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One Family. One Car. One Summer Family Road Trip.

When the day finally arrived to pack for a three-month summer family road trip exploring the United States, I could tell that my kids had mixed feelings. Our son was almost 13, and our daughter was 9. Part of me felt guilty that I was robbing them of their summer break at home. After all, we weren’t sure if we could even survive an entire summer crammed into “Daisy,” the little 1977 Volkswagen bus that would serve as our living room, kitchen, and sleeping quarters.

A Family Road Trip Adventure

As it turned out, living out of Daisy had its charms. And showering at YMCAs and camping in Walmart parking lots was more bearable than we anticipated. Eating take-out pizza while watching movies on our little DVD player became a nighttime ritual that we all looked forward to, and the roaring sound from the street cleaners became our regular 6 a.m. wake-up call. When Daisy broke down—and she did numerous times on that first summer road trip—we all looked forward to getting her fixed so we could venture on down the road again.

I’ll never forget the morning we were supposed to enter Yellowstone National Park, but instead spent the morning pulling the entire camper bus apart in search of my cell phone. We looked every bit like the Beverly Hillbillies, with our belongings spread willy-nilly. I did eventually find my phone. It was absentmindedly tucked in my bra of all places. I also found a perfectly intact potato chip that’d flown from my hand earlier when Daisy hit a bump. The kids will never let me forget it.

A few hours later, the kids watched in amazement at Old Faithful erupting. And they saw their first wild buffalo walking alongside the road. Nature’s wonders erased any remnants of the morning’s woes.

Those moments of discovery, as well as the trials we overcame, are what we remember most fondly of this fun family trip.

We’ll never forget the clandestine foray into a Union Pacific rail yard in search of the elusive American Freedom Train in Portland. Nor will we forget the scary, stormy night in the South Dakota Badlands when Daisy rocked with such force we were worried that we were going to blow right over. Or Daisy, on her last legs in the Rockies, reluctantly climbing the Raton Pass with all of us chanting, “We think we can, we think we can.”

Overcoming obstacles as a family instilled confidence in my kids. After our fun family trip, they began to see the world as their classroom. My son entered middle school with a much-needed self-esteem boost and a better understanding of the important things in life. And my daughter entered her tween years with a new appreciation for all that she could accomplish. She’d found a world beyond cell phones, gaming devices, and who likes who in school.

They came home with a sense of adventure and the wherewithal to make it through whatever their teenage years might throw their way.

Mimi Roberts

Mimi Roberts is the author of Shifting Gears: One Family’s Journey to Find Simplicity and Purpose in a Changing World.

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