The Long Road to Rendezvous


The Long Road to Rendezvous

Words and Photos by Melissa Hendrickson


As far as driving directions go, it’s a pretty easy route from our hometown to Rendezvous in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It only involves four turns: take highway 200 East, right turn on highway 93, merge onto I-90 East, then take I-94 East to Minneapolis. Granted we live in Sandpoint, Idaho so those directions do span the distance of almost 1,400 miles.

In a stroke of serendipity, Rendezvous dates nestled themselves nicely into a greater month long driving trip to visit family on the East coast. For the first part of the journey, my husband was going to be out of country on a work trip, which is how I found myself embarking on a 3000 mile voyage with a toddler and the family bird dog. My husband would fly into my parent’s hometown in Maine and meet us after we continued on from Rendezvous. I had 10 days to not lose my sanity until that rendezvous.

Many people questioned my mental health for embarking on such an ambitious adventure by myself with a 2 year old. But now, with the trip in the review mirror, it wasn’t as hard as I even thought it would be. And believe me, I embarked with an equal amount of optimism and dread of how things could have gone. Retrospectively, I attribute our success to two factors: preparation and public land.

Preparation isn’t anything out of the ordinary for parents of young children. 3000 miles or 3 miles, sometimes the amount of stuff you have to bring on a trip seems to be about the same. A key staple for this trip was the “snackle” box, a snack box that has multiple compartments akin to a fishing tackle box. I had a variety of mostly healthy foods at the ready to fill each of the five compartments. Each meal was a different combo with the center always reserved for chocolate chips. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner - we were on vacation after all so it was acceptable to have a couple chocolate chips at each meal. I threw my stuff onto a plate, but am seriously considering getting an adult sized “snackle” box for next time.


The "snackle" box - the center is always reserved for chocolate chips, which always get eaten first.

Car seat friendly toys and books were also key. We’d switch out at every stop, but they usually consisted of one or two of his favorites every time. A precisely moderated water bottle was also offered. I am the first to admit that a delicate balance between rest stops and a toddler staying hydrated/bored drinking is a hard thing to achieve. When the default always seems to be the latter, having plenty of pairs of pants is also important.

There are a lot of requests that come from the backseat, most of which cannot be solved by the solo parent who is navigating the road safely. To alleviate breakdowns of the sobbing kind, I kept a couple of items in reserve up front with me. A deft toss and I could refresh the situation for at least 15 more minutes of driving.


Car seat zone of destruction. Those extra 15 minutes come at a price. 


As for the bird dog, she doesn’t take much preparation. She gets in the van, picks out her spot to chill, and is ready to spend the day riding. I acknowledge that some of you are judging me right now for the dog not riding in a kennel, but I needed someone up front to validate my one sided conversation for 22 plus hours of driving. It would also be handy if she retrieved dropped kid water bottles and brought those to hand, but alas her training is lacking in that way also.


If you're talking to your dog, you aren't crazy. Expecting answers from them is a different story. 


The second part of my successful traveling scheme is the utilization of public lands and places. This is a skill I’ve honed over years of traveling, perfected with the invention of OnX Elite. As the solo adult on this trip, it took a little more preparing than usual, emphasis on pre. Usually the passenger is the one planning on the fly. I mapped the route at home and scouted likely stopping spots, dropping color coded pins in OnX. Turning on the layers for each of the states I was driving through ahead of time allowed me to quickly get the lay of the land if we needed a stop I didn’t have planned.

My main criteria for stops, after safety, is a place we can all run around, preferably with the dog off-leash. Smaller fishing access sites are our favorites. Even through areas that are all private land, you can usually find a fishing access site with the handy icons that populate OnX. We travel with a water bumper to get some training in with the dog, which expedites getting her wiggles out.  These spots are usually scenic and most of the small rural ones are usually empty, which allows me to park like a tourist. By which I mean I park in a way I can watch the dog and the kid while they frolic about and I can make lunch or dinner.  As my two year old’s favorite pastime is picking up trash, we usually spend a few minutes cleaning up the place as well.


Fishing access sites allow everyone to get some wiggles out!


Gas stops on these trips are a little more time intensive than they used to be B.C. (before child). I pick a small town close to the highway and we quickly fill the vehicle tank. If I haven’t already seen it, I then use OnX to find the town park. The dog usually has to stay on leash, but we all get to stretch our legs out and get some fresh air. Playgrounds are a big hit now that my son is old enough to use them. As I do laps around the park, I’m always on the lookout for a little plaque stating it was funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Another reason to support LWCF - keeping toddlers happy and exercised on road trips across America!


The Land and Water Conservation Fund logo from the Department of the Interior.


With these tricks up my sleeve, we made our way across Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota, hop-scotching from one piece of public land or place to another. We counted construction sites, remarked on oil derricks, waved at trucks as we passed them, watched the sun set in the rearview mirror, identified birds and animals, and categorized each state based on the prevalent road kill. Idaho - turkey, Montana - antelope, North Dakota - pheasant, Minnesota - white-tailed deer. By far, our favorite stops were in the prairie pothole region as there were thousands of birds migrating. Soon we arrived in Minnesota, only a little road weary and ready to party at Rendezvous!


Prairie Pothole stop.


For more content from Melissa Hendrickson, check out her YouTube channel, Anders' Adventures, where you can find her Road Trip Video,  BHA Rendezvous Recap, and more! 

About Melissa Hendrickson

Melissa grew up in Northern Maine generally spending a lot of time outdoors. She started hunting after moving to Idaho for work in 2014. Melissa is a former public land hydrologist, current North Idaho Co-Chair of the State Board and SAHM.

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