Building Family Traditions: Our 50 State Road Trip
Cue Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” as the gearshift of the RV slides into drive for another leg of our trip to visit all 50 states by the time our oldest child leaves for college. He IS going to college, right?!
The family road trip is a slice of Americana that holds a special place in my heart from my own childhood. Like any other holiday, it was an annual event observed with its own unique set of traditions and rituals. I can still picture them in my mind.
I fondly remember trips in our old Chevy Impala. We would load the trunk with suitcases and swiftly move to our favorite travel spot with kids scattered throughout the back of the car. My little sister would be carefully stretched out on the floor boards, with two pillows in place to bring the foot rests up to level. I would crawl up into the back window and stretch out like a cat for the long ride. Our older brother would be comfortably resting on the bench seat with a pillow over his eyes so he could spend the next five hours sleeping soundly. We didn’t have seat belts or electronics. All we had was the hum of the road and a special spot to rest our heads.
As parents, my husband and I wanted to help our kids create memories like these that would stick with them for a lifetime, too! O.k, so seat belts and electronics did make the cut for our crew, but we wanted to add a few fun details to the family road trip tradition that would stand out for them forever.
When our oldest son was 11, he came up with this idea for our “whole family” to visit every state before he leaves for college. That’s right… ALL 50 states! My husband, being a numbers guy, quickly calculated how many states per summer we would have to visit, to reach this goal. Then, the planning began.
We booked an RV for our first 6 day adventure and hit 6 states to get started with this lofty goal. That’s right - 6 states in 6 days! So many people would say “You’re nuts!! What are you thinking being shut in with your 3 kids for 6 full days in a tiny RV?” It never really occurred to us that this could be a “bad” idea.
And it wasn’t. From Colorado to Wyoming, then, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Utah — we cruised down highways and gravel roads to see the countryside. The kids couldn’t have been better behaved! They played National Park Monopoly as dad listened to Siri navigate our journey and I took pictures and made notes of the places we had just been.
The anthem of our trip: “On the Road Again” by good ol’ Willie. Every time we pulled away from a gas station or campsite, my job was to cue the music and crank up the tunes so we could all sing at the top of our lungs! By the end of the trip, even the 4-year-old had all the lyrics memorized.
The rush of excitement that accompanied that song would hit us all because we knew it meant we were ready to embark on another exciting adventure in the coming miles.
As we prepare to hit the road again this summer, I’m reminded how traditions like road trips and family sing-a-longs really do make for long lasting memories and create family unity —from the planning of the route, the selection of the stops along the way and five not so gifted singers belting out Willie’s greatest hit, our family road trip tradition has begun!
What memories of childhood do you hold close to your heart?
How can you and your family build traditions that are passed on for generations to come?
Jordan Langdon is a wife and mother to 3 children, living in the southern burbs of Denver. She is passionate about her work as a Clinical Social Worker, helping couples and families in a counseling setting. She loves new adventures with “The Langdon 5”.