Somewhere In My Memory

Alnwick Castle Memories

Try to remember what you had for dinner on the 16th of July this past summer.

Now try to remember what you were doing on the afternoon of June 5, 2012.

Anything?

If you can recall the details of those days, you must keep a daily diary, or you have a photographic memory. Or, maybe you looked it up on Facebook just now.

Most likely, you were traveling.

That’s where my most vivid experiences get burned into long term memory.

Stepping outside of the routine of home, job, and school, to travel to new places, to experience things outside of one’s comfort zone, and to dare yourself to face the fear of the unknown. Well, that’s just the stuff to make a lifetime memory.

Oh, and to do it with your kids is even better.

We’ve traveled as a family from the very beginning. My kids haven’t seen the whole wide world, but they’ve had a taste. They’ve beachcombed on the Thames in London, hiked up to Delicate Arch in Utah, geocached on the Olympic Peninsula, walked the Hadrian’s Wall Path in England, and explored the Props Department at Universal Studios.

And made four trips to Disneyland. Just because I love the place.

The point is, these memories we’ve made together are vibrant and fixed, a wholly different kind of animal from the memories of home and school and life in general. They’re all good, just different.

The everyday memories are a wonderful blur of activity and growing and pain and laughter.

The travel memories are points in time, set in the stone of our consciousness. They are like a precious photograph on the wall that brings a little smile as you pass by.

I could not tell you about the many hundreds of walks through our neighborhood we’ve made over the past ten years, but I can describe in great detail the harried stroll we took in May of 2011 through the streets of Alnwick, a village in the northeast of England, after getting off the bus at the wrong stop. It was a walk to remember, at times both frustrating and exhilarating.

I would also have trouble recalling any particular thunderstorm that has rocked our house in recent years, but my family all vividly remember one that hit us as we walked the streets of Butte, Montana, back in 2007. We still talk about getting stuck outside the mineral museum at Montana Tech as the hail pounded down around us.

There wasn’t anything special about that storm, or the walk through Alnwick, other than we were travelers. Strangers in a strange land. Seeing the world around us like babies, taking it all in with wide eyes and wondering awe.

If you haven’t set out on a journey with your kids in awhile, start planning one. Make it someplace you’ve never been. Get passports and hop a plane. Or just drive to the next state and see something new.

Travel is more than just seeing new things. It’s a way to make memories that will inspire and educate. Your kids will change in the most wonderful ways once they’ve stepped away from their daily routine. As parents, you’ll get to share in that change because the memories are yours as well.

By the way, dinner on July 16? Shepherd’s Pie at Sandysike Farm, in Cumbria, England.

And the afternoon of June 5, 2012? Exploring the Lewis & Clark Caverns in Montana.

Now go make a memory you won’t ever forget.

10 Cool Things For Kids in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is the crown jewel of our National Park System. It was the first of its kind, and remains the most unique and diverse wilderness experience that you will find in this country.

It’s also an extremely cool place for kids.

But with almost 3500 square miles of lakes, geysers, canyons, and hot springs, there’s too much to see in one short stay. So, after four visits to Yellowstone, and consultation with my own children, I have compiled the following list of park sights and activities that will make your family trip an especially memorable one.

Ten Cool Things For Kids (and Grown-Ups) in Yellowstone National Park:

1. Dragon’s Mouth Spring

Dragon's Mouth Spring

How can you resist telling your kids that a dragon lives in a cave near a mud volcano? It doesn’t take much imagination to think that this cavern, with its growls and thumps, and spitting steam, might just hold a real dragon.

2. Fishing Cone

Yellowstone Fishing Cone

It’s probably just a tall tale, but the story goes that the early trappers and explorers would catch fish in Yellowstone Lake, swing them directly into the Fishing Cone geyser just off shore, and have a meal of boiled fish in just minutes. “Hook and cook,” they called it. Like the dragon cave, another cool sight that will fire up the imagination.

