25 Jun
Posted in: travel
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Great American Road Trip

6,025 miles + three weeks + 18 states = epic road trip

More than a few people questioned our sanity leading up to our trip from Wyoming to Key West, Florida and back covering thousands of miles of territory. I had moments where I questioned it myself, but that trip is one of the best decisions we’ve made for our family.

Family of six selfie

In the chaos of raising four children while juggling full-time work, part-time work, multiple volunteer roles and everything that entails, it’s difficult to slow down and truly enjoy family life. There’s always nagging ideas on the periphery of my mind: tasks that need to be accomplished or people contacted.

Sunset at Opal Beach near Pensacola, Florida

Leaving everything behind gave us the opportunity to fully enjoy our family. Phones were turned off great portions of the days. There were no to-do lists and no meetings. There was our vehicle filled with the people that matter the most to me and endless possibilities of open road. I’ve been home from vacation for a little over 24 hours and am ready to hit the highway and byways of America again.

Overlook view of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

I don’t want to give the impression that 6,025 miles and three weeks spent with the same six people every day and night was perfect. It wasn’t. We annoyed each other. There were times I envisioned leaving various people at rest stops and longed to be alone for just a few minutes. Those times were fleeting and far-between. If there’s something I’m well adept at as a parent, it’s the art of distraction. The distractions thousands of miles from home in a world nothing like your daily existence are abundant.

Homestead National Monument of America view

Truthfully, I would have stayed on the road longer. I enjoyed the nomadic lifestyle an epic road trip offered. It felt utterly indulgent to be without daily responsibilities, able to discover new places without the need to account for anyone’s schedule. We ate when we were hungry. We pulled into hotels well-past decent bedtimes, most nights hoping to find an open parking spot in the lot. We explored and discovered together, learning more about the United States state-by-state.

Everglades National Park view

The journey, more than the destination, drives my love for the great American road trip. We could have flown to Orlando for Walt Disney World, but I would have missed the impenetrable forests butting clear to the asphalt of most highways in the south, and the unparallelled excitement of spotting our first alligator in the wild lounging in a canal. We stood on a dock jumping and pointing as a manatee glided through the water, and tentatively tried boiled peanuts. A wild boar crashed through trees while we hiked in Congaree National Park. We added the world’s longest cave to the list of superlative places we’ve visited, and touched a moon rock. I wouldn’t have walked under moss hanging from trees in historic Savannah, Georgia or took part in a nightly celebration saying goodnight to the sun where the road ends in Key West, Florida. I would have missed the hundreds of questions our children had about this country we call home — from where are the rocks, and why is the air so thick, to questions of race while we stayed in Charleston, South Carolina the day after a tragedy.

Sunset at Big Cypress National Preserve

I have hundreds of little memories filed away from those 6,025 miles and a wider grasp of what it means to be an American with each state that we visit. I hope to add more extended road trips to our family history. I feel time slipping away with all four of my kids under my roof. The list of places I want them to see before they venture into adulthood is much shorter after the last three weeks. Each new place opens a potential door for the future for our kids. I may end up with a National Park Service ranger in the family or a professional street performer for a son after our stop in Key West.

We visited 13 National Park Service entities, two major theme parks, several beaches, major landmarks, several historic districts and one state park. I have a lot to say. The next couple of weeks on the blog will be devoted to specifics from our road trip.

Read more about our road trip:


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1 Comment

  • I’m so excited and anxious to hear all about it. You all deserve an award for ending up with six Dutchers home safe and sound after that many miles in one vehicle 😉