There are a lot of reasons to be glad that we prefer camping over any other type of vacation, but this year it seems we really do have the best idea. After all, we don't have to worry about air travel, we have a bathroom traveling with us for emergencies, we can take all of our food with us so we don't have to depend on reliably hygienic food service, and we are traveling to relatively remote locations (with a few exceptions).
When bedtime stories were finally read and we were able to relax outside with the kids comfortably in bed, it was fair to say that even after a long day of driving for Jeff and a long day of sitting and waiting for the rest of us, we had made the most of our Missouri stop. If all Missouri State Parks were as good as Sam A. Baker, we were sold.
While we still occasionally shake our heads at ourselves and the fact that we have completely placed aside our tents (we are now on our third camper in six years), it is the one non-mortgage debt that we refuse to regret. Making camping an essential component of our family life has changed us as individuals, made us better parents, and brought our family closer together. I wouldn't exchange that for the most exotic vacation in the world.
We spent nearly two weeks in my favorite region of the country and we saw nearly every type of western landscape. We watched the sunset from atop a desert sand dune, accidentally discovered rock riverbeds, journeyed into the depths of the earth, climbed ladders in Mesa Verde, hiked to stunning views in oppressive desert heat, drove to the highest elevations our kids have ever experienced, off-roaded into a canyon, and star-gazed underneath an arch.
We didn't want to become accidental tourists in Albuquerque, but we eventually found the charming side to the city and enjoyed it while we were there. While we would have preferred to have been on the road, it is a worthwhile stop for those who are driving through. It wasn't in the plan, but we got to extend our vacation just a little more before making the final decision to go home.