Earlier this summer, I was the kind of person who had never seen the Grand Canyon. Who, in fact, had never been west of Chicago.

Earlier this summer, I was the kind of person who had never seen the Grand Canyon. Who, in fact, had never been west of Chicago.

I was an east coast kind of person. Most of my regional travel had been eastward -- east to visit a daughter in school in Pittsburgh, east to visit the same daughter in school in New Hampshire, east yet again to visit her in Boston.

East, I thought, was the best direction, daughter or no daughter. My husband and I demonstrated this philosophy by going east before we had any children to give shape and direction to our travel. We once spent a one-week vacation -- one week! -- driving to the east coast, where we caught glimpses of Boston, a couple of campgrounds and some small towns near the ocean before we had to head home again. It was an ill-thought-out holiday plan and I'd be too embarrassed to mention it if it weren't such a perfect example of our geographical bias: We like going east.

We might have finished out our lives without ever doing a 180 and taking a gander at the other side of the country had our children not taken matters into their own hands.

This isn't the first time they've clubbed together to widen our horizons. Having observed our tendency to organize vacations around their own whereabouts, they've rented cabins for two in the otherwise lonely woods. Knowing from long experience that we wait to buy new technology until it's a great-great-grandpa in technology's family tree, they bought us a DVD player. Assisted -- nay, commanded -- by their husbands, they gently bullied me into joining Facebook and when we allowed our knives to become as dull as bananas, they bought us a splendid new set and some Band-Aids.

Certainly our sons-in-law jumped into the Grand Canyon project with all the enthusiasm of puppies at the food bowl. They began by dropping references to "our trip to the Grand Canyon," about which, of course, my husband and I knew nothing.

"Hey, if we're going to the Grand Canyon, we'd better start planning," they'd say. Or, "We should buy those Grand Canyon tickets soon, you know."

Like that. Each time, my husband and I would look at each other and shrug.

"Somehow they've gotten the idea that we're going to the Grand Canyon," we'd say.

Eventually, it began to dawn on us that we were, in fact, going to the Grand Canyon. By that time airline tickets had been purchased, a van had been rented and I was sitting in the AAA office making hotel reservations.

Still, the whole business was conducted so adroitly, so smoothly, like a really good phlebotomist slips the needle into the vein, that on the first Tuesday of August, when we found ourselves standing on the broad stone terrace of the Grand Canyon Lodge, we felt a peculiar compression of time and space. One second, it seemed, we were standing in our own kitchen, shrugging, and then --

"We're at the Grand Canyon," we said.

Of course, it didn't really happen that fast. Before we stood on the canyon's north rim, we had gone to Zion National Park, where we hiked and learned the shuttle system and drove a series of terrifying switchbacks -- "Don't look down!" we shouted at our younger daughter, who was driving -- and we also had gone to Bryce Canyon, where we hiked and saw hoodoos and even started talking about hoodoos as if the word was as common to us as, say, "orange barrels." We had even seen a slice of Las Vegas, a place to which I once swore I would never go unless kidnapped by armed thugs, and I liked it.

So here I am, no longer the kind of person who has never seen the Grand Canyon, or been west of Chicago, or experienced a dry heat, or seen -- if only from a distance -- an In-N-Out Burger in Las Vegas.

So what kind of person am I now? I'm the kind who still likes the topography -- the hills and mountains and trees and streams -- of the east.

Also, I'm the kind of person who has never been northwest of Chicago.

And who can imagine fixing that some day.

Margo Bartlett is a ThisWeek staff writer. E-mail her at mbartlett@thisweeknews.com.

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