I read somewhere that camping brings couples and families closer together. Family camping outings turn into great memories almost invariably. Even people who can’t stand their families still look with fondness on the times they spent together sleeping in a tent and cooking hot dogs and marshmallows over a campfire. I know that one of the most enjoyable times Mrs. Happy and I have spent together happened in the hill country of Central Texas one Thanksgiving. Our wood froze, armadillos foraged in our food, and we wandered in the woods for two hours, not knowing how to get back to our camp site, but it is one of the highlights of our marriage so far.
Road trips can turn into the fondest of memories as well, but not invariably. A road trip is a calculated risk when your goal is to bond. A good road trip provides stories you can tell your grandkids; a bad one makes you want to never see your traveling companion(s) again. In my college days, I took a road trip with a friend of mine from northern Indiana to eastern Texas. Our car broke down in Arkansas, and we had to sleep in the car on the side of the road while my dad drove up to help us out. We talked, we bonded, and that experience was the highlight of our good friendship. In high school, I traveled with the band from Utah to California. A flu-like condition afflicted me, my companions irritated me, and the school vice principal who rode the bus with us seemed intent on making sure no one could have fun. Fortunately, I have forgotten most of the details of that time.
The drive Mrs. Happy and I took from Texas to New York five years ago was a shining example of how good a road trip can be. We talked, we laughed, we sang, we speculated, we saw the country, and we viewed hotels with the relish of newlyweds. That experience came during a time of hope and excitement and limitless possibilities. The trip from New York back to Texas was more difficult. It happened during a time of stress and uncertainty. It happened during a time when we had the sometimes overwhelming responsibility of caring for a three-month-old baby. It happened immediately after a five-day marathon of packing filled with irritability that bordered on rancor.
Even so, I would not trade that trip for anything. A good friend of ours accompanied us on the journey, providing us with an extra measure of good will and Tater with an extra set of comforting arms. We were able to stop in Missouri to visit some old friends we hadn’t seen in four years, whose kids treated us to a lifetime’s worth of affection even though they didn’t remember us. We met some wonderful people in hotels and restaurants along the way. We encountered some shady characters that provided us with hours of speculative humor even after they were gone. We stopped in North Texas and introduced Tater to some family who had not yet met him. And we got to show our friend our home-away-from-home-away-from-home.
Yeah. Road trips rule.