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The Family Vacation: Planning our Summer Vacation
I have never been on a Family Vacation. This is not to say I have not been on a vacation, simply that every one I have had was with a specific intention, and it was not with The Family in mind.
I have been to Canada ten times: fishing. I have been to Florida twice: fishing. Colorado three times: hunting. Louisiana once: fishing. Massachusetts several times: business. California: business. So you see, I have yet to see the country for any reason other than hunting, fishing, or business. How sad.
For the last few years I have endeavored to plan a family vacation without success. As I have heard said countless times, Life always seems to get in the way.
Not this year!!!
This year I am going to do everything I can to see us take a vacation for no other reason than to see the country. No specific reason beyond just being a tourist. Go here, see that, move on. What lies over that hill, that mountain? What is hidden in this portion of Americana?
That is what I intend to do with my lovely wife, and a couple of my children. At least, those who want to travel with us.
I am going to share a few of my ideas for our vacation this year, complete with plans, routes, and things that we would like to see along the way.
Are you planning a vacation this summer?
In speaking with my wife, she challenged me to come up with four or five different scenarios, possibilities for our vacation. I have done this and although I have my favorite this is to be a family vacation so it will be a family decision. But I can still start out with my favorite!
I am in love with the mountains of Colorado! Having been there several times I am completely enamored with the Rocky Mountains. When I am there, I here John Denver's wonderful song "Rocky Mountain High"; when I am not, and I hear that song, I am somehow transported to those majestic peaks.
Our trip would begin traveling across southern Kansas with a stop in Dodge City. To walk along the Wild West sidewalks and see the Gunfighter's Museum would be quite interesting. It is about a six or seven hour drive and that would be a good first day. Day two would find us driving to Pueblo, Colorado. While western Kansas may not be too lovely, eastern Colorado is not much better. A leisurely drive will find us arriving in the early afternoon and a quiet evening awaits. This will be the last one for a while.
Day three is a full day, with the family traveling to Durango, Colorado. There many things that await a family willing to enjoy them. The one which is most interesting (for the family) is a train ride on the Durango - Silverton Narrow Gauge Train. Cost is about $60 per person and the trip lasts several hours, but the country makes it worthwhile! The next day dawns with us traveling to what is my focal point: Mesa Verde. I have dreamed of standing in the deserted rooms of the Anasazi Indians for more years than I can count. One good thing about most of the National Parks is the cost to enter them. Mesa Verde is an example as the cost is a low $15 for the car and this is good for up to seven days. After several hours we would travel on into Utah and see the Arches National Park before on to spend the night in Price, Utah. This park is an even lower cost than Mesa Verde; the price for admission is only $10.
Day five finds us traveling to Dinosaur National Park and seeing real dinosaur fossils being excavated and wander through the exhibits. Cost: $10 Then its on to the Colorado National Monument for another adventure. I believe this one if free.
Day six sees us traveling to Steamboat Springs, Colorado while allowing the weariness to retreat while soaking our bones in Strawberry Hot Springs for an hour or so. Aaaahhhhhhh!!!
Day seven is another action packed day: traveling through the heart of the Rockies to Colorado Springs. Along the way we will cross the Royal Gorge, visit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, and Garden of the Gods. Day eight is beginning the long drive home with a stopover in Hays, Kansas. While you might not think there is much to do there, there is a museum called Sternberg Museum of Natural History. There is also the Ft. Hays Historic Site for us to wander through in the evening hours.
Day nine finds us heading home, our travel-weary bones aching for our own beds, but our minds full of sights and experiences we have packed into the previous eight days and 2,300 miles.
Another possibility would be a trip north through Iowa and Minnesota. I have traveled through Minnesota multiple times en route to and returning home from Ontario, Canada and it can be beautiful. Most of the small towns we traveled through were very neat and tidy, and the environment was stunning. Green trees and blue water everywhere!
Our trip would begin by traveling north through Kansas City, then on to Des Moines. Des Moines is home to the Blank Park Zoo ( cost: $11 for adults and $6 for children) and Adventure Land. Adventure Land is the priciest item on this trip, with tickets costing $30 and parking another $10. Both offer a wonderful opportunity for a family to wander around and enjoy the atmosphere before retiring for the night. Day two is a four hour jaunt to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul. Now I am not a mall shopper but even I would like to take a gander at Mall of the Americas in Bloomington. At one time it was the World's Largest Mall (I am unsure if it still holds that designation) and has multiple opportunities beyond simply shopping. This mall has an aquarium, a play world for kids, and one location my youngest son would love: Legoland.
