Each year from 2003 to 2013 my wife, my son, and your humble writer headed out on a long road trip to anywhere but here. My wife and I like to seek out new lifeforms and civilizations, and then we photograph them into submission. I create a travelogue partly for fun, partly for writing exercise, and partly for personal future reference in those hopefully distant years when my aging brain begins deleting memory files without warning. My wife keeps meticulous scrapbooks in her own fashion, but retaining my own impressions is kind of important to me, too. Someday I’ll look back on this and think, “Ah, yes, I remember when I used to be able to type, before arthritis turned my hands into insensate stumps.”
Our 2014 road trip represented a milestone of sorts: our first vacation in over a decade without my son tagging along for the ride. He’s now an official adult and a sophomore in college who’s developed his own ideas about how he prefers to spend his downtime between semesters, and he’s by no means under direct orders to attend our outings. By the end of one particularly serious discussion over dinner in Jamestown, NY, we all knew and agreed our 2013 road trip would be his farewell tour with us. We were cool with that, if a bit emotional in our respective ways.
I’m finding it tough to follow that delicately phrased paragraph with a declaration of “2014 EMPTY-NESTER PARTY! WOOOOOOO!” But. Well. There it is and there we were. When the summer of 2014 arrived we were fully prepared to shift gears from “family vacation” to “romantic getaway”. Without gloating too loudly, of course, and in our own jointly unique fashion.
At my wife’s prodding, I examined our vacation options and decided we ought to make this year a milestone in another way — our first sequel vacation. This year’s objective, then: a return to Wisconsin and Minnesota. In my mind, our 2006 road trip was a good start, but in some ways a surface-skimming of what each state has to offer. Something about the atmosphere, creativity, and Midwest nuances spoke to me in ways that are hard to articulate. I don’t want to say “like Indiana, but smarter” or “like Illinois, but kinder”. There’s some proper analogy a few millimeters beyond my grasp. All I knew for sure was, I wanted a do-over.
To shake things up a bit, because every sequel has to be different and bigger in some way, we added an overnight detour into one state we’d never visited before. In yet another milestone for the occasion, this was also our first vacation in I-don’t-know-how-long that included zero stops at McDonald’s.
Sure, many couples with this sort of freedom would make a beeline for the nearest beach, book passage on a cruise, or max out their credit cards on a Paris dream trip. We have our own agenda. Finding creative ways to spend quality time together. Searching for tourism options that wouldn’t occur to our peers. Digging for gems in unusual places — sometimes geek-related, sometimes peculiar, sometimes normal yet above average.
We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.