When I was about 11 years old, some friends bought me a pocket-sized blue book with “Passport to Your National Parks” written on the front in gold lettering, with a map and guide to all the National Park units in the country, including battlefield, historic homes, whatever – there are about 360 of them. It’s a little book with color-coded sections in it. For each national park you go to, you get a cancellation, or “stamp” stamped in your book. The same friends took me to Washington, DC to get my first stamp from Ford’s Theatre and Peterson House (The House Where Lincoln Died) on December 31, 1998. I remember that date not because it’s imprinted on my brain but because the passport stamp says so 🙂 each stamp is a circle with the name of the park up top, location on the bottom, and date in the middle. So, since it was something collectible, naturally I became obsessed.
It was also around this time that the movie Eurotrip came out – you know, the one with the horrible trailer with the guy eating the mouse. I wasn’t allowed to see it but I knew it was about a road trip. My eleven year old mind went, “I want to take a road trip!” And now that I had my National Parks Passport, I actually had places to visit!
So I went through the book, starting from the first section, the brown stamps labeled “North Atlantic Region,” comprised of New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. I traced a trail along the little numbers of the map, looked up the distance online, and decided I wanted to go. One problem…I couldn’t drive.
It was summer, and I asked my dad, who was outside trimming the bushes, “Dad, can we go on a road trip next summer? To get the national park stamps from the North Atlantic Region?”
His response: “Sure, you plan it, and I’ll drive.”
So it was settled.
Over the course of the next school year, I lived by the National Parks website, painstaking printing out both at home and at my school library all the pages for all the places I wanted to go, and kept them in a big blue folder.
June 1999 came, and believe it or not, I got my dad to take a week off work to drive us (me) to New England to do some bonding and traveling (and get those stamps)! My mother was possibly the only one more thrilled than I, since it meant for her a summer week without husband or son to take care of, cook for, and clean up after, and was only too happy to show us the door.
So we headed off on our very first adventure: to conquer New England.