As soon as we knew we'd be spending our Thanksgiving in Idaho, Matt and I started mapping out the perfect road trip- a favorite pastime and preferred method of travel for our family. There was talk of Jackson Hole, Devil's Tower, Custer State Park, and Yellowstone, all made new by the season, painted in their winter hues.
Subtly, however, as plans became official, everything changed and priorities shifted as we found ourselves adding detours, big and small, to visit family for the holiday. Annie met Aunts and Uncles, cousins, second cousins, great-grandparents, and even her Great Great Aunt, who calls me Darling and sent me home with a Coconut Cream Pie. Matt got to stay up late reminiscing with all 5 of his siblings, and my Aunt and Uncle (who coined my nickname, "Casey-Cutie") were Annie's trusted first babysitters while we were able to attend the sealing of Matt's brother in the new Meridian Temple.
We added at least 5 hours to the drive to see my brothers and their sweet families, but drove right past the entrance to Yellowstone. Where we would usually stop to take a picture and experience something new and otherworldly, this time we took it all in from the car windows. We took the time to look out and see the multitude of stars above the Dakotas, and we drove a little slower as we passed a field in Wyoming, abandoned for the season by all but the thousands of white birds resting on their journey south for the winter, floating through the air in a pattern of synchronized cacophony.
But after we had said our good-byes and had nothing but time and road ahead of us, we did fit in one unscheduled stop at Shoshone Falls along the Snake River in Idaho.
Even at the end of a long day of driving, we never regret making stops like these. It probably added an extra hour to our long day of driving. It wasn't a scheduled stop for gas or to change a diaper; It was just a quiet stop we made to experience something together, just the three of us, adrift on the open road.
As we drove along, the flat, dry landscape revealed the sunken riverbed carved through stone. We stretched our legs, took some pictures, and watched from above as birds wove through the mist. And then we were on our way again.
Inevitably, when people find out we drove to Idaho for Thanksgiving with a new baby in the winter, it's clear they don't understand why we do it. But I wouldn't trade the five days I spent safely nested in the car with my little family for anything. Vacation started as soon as we were all buckled in because we were together.