whole world looks fuzzy.  You go ahead and take a nap"), and I am not a calm pilot ("HOW THE HELL WAS I SUPPOSED TO GET OVER TO THAT EXIT WITH NO WARNING OMG THERE ARE CARS EVERYWHERE WHY IS EVERYONE GOING SO FAST THEY'RE CROWDING ME WE'RE GOING TO DIE AAAHHHHHH!  *sob sob sob*").

But most of our experiences with road trips ended when we had kids.  Not because we didn't feel confident in our abilities to take kids on a road trip, and not because we were trying to deprive them of the experience of travel but rather because kids are expensive and travel is a luxury, and also because, as a grown-up, vacation time frequently gets used up with things like painting the house or catching up on all the laundry. 

But we finally did it--we put the kids to the test to discover if they were good road trippers, too.  And they are! D. drove the whole way, and while I had additional tools at my fingertips as navigator (GPS...so shiny! and wi-fi capable kindle...so connected!), we still adopted our usual, figure-it-out-as-we-go attitude.  There were a few things we really wanted to see.  One was the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum in Walnut Grove, MN.  We've been reading the Little House series out loud for the last year, and both boys are pretty fascinated by the prairie life.  The museum was excellent, and the hands-on exhibits kept the boys enthralled.

Sage Creek June 2011--a Kiss the Morning Star scene come true!
We also wanted to make a stop at the Sage Creek Campground in the Badlands--or maybe I need to say that I wanted this.  This was a place where D. and I camped a million years ago, and I think we had one photo of it from that trip.  But it became more important to me when I was writing Kiss the Morning Star and wrote an important scene that takes place at that campground.  I wanted to see it again, but this time thinking of it as the site of Anna and Kat's adventures.  It wasn't so much that it needed to be perfectly accurate (there are definitely some details that are...maybe we'll call it romanticized!), but I wanted to just...envision them there.  It was really cool, though, to find the perfect precipitous cliff for a key moment where Anna and Kat almost step off the edge of the prairie and fall into a chasm in the dark.  I didn't know if there would be such a place, but then we found this awesome spot.  I had to run over and take pictures, so of course D. took pictures of me taking pictures because we are picture-taking crazy.

Speaking of picture-taking crazy, if you want a closer look at our road tripping experience, I spent like all day yesterday uploading and writing notes on photos, so here's our flickr set from the trip

And now...must get busy on these copyedits!

(And, happy summer! I will try to get back into blogging and reading mode!)


Kristan said...

Lol to your, ahem, complimentary strengths and weaknesses.

Must be magical to see your story world in the real world!

Megan Miranda said...

This sounds so amazing! I've never done this with kids. I mean, we've driven far, but I've only ever thrown the kids in the car with the purpose of getting someplace, and so the road-tripping part has never been enjoyable. I think I need to adjust my thinking on this...because it sounds awesome.
And how cool to visit the setting of your story!

Elissa J. Hoole said...

Kristan, those descriptions of our strengths and weaknesses were...not even exaggerated. More like downplayed!

Megan, we were amazed at how much fun we had, how flexible they were able to be. The absolute best toy in my "Mama's Road Trip Bag of Wonders" were these little Auto Bingo boards--we got them for a buck a piece at the local bookstore--and they really kept everyone engaged in looking out the window and seeing the world.

It really was magical seeing the place of my story after so long.