The Trip that Shaped Our Lives


You know how sometimes a movie or book will portray how one decision or one event changed the momentum and current of the character’s entire life?

Well for Scott and I, that momentum shifting/life altering event was our vacation in 2002.  Somehow or other we got to talking about cross country trips.  And somehow an idea blossomed for a large out west vacation.  We had a huge map of the US in our laundry room and we began plotting our course.  We flew into and out of Las Vegas b/c we didn’t want to waste any of our vacation time in getting out there.  We then spent 21 days touring the mid west…. the majority of it was spent camping with a few hotel stays as well as visits with friends and family of Scott’s…We saw the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches and then we went into Co and saw the Rockies… from there we headed north to family in Wyoming and then Mt Rushmore before trekking west to Yellowstone, Titans, and then onward to Salt Lake City, Lake Tahoe, visiting Scott’s grandparents in Sacramento, San Francisco, Yosemite and back to Vegas…. it was incredible.  We saw so many amazing places and had such a fabulous time together.  Somewhere around the Tetons I recall saying to Scott, “This is amazing… these parks are amazing… we should visit EVERY NATIONAL PARK.” 

And he agreed.

And our lives were forever changed. 

This singular vacation and following decision would shape all of our family vacations to come.   It would shape the frequency of our vacations. It would even shape our budget.

We actually bought a coffee table type book of National Parks on that trip and began dreaming/planning our future endeavors.  We soon discovered that the National Park System encompasses quite a few parks.  We then set boundaries.  Our goal is to visit every National PARK… not monument, not forest, or battlefield or seashore.  Simply the parks.  We also decided that for the purpose of our quest, we do not need to see every park in Alaska (as much as we’d like to).  Alaska has so many parks and so many square miles that it would be a quest in and of itself to see them all.  So for the purposes of our quest a visit to Alaska and some of her national parks will qualify as a check mark on our spread sheet.

Yes, we have a spreadsheet with all of the National Parks in them and the dates we have visited them.  This is important, because not long after making our quest, we learned that the US govt can add national parks to the system!  So we could visit Co, see all the parks in that state and then a few years later a new park could pop up.  Therefore we have an original list of parks we are attempting to see.  If new parks are added after the date our original quest was set, those are considered optional.  We are not deemed failures if we haven’t visited those parks. 

What that you say?  A little type A?  Listen people… when you make a quest, it needs to be obtainable, therefore guidelines must be set.  Besides, I want to have a HUGE party with friends and family when we reach this goal and we can never have said party if this goal isn’t reached because the rules keep changing.  

We have a collection of magnets on our fridge from each of the National Parks we visit.  We also have one of those flip frames with pictures of us in front of each National Park sign we visit. 

Since that first trip, we have gone on 5 other National Park vacations.   We have seen 28 of the 52 parks on our list.   Because our family has grown significantly since then, we can’t afford to go on vacation every year… or even every other year.  Our last major vacation was in 2010.  It takes a long time to save up to cart 6 people around the country.  But, for us, it is totally worth it.  I love it.  I love seeing new places and seeing different geography…and I love the time spent in God’s beautiful creation.  I love camping and I love road trips.  And I love seeing these things with Scott by my side and through the eyes of my children.  Which is a good thing because the Circus Family is planning their next big adventure… next week we will leave on a 3 week cross country adventure… by MINIVAN.  We’ll drive roughly 6000 miles and log around 100 hours in the van.  We will also get to take our picture in front of  9 new park signs and 2 repeat signs for Scott and I.  And I am realizing that planning a 3 week cross country vacation for 6 people is a TON more work than it was 11 years ago when we planned one for two people.


  1. so excited for you guys and can't wait to hear all about it! We should have more goals like you guys. . . :)

  2. I enjoyed the photo walk do memory lane with you. But, what Pop and I most enjoyed was the count "up" as first one grandkiddo, than another, and another and another grandkiddo was added to the photos. Great memories.

  3. I, too, loved the photos and watching your family grow pictorally. An awesome goal! Have fun.

  4. I hope you guys have so much fun! Wish I could be invited to that party when it happens one day. And I know it will! Safe travels Circus family!

  5. I hope you guys have so much fun! Wish I could be invited to that party when it happens one day. And I know it will! Safe travels Circus family!


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