OPINION COLUMNS

Road trips provide life lessons

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, June 19, 2013

For the past several weeks, the majority of my time has been spent working on our upcoming Welcome to Wise newcomers and visitors guide.

This year, we are imagining that the reader is on a road trip through Wise County, and we imagine what they might see and people they might meet along the way. It got me thinking about some of the favorite road trips I’ve taken in my lifetime and the lessons I’ve learned from those trips. I’ve taken the liberty of ranking the top five.

Brian Knox

Brian Knox

No. 5: Galveston – Our trip to Galveston last summer is the first road trip we’ve taken with both our daughter and son in tow. As a brother who had one sister who shared the back seat on many road trips, I was both aware of and ready for whatever sounds, smells and messes might originate from that particular area of the car.

Trip highlights: While Galveston and the beach were the prime destination, our favorite road trip stop had to be the Blue Bell Creamery in Brenham. It was such a hit on the way down that we made a second stop on the way back up. I also enjoyed seeing the Nolan Ryan Museum in Alvin and the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historical Park.

Wisdom gained: Never have more kids than you have cupholders in your car.

No. 4: Eureka Springs, Ark. – This was our honeymoon location, but since we drove, I’m counting it as a road trip. In fact, this was the first road trip my wife and I made as a married couple.

Trip highlights: We stayed in a cozy cabin on a lake in the Ozark Mountains and made several trips into town to dine and shop. Since it was right before Christmas, we bought a wreath that we still hang in our home each December. My wife drove the first day since I was getting over a bout of food poisoning (NOT due to her cooking, mind you).

Wisdom gained: The secret to a long marriage is resisting the temptation to provide constructive criticism of the driving habits of your spouse.

No. 3: Red River, N.M. – This is a sentimental choice. Red River has been my family’s nearly annual vacation destination dating back for several generations. But since I’m trying to narrow this down to road trips where I have actually participated in driving, I’ll choose the trip in 2009. That was the first out-of-state road trip we took with our then-2-year-old daughter.

Trip highlights: The trip to the cool mountain air always brings a welcome respite from the Texas heat, and this was no different. It was also the closest I had ever come to a bear that wasn’t located in a cage at the zoo.

Wisdom gained: It’s best to just let bears rummage through the trash for a midnight snack unless you plan on becoming that midnight snack.

No. 2: Disney World in Orlando, Fla. – OK, so I was 8 when we took this road trip in 1985, and I didn’t actually participate in the driving, but I can’t make a road trip list without including this one. My grandparents took me and my sister on this trip, which took us through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and finally Florida. It was the first time to visit any of those states.

Trip highlights: Duh, it was Disney World, and I was 8. I think I enjoyed Epcot Center even more than the Magic Kingdom Park. And I have just as many memories of touring the Battleship U.S.S. Alabama in Mobile Bay and the Vicksburg Civil War Battlefield in Mississippi, and stepping onto the white sand beaches in the Florida panhandle. My grandparents’ frequent stops to sight-see along the way to our eventual destination is probably why I love road trips so much today.

Wisdom gained: Grandparents, never let your grandkids pick the places to eat unless you want every meal to be from McDonald’s or Denny’s.

No. 1: Wyoming – Like the Florida road trip, this one in 2004 to see my wife’s parents in Moorcroft, Wyo., would take us to states we’d never seen before, including Wyoming, North Dakota and Montana. It took two days of 10-hour driving per day to reach our destination, and my wife and I had our niece and nephew, ages 15 and 10, respectively, with us.

Trip highlights: In addition to the “big” stops such as Devil’s Tower, Mount Rushmore and the Little Bighorn National Monument and Battlefield (Custer’s Last Stand), we also stumbled upon other treasures along the way – tiny towns with names like “Chugwater” near Guernsey, Wyo., where you could still see the ruts carved out by wagons headed west along the Oregon Trail, and a ranch owned by friends of my in-laws where you could see evidence of where Lakota Sioux once camped.

Wyoming was the most desolate and in some ways one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen. In some spots, you could stand and look as far as you could see in any direction and not see so much as a telephone pole, much less another car or building of some sort. In fact, Google “Chugwater fire” to see how a single accident has pretty well crippled an entire town’s economy in such a desolate area.

Wisdom gained: Wyoming is a statistical oddity: you are always two hours away from everything.

Here’s hoping your summer road trip is as enlightening as my favorite trips have been.

Brian Knox is special projects manager for the Wise County Messenger.

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