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Time for a road trip
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Graduations take place this week and the kids are out of school by week's end's week. It's a perfect time to take a day trip or an extended road trip.

My family won't forget our road trips. Despite the occasional whining of "How much longer, Dad?" the trips gave us a chance to bond in unique ways. They haven't forgotten the 1997 trip that took us to Devil's Tower, Mount Rushmore,... and see Grandpa in Missouri. By the time we hit the Grand Canyon the kids had enough. Every little corner of that trip offered lessons for the kids (and maybe mom and dad, too).

In DeSmet, S.D., we popped into a one-room schoolhouse where Laura Ingalls Wilder attended. The kids dressed up as pioneer children and received a living history lesson. They learned about the four presidents chiseled in stone on the face of Rushmore, and about the legendary Buffalo Bill at his museum in Cody, Wyoming. (All history).

They learned how hot water can erupt into steam and produce a geyser in Yellowstone. (Geology).

They never forgot the fun of staying the night in a cabin at Cowboy Village in Jackson Hole. (Social studies).

Once they got to Grandpa's place outside of Lamar, Mo., they played with turtles and saw lightning bugs for the first time. (Biology).

They learned a bit about Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower when dad dragged them to presidential libraries in Independence, Mo., and Abilene, Kansas, respectively.

I think by the time we got to the Grand Canyon they had seen enough and were ready to come home. After all, it had been three weeks. My kids learned more about their country in those three weeks than they probably did in classroom for three years.

I think beyond all the learning, we formed a fond memory that will carry with them the rest of their lives. And I am sure that they too will take their kids on a road trip like that one.

I've not regretted that trip nor other trips. In fact, I wish we would have done more. You see, our kids are grown and half of them have moved out. One is now married.

The tradition continues, however. Last month my wife and I did a road trip without the kids. This one was unlike the others were we drove every mile of the way. Because of time restrictions, we wanted to see a different part of the midwest, so we flew to Indianapolis (why not?), rented a car and drove 1,000 miles. We traveled the backroads to see small town America in Indiana and Illinois and Missouri. We swatted gnats as we examined the grand tomb of Abraham Lincoln on May 10. My imagination was captured in Hannibal, Mo., where Mark Twain lived as a boy and lived out the life of his future characters in Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. We rode a paddleboat on the Mississippi River and saw the real Jackson Island that appears in Twain's fictional book.

On May 12 my wife and I toured Harry Truman's house at 219 N. Delaware Street in Independence. Saw that this great American ate in a very simple kitchen every day quietly with his wife, Bess. His overcoat and beige hat were hanging by the back door, waiting for his next stroll out the door that won't ever come again. They were exactly where he left them prior to his death in 1972.

We reached my Dad's place the next day and had a great visit plagued by two tornado watches. He showed us what life around Carthage is like, strolling the grand town squares that every little town back there seems to have. We sampled the local ice cream store, Brahm's.

He took us on his own day road trip on May 15. We stopped at the George Washington Carver birthplace visitor's center which had been improved by federal money. I gave the ranger a hard time at their pork barrel project. The it was off to Ash Grove, where we checked out the homestead of Nathan Boone, son of Daniel Boone. (I didn't even know Daniel Boone had a son). We saw the simple Boone home and a graveyard where his bones are. My wife fretted when I insisted on going down into the dank, smelly storm cellar to explore. We climbed into the car and made our way into town. What happened next was a history lesson itself. In this lilly white town we found a museum dedicated to African Americans and slaves. Taking us on a tour was Father Moses Berry, a descendent of Daniel Boone himself (it seems Nathan slept with one of his slave women and so the Boones have a black line). Father Berry put on irons that his ancestors wore as slaves and explained the hurtful practices, the Underground Railroad and what life is like as a black man. It was an impressive and reflective look back at a history most white people haven't seen.

Some of the greatest and most enjoyable times I have lived have been behind the wheel of a car, with my wife co-navigating with a road map, just finding what we can find. You never know what you're going to learn on a road trip. They're fun and I can't wait until my next one.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at