Real Life Ranch Wife

Hey, I Left the Ranch!

I recently drove 2,500 miles with three kids on a family roadtrip, and I’m happy to report that it was not awful.

I recently drove 2,500 miles with three kids aged 10 and under, and I’m happy to report that it was not awful.

We packed light — no dogs, horses, or livestock of any kind — because it’s okay to do things that aren’t related to cows, horses, or cowboying once in a while. Shhh — don’t tell my husband; I don’t think he’s aware of this.

We traveled from southern Arizona to my hometown in northern California to attend a wedding. I packed no phones for the kids (because they don’t own any) and no tablets except the kind that are made of paper and full of blank pages. The drive up was filled with books, stuffed animals and an endless chorus of, “Are we there yet?” The drive home was filled with rolls of paper towels, passing a mop bucket over the backseat, and me yelling, “Do you think you’re gonna puke?” every 10 miles because the kids picked up a stomach bug right before we left my dad’s.

Here are a few things I learned from our big trip.

Choose your copilot wisely.

I’m much more comfortable driving on unnamed dirt roads than navigating freeway interchanges. But I realized that numerous sections of an interstate with five lanes of traffic lie between me and my destination, and I was the only person in the vehicle holding a driver’s license. I handed my license to my son, who’s tall for his age (which is 7), then realized he still couldn’t reach the pedals, so I reluctantly took it back.

My daughter, Grace, sat in the passenger seat and coached me through heavy traffic. “You got this!” she said when I merged. “You’re doing great!” she called as I stomped on the brake when red lights appeared in front of me. “Don’t worry, we probably won’t die!” she cheered as I successfully made a left turn while three cars honked for reasons that were probably unrelated to my driving.

Prepare to be underwhelmed.

Not by the difficulty of the road trip itself — rest assured, it will feel overwhelming at multiple points. But when I showed the kids the ranch where I grew up and pointed out landmarks — “That’s where I played in the creek! I loped circles in the sagebrush over here! This is where I got bucked off and had to walk home!” — my children seemed less than impressed with their Guided Tour of Mommy’s Childhood.

Which made sense, because they are still in the early chapters of writing their own life stories. They wanted to wade in the creek and feel how cold the water is, not hear their mother tell them how cold it used to be. I rolled up my jeans and can report it is even colder than I remembered.

Take time to touch the moss.

On the way home, we made an impromptu stop at Burney Falls in northeastern California. All three kids were interested in the world-renowned waterfall, but they were fascinated by the accompanying moss. I guess that’s what happens when you spend your entire childhood in the deserts of Nevada, Oregon and Arizona. They couldn’t stop touching the soft, spongy green stuff and kept pointing out new patches to me.

I chuckled inwardly, but I understood. I felt the same way when I moved from California to Nevada at age 23 and learned a person could ride all day and still not be even halfway across the ranch. No matter our age, it’s always marvelous to venture beyond the known and make new discoveries.

With a puke bucket just in case, of course.

1 thought on “Hey, I Left the Ranch!”

  1. Love this! It’s been many years since I ventured out on a road trip with 3 small kids – I forgot how wonderful it was! (Lol!) Thank you! Now I’m waiting for the next episode…

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