The Great American Road Trip travel blog

The Thoms’ back porch overlooks Upper Klamath Lake.

The morning view (smoky from a Roseburg fire) over Upper Klamath Lake.

High Mount Shasta (and low Shasta Lake) is among the sights on...

Scott gives Jake some love as we arrive home.

Evan cuddles with the kittens while Jake gets jealous.

The trip ended today. It’s been 43 days and 42 nights (6 weeks, one day).

We left the Thom house a little after 9, but wasted more than a half-hour driving through Klamath Falls, Ore., looking for gas. The van was near empty. We were bummed that it couldn’t wait until California. Oregon’s mandatory full-service gas is more costly.

We hoped to stop at Lava Beds National Monument on our way home. The detour and visit would have added hours to our day. It would have meant getting home after dinner. The family voted no.

We stopped at Castle Crags State Park near Mount Shasta to have our picnic lunch. Other than rest stops, we pushed on, eager to get home.

In Red Bluff, our 2001 Honda Odyssey turned over its 100,000th mile.

I have new admiration for this van. It was a real trooper! It took us nearly 9,000 miles across the country and back – carrying a heavy load -- and never gave us trouble. We babied it ahead of time, with new tires and a full Honda service, and kept up with its oil changes (two on this trip). In Pennsylvania, when we spotted a nail in a tire, it turned out to be just jammed in the tread. No puncture! Amazing.

Scott was amazing as well. He was such a careful driver and never took a break. He avoided a major accident in Colorado, when we were wedged between a semi and a motorhome, and the semi blew a tire. The tire, and some of the truck’s wood load, flew right in front of us, but Scott’s quick maneuvering saved us.

And no tickets, speeding, parking or otherwise! We stuck out like tourists, with our California plates, so he didn’t want to give police any excuses to pull us over. I never would have had his discipline, especially with the speed limit.

Also amazing is the reactions we are getting. If we had said we went to Europe for 6 weeks, response likely would have been, “Oh, that’s nice.”

Instead, we get, “Wow! That’s so great! I’ve always wanted to do that!” They think we deserve some sort of prize for locking ourselves in a van, hotel or tent with our kids for a month and a half.

Actually, this trip was much easier than out 3-week one to Italy in 2006. The foods and places were more familiar and predictable. Unless we were in Wyoming boondocks or a national park, there was a good chance we’d see a McDonalds or Starbucks. Even if we didn’t patronize them, it was reassuring to have the standbys (and the dollar menu), nearby.

The boys were great. When Evan said, “I’m looking forward to having someone else to play with besides Brock,” I’m not sure I believe him. He has been so sweet to his little brother, reassuring him when Brock is impatient.

Evan’s also very observant. It’s great to see a 12-year-old with Attention Deficit Disorder, Inattentive Type, as the first one in the car to spot birds, passing wildlife or other details. He delighted in these sights and sounds.

Brock was observant in different ways. He keyed in on the landscapes, making statements that defy his 9 years. An example was in Colorado, when he said, “This is my favorite place of the road trip so far, because it’s a place I’d like to live. There’s lots and lots of trees and it’s not a dessert, and it’s beautiful.”

The boys have grown in their abilities to adapt to new situations. They can sleep anywhere, and have learned how many different shower faucets there can be. I was hoping they’d expand that into the dietary realm, but no such luck.

There was some arguing (they say because it was something to do), but there were no knockout fights. That’s pretty good for two boys stuck two feet from each other for hours on end.

They said they were looking forward to having more choices of things to do, having their own room again and playing with their friends for the last 3 ½ weeks of summer.

Summer for them is usually filled with camps and swim team. With Mom and Dad both working, it meant they didn’t get to stay up late. Since I’m still mostly jobless, the next 3 ½ weeks will have lots of hangout time. Hanging out in the cul-de-sac, skateboarding or biking with neighbors. Going to the swimming pool all day, taking a friend to the Tuesday cheap movies, or reading on the couch. There will be lots of that stuff.

What we won’t have is lots of electronic games or TV. They had enough screen time in the car to last all year!

One of the toughest transitions may be bedtime. It has been a strict 9 p.m. for a year or two, but it was pushed to 10:30 or 11 for most of the trip. Those school hours are going to be a rude awakening soon!

It was great to see our yellow Lab, Jake; and two 10-month-old kittens, who grew while we were gone. But faced again with cleaning, shopping and other chores we’ve avoided for so long, I felt a little like getting back in the car and doing it all over again.

Tomorrow, I’ll have the trip “by the numbers.” I’ll share our expenses, gas mileage, cost-savings tips and more. It’s an interesting breakdown.

-- Wendy

Miles driven today:

Total miles for the road trip: 8,955

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