Traveling with the Griswolds….I mean Longs: Pondering the Vacation Experience with Adult Children


The idea was hatched last May, when Cliff and I had our first vacation without a kid or four dragging along behind us.  Despite loving the ‘us’ time and the rustic little mountain town of Cuchara, CO, our children still haunted us.  Enough we knew we needed to share the experience with them.

Last week the dream came to pass.  A better trip could not be had.  No breakdowns, everyone relatively healthy, and perfect mountain weather.  Completing our party of our three daughters and son was our son-in-law Karsten. He added another facet to our family’s sparkle.  (For some reason he insisted on taking the family pic at the Coolidge, KS sign instead of us flagging down Cousin Eddie to snap the pic)

Surprisingly, traveling with 20 somethings isn’t that different than when they were tots. 

Priming the argument pump before we left someone shared that Lee Harvey shot Abe Lincoln. (Insert head hang here)  Since we are the History Buff Family that mixed up soul almost got to stay behind and take care of the cat.  

Packing and finally getting everyone out the door was a miracle of epic proportions.  With Cliff tapping his watch, we finally got on the road 15 minutes behind schedule. Of course, our first stop ended up being at the quick shop about a half mile from our house.  I thought Wagon Master Cliff was going to have a heart attack. 

Seven month pregnant Robin took her doctor very seriously to drink lots of water.  Every bathroom and a bush on HWY 10 between La Junta and Walsenburg, CO was inspected by her on the 8 hour drive.   This act of bravery was commended since she was the one who we could never coax, bribe, or threaten to pee outside because ‘a snake might bite my butt.” While she was ‘busy’ everyone would unload, usually followed by ninja moves in the parking lot.

Along the road, other life and death controversies sparked.  Can potatoes and onions be stored in wheat elevators?  Can a prairie dog town really stretch 40 miles?” And my personal fav: Would Jesus wear sunscreen?  Due to traveling in two vehicles we did not have to draw lines down the seats to separate debating parties. 

Cole, who’s life mission has always been to antagonize his sisters, did not leave the quality at home.  Bare, hairy feet were flopped in laps, and he loved suckering them into some farfetched story with a dead pan face, then twisting it to make them the brunt of the joke.  His mission accomplished.

Once we made our destination, we settled in loading all seven of us in the crew cab truck to trek to the area attractions.  It wasn’t so bad, so the next day we trekked to the San Luis Valley.  People squirmed and jostled to get comfortable.  Any excuse to stop landed us taking pictures at the roadside with giant chickens, an enlightening romp through a UFO watch site, and the grandeur of Old LaVeta Pass’s scenery. 

Our cabin was almost as close of quarters.  Seven in cabin built for 4-5 max.  But if that’s what’s available you take it.  Close quarters made for nights of giggles, whispers, and sneaking out for early morning runs.  And disputes over Abe Lincoln’s last hours.  (How he managed to stowaway on this trip is beyond me.)

One evening after a successful trout fishing trip, Cliff grilled mouthwatering delights any gourmet restaurant would be envious of—even leaving the heads on.  Casey dove in, flicking its mouth back and forth and talking in a made up voice.  Robin and Misty were not so friendly with the fish.  Both were gagging and convinced this was the grossest idea ever.  Cliff patiently pulled the meat from the bones, just like when he’d cut their meat for them when they were 4.  “Just try it. One bite,” he persuaded. Rolling up their noses, they cautiously took bites like they were on Fear Factor.  In the end they decided it wasn’t so bad.

We gals retreated to the porch to finish our supper.  Cole opened the screen and in an ultra-calm voice said, “Everyone get inside.  There is a bear behind the cabin.”

A chorus of ‘Yea, right, Cole,” and “Ha-ha, Cole,” chimed together. Over his shoulder, Karsten, popped up, his eyes as big as basketballs.  “There is!”

Immediately our school of trout was forgotten as we scrambled inside.  Voices spiked, and everyone was clamoring over each other, grabbing cameras and fighting to see Gentle Ben out the one dinky window in back.

Sitting back on his haunches, this black bear seemed quite comfortable garbage can diving—like this was one stop on his nightly scavenging route.  He could have cared less if the paparazzi were trying to capture the moment. I got a great shot of my finger. From around the corner came a bigger meaner opponent strode towards the beast.  Cliff waved his spatula and calmly demanded, “Hey you bear.  Get on out of here.”

‘Bubba,’ we later learned his name, sauntered on up the hill. Grabbing cameras Cole and Karsten took off to try to get shots, much to the mama-to-be’s chagrin.  “Don’t you want to meet your child someday?”  But, he was out the door, on a wilderness adventure with his brother-in-law. 

Sadly, the nature boys were too slow, and the sun had had left faster than the terrified bear. But what a great story, they have to tell! (and a claw mark on Cliff’s new truck)

What priceless moments given to us to bond us closer together.  Of course there are many more which I will share at a later date.  In the book An Arrow Pointing Heavenward about the life of Rich Mullins, who wrote Awesome God, there is a great section on family.  A small portion says, “The home is the workshop of God, where the process of character-making is silently, lovingly, imperceptibly carried on. We have families because we are weak creatures, and God knows that we need them.  Through our lives, those people who knew us first are a part of our makeup even if they are difficult to live with.  Old men and women can see their parents in their minds as if it were yesterday. Jamming seven people in a care that seats five may not be comfortable, but it is family.  In the terms of soul shaping it is the most powerful place in the world.”



2 thoughts on “Traveling with the Griswolds….I mean Longs: Pondering the Vacation Experience with Adult Children

  1. Ummm…you’re the one who told the horrific “snake-butt-biting” story to us when we were younger…I, like any good daughter, believed my mother!

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