There are more than 400 National Park Service sites across America, including national parks, national seashores and national battlefields.
The Rice family of Atlanta — a proud Scouting bunch — is on a mission to visit every single one.
In celebration of this year’s 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, it seems an appropriate time to check in on their progress.
As of this writing, there are 413 National Park Service sites on the always-growing list. That includes 59 national parks, 84 national monuments, 78 national historic sites and more places deemed worthy of recognition and preservation. (See the complete list in this PDF.)
The Rice family has visited 216 sites — more than half.
Each summer, they hop into the car and try to see 25 new locations. At that rate, it could be eight years before they reach their goal — or longer when you realize some of these sites are in far-off places like Alaska, Guam and American Samoa.
Thankfully, the Rices know the magic is found in the experiences and family bonding along the way — not in hurriedly checking boxes off a list.
They don’t simply drive to the entrance sign, snap a photo and move on. They savor each moment.
That’s the right attitude, and it’s why they’re calling this journey “Fall Back in Love with America.” The effort even has its own Facebook page with more than 8,000 likes.
For more, I checked in with Andrea Rice, a “proud Scout mom,” to see how things are going so far.
On the road again
How’s this for refreshingly different? On the Rice road trip, the kids look away from their screens and out into the real world.
Each family member uses his or her area of interest and expertise to enhance the experience.
“We have the global navigator with a side interest in geography and geology. We have the cultural anthropologist, the budding scientist and the archaeologist and the wanna-be architect,” Andrea says. “That comes out during the car ride to different locations as we prep the boys for what we’re about to see or they share with us something related they’ve learned in school or in Scouts. We’re all learning together and teaching each other.”
In the front there’s mom Andrea and dad Barton, a den leader and assistant Scoutmaster. In the back you’ll find First Class Scout Nicholas and Wolf Cub Scout John Patrick.
“The best part is spending so much time as a family and experiencing all of these new things together,” Andrea says. “Some people cringe at the idea of being in confined quarters with their kids and the dog and everyone for weeks at a time, but we really do love it.”
This journey might not be possible without Scouting’s strong foundation.
Time in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts has helped the Rice family better understand the world around them. It has helped them Be Prepared for road travel. And, yes, it has helped them stay sane on the road.
“Scouts gives us a strong appreciation for nature — both in how to respect it and take care of it but also how to survive in it,” Andrea says. “We’re constantly applying different aspects of the Scout Law while on the road. … Be thrifty when planning the trip. Be helpful in unloading bags every night. Be courteous, kind and clean when we’re on the road for seven hours a day. Be friendly and reverent when interacting with Rangers and other people at the parks.”
As the boys earn their Junior Ranger badges at the sites, Andrea sees more Scouting ties.
“In some ways, Scouts and the Ranger program are perfect complements to one another,” she says.
Photos from the journey