About a week and a half ago, my wife and I celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary. In those twenty years we’ve covered a lot of miles, both literally and figuratively. Our family has grown from just the two of us to a total of six. There are plenty of memories that we’ve made over the years, and a lot of them involve travel. This post is going to cover the road trips that we took during our first year together, and some of the great and funny memories we made together before our first son was born. I doubt I’ll be able to remember the dates and chronological order of these trips, but here goes:

Very early in our relationship, we didn’t have two pennies to rub together. In fact, it would be years before we would even think about having two nickels to rub together. So, when we would have days off together, we would pull together enough money to fill the gas tank and get a fast food meal, and we would head out for a day trip somewhere. At this point in our lives we lived in Shelbyville, Indiana. Shelbyville is about 25 miles southeast of Indianapolis.

One particular memory I have is probably from our first of these trips, one we made to Louisville and then down to Hodgenville to see the Lincoln Birthplace NHP. We stopped in Louisville and I still have a picture of Beth sitting on a wall in front of the Belle of Louisville. I clearly remember that this trip was on the day of the 1999 Indianapolis 500, which was won by Kenny Brack. Kenny’s car was owned by A.J. Foyt, and I remember almost running off the road I was so happy they had won, as we were listening to the race on some AM radio channel.

Probably our next trip together was to Gatlinburg, where we attended a family wedding on Beth’s side. This was also my first time meeting Beth’s parents and brothers. This made for some interesting moments that we still tell stories and laugh about when we are all together to this day. Also on this trip, was the first time I remember making Beth really mad. She had never been to the Smokies before, and was really looking forward to seeing the mountains. We literally only had one roll of film, and couldn’t afford to buy a second one. We were in Harrogate, TN at the Abe Lincoln museum (it was free!) and she kept taking pictures of the mountains outside. Well, they are actually hills, so I said something to the effect of, ‘stop wasting film, wait until we actually get to the mountains’. We’ll call that my first of many accidental attempts through the years of trying to launch a lead balloon. 🙂

On this trip, we also had our first experience at a Microtel. We wound up staying in a few of these due to price over the next year or so. The walls were so thin that they had a sign next to the TV saying that you had to turn it off by 10pm, so as not to disturb other rooms. Also, we crossed through the mountains to Cherokee and went to the casino. We had two rolls of quarters that we split up, and about 5 minutes later we walked out. It was all we could afford to spend, and we didn’t win a dime.

At some point after this we travelled to Northern Indiana, and Beth took me to a few places that were really important to her. We made a pass through Reynolds, IN where she grew up, and then on up to Indiana Dunes so that I could see where her grandparents lived. This was a great trip, some of the scenery around the lake was absolutely beautiful.

Later in the summer, we made a trip to St. Louis, it was the first time either of us had been there. We went to all the usual tourist spots, the Arch, Budweiser, U.S. Grant’s farm, and then headed up to Hannibal, MO after a couple of days. Hannibal was the boyhood home of Mark Twain, and the setting of his Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer novels were based on the town. We really enjoyed touring the town and then headed to Springfield, IL. We planned to arrive at Springfield late in the day, and then tour their Abe Lincoln sites the next day. So, a couple things happened. I-72 from Hannibal to Springfield was a relatively desolate highway. We went what seemed like 100 miles without seeing a single place to stop. We both were looking out for a decent gas station or rest area to use the restroom, and we never did find one. Then we pull into Springfield about 11pm at night. Being the thrifty travelers we were, we didn’t have a reservation, I just assumed we would find a cheap room when we got there. However, some large event was happening at the state capital, and we couldn’t find any hotels with a room. So, one of us (okay it was me) might have lost our temper and drove straight through back to Shelbyville, arriving home somewhere around 2 or 3 am. The next morning I felt badly about the trip ending so abruptly, so we headed south to Mammoth Cave.

Upon our arrival at Mammoth Cave, we purchased tickets for one of the cave tours, and then headed over to listen to the tour guide speak. This set up a situation that I don’t know if we’ll ever forget. The park ranger was telling everyone about how many stairs there are, with no railing, and how careful you had to be. My fear of heights immediately kicked in, and there was no way I was doing this tour. Only problem was, we had bought the tickets, they had a no refund policy, and we were not at a point where we could afford to waste that money. So, I sent Beth back into the office, alone, to tell them that she was pregnant and just didn’t think she could take the strain of the tour. They refunded our money. At least that’s how I remember it. Beth seems to remember telling me that she wasn’t going back in there, but that I better get our money back. She recalls that I went in, and used the ‘my pregnant wife just can’t do this story’. In either event, this was certainly a low point for me, but we probably laugh more at our memory of it than we would have remembered about the tour, so I guess it all worked out.

After that our next big trip was our honeymoon, where we spent a solid week in the Smokies. We were able to cobble together enough funds to really enjoy ourselves, I don’t remember worrying too much about spending on that trip. Dad let us borrow his car as a wedding gift, as my truck at the time was having some issues and needed tires.

I think after that we made one more trip to Gatlinburg for just a couple of nights, then came back through Cincinnati for a baby shower, and a couple of weeks later, our first son was born. Since then, I think we’ve only made two road trips without the kids, we went to Gatlinburg with my brother and Dad, and left our first son with Beth’s parents, shortly after 9/11. I’ll never forget all the signs thanking people for traveling again, as the month or so after 9/11 the tourism industry took a big hit. This was also the year Arizona and the Yankees played in the World Series, and we would go out at night trying to find places that had the games on.

After that, we went all the way to 2014 before we could hit the road alone again, we went to Lincoln, NE to see a Pearl Jam concert. That trip is going to be a future blog post, so I won’t get into many details here.

Our kids are now aged 16 thru 19, so very soon, Beth and I will pick up where we left off and start making more memories of just the two of us traveling around the country. We both share a sense of adventure and I really look forward to the next twenty years and beyond. I love road tripping with the kids, and will miss those days when they all go off to begin their own lives. The next twenty years will be so much different than these first twenty, and I am so happy that we’ve made it through all the tough times, and get to continue experiencing everything this crazy life throws at us together.

Beth – Thank you for twenty great years. I love you!