Family trips are full of memories, laughs, frustrations, and adventure. Every single trip I go on with my crew of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, a brother, and my parents is always bound to have a hiccup or two in it. Let’s just say that our 2015 summer trip, that was going to cover seven different states, was no exception. With twelve members of my family ranging from ages 10 to 70, we all have that same last name in common, “Pike,” but it is our differences that make an almost two week trip full of national landmarks, countless hours driving, and stressful deadlines to meet each day chocked full of excitement.
Beginning our first day away from our southern comfort in northeast Louisiana, the driving proved to be a test, going straight up into Colorado in our first two days in my grandparents’ custom van, my parent’s minivan, and my aunt’s SUV. When you start off a road trip, everyone is full of excitement and anxious to get out on the interstate. That feeling did not last long. As soon as our music playlists repeated for the third time and the adults ran out of funny topics to visit about, I soon realized how big of a trip we were about to embark on. Crossing up across Texas was no cake walk. High winds sweeping across those flat planes of the state’s central and northwest regions caused the custom van that my grandparents were driving soon became like a giant sail. Swaying from side to side, each driver that tackled the largest vehicle in our caravan took on the daunting task of battling the steering wheel and near heart attacks as cars on narrow roads raced towards that boxy van. Of course being of age to drive, I was volunteered to take a shift at the controls of the gargantuan beast of a vehicle my grandparents had brought. Nothing has ever been scarier but also more boring at times. While violent winds shook us all for hours at a time, the struggle of trying to remain focused on driving when the road went straight as far as the eye could see and smooth coasting, it was almost as bad as the latter. With driving taking up most of the planned time for the trip and various states hosting a multitude of conditions to push through, I could not imagine that anything could be worse than that portion of the trip. I was wrong about that though.
For our second night, we crawled into Colorado Springs to stay the night and rest our minds from the countless hours of driving we had done. With rain in the forecast, we all bedded down in our hotel rooms. Happy to be laying down watching TV with my cousins that night, we began to hear the rain hitting the window. As our movie progressed, the rain fell harder and harder against the window until it actually got our attention. The first of our frustrations of the trip was about to cause major problems. Looking out of the hotel, the parking lot was in the process of flooding, filling with water over two feet deep, and all three of our vehicles were taking a swim. Scrambling to our door, we emerged from our room to see the hallway carpet’s beginning to show signs of soaking. Being in bare feet from being in bed, that Colorado rain creeping through the bottom floor of the hotel was utterly freezing, not to mention that it was getting late at night so nobody was in any condition for dealing with flooding. We began taking all of our towels from the hotel rooms and laying them against the bottom of doors that led to the outside and under air conditioners that had water leaking in through slim cracks below the units. Walking towards the lobby, we see through the double set of automatic sliding doors that one heck of a storm had arisen. Water was pouring through the exterior set of double doors and trying to seep past the second set of doors that led to us, but about a foot of stacked towels held it at bay. My dad and grandfather ran out into the torrential rain to move our vehicles from low ground, but they had waited too long. The next morning, taking in the damage brought on by the water, my parent’s minivan had filled with six inches of water. Our other caravan vehicles had also sustained some soaking, but neither of them were near as bad as ours due to their taller clearance. For the rest of the trip, my parents dealt with the aftershocks of the water from electrical malfunctions to the rotten stench of molding carpet and insulation. This was definitely not a fun way to spend seemingly endless hours of driving, so while my parents got to enjoy the new smell of their van, I escaped and rode in my grandparents’ custom van.
With our caravan still peddling onward, waterlogged and upset, we set off for the Rocky Mountain National Park. This was probably the most beautiful part of the trip as we got to see Colorado’s beauty at its best. Mountain ranges and their snow covered peaks filled the horizon as far as we could see. We got to take a trolley up to the top of Pike’s Peak and from that perch we were told that we could see over Colorado’s borders and into the surrounding states, but being from Louisiana, we were just thrilled to be above sea level for a change. Considering the highest point in our state is Driskal Mountain, a puny little hill that is just a soaring 500 feet above sea level, one could only imagine the enamored looks on our faces being 14,000 feet up. It was definitely a sight to behold and something I will never forget.
Descending down the mountain, we were interested to see what our next destination would hold. Arches National Park was up, and when you have been up on mountains where it is literally freezing cold with snow to suddenly be in the middle of the dessert in over 100 degree temperatures, it quite the experience. Once again though, our Louisiana background had our backs. It is just a normal cycle that we get to endure when one day the weather may be 32 all day, and the next it will be a cozy 73 degrees. It’s always changing and very unpredictable. Despite the scorching heat, we got out of the vehicles to go walk down the main trail of the park. Loaded down with water and sun screen, we treaded down the dirt path looking at the colossal rock formations that towered above us. About halfway down the trail, we encountered a woman who was laid up under some shade with several people around her giving her water. My uncle Doug, being a police officer, felt the need to check on the lady and find out what was going on. We came to find out that she was severely dehydrated and was too weak to walk out of the trail. My family got together and made a cohesive decision that we were going to get her out of her predicament and back to the roadway. With two of us at a time joining our arms together forming a fireman’s ladder with another spotting the woman in the back, we carried her over a mile with this method back to the asphalt road where an ambulance was waiting. Talk about feeling like a hero, we were all happy that we could help. We kept this woman in our prayers for the remainder of our trip.
The rest of our trip was a breeze, it felt like, lacking the excitement that the first half had brought. Driving from Utah, we drove down to the Four Corners National Monument and each had our picture taken crouching in four states at one time. It was blazing hot and the roads in the area were nothing but long, straight desert roads that stretched on for miles. By this point in the trip, rotations for driving had been well established and it was just another day when we heard we’d be on the road for six or more hours to reach our next destination. Out of all of the drives that we conquered, however, the road back to Louisiana was the longest and hardest to survive. We pushed through three states to reach home and our homes in the humid, low altitude, small town environment never sounded better than it did as we drove closer and closer. This trip was an endurance test, family bonding time, and driving experience that I will never forget due to the memories I made. It is much easier now to realize that home is the best place to be, and taking it for granted will no longer happen.