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The Joy... No Wait... The Pains of Vacation

We survived another family vacation last week! Our trip to South Dakota was full of joy and pain as I suppose most family vacations are. This was a road trip and I would probably rate myself "average" on how well I planned for it. So perhaps I have no one to blame but myself...

Really, I am thankful that we can vacation at all. I know that many are curtailing their usual summer adventures for homebound activities (most recently dubbed "staycations"). Never fear! I don't plan to complain this entire blog entry (maybe 50% of it)!

We have great kids and they stood up against some rough travel and terrain. For starters, I was sure they were old enough to enjoy some of the simpler things of road travel like counting antelope or looking for state license plates. Not so. They would have much rather watched a movie. Not an option when you don't bring the DVD player.

Then right out of the gate I realize that the air conditioner doesn't seem to be getting very cold. Not cold at all as the hours went on. Strike two. And strike three was easily the lack in our assortment of beverages. The deprivation of movies, cool air, and drinks sent us all to the edge of that dark abyss called... (dum dum dum) impatience.

As a parent, naturally, you want to keep your cool as much as possible since when you are happy the kids are more likely to follow suit. And darn it if I didn't try my best. But the conditions did not lend themselves to patience and it's an area that I will admit I tend to fall short. But sooner or later (it felt like much, much later) we made it to our destination and escaped the confines of our automotive nightmare. Joy seemed on the horizon.

And indeed it was. In the Black Hills of South Dakota, on a little spot of land complete with stream and boulders we found a blissful afternoon awaited us. We were meeting friends who had already arrived and the kids were ready to play. They splashed in the stream and climbed on boulders. Not even a scrape on the knee for one of them the entire trip. Their faces lit up when they spotted deer in the woods after dinner. They discovered all kinds of natural wonders (ie. sticks, rocks, pinecones, and bugs) as if they had never seen them before.

Even the stress of late nights and early mornings couldn't steal my joy as I watched the kids soak in every experience. We toured the Wind Cave National Park and stood in awe at the foot of Mount Rushmore. I had never been to South Dakota before, so I was as much a child as anyone as I savored the new landscape and wonders of creation. And sure there were petty arguments to referee between the kids - but there would have been even if we had been at home.

And after all of our fun, that's where we were headed: home. My joy began to wane as I thought about the pain of traveling. It was not the worst or the best of travel and so again I'll choose to be thankful.

What road trips have you made this summer? What are your "must haves" to make it a great trip?

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