Road Trips From Long Ago

Jenny Howell

The years have come and gone – but the summer memories of our family filling every seat in the minivan and taking road trips all over the United States, have not.

I love the anticipation that comes with the closing of the school year and the beginning of a slower schedule, just begging us to linger a little longer.

Will you?

One where the kitchen looks more like camp, the yard is littered with the signs of a really epic water balloon fight, and friends end up in cul-de-sacs just in time for the sun to set.

Where flip flops can be found in every room of the house and the plan for dinner is watermelon and chicken on the grill, with a side of sweet tea – lemonade.

The season where jumping in the car and taking long drives out country roads, spending the day at the pool, and making runs to Sonic are always good ideas.

Here we are again friends, stepping into the deep breath months of summer that invite us to embrace new memories and celebrate the ones right in front of us.

As a mama to five kiddos and the wife to my favorite family pastor, summer was the place where we could all get away as a family for a long stretch of time – and we anticipated the adventure ahead for months!

Sometimes the actual planning of a family adventure creates a renewed closeness before our wheels ever leave the driveway.

My husband would begin gathering our older three sons around the table where they poured over the paper kind of National Park maps, road atlas (my personal favorite), and books coaching us on all the sights to see along our journey.

The road trip notes were taken, campsite reservations – mixed in with a few hotel stays for showers and sanity were made and then the packing began … also known as, “How on earth are we going to fit all of us AND gear in this minivan for 10 days?”.

My job was to ensure that our kids had plenty of meaningful activities to do along the drive.

I took great pride in putting together travel journals with weather reports, cool sightings and places to glue in brochures or keepsakes from along the way.

I guess you could say we are a bit of collection junkies. You name it we have a jar or a book for it including shells, feathers, rocks, coral, acorns, pressed plants and even a jar full of ski passes from winter coats.

Yes, I’m the mom who doesn’t have baby books or printed pics of my last two children – but you better believe I have a jar of the best skipping rocks from both coasts.

To add to the excitement of driving cross country every summer, we make sure to land in a great city just in time for July 4.

I know. Such a treat.

We have seen the boats come up the river in Savannah, Georgia celebrating freedom.

We have stood on the steps of Washington D.C. watching fireworks light up the history all around us.

We have made our way through historic Boston and parked on a bridge to view the fireworks exploding over the harbor.

We have taken on Chicago by foot and bus and train and joined the city in their celebrations.

Thanks to my man who loves a good road trip adventure, he also made sure we were at the right places just in time for a beautiful experience – something this mama could not pull off!

One of my favorite traditions of summer road tripping is viewing home videos from summer’s past. You guys … you have to try this.

Since we always do WAY too much video on vacation, we would use all the hours in the car heading on a new journey – to watch videos from long ago.

Are you crying yet?

Those tiny voices coming through the van speakers and at the same time I hear teenage men voices just in the seat behind me. It really is a simple effort with sweet rewards. Try it.

I have to tell you that it was both hysterical and precious to see our kids laughing at their little selves and talking about memories from trips that were coming back to life.

All of the sudden, all of the cramped hours become full of deep worth and gratitude for the years past.

And get this … on the way home, we would watch footage from the trip we just took, keeping the moments fresh on the hearts of everyone.

Whatever your warmer days hold – pull out the home videos, make some easy but intentional plans and find your summer.

Let’s be the ones who chase after the simple fun. The kind where we still love each other at the end of the day and that takes captive the opportunity for family friendship to thrive.

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Jenny Howell is a lover of people and hopeful words. She brings honesty and humor as she speaks to MOPS groups all around the Seattle area. She gets to be the crazy, sleep deprived, coffee consuming, homeschool mom to 5 kids, ages 19 to 3. She and her husband have worked in full-time student and family ministry for the past 16 years. Jenny’s writing has been featured at (in)courage, For Every Mom, Today Show Parenting Team, and more. You can find her  at and on Instagram @nighthowells.