I had been looking forward to this trip for well over a month. There were opportunities to reunite with family members, some I have not seen in over 20 years. As well as revisit some familiar stomping grounds from my youth. This trip also gave me a chance to introduce my wife and daughter to family and surroundings they have never had the privilege to meet and enjoy.
Observation 1: We decided to get on the road a little early, instead of leaving the day of, as we have typically done in the past. My wife booked us a hotel room in North Texas. Denison is on the Texas/Oklahoma border and was right about the halfway point to our first of two main legs on this weekend adventure. What I learned was (a) getting a four-hour head start gave us more time to stop and enjoy some of the attractions along the way, (b) it alleviated some of the stress of a long first day on the road and (c) also provided us with some additional visiting time with family at our first big stop (Along with some unexpected pool time at the first hotel).
Observation 2: Our first destination of the trip was the Best Western in Denison. Upon preparing for bed, I was suddenly struck with an image of the family grabbing our belongings in a rush and running out of the hotel. Fortunately, this was only my imagination. No emergency occurred and we slept the whole night peacefully. However, it did give me an idea. I took an inventory of the most important items for us to have in the event of a crisis. Then I narrowed it down to the bare essentials. What I came up with was my phone, and my room key. Dads, make sure you have these two items handy at all times when traveling with the family.
The intention for the trip was to deliver our daughter to her aunt and uncle in Wichita for a week of fun with her seven cousins who live there. Since my aunt, uncle and two grown cousins live in Oklahoma, we decided to add an extra day on to the travel itinerary and spend some quality time with them. My uncle spends his Summers at his lake house just outside Locust Grove, Oklahoma. He’s living out of his RV while building a permanent residence on the property. Many years ago, I had a full day of lake fun on my cousin’s jet ski and I was eager to introduce that memory, first-hand, to my wife and daughter.
We were treated to some real Southern hospitality. Since we wanted to spend more time with family, a second RV was procured at no expense and we had two nights on the lake among lightning bugs and a cool lake breeze. My cousins showed up with their kids (and grandkids!) and my daughter was in cousin heaven. She was literally surrounded by 2nd, 3rd and 4th cousins. They fished, rode jet skis and played in the water until the sun went down.
Observation 3: This astute observation actually comes from my wife. She realized that we didn’t have very good cell service (and no Wi-Fi) on the lake. When we left, she mentioned how nice it was to almost unknowingly be forced to unplug. I try to do this intentionally at least once a year, but not realizing it in the moment was particularly special. We did have our technologies and we could use our phones and computers to a degree, but we didn’t feel the need to plug in, since doing so meant having to spend an uncomfortable amount of time waiting for something to upload and took valuable time away from visiting with our “kin.”
After a full Friday in the sun, it was time to hit the road again. Saturday was a gentle drive across Oklahoma and up I-35 into Kansas to deliver our daughter for a week with some of her favorite cousins. Being an only child and not really old enough for a “Best Friend”, cousins are the closest thing she has to sibling and her Kansas Cousins are without a doubt some of her most favorite.
The gentle drive to Kansas turned ugly when storm clouds grew on the horizon and decided to drop down on us just after we made the turn onto I-35, north of OKC. The wife and I wanted to get turned around and back to North Texas by nightfall, but that wasn’t going to happen. Which leads me to…
Observation 4: Weather can be a serious deterrent to safe and predictable travel anytime of the year. We had been watching the weather reports and knew what to expect. Still, you can never be quite sure of what’s going to happen with the weather so it’s always wise to prepare ahead, plan for the worst and when the rain starts dumping in bucket-sized drops, always choose safety over getting to your destination on time.
I could (and probably should) write another article about bad weather travel observations. It rained so hard, and I’m so used to bad weather road conditions, that I seriously considered pulling off the highway. Always trust your gut in those situations. I wish I could say I was shocked by the number of drivers who were not heeding the weather conditions, but let’s be honest, we see it all the time in our own towns. Why should it be any different in the middle of nowhere on a major interstate highway?
We made it to Wichita safely, and on time. Of course, none of that mattered. As soon as our daughter caught sight of her cousins we might as well have been invisible. We kissed her goodbye and turned South for a kid-free week. So, I guess there’s just one observations left to make…which one of you are going to pick her up and bring her home next week? =)