Some of my earliest family memories of road trips and adventures involve picnics. My parents were great at them.
When my brother and I were really little, our parents had a Pacer.(For those who dont know the car, it’s what Garth and Wayne drove in “Wayne’s World.”) This was before the days of expensive booster seats. The back car seat would fold down, and we could look up at the stars as we traveled through the state or country. It was handy for picnics if it rained or other conditions were unfavorable.
I still remember one hot, muggy summer, that we went to Horseshoe Lake in the Shawnee National Forest. Unfortunately, millions of mosquitos also were vacationing there that day. We had our picnic in the Pacer. Although it may not have been ideal outside the vehicle, but it made for a great memory.
Recently, my brother and I were discussing mushroom hunting, something else we did with our parents at a very young age. We seem to remember a picnic on a field in the woods on one of our earliest family morel hunting adventures. Priceless family time together that means even more to us as we get older.
I can also remember picnics in Giant City State Park as a kid when my dad was doing some post-graduate work at SIU-Carbondale one summer. We would all get up early for the drive down to campus. Then my mom would drop my dad off for his class. She would take my brother and I on some type of adventure in Carbondale before we picked my dad up for lunch. That might be shopping at the mall or searching for frogurt on the north end of town. Sometimes she would bring a picnic. Dad was usually able to join us on lunch break to eat.
When my children were pretty young, I started having picnics with them. This was a way to have a family meal together once I picked them up from daycare and headed on to their soccer practice or VBS (Vacation Bible School.) Sometimes I was able to plan these ahead, and sometimes life intervened. That’s when we went with the impromptu picnic option.
An impromptu picnic can be pulled together from treats at a roadside stand, carry-out from your favorite restaurant, or fresh food from a farmer’s market or roadside stand. We are blessed to have these options in Southern Illinois. For the VBS version of the impromptu picnic, it often meant grabbing something on my lunch hour that I could refrigerate and then assemble after work, if needed, in time to grab the kids before practice or church. Sometimes it was a trip through a drive thru. We also also have some wonderful local delis and markets that can either make sandwiches or help you pick out some easy picnic treats. Oh, and don’t forget the wineries and breweries (if you are of age, of course.) Some of those may also have picnic goodies.
If you opt to pick up an adult beverage for your impromptu picnic, please be conscious of where alcohol is allowed and be safe. Not all picnic areas allow alcohol, and some only permit specific containers. You may need to hop online and do a bit of quick research to make sure you stay legal.
Another option is to fix something at the picnic site. In the picnic pictured, we had decided to grab some groceries to fix and head to the Natural Bridge at Pomona. There is a little picnic spot by the parking area. After hiking to see the bridge, Mijo fixed some tuna salad for our sandwiches. It made a nice family outing without a lot of planning and prepping involved.
Be creative this summer and enjoy time with your family and friends. Head to a favorite spot, or explore a part of Southern Illinois (or anywhere) you haven’t seen before. You might even grab some muffins, donuts, or fruit with juice or coffee and have an impromptu breakfast picnic. Watch the sunrise someplace beautiful. Now go, make some delicious memories!