Journeys With Dad: A Lifetime Of Memories
The thought of traveling across the country with two young children in the vehicle might seem as appealing as ghost-pepper eyewash, but my boys have become delightful little travel buddies.
Aside from the occasional backseat skirmish and unclaimed foul odors, road trips with Curt, 10, and Luke, 8, in my full-cab pickup have become preferable to flying somewhere.
There is so much to see and experience at ground level, even at an interstate speed limit.
It all reminds me with travels with my father, of our adventures criss-crossing Texas and eventually spilling over the western border to places such as New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.
The first trek, when I was 9 years old, was to Brady, which bills itself as the geographic center of Texas, for the annual state muzzleloader championship. I fell asleep in the car and awoke after we passed Austin to the dazzling Hill Country landscape.
The trip is remembered for the smell of gunpowder, late-night romps around the camp with other kids, the capture of a horned toad and fellowship with Dad. We returned to Brady every summer for the next decade.
Treks to the deer lease began about the time we started going to Brady. There were several different leases throughout the years, but the most memorable was the little slice of Hill Country heaven west of San Antonio.
There wasn't a bathroom or running water, and the lease boys liked it that way. A Native American village once sat in the middle of the lease, so every year the plowed field would reveal arrowheads and other primitive tools.
When I was 13, he took me to a fishing lodge in Canada, where we caught a ridiculous volume of bass.
The summer after my last year in college, Dad and I spent a week out in Big Bend, exploring the trails by day and sitting out under the stars at night as brazen peccaries and other wild beasties thought nothing of wandering through the camp.
We each had near misses with rattlesnakes out there. One slithered right between my legs while walking a desert trail, and Dad failed to see and hear a coiled and rattling one on another trail. Luckily, neither snake felt the need to strike.
In the years since then, there were return visits to Brady and the deer lease.
Our last great adventure came in summer 1998, when we met in Santa Fe, N.M., rented a vehicle and explored New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.
We traveled through the mountains and then took in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah, where I barely survived the Slick Rock Trail on a mountain bike. I hiked up a 14'er, Mount Sneffels, while Dad explored a flowery alpine meadow next to a crystal blue mountain lake.
It was an impossible-to-forget trip.
Today, the series of adventures with the boys is under way, and we've grown fond of seeing America by vehicle.
The first test came in 2010 with an East Coast excursion that took us to places such as Nashville, Mammoth Cave and the mountains of western Virginia.
A different route to the East Coast was taken last year, bringing more sights and adventures.
But the smaller trips are equally rewarding, such as a run up to Oklahoma's Beavers Bend State Park, where a southwestern finger of the Ozarks is only about three hours away.
And then there was the gorgeous and educational Dinosaur State Park to the west of here and various other state parks all around.
During Thanksgiving break last year, we hit Enchanted Rock, Fredericksburg, Natural Bridge Caverns and San Antonio before landing in Houston for the holiday.
The biggest adventure of all came during this year's spring break, when we drove all the way to the Grand Canyon and back.
In one day, we took a Grand Canyon helicopter tour, visited Four Corners and the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park before landing in Durango, Colo. During the drive, there was a 5-minute time span in which we saw five elk herds and two bald eagles.
We hit the nearby Purgatory ski resort the next day, and then that afternoon drove all the way to Santa Fe, where we went skiing again the next day. (The drive back to Tyler only was about 11 hours.)
Next up is another Tour de Tejas in early July, a trip only loosely mapped out.
I'm thinking Texas Rangers game Sunday, water park Monday and Six Flags on Tuesday, with perhaps a run down to Galveston later in the week.
It doesn't matter because, like it was with my father, traveling with the boys is more about the journey than the destination.
Brian Pearson is the managing editor or the Tyler Courier-Times--Telegraph.
He can be reached at 903-596-6280 or email@example.com