By this time tomorrow Mike and I will begin a twenty one day junket to California in our travel trailer along with two of our grandchildren. We are either excitingly adventurous or stunningly crazy. The potential for problems when pulling a tiny home thousands of miles behind a truck in abnormally hot weather is high. We’ve already experienced a number of unexpected kinks in our plans on short hops in the past. We’ve practiced our camping skills time and again. We have overcome violent thunderstorms, excruciatingly long roadwork delays, appliances that failed to work properly, attacks by tiny insects and a host of other difficulties that shall remain unspoken. Now comes the greatest test of all. We will either demonstrate our mettle or fail miserably.
Mike and I both have ancestors who braved the unknown to travel to a new world. The earliest among his arrived on the Mayflower. Mine were latecomers to Jamestown. Over decades and then centuries our family trees grew more and more complex and the branches took our people from Massachusetts to Nebraska, Virginia to Texas. The hardy souls who were our third, fourth and fifth great grandparents sailed across oceans in cramped quarters that make our trailer seem like a grand palace. They pulled wagons into dense forests and over mountainous roads. They lived without electricity or running water and somehow survived. They learned how to adapt to the environment and willed themselves to overcome hardship and disease. I suspect that we still bear some of their traits and thus will be just fine in our full hookup campsites with wifi, swimming pools, laundries and grocery stores.
Our plan is to pick up our youngest grandson William in San Antonio tomorrow along with his sister Abigail. Our first stop will be at South Llano River State Park for a good night’s rest before navigating through west Texas to Carlsbad Caverns. We plan to spend an entire day inside the magnificent cave that is truly one of the world’s wonders. From there our journey will take us to Santa Fe. In a stroke of luck we will be in that cultural mecca during the International Art Festival that occurs only once a year. We hope to venture to the Anasazi ruins of Chaco Canyon while we are nearby area as well. After three days and nights we will continue moving west to Sedona, a place that is reputed to be so beautiful that we may be tempted to forego the rest of our trip so that we might enjoy the scenery and the welcoming environment for a longer time than one evening. If our timing is perfect we may even go north for the afternoon to catch the sunset over the Grand Canyon, a sight that we have already experienced but which can never be seen too often. Continuing on we will spend a night in Needles, California within striking distance of our ultimate goal, Los Angeles. For the next seven days we will enjoy the multitude of scenery and entertainment in both LA and San Diego. The return trip will take us rather quickly down I-10 through Arizona and New Mexico until we reach Fort Davis where we will tarry for a time before returning to South Llano River in Junction and then back to San Antonio to drop off the kids before returning home. It will either be a dream vacation or a horrible nightmare. It all depends on the vagaries of nature and the unexpected behaviors of our fellow human beings, not to mention the multitude of possible problems that may occur with our mechanical equipment.
I laugh when I think of how soft we modern souls have become compared to our forefathers. On this day I often think of them and the incredible sacrifices that they made in the hopes of improving their lives. Passage across the ocean involved traveling thousands of miles with only scant knowledge of what lay ahead. It meant never seeing family and friends again. Every moment of every day was fraught with problems and no luxuries as we think of them today. Even the old homestead of my great grandparents spoke of the hardship and depravation that was their reality only one hundred years ago. We have advanced to an extent that truly boggles the mind. The pioneers who stretched out across this continent so long ago would be stunned to see us going from Texas to California and back in only twenty one days. They would think it amazing to learn that we can watch movies inside our “iron buggies” as we move rapidly down a concrete road and that we are rarely far from conveniences that they never considered even in their dreams.
The first colonists in the United States of America came to a rugged and dangerous land. So many of them died before they even took their steps off of the ships that brought them. Some grew and prospered and others merely subsisted. After two hundred years generations of people had lived here under the auspices of a king and a country that they had never seen. Being ruled from afar by a government that little understood their unique situations became untenable and they rebelled. Theirs was a revolution against one of the most powerful countries in the world and on July 4, 1776 they brashly declared their independence and intent to form a new kind of government. It was a moment that was viewed with skepticism in the halls of power around the world and yet somehow almost two hundred fifty years later our nation stretches from sea to sea across a continent that still seems to be working out the kinks of determining its identity.
We were guided by humans to this very moment in history when all the world looks to us either with profound admiration or seething hate. We understand our flaws and continue to strive to correct them. We are desirous of being a kind nation but wary of being too soft. We struggle to strike a balance between love of country and understanding of our role in a global community. The old questions and disagreements that plagued our founders stalk us even today. Still we are remarkable and I suspect that our ancestors would be quite proud of our accomplishments. They would no doubt caution us to proceed into the future with an eye to preserving the foundations upon which this nation was built while adapting to the realities of a time that they might never have imagined.
Somehow it seems fitting that Mike and I will be taking our grandchildren to see the wonders of this glorious country of ours during the month that sparked our independence. Wish us godspeed as we travel and help us to find McDonald’s for our breakfast, Walmart for our provisions and Starbucks to quench our thirst and keep us alert. We are venturing into a modern day version of the wild. Let us hope that when we think of our trip in the years to come we will remember it as our dream vacation.