Destination: the UP of Michigan.
I don’t know who is happier packing up the truck for the family vacation: my husband, my children, the dog, or myself. Okay, Maggie the dog doesn’t really help pack but she is just as excited as we are. The conversation is chipper and everyone is joking around.
What vacation means for us
We spend two weeks each summer as a family at a national forest (the specifics of which are typically not determined until we are on our way). We eat, ride, and sleep in the company of loons, deer, and maybe a bear—but always without the stuff of our normal lives. No cell phones (they typically don’t work where we go), no internet, no outside contact, and certainly no water parks. We load up five bikes, water, food, and one dry bag per person, and off we go.
About the dry bag: each of us gets one 60L dry bag to bring what we intend to use. If the item fits, you can take it. If not, well…you get the idea. I give each young adult a list and the theory is that if I forget to put something you need on the list, I’ll buy it for you. If it’s on the list and you don’t pack it, you either suck it up or buy it yourself. You should see their faces when it is 47 degrees outside and they skipped their puffy coats (“but it was warm when we left home.”).
This was the first summer for Nick and me to bring “Matilda,” our military trailer with a rooftop tent. I’ve pulled lots of trailers around the U.S. but this was my first time “overlanding” and what an adventure it was! I learned that I could back it up half a mile down a jeep trail and that, when the situation really calls for it, you can even turn that trailer around by picking up the hitch, making a slight turn, picking it up again, and repeating. Take note: if you are on the side of a steep hill, don’t forget to chock the wheels each time!
A getaway with goals
Our goal this summer was to spend time with our kids Dan, Brett, and Reid. We knew that this might be the last time we went on a trip like this as a family. Another goal for the boys and me was to ride part of the Crusher 225 route from Copper Harbor to Marquette, Michigan.
As parents our hope is always that our children will be strong and independent people—and that those strong, independent people will want to spend time with us. During our eat, sleep, and ride vacation I spent the hours of each day right alongside my 16- and 17-year-old sons. I saw them ride the best lines and beat me down every hill. I also heard them cheering me uphill while we laughed about what Todd (the event promoter and course designer) was thinking when he put certain roads in that Crusher course.
The theme of this summer’s trip was, “are you sure this is the right road?” We took roads I thought we were supposed to be on, ones I knew we should have been nowhere near, and ones that who knows anything about! At the end of the trip, the roads we remembered most were those on which we got lost.
But getting lost on the backroads of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wasn’t the only happy accident. As it turned out, we were also just in time for blueberry season! Score! Brett picked berries and stored them in a water bottle that will forever taste like them. One morning we even had blueberry pancakes around the campfire while watching loons put on a show on the lake. This is how memories are made.
Lessons in the simple life
One of the things I have found by taking our family out of normal society for two weeks at a time is we leave as five people but we return home as a family. There is no social anxiety, no clue what is happening in the world, and no worry about anything other than what is in Matilda.
Life becomes simple. You get up with the sun, ride your bike all day, eat dinner, play cards, and when the sun sets for the night, so do you. For a short period of time I get my kids back and they get their parents back. All of life fades away except what is in camp. That is a blessing that cannot be purchased.
When you are planning your next family vacation, I encourage you to take the time to go find your family with not a soul in sight. You may find more than you ever thought possible.
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