Admittedly, my parents had taken me places when I was young. There is a picture somewhere of me as a baby and the family sitting by the hotel pool at Medora, ND. Even before I was born, my family would take small trips, here is one seven years before I came along, once again in Medora.
Most years we would go camping at state parks around the area.
On rare occasions we would take a trip out of state say….all the way to maybe………South Dakota or even exotic Minnesota, but more often than not we would stay in state. I did love to go camping however and the occasional trip we would take to the Medora Musical in western North Dakota were also a treat.
When I was about 10 years old however, I took a trip that started my love of travel. My oldest sister, my Mom and myself took a trip out to the West Coast. We traveled into the Rocky Mountains in Montana and went south to Yellowstone National Park.
I remember seeing the mountains for the first time. I was used to the Plains of North Dakota. North Dakota has extremely flat land in the east, rolling hills in the central, and even some canyons in the west. Nothing, however, prepared me for the large shadows I saw off in the distance. At first, when you begin to see the outline of the mountains for the first time, you begin to think you are just seeing clouds in the distance but they become larger and larger. Right before you enter the mountains often you will see cattle in the distance that gives you an even better idea just how large the land that lay ahead of you really is as the cattle are only tiny specks against the mountainous background. To say I was astonished would be an understatement. I guess this small town, North Dakota kid did not realize the beauty this world holds.
We went south after our fist day and went to West Yellowstone. We saw colorful, boiling calderas, large waterfalls…
and of course, Old Faithful.
Old Faithful is named for its frequent eruptions. Water will shoot up to 140 feet and erupts roughly every 60 to 110 minutes. They can estimate when the next eruption will be based on how long the previous eruption lasted. Since its discover, Old Faithful has erupted roughly every hour for more than a million times, thus its name.
First I come upon enormous landscapes, waterfalls more beautiful than I imagined, now I was sitting watching in awe the marvel to me that was Old Faithful. I typically hate shopping, but I actually wanted to spend time at the Old Faithful Inn and look around the shop. I wanted something to remember the trip and I also wanted a reason to stall so we could watch the next eruption (it worked). I was able to watch another eruption and pick out a souvenir before we left.
From there we headed to Washington and spent a couple of nights with our cousins. Of course we went to try to see Mt St. Helens, but the clouds were quite low that day and unfortunately we did not get to see very much. That was disappointing as I remember hearing about the eruption even though I was 5 years old at the time. I remember the weird color of the sky from the ash all the way to North Dakota. I remember being concerned for my cousins that thankfully lived east of the Mountain, much of the damage was north of the volcano, but they did receive several inches of ash at their farm. I still have some of it in a jar in my house right now.
We headed south to visit cousins in Oregon. I remember visiting a beautiful grotto somewhere near Portland and we took my first visit to the ocean.
Again, I am bad with old photos. I only have a few of them as my parents still have the rest. Someday I will wrestle them away from them. I do remember seeing the ocean for the first time and for some reason, I was not as impressed or excited as the when I first saw the mountains. Don’t get me wrong, it was neat and I played with the tide a bit as I tried not to get wet. This country boy arrived in tennis shoes and not sandels and I was not about to kick off my shoes because…..well you just don’t do that unless your jumping in for a swim.
Our drive back was a little quicker and I remember driving through Beartooth Pass as we went back through Yellowstone. It was so awesome as we went up and up and up. It seemed like my ears popped a hundred times as we climbed up. We were in the clouds. IN THE CLOUDS! Before we started the climb the clouds looked so high up but here we were in the clouds! I know we were in them in Washington but the whole area seemed to be socked in fog. I was used to fog. I was not used to climbing into the clouds. At that point in my life, I’ve never even taken a plane ride. I also will also remember going back down. It had gotten dark and my sister was driving and I was pretty sure we were about to die as she quickly zipped down the mountain. We veered right and left and left and right and she was slightly cross the median and then a car would pass coming the opposite direction. My Mom just smiled and I started to question whether she really cared about me at the time. I was so glad to see the lights of Cody, WY as the thought of survival started to creep back into my mind. We did make it and I will never forget that wild ride.
We were back home two days later but it was an adventure of a life time. It opened my eyes to all the possibilities of beauty there must be in the world. We took a trip back to Yellowstone a year later as my brother worked out there that summer.
Once again, I was amazed but all that I saw. The mountains continued to amaze me. I saw a variety of animals and calderas I didn’t get to see the first time because my brother knew of some neat places to check out.
For years after I didn’t get to go to too many exciting places but I lived vicariously through my parents who occasionally would take trips without me. Once they drove all the way to Las Angeles, CA. At the time, my favorite show was Knight Rider so of course I was soooo jealous when I saw this picture….
My parents got to talk to KITT. KITT!!!!!!! I so wanted to travel more.
Eventually I would. As a senior in high school I was awarded a trip to San Diego. I’ve taken car trips back to Yellowstone, through Salt Lake, down to Las Vegas and back via Grand Canyon. My first real job out of college was with Northwest Airlines as an aviation meteorologist. This allowed me to fly to places I’ve never dreamed I would have the chance to fly to from Hawaii, to Europe, to the Philippines….yes even the Philippines.
Once I left Northwest, the travels have slowed up but now I want to show my kids what the world has to offer. For now we will take flights and short car rides, but some day I want to show them the beauty the United States has to offer by traveling on the road. We will be a real life Griswolds because they need to see what is out there. I believe it is important for them to just realize what beauty our great nation alone is hiding for them. While at the time we chose to fly and take more exotic vacations, at some point when they can tolerate long car rides, they need to see the world from the ground in order to appreciate how small we are and how important this world and our nation is to us. You don’t need to take outlandish vacations to appreciate the world, all you have to do is take a drive.
Here is a video I made for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary showcasing some of the family travels…..set to Lindsay Buckingham’s Holiday Road.