joankingHop in the car and go. Have you ever done that? After a long Wisconsin winter, we wonder when the warmer weather will finally arrive. As this is written, the grass is green and already been mowed at least once, trees are leafing and budding and a few convertibles have been spotted with the tops down.

Do you recall your first “road trip”? Back when 50 miles was a major effort, that may have been to visit a relative. As a kid growing up in Minnesota, I remember day trips to visit aunts and uncles.

Although most of my 65 cousins were older, many lived in neighboring towns. My dad was the main driver then. But he also enjoyed seeing the country and did all the driving when the family traveled to Texas when I was young and to California when I was in junior high. With no freeways, it was definitely more than a two or three day trip, but we have pictures to remind us of stopping places.

A lake cottage Dad built on some of his off days as a carpenter was only 12 miles from our hometown, but it always seemed a major undertaking to pack up even for a day.

After I left for college, my older sister and her family who lived in the area would often spend the summer at the lake “to keep my mother company.” It became our summer vacation spot for many years (and still is in the family), a welcome site after six or seven hours of driving with a carload of kids. Going to Northern Wisconsin is not quite as long, but a similar experience.

There are many fond memories and some pictures to make them more vivid. I wish I had a picture of the time I drove my mother back home to Minnesota in our station wagon with seven kids packed inside and a small sailboat on top.

Road trips can be a highlight of almost any season. Some of our friends found that breaking the routine with a weekly “good weather day” outing from April through October can be one of the perks of being retired.

At first, they just got in the car and followed a road until they decided to stop and look around. Later, they would find a spot on the Wisconsin map (or possibly in northern Illinois) that was less than 100 miles away. It might be just an afternoon ride or include a stop for lunch, visiting a special attraction or a shop. Over the years, they have discovered many hidden treasures in Wisconsin.

One of the perks in the early days of retirement is getting out and seeing the countryside at a more leisurely pace. If there isn’t a wish list, a good place to start is the Internet or travel section of the local newspaper. Check out a Wisconsin festival calendar to find a variety of “local color.”

As a transplanted Minnesotan, there have been several yearly trips to visit friends and relatives there and in other neighboring states. This usually involves the I-system travel because of time constraints.

Sometimes an unexpected detour offered a new perspective so we tried to allow more trip time in order to make a rest stop also a learning experience. Both sides of the Mississippi provide many opportunities to explore.

If you want to preserve the memories, pack a camera or your smart phone. A few pictures viewed later will help recall happy trips to be relived and shared with other family members, even as memory fades.

My life has been filled with projects. There are a lot of them unfinished, including taking pictures and storing them. Maybe if I live into my 90s like my mother and sister, they will all eventually be completed so my grandchildren won’t have to wonder “Who is in this picture?” or “Where was this taken?”

(King, a member of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish, North Lake, is married to Thomas. They have seven children, 17 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.)