“Hell, no,” I thought, but did not say, instead changing the subject to unicorns and ducking the question entirely.
Still, it gnawed at me. At 5 and 7, our kids are finally decent travelers. (For you non-parents, this means that they occasionally take breaks from screaming and inter-carseat combat, and not always only because they’ve fallen asleep or are stuffing their faces with some poisonous form of processed food.) Our Honda Element is the best road-trip car ever, in my opinion—but at 13 years old, it isn’t going to last forever. I also knew that my wife wouldn’t always have summers off.
In other words, I realized this summer might be our last chance for a long time to take the sort of long, hellish family road trip that parents for some reason feel the instinctual need to subject themselves to, sort of the way lemmings can’t seem to help but yearn for a rapid decrease in altitude.
But where would we go?
We needed a destination, preferably one as different from Disney World as possible.
What about Bird Camp?
From 2007 through 2009, my wife Amy managed a scientific research project in the Coconino National Forest, above Flagstaff, Arizona. This project, which everyone involved referred to as Bird Camp, had been going on long before she started, continued after she left, and—we had recently learned—would close forever after summer 2017. There had been loose talk among Amy and other alums of holding a reunion, and the scientist in charge said he’d have no problem if we dropped in.
So, the idea for this trip was born: drive from West Virginia to Arizona for this reunion. We would take it easy, trying never to have two driving days in a row, and we would take it slow, widening the loop of our trip to include a visit with friends in New Orleans on the way out and a visit with Amy’s parents near Chicago on the way back. Along the way, we would mostly camp, and we would try to stick to BLM campgrounds, with the downside of very low levels of infrastructure (i.e., no showers) but the upside of being priced accordingly.
That’s the plan, anyway. We’ll see how it turns out—because I’ll be writing about it here, not to mention Instagramming and Facebooking it. Come along: the more horrible it is for us (and Amy and I have agreed to accept, in advance, that this trip will probably include at least one of the worst days of our lives), the more fun it will be to read about!