Road trips…

I have been a collector of “stuff” most of my adult life. Not borderline hoarder, but getting close to needing an intervention to stop. Maybe a long term program to ease me slowly off that addicting “hunt” which usually concluded in the one piece to make my life complete. It took me many years of pretty intense collecting to realize I had acquired the inner fortitude to say quite honestly, “I need to think about this for awhile.” Or the skills needed to just walk away from the deal completely. Couldn’t and didn’t do that 30 years ago.


My beautiful oak wardrobe. Only had it 20 some years…


Shannon was born with this same collecting gene. Certainly not for anything old when she was in the throes of teenage angst. I remember her stomping through the house and loudly proclaiming, “I’m never owning anything old. My house is going to be filled with chrome and glass.” But she quickly grew out of that quirky stage. Soon she was a single mom (to our incredible granddaughter Ariana) and back getting her first degree at Michigan State. Her budget was limited, but she had an ace up her sleeve when she bought a piece of junk furniture that had real possibilities. Good old mom and dad to work on it’s restoration. As John and I kept collecting nicer antiques, Shannon gladly adopted our hand me downs.


Shannon & Ari in our hot tub in Jax, 1992…


The trips started soon after Shannon had Ari in 1991. When Michigan State was done for the summer, we’d drive to Iowa to visit the grandparents. My folks were still doing pretty well as was John’s mom. They all thought the world of Ari. Our hypnotic, exotic, stunning new addition to the Van Berkum clan. We’d shop our way across Michigan, Illinois and Iowa. Always stopping in Davenport for a day or 2. I’d see my old bowling buddies and play double deck Euchre. Shannon would visit with her oldest, dearest friend Angie who had a couple of kids of her own.

We were both hooked on Coach handbags. In the 90’s it was unusual to see anyone carrying one. They were expensive and unique. We always made sure to stop at any Outlet Mall on the way to Rock Valley to check out Coach. I remember giving John a hard jab in the ribs at least 20 years ago. We were following another couple into a very nice restaurant. The gal had a beautiful Coach bag on her shoulder. I whispered furiously to the clueless wonder, “Coach!” John’s eyes darted everywhere BUT her shoulder looking for some famous sports coach. For the last decade Coach has over saturated the market with mediocre, non-descript bags. I haven’t bought one in years.

After our mother-daughter infatuation with Coach, Shannon and I oddly parted ways. I became enamored with Michael Kors handbags and Shannon’s smitten with Kate Spade. I tried to like Kate, but her bags are just too stiff and structured. Exactly meeting all of Shannon’s requirements. A nursery-room sized bag that holds exactly one metric ton. My needs are more slouchy and smaller. The older I get, the fussier I am about my dumb purses. I refuse to buy anything with 2 handles. The double straps always fall off my shoulder. I like bumpy leather, not smooth. And not boxy, more hobo or ergo styling. I want several purses in an array of different colors. So does Shannon. As long as all of hers are black. Blech. She takes after Henry Ford when he claimed you could order your car in any color you wanted. As long as it was black. What’s the fun in that?

So most summers Shannon and I took at least one road trip together. Along with her kids as she had them. Josh and Adam too until they were older. Which meant not a whole lot of shopping at first. Really, kids just don’t want to wander slowly through an antique shop or an outlet mall. Or be in a car for 12 hours. Ugh. When the kids were along, the highlight was usually a hotel with a pool. And vending machines. They loved buying the same sweet and salty treats as you had at home. This way they got way less for way more.


Ari and Landon in our hotel, 2003…


Here’s one of the strangest things that ever happened on the way to Rock Valley. It happened about 12 years ago. We were getting close to the Williamsburg, Iowa Outlet Mall on I-80. I’m driving, Shannon’s trying to keep Ari and Landon occupied. Suddenly Shannon shouts, “mom, look in the field.” As God is my witness, there in an Iowa corn field was a young black bear chasing a white POODLE! The dog seemed to be having fun teasing the bear. The bear thought maybe he was supposed to be having poodle casserole for lunch. Honest both of our jaws dropped to the floor. And the carpet wasn’t that clean. Funniest scene I can remember. I mentioned to a store clerk about our out-of-this-world-weird-bear-encounter. She said there had been other sightings, some who had called 911. We couldn’t do that as we were unable to speak coherently without either of our bottom jaws. The explanation she heard was that when a boy bear gets a couple years old, he needs to have his own space. They kind of get pushed out of the neighborhood, which was probably Minnesota. This hormonal, hungry, teenage bear was now trying to call I-80 and central Iowa his home.

By now Mag had been gone for a few years, and my Mom had just passed away. Dad had moved to Michigan to be closer to me (ha, we know it was the inmates who wooed him here) and the family. Not many reasons for Shannon and I to be road-tripping anymore. That’s when we came up with a novel idea. Why not go away together for a few days without the kids? Splendid. Sounded pretty good to us. But. Ah, there’s always a but. Number one, it was pretty tough on Tracey. The first year Shannon and I went away was during the summer. We thought it would be easier with the kids out of school. Wrong. By now they had 3 children. Peyton had just wormed her way into everyone’s heart. We’d usually leave on a Thursday, coming back on Sunday. Tracey was running his butt off taking 3 kids to 15 different activities. Plus I think he was teaching summer school. After that first year, we decided it was easier if we went during the school year. PJ was in daycare, Landon and Ari were in school. That way, he just had to pick everyone up, run them to their various activities, get supper, help with homework, baths, bed and lunches. A snap. Yikes. But he never complained about it. At least I didn’t hear about it.


