According to my original plan (my structured, yet spontaneous “plan”), yesterday was going to be another long driving day—a utilitarian day really—a day to simply get from one place to another, from Tatum’s Haven to Denver (an 8-hour drive, without stops).
Sitting at my dining room table three weeks ago and looking at the Google map to chart our course, I didn’t see much between Clark, WY, and Denver, CO, that was worth our time. I thought it would be best to just rush through that part of the country, so we could get to someplace really interesting and enjoyable.
Well, a few things happened that changed my original plan and my perspective.
The first thing was that we were all getting a bit road weary. As wonderful as this trip has been thus far, and as great as our kids are traveling, Peter and I decided on Monday to break up the Clark-to-Denver leg into two days—instead of trying to make it the whole way in one. So I booked a hotel room in Casper, WY, (the halfway point) for last night.
That meant that yesterday we could spend a slow morning at Tatum’s Haven. I spent the time writing and reading, cleaning the cabin and doing laundry. Peter and the kids played marbles and Pacman. Then they went down to the creek to explore some more. They could easily spend all day splashing around in a little stream, and I love that they had more time to do so.
We were all feeling more refreshed when we said goodbye to Tatum’s Haven at 12:30. Peter appropriately read Psalm 121 as our daily Bible reading. “I lift up my eyes to the mountains…” and in response Daryl started to sing “Shoulders” by for King & Country. And we were on the road again.
(SIDE NOTE: Here’s the tiny little “125” sign that we had to find in the pitch dark on Monday night when we arrived at Tatum’s Haven. And here’s the dusty road we bounced down, hoping our headlights would eventually illuminate a decent place to lay our weary heads.)
The second thing that changed my perspective yesterday was this…
Thirty minutes into our drive we arrived in Cody, WY, and we drove down the main street, hoping we could find someplace that still served breakfast at 1 p.m. All morning we had just been nibbling on the few grapes and nuts and dried fruit snacks that we had left, and we were hungry. Peter was skeptical.
“There’s always McDonalds,” he offered.
“I’d rather find something local,” I responded.
Then we drove past “Peter’s Café,” and we decided that we had to stop there, whether they still did breakfast or not.
Well…not only did they do breakfast, they did an amazing breakfast. And not only did they do an amazing breakfast, they had a play kitchen for the kids to enjoy while we waited for our food. And not only did they have a play kitchen, but they also sold aprons with “Peter’s Café, Cody, WY” stitched to the front. Of course, we bought one for Peter (he’s the baker in our family), and he wore it proudly as we walked around town.
At 2 p.m. we got back in the car and headed for Casper.
Then, the third thing that changed my perspective yesterday was just WYOMING and all its splendor!
Peter and I had both been through Wyoming before, but previously we had just cut across the top of the state to get into Yellowstone. Neither of us had ever been down through the center of the state. I can now tell you that what looks like a dull drive on Google maps (southeast on Hwy 120, south on Hwy 20, then east on Hwy 26) is actually an incredible sight.
In particular, Wind River Canyon and Boysen Reservoir are spectacular! Because we weren’t in such a rush, we got out of the car a few times to have a better look. The canyon connects the little towns of Shoshoni and Thermopolis, and it offers opportunities to fish and hike and whitewater raft.
Thermopolis is home to Hot Springs State Park and The Wyoming Dinosaur Center & Dig Sites. While we didn’t have enough time to visit either of these attractions yesterday, just finding out about them did get us talking about making this same trip again and taking even more time. We’d love to return in maybe 5 or 6 years—when the kids are old enough to explore Yellowstone via hiking and horseback, when we can whitewater raft down Wind River Canyon and enjoy a mineral bath at Hot Springs State Park.
That conversation led to other, bigger conversations about our hopes and dreams for our family—our plan to spend significant time in Peter’s home country of England, our recommitment to prioritize travel with our finances and our time.
We finished yesterday with another swim in a hotel pool and another episode of Little House on the Prairie and a good night sleep.
Sitting in our Best Western hotel room this morning and reflecting on our yesterday, I appreciate the obvious illustration of life. How often we plan to rush from one place to the next. How often we approach a day or a week or a season of life from a utilitarian point of view. We just want to get from here to there. And how often we might miss the blessings God has for us along the way, if we would only slow down and enjoy the ride. How often we might miss the spectacular views, the important conversations, and the little gifts He wants to give us—the very personalized gifts that even have our name embroidered right on the front.