There is nothing like traveling seven-plus hours in a car to bring a family together or make you wish for separate vacations.

Last week marked our seventh annual trip back to our adopted home in Garden City, so we crammed into a vehicle that used to be big enough and headed down the road.

There are plenty of things to consider when we travel.

First, it does not matter how far we are going, my daughter, Claire, will need to pack enough clothes to sustain her for an indefinite stay.

Apparently any trip requires several changes of clothes and shoes that must match. I don't know why. I just pack the vehicle.

As I loaded the vehicle, I noted that my son, Alek's, suitcase was light enough I wondered if he planned to change clothes, and I wondered if I would get a hernia lifting the two pieces of luggage Claire packed for a for a three-day trip.

Another problem is Alek's growing stature. His long legs are not conducive to being cramped into small spaces, which means my wife has to move up her seat, pushing her knees against the dash.

All that before we left the driveway.

And about the time it took us to back out of the driveway is how long it took Alek to get bored.

No one hates to travel more than this kid. A few hours into the trip, he had gone through all the DVDs he brought and was bored.

That left stopping to buy a magazine and eating, and eating is something he never gets tired of doing.

Snacks are an important part of any excursion, almost as important as Claire's wardrobe, but we made it.

Once we hit the city limits of Garden City, it always makes me feel like I am trying on an old pair of comfortable shoes I had misplaced and found again.

I have lived in a few towns in my life, and revisited them, but there is only one other that comes close to stirring that kind of sentiment within me.

Lifelong friends and a place where I really learned a lot about journalism created a perfect situation for me and my family.

But this trip also made us realize that time has marched on.

You can go home again, but that does not mean home will be the same.

While memories lock places and people in time, reality moves everything forward.

While getting caught up with friends always makes us realize why we became close to them, time keeps moving along.

Claire was 3 when we left Kansas and 15 years later will be graduating high school this year. Alek was 1 and soon will be climbing behind the wheel as a licensed driver.

That means all their friends, who used to scurry around our house and became like our own family, are getting on with their lives and experiencing the same life experiences.

It also means my wife and I have gotten older and a lot of life has happened to us since that cold day we packed the moving van and headed back to Nebraska.

Sometime, I imagine, the trips back to southwest Kansas will end, maybe next year as we turn our attention to sending Claire off to college. That doesn't mean we'll never be back, but who knows what life will bring us as our nest starts to empty out next year.

We don't know where life's road will leads us, but I look forward to putting on those old, comfortable shoes again sometime.

Patrick Murphy, of Columbus, Neb., is the former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.