Thursday, July 7, 2016

Chapter 1: The Calm Before the Storm

Thursday, July 7

9pm. Home.

In less than two days time, my wife, my six sons, and I are embarking on a two-week journey to and from the American West, with stops in Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone Park, Mount Rushmore, and other exciting landmarks along the way.

None of us have ever spent time in that part of the country, and we are extremely excited to see all of the amazing things out there.

Here's the itinerary:

  • Leg #1: Drive from Pittsburgh to Kansas City. Spend 3 nights in the KC area visiting family and sightseeing.
  • Leg #2: Drive to Colorado. Camp for 3 nights in Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Leg #3: Drive to Yellowstone Park. Camp for 5 nights.
  • Leg #4: Drive to the Mount Rushmore area. Camp for 2 nights.
  • Leg #5: Drive to Madison, WI. Stay in a hotel for 2 nights. Get showers.
  • Leg #6. Drive home to Pittsburgh.

As excited as we are for the trip, it has the makings of an epic disaster. Why? Let’s count the reasons:

  • We are going to be driving a LONG time
    According to Google Maps, we will be putting at least 4,000 miles on the family van in less than two weeks. That is A LOT of time in the car.

    Generally speaking, my family does very well on long car trips. That being said, in 2009 we tried to make it from Orlando to Pittsburgh in one day. A scheduled 12-hour trip turned into a 17-hour slog, and every single person in the car was crying or yelling continuously for the final three hours of the trip. It is a nightmare memory we are still trying to get over.

  • Most of the trip involves camping and we have no idea what we are doing
    We are not a camping family. As a family, we have spent only six total nights in a tent (3 of those in the past month) and we have never been responsible for packing in, preparing, and cleaning up meals. Now we’ve planned to spend ten consecutive nights in national park campgrounds.

    This would be a good time to review the definition of Hubris.
  • It only takes one person being miserable to ruin everybody’s good time
    And to be clear: the most likely person to do this is me.

    I like to think that I’m a laid-back, take-it-as-it-comes person. (This may not actually be true.) But there are at least two things that frequently put me into a lousy mood: (1) getting a bad night’s sleep and (2) not having quick access to clean and comfortable bathrooms. When I don’t sleep well, or when my unpredictable middle-aged digestion forces me to spend time in unpleasant facilities, I turn into a whiny jerk.

    So what is the centerpiece of this vacation? Ten days spent sleeping on the ground and pooping in the woods in campground latrines.


I am excited to see the Rocky Mountains and Yellowstone. And I am determined to be relaxed and to be fun-loving and to enjoy this tremendous opportunity to make lasting memories with my family.

But honestly, if I get through this without flipping out at least once, it will be a miracle.

So that’s where we stand! In 36 hours or so we’ll be pulling out of our driveway and embarking on our the Musial Family 2016  Great Western Adventure. Wish us luck!