By Danielle Elliot
As Chris and Ione White finished their USTA 7.0 Northern Section doubles match to secure the title, their son Brisman was courtside, pumping his fists, yelling, “We’re going to Vegas!!!”
Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah and Kansas, too.
Before playing the Section Championships, the Whites decided that if they won, they would turn their trip to the USTA League Mixed Doubles National Championships into a family adventure. So, on Thursday, Nov. 12, Chris, Ione and their sons: Brisman, 10, Nolan, 6, and Kutuk, 3, and Rowdy, their 3-year-old border collie, piled into their Buick LaSabre and set-off from their home in Washburn, Wis.
Washburn, population 2,200, is on Lake Superior, at the northwestern tip of the state. The nearest large city is Minneapolis, Minn., nearly 225 miles southwest.
The Whites home-school their sons, which makes it easy to arrange spontaneous cross-country road trips. But being on the road doesn’t mean the education stops. Each of the boys has an atlas and, prior to setting off, Brisman and Nolan each calculated the distance and time between stops.
Mom and Dad asked the boys to plan six-hour drives. Brisman and Nolan soon realized they would be stopping first in Iowa, to visit Ione’s aunt, and then it was on to a campout in Nebraska. The Whites are avid campers, spending at least 80 or 90 nights a year in the wilderness.
From Nebraska they moved on to Breckenridge, Colo., where they spent two days cross-country skiing and snowmobiling with friends. The next stop brought them to a completely different climate, the Utah desert. They camped right outside of Arches National Park for three nights. It was the first time the boys experienced the desert.
“That was the best part, camping in Utah!” Nolan says as Brisman nodded in agreement.
Asked what he has learned so far, Nolan shrugs his shoulders. “This state’s a lot hotter,” he finally says. Brisman says he has “learned to read maps better.”
Nolan has been working on his artistic talents, drawing sketches of mountains and the desert. Brisman is the navigator. As such, he added his own twist to the trip: the family has played tennis in each state along the way. Of course, he had to do his homework – researching on the Internet – to make it happen.
While camping, the older boys are responsible for finding firewood, setting up the tent and cooking. “It makes them tougher,” Ione says.
The youngest of the boys, Kutuk, has less responsibility. The energetic and talkative toddler seems to be having a ball. So far, his favorite part of the trip is staying at the Circus Circus.
Here in Vegas, the boys are “totally into the games,” Chris says, “They scout out the other teams for us, they love it.”
Back in Wisconsin, the Whites have sectioned off a grass tennis court in their yard. Chris played tennis growing up, but took 23 years off before starting up again about three years ago. Ione and the boys quickly took to the sport and have been playing ever since.
Stopping in Vegas is just the middle point of the cross-country journey. When the tournament wraps up, the Whites are off to camp near Utah’s Zion National Park for five days, before visiting friends in Steamboat Springs, Colo., for five more days on the slopes. The final stop will be Kansas City, Kan., before heading home.