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Road Trip Out West: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Our Family Vacation

My husband, one of my 24 year old twin daughters and my 22 year old nephew decided to take a road trip from the east coast to the mountain states. Who amongst us has not felt a bit stir crazy since the start of COVID-19? We travelled responsibly across 10 states by wearing masks when in spaces with other people and opting out of overcrowded, non-mask wearing crowds. Our trip was complete with some amazing adventures along the way as well as a few mishaps that can’t go unmentioned.

Here are 9 takeaways from our travels:

  1. We live in a big country: Thank you captain obvious! As I traveled westward from the east, I got the sense of just how vast the USA expands. I am used to flying so as we drove from state to state, I gained a whole different perspective in terms of the size of the country.

  2. Natural beauty: Traveling through Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana definitely gave me a new view about natural beauty. As a tourist, you would normally find me amazed by a cityscape or enjoying a stunning beach. I was in awe the entire vacation over the majestic views. The scenery was breathtaking!

  3. Busting out of my comfort zone: Physically speaking, I was the weak link during the vacation. We hiked, biked, climbed and even plowed through massive boulders on a Utility Task Vehicle (UTV). We were more physical than I have been in the past 6 months so I questioned more than once during the 2 weeks if I was out of my league on this trip. Having said that, I felt good about pushing myself physically and now that I am back home, I have embraced a more rigorous exercise routine. (However, I now need a vacation after my vacation).

  4. Masks are the new socks: You would think we brought our dryer with us. As puzzling as the lone, elusive sock, we collectively lost no less than 12 masks along the way. I have no clue which crevices in our truck absorbed them but I am sure over time, some will resurface. Luckily, there was no shortage of vendors selling them along the way.

5. Family fun and great conversations: Neither of my daughters rode out COVID-19 with my husband and me so it was a treat to spend this time with our one daughter and our nephew. In addition to the experiences, we laughed a lot, had many great conversations together, set up a camp site for 2 of the days, competed in a corn hole tournament and even cooked a delicious kettle of matzah ball soup while camping. (Doesn’t everyone eat matzah ball soup when camping!). Although we missed our other daughter, we cherished the time spent together.

6. There IS such a thing as too much family time: Despite #5, behind the glimmering smiles on FaceBook, there were a few family battles. Call it close quarters, big personalities or unforeseen detours, my husband, daughter and I got into it in a couple of states. (nephew stayed clear). It is a good reminder that social media doesn’t capture the entire story! All disputes were resolved and the good times certainly outweighed the bad, but we had our moments! (Sorry to the staff and customers at the Billings, MT Hilton Garden Inn)

7. Panic attacks are real: To be fair, I always knew they were real, although I never personally had one as severe as the one I had on this trip. During our drive home, Route 70 in Colorado was closed in some areas because of fires. (One of the unforeseen travel disrupters along the way). As a result, we were detoured to the CO-92 West Elk Loop. I have travelled on winding, snake, cliff roads in the past and even on this trip but for whatever reason, I had a breakdown as we drove on this road. Perhaps because taking this road was so unexpected but as we drove down the road, I grew increasingly terrified. My family was enjoying the views but I could not find peace along the 20 mile drive. I cried the entire time, yelled at my husband to slow down even though he was driving below the speed limit and I insisted on not stopping at the scenic overview. Luckily, they were supportive of me and we got through the drive. My nephew captured the ride on video and honestly, I had a hard time watching it even after returning home. That 45 minute drive felt like 5 hours!

8. Flexibility is key: Despite our extensive planning, you have to be open for schedule adjustments, especially during a pandemic. We started out August 5th, and by August 6th, we needed to redirect our trek. (the original route didn’t make as much sense) We added Moeb at the last minute at the request of my daughter and it ended up to be an incredible addition. Also, plan on adjusting the number of days in a particular location changing too when reserving campgrounds, hotels and ABNB’s prior to your travel.

9. It’s “U” turn: When we rented the UTV in Moeb, Utah for the day, we each took turns in the driver seat. I opted to take the wheel on the flatter terrain rather than up onto the boulders which was exciting but intimidating. During my turn driving, I had to make a K-turn in a snug spot with limited road space and I wasn’t sure if I could navigate the turn. My husband offered to jump in the driver’s seat which seemed like an appealing idea. Instead, my daughter said “Mom’s got this” and I successfully navigated the turn and continued driving. It seems like such a small occurrence and one that certainly went unnoticed by my family, but hearing my very empowered 24 year old daughter assure me that I was in control of the situation gave me a warm feeling. Ironically, Hello50 is in part about supporting women empowerment as we age and in that small moment, I needed that gentle reminder of my own abilities by none other than the strong woman we raised.

If you have time in your schedule, consider an adventure with your family. It could be a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone, reconnect with the family and learn not only about another part of the might even discover a bit more about yourself.

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