From the Road: Favorites, pt. 2

Last week we wrote a blog mentioning our favorite items on the trip. Today we want write out a few a of our favorite created experiences, which also act as suggestions, and then we will close this out with a blog called the “the little things”.  The “little things” could have been included in the last blog or this one, but they kind of stand alone, so we thought we would dedicate a blog to them as well.  

So, let’s get started.  Our favorite experiences and practices:

Breweries: So the truth is we aren’t true beer drinkers.  We are not connoisseurs.  In fact, here in Austin, where good beer is a staple, we may have a beer or two a week - at the most.  Outside of StrangeLand Beer I don’t like the way beer makes me feel - full and heavy.  But we do appreciate a good beer, especially when beer is treated like an art.  When a brewery is committed to values that exceed typical business.  When a beer is the product of real value and quality, and a brewery respects natural resources. And when the beer making process is more of a craft than a business. So we made it our goal to buy beer that was locally made in the different locations we visited.  We also attended a couple of tours with the kids - it was a blast!  

Local Eateries: Fast food is out!  It’s unhealthy, it’s typical, and it’s bad food.  When we could, we also tried to avoid chain restaurants and eat with the locals.  One of the goals in this trip was live in the moment.  One of the best ways to do this is to turn something that would typically be a bullet point in your day into an experience.  We experienced our coffee.  We experienced places and spaces.  And we experienced food.  You don’t rush through experiences, but you do check off bullet points.  Taking this approach made for a great pizza stop in Napa; several amazing bowls of clam chowder in New Port, Oregon; huckleberries in Montana, and countless food experiences in many different locations.

Jobs: This is pretty simple.  When you are on the road all constant is lost...well, actually the only constant is change.  So we looked for ways to create “constants”.  One of those ways was job assignments.  Every-time we camped, everyone had a job assigned to them.  Those jobs didn’t change, so each person had the chance to get better at that job.  We worked with the mentality that the community took precedent over the individual.  In community, everyone contributes to the common-unity.  Everyone pitched in according to their ability and everyone received according to their need.  

Peaks, Plateaus, and Valleys: This was a nightly conversation recommended to us from our friends at Kammok.  This was about revisiting the day talking about each other’s peaks - highest points.  The points we would want to repeat if possible.  There were the plateaus, the moments that were fine, but wouldn’t need to be repeated, and then there were the valleys, the experiences and moments that we did not want to repeat.  These conversations informed the way we planned future outings and allowed each person to experience the highs and lows of the other.  Most the time these were had around the campfire, but other times they made for great conversations in the van.

God Winks: I wink at my kids a lot.  I wink at people a lot.  But to my kids and wife, it’s one of those way of saying, “I see you, I notice you, I’m thinking about you, and I love you.” I can be across the room or in a busy room, but if I can catch their eye, I wink, and in that wink I’m communicating those things.  We came up with a thing called God winks.  When we saw or experienced something that was unique to us, or out of the blue, or just special, we would say, “God Winked at me.”  God winks came in the way of perfect sunsets; seeing seals basking on the rocks on the Oregon coast; particular and unusual birds landing near one of us at just that right moment; an animal we had wanted to see in real life; or something unusual that was experienced in a warm way.  

Campfire Meals: We created a pretty consistent menu.  One night we did campfire stew - every place we went we had the same stew.  We picked this because everyone liked it, it was consistent but involved.  The last night was kosher hot-dogs over the campfire.  We picked hotdogs because they are quick and easy, it would allow us to stay out late at whatever sight we were exploring without the worry of needing enough daylight to make dinner.  Then in between those two night we experimented.  Everyone casted votes and we tried different things.  One night we did english-muffin pizzas and cinnamon rolls baked over the camp-fire in orange peels (orange peels acted as cupcake holders), another pork roast, and on and on. 

Lack of Electronics: This was huge! We had been told we were crazy and the kids would hate it.  But that didn’t prove to be true - sure, there may or may not have been a couple early days of detox, but in the end, even Ashton, our video game guru, said he “I don’t even miss them, I love being outside, it’s just so hot in Austin, but it is out here that my imagination really comes alive.”  There were no hand held video game, no in car or mobile device movies...it was conversation, books, audio books, car games, and more conversations.  

New Things: This was a rule for the kids.  Kids typically (many adults as well) default to eating the exact same foods, when we were out and about everyone had to try something new.  They didn’t have to like it, but they had to try it.  We applied this as much as possible to different experiences as well: swimming in cold water, drinking from a rushing stream, going down a slide through a shark tank, etc.

Camping: Of course we camped.  But the point here is the type of camping.  We tried four different types of camping: (1) Car Camping, where the other families are near you, you can see them and they can see you.  (2) Private camping - I’m not sure what to call this one, but this is where we were all alone, or at least the campsite was set up that way, it was us and nature even though we were in a park with plenty of other people, we still felt very much by ourselves.  (3) Cabin Camping - the cabin had four walls and a roof - there was no running water, no bathrooms, and no air or heat. That's why we can apply the word “camping” to it.  We still had to cook over a fire outside, but to sleep, we had a roof.  (4) KOA - this was essentially like staying at a hotel, but you had to bring your own room.  At first the kids were excited - pool, playground, other kids...but then as the sun went down and it was supposed to feel more like camping, it didn’t.  There were street lights.  You could feel everyone around you.  It was our least favorite, in fact the one time we stayed there, we left one night early.  Our favorite was the private camping.  So amazing.  It was more primitive and we felt more part of nature.  

We would love to hear your faves.  We want to learn from you. If you have a moment use the comment section below to tell us your favorites.