journey worth taking

Journey Worth Taking — A Family Trip by Car is Much More than Sightseeing

journey worth taking
Journey worth taking to see the Chisos Mountains at sunset from the desert. (Photo courtesy of Big Bend National Park)

A journey worth taking is definitely a car trip with the family, especially when the kids are grown. It is an opportunity to reconnect with one another and disconnect from the busy world we live in. The experience is at once nostalgic, and a way to create new memories. It is a great opportunity to take the wheel and be “Dad” again — in my artcar shirt, of course, because its how we roll.

My son has special powers. One day he said to me, “Dad, the three of us ought to go on a trip together.” I agreed it was a great idea, like most of his ideas. I really liked the idea of traveling with my grown children for the first time in years. But where would we go on this special trip?

Where should we go on our journey worth taking?

For months and months, we mulled it over. We thought about going to the West Coast. We had done that with their mom over several summers when they were in grade school and we loved it. But that would be an expensive adventure by the time you figured in our flights and car rental. We considered going to a baseball game in another city during the ‘Stro’s season. We all love baseball, especially when the Astros are playing. Okay, I confess my daughter Anna doesn’t love it nearly as much as Monte and I do. But she’s a good sport and she loves the Yankees from her days in New York so that was an option.

journey worth taking
There is a place in Far West Texas where night skies are dark as coal and rivers carve temple-like canyons in ancient limestone. Here, at the end of the road, hundreds of bird species take refuge in a solitary mountain range surrounded by weather-beaten desert. Tenacious cactus bloom in sublime southwestern sun, and diversity of species is the best in the country. This magical place is Big Bend — a journey worth taking. (Photo by Carol M. Highsmith – Library of Congress Catalog, Public Domain)

Part of the Excitement of the Journey Worth Taking is in the Planning

This conversation started a year-long quest for the perfect place to go. I would text the kids with ideas and they would shoot them down. I cannot count the number of ideas we eliminated this way. To tell the truth, some were just fun pipe dreams because not many really fit the criteria that continued to evolve and develop.

It was all about the journey itself, and for that reason, it ended up being a car trip. In the car, we could spend the maximum amount of time together and that’s when the conversations get good, the truth comes out, and I am privy to their back and forth. I find it fascinating since they’re very close, don’t see each other much, and they’re a different generation from me.

So last summer I took my two grown children for the trip of a lifetime. My son was 40 and engaged. My daughter was 36 and married, but no children. And I have been divorced from their mother for 15 years. In the end, we all agreed on a drive right around the corner to Big Bend.

journey worth taking
The road trip to Big Bend is amazing. This is called the River Road to Marfa. It’s a 7-hour drive from Houston to Big Bend and definitely, a journey worth taking.

Uninterrupted Hours in a Car with the Ones You Love is a Journey Worth Taking

As big as the state of Texas is, we like to think most things in our state are right over yonder. But what made this a journey worth taking was taking the awesome, seven-hour trip from Houston to Big Bend with my grown children. This meant lots of time in the car and the anticipation of an amazing destination.

I had learned a long time ago when I was married to their mother, the priceless advantage of being trapped in a car for extended periods of time with people you love. The value improves exponentially when the cell phone towers become few and far between. That is part of the beauty of Texas. Long wide-open spaces with nothing to block the view and no device connectivity. Back in the early days of my marriage to their mother, trips to Big Bend around Valentine’s Day over several years had done a lot for our marriage. The memory or these bonding excursions finally occurred to me after many months of deliberating with the kids about where the three of us should go together.

The more the miles rolled past our windows, the more our inhibitions melted away. Even though we all live in Houston, we don’t get to spend much time together and never just the three of us alone. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when I thought of it but deciding on this trip was itself a journey. It gave us a chance to think about our priorities.

Making Reservations for the Journey Worth Taking is Critical

It turns out neither of the kids had ever been to Big Bend, and they both love the outdoors and a change of scenery. So all I had to do was book it, right? Not. You try to get an agreement between a 40-year-old engaged male and a 36-year-old married-no-children female who don’t even have time to return your phone calls. I had to change the reservations three times.