Ariana, Landon & Peyton, Christmas 2004…


It was my job to plan the trip itinerary. This was the time period when Shannon had quit her state job and was in school full-time working on her PHD. (Probably the reason Tracey was teaching summer school). She just didn’t have time. I’d Google Outlet Malls in the area and state we were headed. Instead of antique shops, I had better success if I specified antique MALLS. We didn’t want to drive 75 miles out of our way for one piddly little shop. Rather find an antique mall that boasted 100 dealers. That way we could spend a couple hours at one stop. We did trips through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois and most parts of Iowa during different years. We (meaning Shannon) had some very unusual requests. Since we usually stayed 3 nights in different hotels and cities, sometime during the day we’d have to find the movie theaters. The only movies those days that Shannon was watching were animated G rated Disney. A requirement of hers was that we see at least 2 R rated movies while we were gone. Something with adult dialogue and content. If we were near the Quad Cities, it got worse. Before we’d go into the theater, we’d have to stop at Whitey’s Ice Cream (her fave) and she’d buy a large watermelon shake (blech) to smuggle in. Luckily that wasn’t a problem with her metric ton sized purse.


The sign in front of Dr. Shannon’s offices…


We were traipsing our way through Illinois. Stopped in a little town where I found one of my all time favorite antiques. An oak dresser with claw feet and a beveled mirror. Gorgeous piece. We were driving John’s pick-up and on our way home. It was raining like we should have been trying to find Noah and climb aboard. I wanted the dresser so bad, but the thought of 6 hours of rain beating on that gorgeous wood before we got back to Jackson was almost a deal breaker. The owner of the store wrapped the entire dresser in Saran Wrap. When we hit Jackson, I backed the truck bed just inside the garage and went in to sleep. Next day I drove home, and the dresser was no worse for the wear. Other trips have scored beautiful Waterford and Orrfors. One little town in Indiana had a resale shop filled with Longaberger baskets. The car filled up fast with baskets before we scooted out of town.


My gorgeous oak dresser w/Shannon’s dress. A road trip find…


We enjoyed our trips immensely, but we weren’t compatible about everything. I’ve always been a morning person. Shannon, like her dad, is a night owl and likes to sleep in. When we checked into our hotel, I’d get my early morning walking paraphernalia, plus the key card, and store all in the bathroom. When I woke up at the crack of dawn, I’d get dressed, slip out of the room (although hotel doors are fricking impossible to ease shut). After walking for an hour, I’d stop in the lobby, drink a cup of coffee and watch or read the news (I looked like crap, sweaty, hair not combed, but hey, my teeth were brushed). After what seemed like an eternity and surely it had to be at least noon, I’d slink back in our room. Find clean clothes, shower and be ready for whatever the day held in store for us. Finally Shannon would crack open one eye. “Mom, I’m on VACATION. If it’s not at least 10 o’clock, you’d better not say one word!” Complete silence on my part because it was edging close to 9 am.

Then something kind of odd happened. We switched places. John’s company went bankrupt during the crash of 2008. Our house was already so full of antique oak furniture we barely had room to walk. I was only collecting bits of Waterford crystal. Shannon, now with a Dr. in front of her name was acquiring antique oak furniture with purpose. Our roles had reversed. She was flush with cash, I was watching my spending, and trying to downsize a bit. Weird.

The trips have since stopped. Shannon’s got her hands way too full and is spread way too thin. She running her own full time clinical psychology therapy practice, plus owns 2 office buildings with a couple of her peers. The 3 have hired several therapists to work for them. Landon’s heavy into basketball and has joined a travel league that takes the family all over the country to tournaments most weekends. Peyton, 11 takes a couple dance classes, piano and voice lessons every week. Tracey, now the principal of a huge Ann Arbor high School has a job that requires a lot of his time. The older your kids get, the more stuff they’re involved in. I get it.

The last trip we took was almost 3 years ago. Josh was getting married and Erica’s family was having a shower for them in Pennsylvania. Shannon and I decided to go. She had never been to Niagara Falls, and since it’s my all time favorite spot, we stopped there first. Plus they have an awesome Outlet Mall. Kors and Spade stores. Another perk was walking by the Falls during my early morning outings. And it was my duty as a diligent mother to introduce her to The Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. Where buffalo wings originated. She was impressed and has since taken Tracey (the wing man-as in chicken) and the family there and to my famous Falls.


The Rapids before my beautiful Niagara Falls…



R-rated movies together. Blizzards before noon. Suppers un-interrupted. The unlikely mother-daughter duo shopping trips which always included upscale stores, and cluttered antique malls. An odd combination indeed. It worked for us. The trips were great fun. A way we stayed connected without hubs, kids, and sibs. I treasure those moments and memories. But I miss our yearly road trips. A lot…






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