After two weeks on the road, it is great to be back with you today at Trail Reflections. Karen, Ryan, and I recently returned from a memorable 3,000 mile road trip that included quality family time, a bit of Texas culture, a blast from the past, a photo with Big Tex, and a whole lot of tasty food. I love to plan and take unique road trips that offer a change of scenery and time spent with family and good friends. When I say “plan,” I prefer to have a loose framework in place with flexibility to alter course as interesting spots arise.
Our first stop included our usual trek to Tennessee for quality time with both sets of Ryan’s grandparents and two of his great-grandparents. While in town, attending the disastrous Tennessee football game would be the low point of the trip. Nevertheless, the grandparents marveled at his new-found ability to effortlessly crawl, stand up, and nearly walk.
After a few days in Knoxville, we drove southwest to the Jackson, MS suburb of Clinton, the small town where Karen spent some of the most memorable moments of her life. It was the first time I had the opportunity to visit this quaint town in the heart of the south. With childlike wonder and pride in her voice, Karen drove us out to the soccer fields where she won a state title nearly two decades ago and to the schools and church that had such an impact on her over the years.
Our next stop was to the middle of nowhere, literally. I mean when are you ever so close to Louisiana’s highest point – Driskill Mountain? As some of you may recall, my lifelong goal involves hiking to each state high point, and this trip provided the ideal opportunity to knock out the towering 535 foot summit. More about this next time, but I have now completed five high points.
We successfully emerged from the middle of nowhere, and hit the road onward to Denison, Texas, the town of residence where most of Karen’s extended family live. Denison is about an hour north of Dallas, just a stone’s throw away from the infamous Red River and the Oklahoma state line. My only other time to visit was two-and-a-half years ago for Karen’s grandfather’s funeral. Quite honestly, we didn’t want our next visit to be another funeral, as we wanted the family to meet Ryan while he is in the cute baby stage and not at his high school graduation.
Plus the trip offered an excellent excuse to eat a real steak and Texas beef brisket. After consuming arguably the tastiest steak my taste buds have ever encountered for lunch, we spent the evening catching up with Karen’s extended family, including her maternal grandmother, Karen’s only living grandparent on either side. Of course we parents are the side show, as Ryan took a liking to the Texas folks and they to him. We were able to connect with many aunts, uncles, and cousins that we hardly ever have the opportunity to see.
Saturday was a bucket list day, as I took in my first ever Red River Shootout – Oklahoma versus Texas – in the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas. After a summer-like, Texas weather greeted us the day prior, fall suddenly arrived just in time for one of college football’s greatest rivalries. Since I was born in Oklahoma, I have always considered the Sooners my second favorite college football team behind Tennessee. Fortunately, Karen’s cousin Jeremy is the biggest OU fan in the world, and he and I had a blast watching Oklahoma defeat the Longhorns at one of the most unique sporting events I have ever attended.
Afterward, we explored a bit of the famed Texas State Fair, although it was extremely crowded with fans clad in crimson and burnt orange that it took us over half-an-hour to purchase two Fletcher’s corn dogs. The line was packed in like sardines, I was just hoping that no one in line had been in contact with any Ebola patients. But as I discovered, you can’t attend the State Fair without downing a couple of the scrumptious dogs.
Sure, there were other aspects of the trip that weren’t always ideal, including listening to a fussy baby who was undoubtedly sick and tired of being on the road and having to adjust his internal clock to central time. Of course we had luggage, baby clothes, and a bassinet to pack, shuffle around, and carry in-and-out of hotels.
However, there is something reinvigorating about escaping your normal routine, traveling to unfamiliar spots, and connecting with people you don’t often get a chance to see.
My time on the road helped me to mentally refocus on some yet-to-be-achieved goals and to gain a clearer perspective of the big picture. The trip also gave us a chance to experience real life, something we often forget to do while buried in work and technology.
3,000 miles is a quite a journey, but one that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.
Do you ever take time to hit the road and leave the daily routine behind? If so, how does a trip help you refocus and reenergize? If not, what holds you back?