When we finally went it was only a few weeks before Monte’s wedding. But we did go, and we had a great time. We overnighted in a vintage trailer at El Cosmico in Marfa. Plus we experienced a star party at the McDonald Observatory outside of Fort Davis and stayed at the lodge. We saw so many brown bears on our hikes in Big Bend, our friends were all jealous. In the several years that my wife and I had hiked the South Rim trail, we never saw so much as a deer– except at the back door of Stone Cabin Number One, where they line up for handouts.

journey worth taking
There are few places on earth like Marfa and El Cosmico. You only have to read The Mañanifesto and Dolce Far Niente to understand.

El Cosmico is a Welcome Way Stop along the Journey Worth Taking

El Cosmico was recommended by a friend who goes out there a lot but stays at a friend’s home, so he’d never stayed there. What an alternative treat! I got to sleep with just a screen door separating me from a star-studded and moonlit sky. It was a very laid-back, hippie-ish staff. We chose the trailer over a teepee or a yurt because of indoor plumbing.

The only downside to Marfa, Texas was being there in the middle of the week when the only thing open was the new Hotel Saint George. It was very cool. A great example of why people got to Mara — contrast, like New York sophistication in a desert setting.

My son, the art aficionado, led us around the quiet, dusty streets to attractions he’d seen on his previous visit and things he’d read about. These were things only his group of cognoscenti would know about.

journey worth taking
Santa Elena Canyon is one of the best-known natural features in Big Bend National Park on your journey worth taking. A short nature trail enters its shady depths, 8 miles west of Castolon, accessible by either Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive or the Old Maverick Road. (Photo courtesy of Big Bend National Park and NPS Jennette Jurado).

Destination Big Bend and Bear Watching on the Journey Worth Taking

We arrived in Big Bend National Park in the early afternoon and immediately went for a hike on trails I had never taken in the past. When we drove our vehicle up to park it at the trailhead, we saw a bear. We hadn’t even parked the car yet! We stopped dead in our tracks and started doing the loud whisper that you do when you’re so excited you want to scream. But of course, we didn’t want to disturb the scene.

Anna had the presence of mind to start shooting video with her phone immediately. BONUS! It turned out to be FOUR—count ‘em—four bears in all. A mother and three cubs. We could hardly contain ourselves. None of us had ever seen something that big in the wild. The mother was busy eating something. She didn’t even notice us, or the few people that showed up and we waved off.

Finally, we parked and took off on the hiking trail where we had more bear sightings. I stopped to sit in the shade at a stunning overlook. Then Monte came back saying he had seen a bear blocking the trail up ahead. It looked straight at him as he slowly backed away. The next day on the South Rim Trail, we saw another bear.

The Journey Worth Taking is Beautiful Memories and Treasured Time Together

journey worth taking
Its a journey worth taking. No matter what the ages of your kids, just take off for five days of undisturbed time in the wilderness.

The kids’ mother was so jealous, in a good way, when she saw the pictures. Seeing bears in their natural habitat was incomparable. But sharing that sighting with my kids was the most amazing thing. It was part of five days together, away from our normal lives and you can’t beat that with a stick. Whatever the age of your kids, gather them up in the car and drive 7-8 hours to a national park. It will be one of the most treasured experiences of your life on the journey worth taking.

About Big Bend

The Big Bend is named for the vast curve of the Rio Grande in remote southwest Texas. It is a wildly beautiful natural region, with a complex and fascinating history. Over one million acres of public land including Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park offers hiking, camping, river running, horse riding, mountain bicycling, birding, jeep touring, and abundant sightseeing opportunities on paved and improved roads. Big Bend State Park is a 275,000-acre preserve managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Brewster and Presidio Counties. Much of The Park is high desert uplands and peaks that average over average over 4000 feet. The predominantly igneous rock tells the tale of violent volcanic activity between 15 and 30 million years ago.

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