How I Travel -- A Mother's Day Recap

In celebration of Mother's Day, here's a trip I took with my mother and father a few years ago. We had a great time together. Thank you, Mama and Daddy, for showing me our country and for being so excited about it. Your enthusiasm for the landscape, the history and the natural wonders of our country was contagious. The following was orginally published in 2011.


I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Come here. Closer. That's too close. I like to be surprised when I travel. I do very little research before I go. Try Googling, say, The Devils Tower or Mount Rushmore. You'll get thousands of pictures of these places, countless descriptions and oodles of travel anecdotes. It takes all the wonder out of seeing The Devil's Tower appear in the distance if you've already seen a hundred pictures of it (and Close Encounters of the Third Kind six times). Hee hee. Well, OK, I'm a bit of a hypocrite. I just gave you a picture from this angle.

Did you know that Lake Louise in British Columbia is the most-visited mountain lake in the world? I didn't--of course. I didn't even know there was a Lake Louise before I went there. From our campsite the first day we hiked two hours to the lake. I had no idea what to expect. Imagine if I had already had this picture in my head. The moment I actually saw the lake would have been such a let down. I hope this picture hasn't ruined it for you. I've heard that you can get an image out of your head if you shake it hard enough. You can try it. 

My parents met me in Vancouver with the intention of taking me back to Nashville by car. I knew we had to make it from Vancouver to Nashville in around 10 days, but I had no idea where the road would take us next. In fact, I insisted on not knowing. I wanted Seattle to surprise me, Wyoming to wow me, Minnesota to, uh, mince me? You get the picture. 

But my mother wouldn't stop talking about "The Badlands": "When we go through the Badlands--" "You're gonna love the Badlands." "Just wait until you see the--"

"Mom, please. I don't want to know."

"Your obsession with ignorance is--"

"Endearing? Cute? Adorable?"

"You're gonna love the Badlands."

"Say one more word."

"I'm shutting up."

When we finally came to the Badlands, I was amazed--and so happy that I was almost completely unprepared for the beauty of this wonderful and fleeting moment in our geological history. The Badlands won't be there in 500,000 years, so you'd better hurry if you want to see them. If you don't want to see the Badlands before you visit them, then don't look at this picture. I'll understand.

I sensed that we would be driving by Mount Rushmore when we veered into South Dakota. Mount Rushmore is amazing. I'll give you a dollar if you can name the four Presidents, and I'll give you another dollar if you can tell me what German comedian one of the waitresses at Peggy's Place in Keystone looks like. Obscure, but OK. It's worth a dollar. This picture is not any of the four presidents, and it's not the waitress at Peggy's Place. It's one of the guys who helped carve Mount Rushmore. I think he's adorable. A bit of trivia: Homer Simpson's face is not one of the four Presidents--despite evidence to the contrary on The Simpsons.

Thank you, again, to my mother and father for organizing such a beautiful drive through the US. I'd do it again anytime.

More surprises on my Tour Americana next week.

To continue with I Must Be Off! A-Z, go to X is for Expat Interview.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Ficton, PANK, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.


  1. There is actually a place called the Badlands?

    And a statistic for "most visited mountain lake"??

  2. XD sounds like you are having a fun family trip there ~~

    Oh, I certainly do not know stats of anywhere when I tour a natural instinct leads me to where I am suppose to go =D

  3. Thanks for the chuckle, Chris - loved your post! I'm with you - I like to be surprised when I travel though it's becoming increasingly difficult not to have seen at least a few destination images beforehand. I've been told how beautiful Lake Louise is and now I have an inkling from your photo how true that is. But your photo doesn't spoil it for me - it only makes me want to get there even sooner. Add it to my travel list!

  4. Your obsession with ignorance... I'm going to have to start using that line.

  5. So you are telling me that you wended your way through the emerald city and you didn't DM the NVR Guys? Hmmm. I thought we had something. I am going to shake my head violently and forget I ever read that part. :)

    Oh: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

    Next time you are in Seattle, you can give me my dollar.

  6. Your approach to travel is interesting - and the opposite of me! I tend to be more of a planner but am learning to go with the flow more and enjoy. I appreciate your perspective - not wanting to plan or get too much information about a place so you can experience it without any preconceived ideas.

  7. I find your attitude pretty healthy. It happened more than once to me that I had seen beautiful HDR photos of a place, taken from some impossible angles, and when face to face with the landmark, the place looked less cool and I ended up disappointed.

  8. It's such a balance! I don't necessarily want to see photos or have a mental image in my head before I visit a place (I want to form my own impressions), but a certain amount of research needs to be done to know where the cool places are to visit. I guess you need to find someone in the know to show you around but will respect your obsession with ignorance. ;)

  9. Fun article and great pics. I like to be surprised too. Places like the Badlands can really take your breath away whether you've seen photos or not. I've got a photo taken from the same perspective as yours -- well done!

  10. how fun - i like certain surprises but i tend to get to places that I have no idea where I'm at or what historical significance it has...i'm so type A, i have to know! bad habit, i know.

  11. Oh my Lord, Christina! You've won a dollar. It is Anke Engelke! Gut gemacht! Now all you need to do is come to Munich to get your dollar.

  12. Saw the Badlands and Lake Louise as a child. So I definitely wasn't prepared. But I think I'd have been more awed if I'd been just a bit older. I see your point about the element of surprise, but I still feel that I like a mixture of some previous knowledge with some surprise best.

  13. Loved this article, the Badlands indeed look amazing and Lake Louise looks absolutely gorgeous. I have to admit I usually google a lot about the place I'm planning the visit, fortunately so far no huge disappointments :)

  14. Hi, Freya! Thanks for stopping by!


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