August 17, 2005
By: L.A. Kohl
(published in the Wed., Aug. 24 edition of the "Bullseye")
July 29 finally arrived – vacation day! That evening we were on I-70 headed west, with plans of driving all night. When we weren’t even to Kansas City yet, and our four year old asked, “Are we almost there?” we were thankful we had planned to do most of the driving while they would be sleeping.
I feel compelled to explain that our large family sometimes feels like we live life in a “fishbowl” when we go out in public. People often gawk at us like, “Is that all one family?” We had our fair share of those moments while on vacation.
We always cause a commotion on the rare occasion when we go into a restaurant, because they have to rearrange tables to seat us. That Saturday morning when we pulled into a truck stop outside of Cheyenne, WY probably topped them all. You can imagine what we all looked like after riding in a van all night…droopy and sleepy eyed, hair going everywhere, clothes all disheveled. The kids were either cranky, or half delirious from lack of sleep. We provided quite the side-show for the people there that morning.
A few nights later we attended the Bar J Chuck wagon show near Jackson. Every night in the summer they serve 750 people an authentic, chuck wagon style meal and entertain them with a singin’ cowboy show. Our large family trying to fit in our allotted spot at a table and our little ones falling off the bench provided a small diversion for those around us.
Then there was that one memorable night we spent tent camping in Yellowstone. When the lady was trying to decide which camp site to assign us, she wanted to know how many were with us. Nine? Well, they only allow six per site. But we’re all one family! Oh, well, in that case…she gave us one of the biggest sites they had, at the back of a “loop” where we couldn’t bother anyone else. And thankfully, in spite of many signs warning us to beware – no bears bothered us. “Safety in numbers” they say…we probably scared them off.
How about this? Hiking a mile and a half around Devil’s Tower in northeastern Wyoming. We had done some back road hiking on our trip, but this was a big tourist spot. I spent most of the mile and a half trying to keep nine people corralled to one side of the path, so others could get past us. Toddlers don’t want to be corralled, though. They want to hop from rock to rock…to stand in the middle of the path and gawk upwards at this huge rock we’re walking around…and to fight over daddy’s binoculars. (They also scream bloody-murder when they trip and skin their nose on the asphalt path.) It probably took us twice as long to get around as it does most people, but we gave everyone something besides a big rock to look at for awhile!
Let’s not forget Keystone, South Dakota, near Mt. Rushmore. Did you know that motorcyclists have a huge rally every year during the first week of August, and they converge on Sturgis, SD? Approximately 500,000 of them were “rallying," so we now know about it. On our return home, we traveled along with most of them across Wyoming and South Dakota. In Keystone the entire downtown was solid bikers…their bikes were parked one after the other all along the street, and the bikers themselves were crowded on the upper balconies and decks of the shops and bars – celebrating and looking like they were ready to watch a parade. Well, our 15 passenger van driving through downtown amongst all of their motorcycles may not have been parade quality stuff, but it was an attention getter!
Life in a fishbowl can be nerve-racking at times, but when you hear the occasional, “What a neat family!” exclaimed from a complete stranger, it makes it a little more bearable.