Vacations, while enjoyable to get away from day-to-day work life and most responsibilities, are also times for me to become very introspective.
I cherish these weeks over the years that I get to spend with Waverly.
They are priceless, memorable and not easily forgotten, even though, as a result of seeing so much, some of the details through the years begin to blur.
This year's vacation was put into motion before last year's was even over.
A year ago, we figured out that by getting her into the states of Michigan and Wisconsin, which we also ran races in, that it left her with three remaining: Minnesota, North Dakota and Rhode Island.
Minneapolis-St. Paul seemed the most logical place to fly into, as I had done back in 2007 when I ran the Fargo Half Marathon and the Apple Blossom Half Marathon in ND and MN on consecutive days.
So the week was chosen, airline tickets were purchased, hotel reservations made (eight hotels in eight days in five states), races signed up for and off we went.
Well, sort of.
We experienced a delay getting out of IAH the Friday night before last as we were moved to a plane that was having mechanical issues (which turned out to be the evacuation slide on the entrance door to the plane) from a gate whose plane had not yet arrived.
Terribly frustrating and an experience that put us at our hotel in Hudson, Wisconsin, just across the state line from Minnesota, at about 3 a.m. instead of 11:30 p.m.
One thing, though, that has been a trademark in our vacations over the years has been flexibility.
If it had looked as if we might get delayed to Saturday morning, I had scouted out a reward flight into Des Moines, Iowa that would have allowed for us to make our Saturday evening race in Eldridge.
But we eventually got underway and we were thankful for paying such a price on our tickets that it allowed us to be upgraded to first class on both legs.
This allowed us to gain some much needed rest as we got up with a few hours sleep to run a race in New Richmond, Wisconsin on Saturday morning.
It is times like these that I appreciate the experience that I have gained since 1994 with all of the domestic business and personal travel that I've done.
While we're home and I'm back from a almost 4.5-mile walk on The Woodlands Waterway this evening, I know that these vacations - in their current form - will soon come to pass as Waverly begins embarking on her own professional career and personal life after graduating from Liberty University in May 2017.
We may still be able to spend time like this together, but the times may be shorter - and that's perfectly understandable and to be expected.
We're able to cover a lot of ground between the two of us and work on some things together that need dealt with.
An issue arose from school that was sprung upon her at the last minute. It was very personally unsettling for her in that it could possibly have derailed some plans that she had been working for the last three years.
However, being there and having the time to actively engage and attack the issue and emotionally support her through the process was incredibly rewarding and satisfying.
I relate our time together each year - with the exception of 2014 when she was on the road for five weeks working Christian summer youth camps - to what our church's founding pastor Dr. John Gross shared with me many years ago.
He said that when we were able to take young people to those church youth camps in the summer that we had their attention for 168 hours.
Even if they attended Sunday School and church every single Sunday through the year, it was still 60-plus hours - minus sleep at camp - more. It makes a difference.
And I think Waverly would tell you that our time together during these trips does the same.
We usually have one - what I would call a - dust up during the trip, but we usually come away with a deeper understanding of where each other is in their lives.
Without me putting any burdens on her, she understands what I'm going through as a middle-aged man and the pressures that I am - or place myself - under, and she usually learns even more how passionately I desire her to succeed and be a strong, successful, independent and beautiful young woman, inside and out.
There are certain ways that I challenge her - even though she challenges herself so well already - to be even more assertive in certain areas yet not take away from the Christ-like, service-minded approach she has to life.
While neither one of us are fast, we enjoy the challenges that come with running a road race and coming away with something that we can use in our day-to-day life from it.
We did five races in three states. The first two were on the same day and the final three were on three consecutive days.
She took me down in four out of the five - coming from behind in three of them.
And we ran the fifth one - Thursday night in downtown Milwaukee under some unique conditions - together, but I get great joy continuing to see her grow and develop as a young woman and how the physical activity has helped to transform her through the years.
In some ways, the sport has transformed me too.
I went down a road that saw me put on, at times, ranging from between 80 to 100 pounds.
I probably still carry 40 more than I did in 1991, but despite that I'm thankful to continue to be in generally good health.
I also think it has turned me into more of an encourager of people than I had been in the past, even though I'm still an introvert and highly value my alone time.
One of the biggest things that we accomplished this trip, knowing the kind of ground that we chose to cover in addition to making some adjustments on the first day or two, was setting a plan to get up and to be on the road by a certain time.
In year's past, we would often - and, yes, me leading the charge - be willing to keep hitting the snooze on the alarms and not getting our day underway until late morning.
But, by doing so, we saw and experienced a lot and I even passed up going to a ball game or two during the trip.
The first plan of the trip included a Sunday afternoon independent minor league ball game in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but when we found a church we wanted to go to in Des Moines, Iowa on Sunday morning that made that an unlikely occurence.
There were also some tentative plans to see games in Fargo-Moorhead and St. Paul, but exhaustion on the latter (on Saturday) and when we saw certain things on the former earlier in the week eliminated those. But it was perfectly OK.
One evening in Bismarck, we got in a nice, late evening 40-minute walk that winded down a busy day getting there.
And the other, we experienced the benefits of excellent public transportation in Minneapolis-St. Paul to facilitate exploring St. Paul for about three hours or so that made me not even want to stop and see the beautiful stadium that the University of Minnesota would be playing in.
One thing's for sure, though, as we get ready to start a new week, we'll get to Rhode Island for her 50th state to visit - and maybe we'll figure out a way to do it together when I'm able to run my half marathon there.
More to come, I'm sure. Enjoy the week.