The Drives That Bind
We rarely play family board games at home anymore. We used to when my kids were a bit younger, but now my sons have discovered electronic wonders - Wii, iPhone diversions, computer games. And we parents find ourselves so busy with our myriad daily tasks that time gets away from us. In fact, I'll admit that occasionally we welcome the chance to let the kids do their own thing so we can steal an hour or two simply to get stuff done.
But the road is a different story. During our annual summer cross-country RV excursions, the point is to enjoy the journey together. It is Quality Family Time, in the truest sense of all three words. Sure, that may be the most overused phrase since "at the end of the day…" But you know what? At the end of the day, we're a happy family.
This year, as we embarked on our 12th consecutive summer RV expedition, we packed some board games, as we always do. Our RV trips make that all-important leisure time possible because it is part of the experience, rather than being something you miss out on because your to-do list gets in the way. And because we leave most of the electronics at home.
It turns out that my younger son, Jesse, is a Monopoly whiz, a real estate savant, which could come in handy someday. But while Quality Family Time can mean those quiet moments in the RV during which (ironically) you're placing a hotel on Park Place, it is also a daily occurrence amid the voyage. This summer was no exception. We strolled through the majestic trees of Redwood National Park, but we also shared stories along the way. We paddled down the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park, but we also shared giddy glances each time whitewater approached. We parked in the shadow of Devil's Tower in northeastern Wyoming, the wonder made iconic by "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and then we actually watched that very movie together, a nightly occurrence at the campground.
And we enjoyed a baseball game at Coors Field in Denver - with my parents, who had driven in from Chicago just to meet us on the road. Over the years, my parents have met up with us in various American places - like Savannah, where we watched July 4th fireworks light up the city, and Yellowstone, where we shared the experience of Old Faithful erupting into a cloudless sky. Last year, they met us in Butler, Pennsylvania, my mother's childhood home, where my sons gained insight into what Grandma's life was like back in the day.
Because our RV trips take us to places we otherwise might not have had the opportunity to visit, we also have spent quality time with cousins in Michigan and Massachusetts and Virginia, with great-grandparents in Florida, with old college pals in Asheville and Scarsdale and Toledo, with high school buddies in Chicago and Dallas and Los Angeles.
This is undeniably one of my favorite aspects of the RV experience - the ability to stay connected with friends and family by seeing them face to face. I feel like the trips foster not only an intimacy with my immediate family, but also with people I care about who live all over the country.
For our latest RV experience, we packed another game - a board game version of "Lord of the Rings." My older son, Luke, is fantasy-obsessed. So together, we embarked on a quest, a trek through Middle Earth, a grand family adventure. Come to think of it, that's what we do each and every summer.