Minneapolis is also home to a zoo which I visited many years ago. The Minnesota Zoo ( cost: $18 and $12) is a great location for a family to lose themselves wandering around the exhibits. As I remember it, the people walked around the exhibits which were extremely natural. You the visitor seemed to be intruding into the animals real life world and that made it extraordinary.
The next day is planned to travel to Duluth then onto Grand Portage on the Canadian Border along the shores of Lake Superior. Duluth has a very nice zoo (cost: $10 and $5) and another aquarium ($16.50 and $10.50 and includes an IMAX) for us to visit before making our way to the border. Superior is a massive body of water and the drive alongside it is truly beautiful. Day four leads us to a hidden jewel in Minnesota, Bemidji. Surrounded by small lakes this little town sparkles. It is home to Paul Bunyan World ($6.95 and $5.95) and every time I went through Bemidji I ate at the Dairy Queen along the southern shore of Lake Bemidji. I look forward to carrying on this tradition with my family.
Day five has us traveling to St Cloud before using day six to visit Sioux City, Iowa. Sioux City has some wonderful Lewis and Clark exhibits and even a riverboat.
Day seven we move back to our state and visit St. Joseph. I have played in several fast pitch softball tournaments here over the years but never visited anything beyond the ballparks, hotels, and places to eat. In researching this old river town I found it has multiple museums including the Pony Express Museum, the home where Jesse James was shot and killed, and a place known as Roubidoux Row. Joe Roubidoux is considered to be the founder of St Joe and was quite a "colorful" character. He was said to have kept his own son in the basement of his home without food or water until he signed over some property his father desired for a single shot of whiskey. Father of the year candidate, don't you think?
Roubidoux is also the man who outfitted John Johnston. Don't know him? Well, that's the real name of a character from one of my favorite movies, Jeremiah Johnson. The movie was based in part on a book about John Johnston and in the book Roubidoux is the one who sold Johnston traps and other "truck" that went with being a trapper. I have a rock from a fence Johnston might have fought along during the Civil War in Newtonia, Missouri and is one of those people who have captured my imagination. I have been to a jail he presided over in Red Lodge, Montana and to visit where he got his materials before heading West would be another wonderful memory.
From there it is just a few hours home.
Another one of the trips I have been working on as a possibility is a trip to the Grand Canyon. A portion of the Colorado trip would be on this one, through southern Kansas to Durango and Mesa Verde before moving on to the Grand Canyon itself. I would love to spend several days in and around the canyon, showing it to and sharing it with my family.
Our return would travel through Albuquerque with a stop at the zoo and aquarium there before continuing on to Amarillo, Texas. Of course, I would just HAVE to sing George Strait's song Amarillo by Morning along the way (driving my wife crazy I'm sure). In Amarillo we would visit the Amarillo Discovery Center and see all of the exhibits there.
These would be my choice for a trip this summer, but as I said this will be a family decision. Two other trips I have laid out would not be my choice but here they are.
One is to San Antonio, Texas and Sea World. Now I think this would be a blast but the cost! Tickets for four would be almost $300 by themselves to say nothing of what we would eat while there. I will say that I would like to visit The Riverwalk in San Antonio and to see the history of the old town including that most holy of Texas monuments, The Alamo.
From there we would travel along the coast of Texas to Corpus Christie and Galveston, and on to Baton Rouge before heading home.
My one concern is the area. Perhaps I am mistaken but I feel there is a serious crime issue along this route. For that reason I am hesitant to take my family to this area.
Another trip is down through Arkansas through my old haunts in and around Flippin and Mountain Home. From there its on to Memphis, Nashville and Louisville before heading to St Louis. Again, crime in Memphis, Louisville and St Louis scare me. One night spent in St Louis years ago saw our van stolen off the Ramada Inn parking lot while we slept. Don't know if I want to go back through there.
My ultimate trip would be to take two or three weeks and travel through Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and the Black Hills. Maybe even get on up to Glacier, cross the border and visit Banff, Toho and Jasper parks in Canada.
Or maybe visit the Florida Keys sometime and let my wife stick her toes in the sand on Key West, knowing that this is as far as she can go and still be in North America. Sometime maybe even take a trip to New England, or the Redwood Forest in California; both places interest me greatly and to allow my children to see these wonders and carry that memory for a lifetime.
Wherever we go, and whenever we go I still know I have one other trip to make in the future: to visit my good friend Bill in his home state, to sit on his porch sipping lemonade and watching the sun set. So look out Bill, it might not be this year but someday, someday...
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