Nowadays, with fears of automatic-flushing toilets behind us, the trips are easy. The kids are so used to the drive they know how to settle in, check out, and watch the miles and the wheat fields fly by. Of course with the advent of iPods, iPads and endless other personal entertainment options, the trip has only become easier year by year.
After a lifetime of trips along the Northwestern stretch of I-90 the only questions that need to be asked are:
Does anyone need to stop in Ellensburg or can we press on to Moses Lake?
Where do you want to stop for food? I am only hitting two drive-throughs MAX so come to at least a partial agreement, please.
Seriously, you want to stop in Ritzville? We are practically there, can't you hold on for another hour?
Which is all why our most recent trip was such a startling departure from the norm.
After an unusually botched stop in Ellensburg (multiple unforeseen stops, restaurants unexpectedly closed for remodeling, Annie's utter indecision as to what would satisfy her 8 year old tummy for another couple of hours...) we were back on the road again.
Superdad would be joining us the following day so it was just the three kids and I. That was also unusual in and of itself. Nowadays, more often than not, due to activity schedules, work schedules and other mundane reasons, we end up divided in our travels. The division generally ends up being made along gender lines for no other reason than....it just does.
So....there I was with my three kids in the car. And it started to dawn on me that not only had this not happened for a very long time, but it might not happen again for a very long time. Or ever.
I'm not much of a Carpe Diem kinda gal, I gravitate more to a Seize the Nap sort of life philosophy but something was speaking to me in that moment. Something or someOne was nudging me to mark this moment.
Here they are. Remember this.
The drive along I-90 is not rich with memory making opportunities, although being a native Washington girl I do find it's varied terrain quite beautiful. Still, it sort of is what it is though. You travel through the mountains first. Pretty. Hit the more agricultural land on the other side. Pretty. Then you get a break from farmland as you move through the Gorge. Super pretty. Then more farmland until you start getting an increasing number of evergreen trees dotting the landscape, which is the sign that you are nearing the opposite side of the state where it all becomes more mountainous and green again. Pretty.
But right smack dab in the middle of the drive, something magical happens.
You see horses.
Wild horses, up on a ridge, overlooking the mighty Columbia River.
When the kids were little they believed they were real. And then, as they got older, they merely wanted to believe they were real. Because who wouldn't want to catch a glimpse of a band of wild horses in the middle of an otherwise ordinary, yawn-inducing, five hour drive.
Even the boys, easily bored and typically cynical at 15 and 18 years old, still admit they look for the horses. Every time.
But it's one thing to look for the horses while whizzing by at 70 miles an hour. It's quite another thing when your mother asks you (with what I'm sure was an annoying grin on her face):
What do you say we stop and climb up to the horses?
No surprise, your 18 year old responds with: What??? No!
You don't let it go. You tell him how you've always wanted to. That it will be really cool. Think of what a great story it will be!
He tries to bring in reinforcements. He insists his younger brother remove his headphones and fills him in on the fact that the Captain of their ship has lost her mind.
Younger brother responds in identical fashion when asked if he would like to climb up to the horses: What??? No!
Now they work as a team. Telling me that they are sure it is not allowed. I tell them it most definitely is allowed and that there is a viewpoint and a turn-off for that very reason.
The younger one (the one who never stops moving and plays soccer 7 days a week) tries to tell me that his knee hurts. I tell him that it's fine if he'd like to stay in the car while his 8 year old sister and I make the climb, since it will be too hard for him.
It will NOT be too hard for me! I'll be the first one to the top!
And the older brother rolls his eyes and groans knowing his younger brother just stepped right into my sinister reverse psychology trap.
Minutes later, for the first time in years and years of driving this route, we take the exit marked "Scenic Viewpoint". And it really is incredibly scenic.
I watch them set off. By now the boys are laughing and texting friends photos of their ridiculous adventure. Jack sends Superdad a text saying, "See. This is what happens when we have to drive with Mom." But they are smiling.
The boys do indeed beat us to the top. The climb is harder than you might think. In cowboy boots it is particularly challenging. But I keep telling her that she looks awesome and strong and determined. I know she can do it.
And she does.
We all do. And, yes, it is cool. And, yes, the view is amazing. And, yes, the horses are incredible and even more incredible that they are just here- in the middle of nowhere.
It was perfect.
Then we climbed back down (which was actually harder than going up) and continued our journey.
20 years from now these three kids will get together with their own kids and families for some holiday and they will laugh hysterically and roll their eyes and say to each other:
Remember when Mom (our crazy mother!) made us stop and climb up to the horses?
At least I hope so.
Because there are things in this world and in this life that will not last forever. Sometimes you have to grab hold and force time to stop for a second or two. That's all you get. Just a second or two.
Here they are. Remember this.