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Summer is a time for enjoying fresh corn on the cob, days spent reading by the pool, and hours of daylight. But, it’s also the ideal time for FAMILY ROAD TRIP SEASON! I’m not going to tell you about the crazy, dysfunctional type where everything goes wrong. Nope. My road trips are the kind where everything goes right, the kids don’t fight, and there’s lots of hotel room bathroom sex with my husband. Fun!

To do it right, you’ve got to channel your inner  Mr. Thorgaard and run your trip like you are boldly leading a group of high school orchestra students on a whirlwind tour of Toronto. Type up an itinerary. Have a sequence of events your crew can follow. Eat breakfast. See some sights. Eat lunch. Drive. See some more sights. Arrive at hotel. Swim. Eat dinner. Go to bed.

People can relax when they know what to expect. Relaxed people are happy road trip people.

You seem a bit nervous, but it’s going to be okay. It’s pretty easy, to be honest. Look.

I went ahead and planned your road trip to Arizona.

Stop 1: UFO Museum

There’s a place, near the California-Arizona border, right before Kingman when you’re traveling East on I-40. It’s a geodesic dome. It used to be a home. Now it’s a beef jerky stand and UFO museum. You have to pay $10 if you want to go past the gates. I’m not even going to tell you about that first floor. I don’t want to ruin the surprise. On the second floor is a flying saucer and a 10 minute video. Sit down and watch the whole thing. My husband thinks the jerky is great and wished he had bought more.

Stop 2: Bearizona

You know the worst thing about zoos? Animal rights. But the second worst thing is definitely all the walking. Lucky for you, Bearizona has solved the second most problematic thing about zoos.

It’s a drive through zoo. Like, you stay in your car and drive through the animal enclosures. It’s totally Jurassic Park except the animals are mountain goats, bears, bison and come with warnings like “Keep Moving. Junior Bear will climb on.”

A few hot tips:

1. Get there early so you can breathe in the pine-infused morning mountain air.

2. Make sure you check out the bird of prey show. My husband got hit in the head by an eagle. The lady running the show said, “If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen whether you duck or not,” and he wanted to see what would happen, and getting hit in the head is it. I bought a holographic owl notebook to mark the occasion.

Stop 3: Sedona

State Route 89A from Flagstaff to Sedona is a dream. You stare out the window, take in the nature, and think the deepest thoughts that you can muster. The rocks in Sedona are really something.

I had a hotel, right on the river, with a private balcony that faced those rocks and then stars once the sun set. Have you looked at stars lately? Treat yourself!

They’ve also got vortexes in Sedona. Apparently they’re places where the masculine force of electricity comes together with the feminine force of magnetism because of high amounts of iron and quartz in the rocks to create some kind of swirling vortex of balancing and healing energy? I don’t know. Don’t quote me on the science. I do know I had a wacky dream and was oddly compelled to buy a quartz face roller that promised to clear all my chakras. My daughter picked it out and then used it to entertain herself for many, many hours. Money well spent.

Stop 4: Jerome

Jerome is a ghost town. It’s got a State Historic Park. There’s a movie there, narrated by a ghost, naturally, telling the story of how brave and courageous white dudes came out West, even though the non-white people living there were like, “My dudes, we already live here,” so the white dudes called in the army, had those people killed and then set up shop where they mined and smelted so much copper that they made millions of dollars and killed off of the wild animals that lived there. They caused rockslides and fires and lots of pollution but also lots of wealth. They built a town, burned down the town, rebuilt it, added hotels and prisons and saloons and stuff, and people lived their lives until all of the copper was gone, and they bailed. Classic white dude, right?

According to the movie ghost, this town has a happy ending. After the smelting stopped, bats came back, started eating the bugs again, and everyone lived happily ever after. Now Manyard from Tool has a wine tasting room there, and I didn’t even get to go because there was a Hampton Inn in Prescott with a killer pool. The itinerary said I had to get there, and you can’t argue with an itinerary.

All this action and adventure could be yours! It’s a sure thing. So pack up the car, stockpile some snacks, grab your closest friends or family and hit the open road. The summer waits for no one!

Jennifer Racusin

Jennifer Racusin is a writer with a runaway imagination, an artist making huge bird puppets, and a teacher teaching the future how to think.

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