3. Old Faithful Inn

Old Faithful Inn lobby as seen from Bat's Alley; Jim Peaco; October 2003

What kid won’t love the largest log hotel in the world? Just walk inside the 100-year-old Inn’s lobby, with its four stories of lodgepole pine balconies and 500-ton stone fireplace, and your kids might just want to sit for awhile. Preferably in one of the many handmade wood rocking chairs. Better yet, stay in one of the Inn’s rooms. Prices are reasonable, and the food in the dining room is first-class.
Continue reading

Sleeping in the Trees

Treehouse

I had a treehouse when I was a kid. And I’m pretty sure I slept in it once or twice.

As a grown-up, the idea of sleeping in the trees, on the bare wood floor of a drafty, spider-infested, rickety old treehouse, doesn’t sound so appealing.

Ah, but what if you could find some relative luxury up in those trees?

That’s what you’ll get at the Out ‘n’ About Treehouse Treesort, in Takilma, Oregon. Continue reading

Food, Glorious Food

Early on in our trip planning, it was suggested by some that the Boy Scouts would seek out any American fast food they could find in London.

The food situation was one of my biggest fears, right after one of the kids getting run over by a black cab.

You take a group of teens thousands of miles across the ocean to a foreign land, and then spend your breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Subway, McDonald’s, and Pizza Hut.

No thanks, I can eat that back home.

I told them how it was going to be. We would seek out British food at British restaurants and at least try to sample the traditional dishes of the country, whether they liked it or not.

Why travel if you refuse to try something new? Continue reading

Where’s the Fun in Fundraising?

I need $20,000.

Who doesn’t?

I’ve been trying to raise it as part of a fundraising campaign for the past 10 months. This is something I have no experience with, so it’s been interesting, to say the least.

Sometime about a year ago, I was attending my son’s Scout meeting when the parents began to talk about the need for some sort of high adventure trip for the older boys.

For some reason, people looked at me. Why, I don’t know. I’m not an outdoorsy person, and I’ve never been on a “high adventure.”

This is what I told them. And then I hesitantly followed with the word, “However…”

Because, in fact, I had been on an adventure of sorts, and very recently. As some readers may recall, back in the summer of 2010 I set out for a very long walk across England. It was a charity walk, raising money for the Joseph Salmon Trust. Good fun for a good cause.

I hadn’t really thought of it as being something a bunch of Boy Scouts from Idaho would do. But once I started talking about it, I could see a bunch of parents becoming very interested. Once the boys heard about it, well, that was it. There was no way I was going to get out of walking that wall again.

Which is funny, because at first I wasn’t too keen on several aspects of a return trip to Hadrian’s Wall country. The biggest was the cost. But the thought was that by setting a date for two years in the future, there would be plenty of time for all participants to raise the money through Boy Scout fundraisers.

The other thing I wasn’t looking forward to was getting back in shape for an 84-mile walk. But it’s good for me. Having a goal gets me to the gym.

However, I quickly learned that the only thing I really had to fear was the fundraising. As I said, I’ve never done this before.

And it’s hard. Annoyingly, unpleasantly, frustratingly hard.

We’ve sold popcorn, honey, and BBQ dry rub. We’ve had car washes and pancake breakfasts. There have been yard clean-ups and chili feeds. And all of that just in the first year.

I’ve learned a few things about fundraising. First, working for the money is so much easier than trying to sell stuff for the money. I’d much rather haul dirt in a wheelbarrow than stand in front of a store pleading with people to buy a bag of caramel popcorn.

Second, I’ve learned that you can easily get burned out on fundraising. Two years of doing it is a year too much.

But we’ll keep marching on. Because the boys are more than eager to make the trip, to visit the birthplace of Scouting, and to walk the path of the ancient Roman Centurions.

When I do stop and ask myself why there’s no “fun” in fundraising, I think about these boys who are looking forward to the adventure. It’s one that most of them would not have a chance to do otherwise.

Some of these kids have never even been out of the state of Idaho before, let alone on the other side of the world. It will be a life-changing trip for them. I try to remember that when I’m arranging yet another table sale or calling around to see who needs their yard weeded.

By the way, anyone want to buy some lovely creamed honey or tasty BBQ dry rub? Need some dirt moved? How about a nice plate of all-you-can-eat pancakes and sausage?

Hey, I’m trying.