Valuable Lessons Learned for Kids on Road Trips

On July 9, 2014, in Crazy Stuff, Mom, Second Set, by Jennifer McPherson

We just got back from a mini vacation road trip to Montana.  Dang if we haven’t become experts at road tripping with little ones.  You may have seen us at the gas station, we were the ones with the kids in mismatched PJ’s, hair wild as the wind, and wearing only socks (non matching socks of coures). Pretty sure I saw a redneck sneak a pic, then exclaimed to his wife: “This is going on the Wall of Walmart.”

Yep, we deserve that medal.

None the less.  It was awesome!  The entire purpose of our trip was to pick up a cow we bought from my hubby’s Navy buddy from back in the day. Off we went, bye-bye Colorado. We drove through the farmlands of Wyoming and the mountains of Montana. Did I mention, I am in love.  The landscape. To die for. I have actually been through the same roadway last year but for some reason this year the beauty, more like the simplicity, struck me hard.

The kids were the most rockin’ ride-a-longs for this trip.  Someone advised me about getting little cheap toys, putting them into bags and handing them out every hour or so along the trip.  I spend $25 at Party City for small trinkets and party bags.  I filled each bag with two little cheap items.  And every hour and a half I gave them each a bag (of course with IDENTICAL ITEMS in each one – I wasn’t born yesterday people).  I consider our family seasoned road trippers and the bag ides was clearly the best one yet.

We stayed the first two nights in Bozeman, Montana.  Which I have sort of a connection with Belgrade/Bozeman and my oldest daughter, we will save that story for another day.  As always Bozeman and Belgrade did not fail to impress.  We hiked up to the ‘M’ which is around 3 1/2 miles, the longest hike our kids have been on. The grade was fairly steep at times too. Actually, let me clarify that.  About 1/2 mile in, there is a sign that says: Easier hike: 1 1/2 miles with an arrow pointing to the left.  More difficult but significantly shorter hike:  1/2 mile with and arrow pointing up.  Normal 44 year old parents of two small children would opt for the longer yet easier hike.  Apparently, We are not your traditional rational older parents. We opted for the shorter, get there faster hike. I’m just sayin’, I do not recommend this way for people with small children.  You will ultimately look like dumb and dumber, grasping tightly onto your child’s arm, trying to keep them from sliding on the loose gravel down the really steep mountain side. There were people saying, idiots, under their breath – I am certain of it.

And – for the record.  It is not shorter.  The two elderly women who were walking in front of us, beat us to the top.  If you are in shape, don’t have two small children that you are trying to prevent from somersaulting down the mountain side, it would totally be faster.  We made it and here is the picture of our accomplishment.

Standing in front of the M on a hikeCollege M in Montana











Then of course the other activity of choice, swimming! The kids proved they are part fish by the endless hours they swam. They had a blast!

The third day we drove 3 hours up to Great Falls, Montana to meet the former Navy man turned rancher. Super nice guy. He had a bunch of cattle out in the fields and of course – a hammock!  Knight and Ann Marie have never experience a hammock.  Let’s just say they loved it.  They are not quite old enough to play – let’s flip each other out of the hammock on purpose yet, but they did take a few spills while trying to navigate in and out of it.

Two kids relaxing on a hammock

How I dream of the day I can kick back, close my eyes, and doze off in a hammock – for more than 20 seconds.

The trip home.

We set off on our destination home at roughly 6AM.  Car loaded with snacks, kids, cooler’s and party bags!  About 5 hours into our journey along one of the 70 mile an hour back roads, some form of animal was crossing the road.  Hubby slows the car and we both lean forward to try to figure out what kind of wild animal it is, a beaver?  As we get closer we realize, it is a long haired Dachshund. Huh?  That’s weird, there were no houses for miles and miles and miles.  We stop the car and coming from the other direction is a semi, he too see’s the tiny pooch and stops beside us.  We are now blocking the entire roadway.  I know, I know, to all us suburanites blocking the flow of traffic is a downright outrage.  Calm down people, I am pretty sure we could have stayed parked on the roadway for 30 minutes and not a single car would drive up.  The puppy was hesitant at first, then I leaned down like a had a snack and he came to me.  I scooped him up and off we went on a new adventure of trying to find the owner!  The town of Harlowton, Montana was just a few miles up the road surely someone there will know whose dog this is (that is how it works in small towns of like 500 people).  The puppy had tags with a vet contact number and address for Harlowton but because it was Sunday they were not open. We did manage to find the sheriff station and left the puppy with them.  A lady came out and said, I am pretty sure I know whose dog this is.  See… small town livin’. Ahhh sounds good on paper doesn’t it?  I am guessing the pup got spooked by fireworks over the 4th and ran off. He was pretty far out for his tiny legs to travel.

It felt good to save a life, and then…. it felt horrible.  You see when the puppy got in the car, he would not sit on my lap, he hightailed it onto Ann Marie’s lap where he excitedly sat and continuously gave her kisses.  This is like heaven for a 5 year old.  A new puppy!  She was in love, TRUE LOVE.  We explained to her that it is the right thing to return the puppy, he has a family and probably a little girl just like Ann Marie is sitting at home crying for her missing puppy.  This explanation is just too logical and mature for her.  After all, she was in love.  The tears lasted for a good 15 or 20 minutes.  She was heartbroken.

little girl smiling holding a puppyGirl crying

The value of lessons learned on road trips with children cannot be learned by reading a book or simply talking about lessons of life. I am honored to provide my children the experience to see the world and how other people live their lives first hand. That about sums it up, another fabulous road trip for our pocket of memories.

Now, where should we go on our next road trip?


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