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Will Rogers

September 05, 2001

The Rogers clan has returned. Our first vacation of the new millennium

is behind us. The initial idea was for my kids and I to drive to

Minnesota, where my wife would fly to meet us. The scheme was advertised

here, derided by readers who imagined being trapped in a car with me for

days. But my wife later agreed to join us for the drive out on the

condition we could all fly home together.

Hitting the road, family intact and in a new SUV rented for one-way

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travel, wasn't the only change. I once envisioned wandering with no

schedule, and without hotel reservations along the way. But a lot has

changed since I last made a similar cross-country excursion. Thanks to

map and routing software, and using the Internet to research and make

reservations at even the smallest establishments, our journey was almost

accidentally planned within an inch of its life.

You may recall, my wife dreaded the drive largely because, with her

father a commercial airline pilot, she was raised believing that any trip

longer than it takes to read a magazine requires plane tickets. Of

course, round-trip fares for her family cost less than an admission to

Disneyland. But I relished the drive, dreaming of sharing sights and

discoveries with our two kids.

Ultimately, my perspective was vindicated. My wife summed up our 2,932

miles on the road as, "Not as bad as I'd thought it would be." As my

ideas go, that's fawning praise.

We brought a TV/VCR powered by the dashboard lighter to entertain our

6-year-old and 8-year-old during long stretches in Arizona, Wyoming and

South Dakota. But they only watched a video once, content to write

letters, play games, gaze at scenery, yell "Cow!" or bicker endlessly

over the maddening minutiae of Pokemon characters.

As we passed through Monument Valley, the Rocky Mountains and other

stunning views, we were thrilled the kids kept looking up without

prompting and exclaiming "Wow!" at nature's marvels. But the

best-remembered features weren't always the most obvious.

We were dwarfed by the Grand Canyon and its glory, but my daughter

remembers with glee the brown bats she spotted hanging in corners outside

our nearby hotel. Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument are

stunning, but we were even more thrilled to drive through awesome

electrical storms that went on for an hour or more. The woods and lakes

of northern Minnesota were as blissful as ever, but what the kids

remember best may be the seemingly endless supply of sunfish and bluegill

grabbing their hooks, baited or not.

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