Meet Sam, our grandson. As the oldest, he is the first (and test case) to receive what we hope will be a new tradition – a gift on his tenth birthday of a trip with the grandparents.
The gift comes with a nice, but kid-friendly and appropriate, piece of luggage. For Sam we chose a canvas and leather bag about the size of a gym bag. The gift also comes with a couple of catches: First, while the recipient gets to choose the destination, it can be vetoed by us or his parents (hey, we’re not crazy); Second, they have to participate a little in the planning. There’s no specific timeline for when to take the trip. In Sam’s case, he turned ten in December, so we looked at spring break or the following summer to accommodate his school schedule.
Sam mulled over his options and asked if he could come spend some time with us in Arizona. Specifically, he wanted to know if he could ride a dirt bike in the desert. He’s an experienced rider, so I told him I’d find out. That started the ball rolling on a plan for a desert adventure week.
I flew out to Washington DC to pick Sam up and spend a day with his mom (my daughter) and his two sisters. It wasn’t his first time flying, so Sam knew the ropes when it came to packing and airport security. He’s pretty low key as “tweens” go, so he makes a great travel companion. We arrived in Arizona on a hot, sunny August afternoon. It was his first trip to the desert and I wondered how he would react to the heat and wide-open spaces and cacti.
We kicked off the adventure at an indoor go-kart track. It was a first for Sam … and me! We raced each other, zipping around the track and trying to beat each other’s time. What fun! When we got home, Sam jumped on the phone and gushed about it to his mom.
I wasn’t able to find a way to ride dirt bikes in the desert, but we had tracked down a place that would allow Sam to drive his own four-wheeler through the Wickenburg Mountains. We arrived for our guided tour with Adventures of a Lifetime and the owner tested each of us to make sure we could handle the route. To be fair, I think everyone was a little more worried about my skills than Sam’s.
After four hours over dirt, sand, and rocks, through the Hassayampa River and up to the stunning views from a mesa, we headed back. Our guide revealed this was the first time he’d ever let a ten-year-old ride on his own and he was impressed with Sam’s abilities. Sam’s low key personality was cracking a bit with excitement.
Next stop, Sedona. We figured Sam would enjoy the adventure of a Pink Jeep Tour. He had visited the website and chosen the tour he wanted to take. With reservations for one of the most daring and adventurous options made, we hopped aboard and explored the giant red rock spires on the Broken Arrow trail.
From there it was off to the Grand Canyon. I covered his eyes as we approached so we could capture his reaction on video as he saw it for the first time. Needless to say, his “shock and awe” was priceless!
We drove through Monument Valley on our way to Four Corners. I was a little worried about Sam being bored with a lot of driving, but he played games on his tablet between ooohing and ahhing at the landscape
Our weeklong adventure wrapped up with a fun, relaxing last day at home that included a refreshing dip in our neighbor’s pool. We were thrilled to have had the chance to spend some one-on-one time with Sam and he got to enjoy a vacation he dreamed up and helped plan. His sister, Lizzie, is up next. She knows about the “trip for your tenth birthday” tradition and is already thinking up ideas. We’re excited to keep the new tradition alive.
There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored, encouraging a new generation to explore it can be loads of fun.
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