Recently, at my niece's graduation party, I ran into a lady whom I might refer to as an acquaintance. She's friends with my sister-in-law and we see each other at my in-law's church occasionally. Lovely person but we've never really hung out or anything so I would feel weird about saying that we are "friends."

But then, as things go these days, we became Facebook "Official" Friends. Boom. No longer acquaintances. I am privy to all the inner workings of her family life. Well, the ones she chooses to share. And let me tell you, I am so glad we made it official.

For the past two weeks, author of TheTickingTimeMom, Emily Holweger, her husband Matt, and four children loaded up their mini-van and embarked on a two-week road trip out west. Now, I have indeed been planning a similar trip with my family (we did the same thing when I was a teen) but I decided to wait until my ONE child is older. Twenty-three seems like a good age. And, I'm planning on flying and then renting an RV when we get out west. I'm not tough like these Holweger folks. Not even a little close.

But this family did it; all 4200 miles of it. All nine states of it. All 300 machine-made pancakes of it. They are finally home and have a heck of a story to tell. I followed her on social media throughout her two weeks of travel and sweet Lord Almighty it was like a modern-day Oregon Trail adventure. Seriously, NINTENDO listen up! You make this game available for middle-age moms and we'll buy it. Family Road-Trip... you do things like make your kids stop arguing so they don't die of pencil to the eye poisoning, referee goat rodeos, and fight other zombie parents to get the last Mr. Happy Dave Meal Deal at Wendy's. Best seller...

Without further ado here are some of my favorite excerpts from TheTickingTimeMom's Western Adventure:

Forward: Our family is prepping for an unusual situation this summer. Matt wrapped his school year and will be off work for most of June and July. For the first time since college (not counting the luxurious summer I was off work for maternity leave, eating bon bons and caring for two children under two) I will also be relatively free for the summer. Actually I’m really free. Like free free. Super free. I explained to Matt we have the unique opportunity to be together as a complete family unit this summer. All of us. All summer. Panic. This hasn’t occurred in ten years and in another decade two of our kids will be out of the house. More panic. It’s now or never, baby. Six of us driving each other completely bonkers. All the panic. I brainstormed what we could do to take captive these 77 days of summer break (but who’s counting?!) and squeeze out the most adventure. There are two things I LOVE to do. Travel and Write. Write and Travel. Writing while traveling and traveling while writing. Any way you slice it, it’s an amazing combination. What better way to do this than traveling the country? Six highly opinionated individuals crammed in the confines of a minivan, traveling 75 MPH down highways and byways. Day after day after glorious day. Read more here. 

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Day 1: Planned 8 AM departure from home. Pulled out at 10 AM only to return 15 minutes later for one item mom left behind. First use of the phrase, “Child X, please hold your opinion for 48 hours.” Not the last. Remember that scene in National Lampoon's Vacation when Chevy Chase is clapping his hands repeating “This is crazy! This is crazy! This is crazy!” Well, I’m feeling my inner Clark Griswold this morning as we prep to leave on our trip.

Day 2: This morning, the kids were mesmerized by a pancake machine at our hotel that doled out rubbery breakfast creations every minute. This spectacle, combined with 800 miles of “healthy debate” made me pause and question whether we should just call the trip a success and head home.

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Day 3: Picture beautiful scenery. Breathtaking views. Also white knuckle driving as you take hairpin curves with no shoulder and contemplate your death due to your minivan careening over the side of mountain at 12,000 ft because your four-year-old threw an apple core at the driver. Also increasing lightheadedness. From altitude? From four year old’s death wish? Who knows? We made it, though. Clouds formed at the top and visibility was lousy but we got hot doughnuts and realized just how much we can claim low lander status as we dizzily made our way through the gift shop.

Day 5: As we entered Rocky Mountain National Park, Elyse paid for our entry thanks to Every Kid In A Park, a program instituted by President Obama several years ago. Fourth graders (or those just finishing) get their family into most national parks for free! Boom! Super proud of our planning for this moment 11 years ago!

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Day 6: We may be finding our groove. Or we may be so numb and delirious we just don’t feel anymore. We awoke in our oven tomb. Wall thermostat registered 80°. Once we peeled our dried tongues from the roof of our sandpaper mouths and got much needed water, we prepped for a full day in Rocky Mountain National Park 🏔 As you can imagine, tight quarters and heat brings out the best in our crew. 🙄

Day 7: We went to a gas station for lunch to treat Matt for Father’s Day. Fresh Burger in the Dino Mart. No joke. Because I’m an amazing gift giver like that.

TickingTimeMom

Day 8: Halfway point. Awoke in a Hampton in Pinedale, Wyoming where my kids passed the omelets, waffles and fresh fruit at breakfast and headed straight to the treasure. Froot Loops. A nourishing start before a day of hiking. [At lunch] an older couple asked if we were from “these parts”. Judging by the fact we were driving a minivan down gravel off roads and making PB&J off our tailgate, I think they knew their answer. They asked if we’d ever been to the Wedding Tree, again likely knowing the answer. Just off the pullout lies two boulders and between them a narrow trail. Just a few minutes down the trail grows a gigantic pine tree where people have been getting married for eons. After they left, we wondered if they were going to wait for us to walk the trail so they could murder us. The kids had tremendous fun watching the Uinta ground squirrels.

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Day 10: We headed to West Yellowstone for the night and were stopped for roughly 30 minutes when a herd of bison decided to leisurely stroll on the road. They were within 10 feet of our vehicle and it was a reminder of the power of these animals. Also their ‘aroma.’

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Day 11: We doubled back to do the hike we missed the day before to gain a better view of Grand Prismatic Spring. It was much longer than we anticipated, terribly windy and cold, but the view was worth it! The kids were super troopers as far as the hike was concerned and especially given the fact we have less than adequate hiking shoes.  Woefully inadequate. We’re only slightly more equipped than the lady we saw wearing Old Navy flip flops on a three mile hike. Next stop Fountain Paint Pot. Fountain Geyser erupts twice daily and we were fortunate enough to arrive as it was going crazy! This was an unexpected great area for us. Reid making what Louise refers to as ‘toot noises’ along to the Little House on the Prairie theme song was not quite as enjoyable.

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Day 12: Buffalo refused to budge off the road. THREE hours.

Day 13: We awoke across the street from Mt Rushmore and attempted to make a beeline for the monument but not before the kids spotted the Rushmore Tramway Adventures sharing a parking lot with our hotel. Trams, slides, zip lines galore.

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Day 14: The finale. We had trouble settling down but finally fell asleep sometime after midnight. At 2 AM, I was awakened by a man’s voice and immediately got irritated that our neighbors had their TV up too loud. The voice was crisp and clearly magnified and it took me several seconds to realize it was not coming from another room but from outside our sixth story window. Another few seconds and I recognized the voice to be that of a policeman ordering people out of buildings and onto sidewalks. Wide awake, I was convinced a riot was occurring and I was going to die in that Hyatt before I ever got to experience my free breakfast. And dang it, those are really good breakfasts. I finally fell back asleep to the noise after Matt said, “It’s fine” for the tenth time. He didn’t know. He didn’t even care about dying before the delicious waffles and ham. He is just a boring old cereal eater so he had nothing to lose.

TickingTimeMom

Thankfully, the family made it home and she chronicled all the adventures on Facebook. Read all about their epic road trip and follow TheTickingTimeMom on Facebook right here. 

Oh and if you were wondering... Here's the final photo from the "vacation." Because... parenting.

TickingTimeMom