let the packing begin

As the trip draws closer, things have changed. Sort of like my life. I plan with high hopes, but things never seem to work out like I wish they would. And so it goes with our summer vacation. What originally was us getting to see the Grand Canyon at long last, will now not even put us in Arizona. We’d planned to couch-surf our way through a few places and one by one, others’ plans have changed and we’re left without a place to stay. And with the little money I have, we need all the free places to stay as possible. So it’s with a bit of sadness and frustration and the slightest bit of anger that I cross the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde and all the Utah national parks off my list of things to see.

Road Trip 2010

Instead we’ll be spending two weeks in California and Oregon. It should look something like this with stops in Bend, Crater Lake National Park, Sacramento, Gilroy, Monterey, Solvang, Los Angeles, Riverside, Yosemite National Park, San Bernardino National Forest and Redwoods National Forest.

It’s close to 3000 miles total and even though we’re taking two weeks to do it, Google says we can make it 2 days and 7 hours. I guess what that really means is that I’ve got something like 60 hours of driving ahead of me. There are going to be some long days on the road, but interspersed with enough fun stuff, I hope, to keep the kids happy and me sane.

So yesterday I hit the local library and picked up some audiobooks for the drive. With what already have in my audiobooks file (thank you, audible.com!) we should have plenty to listen to:
* The Funny This Is… by Ellen DeGeneres
* Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin
* In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
* Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
* The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinski
* The Help by Kathryn Stockett
* Going Solo by Roald Dahl
* The Lost City of Z by David Grann
* The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
* Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
* The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

I was thinking we might be able to get through the whole Harry Potter series over the two weeks, but the library didn’t have them. So instead, we’ll get a mish-mash of fiction and non-fiction, youth and adult.

Hopefully it’ll drown out any sounds of arguing from the back seat.

We’re bringing my niece along for the bulk of the trip, returning her to her parents (my sister and her husband) in Los Angeles. Should be lots of fun to spend so much time with her; since she lives so far away, we don’t get to see that side of the family often. In fact, it had been two years between visits (we’d been in Vietnam last summer when they visited), making it extra nice to be together again. But it also means that for the next two weeks, I’m the mother of three and I never liked being outnumbered by kids.

I pick up our rental car on Wednesday morning and we’ll hit the road at noon. Wish us luck; with my history of things not working quite right, we’re going to need it.

traveling close to home

The chaos of summer has struck for certain these days. We are in and out of town like crazy. I had the pleasure of spending four days at a beach cabin with a good friend of mine.

Then a week later I joined him for three days of camping at the Prineville Reservoir.

Just yesterday, the three of us returned from a beach trip with my sisters.

You wouldn’t guess by looking at us, or our children, that we’re related at all. We look, talk, eat, parent, and simply live our lives different from each other. The kids did well enough this trip, too, though there are always inane arguments when you have cousins together. Especially with the three girls: 12, 11, and 9. It was mostly good though and the girls had fun wearing big sunglasses, looking chic, playing board games and roaming the sand.

We had a mini-dance party (which always makes me happy):

We lit the last of the fireworks from the 4th of July celebration:

And overall, everyone had a good time despite our differences. I think that’s part of what makes family interesting, though, are those differences. The three of us were raised in the same house, by the same parents and we’re each unique. I wonder sometimes how it will be with my own two. I can see how they differ, yet they get on so much better than my sisters and I did as teens. I can hope for less bumps in the road to their adult friendship, but there’s some relieve in knowing that how a kid turns out isn’t all in how the parents are. There’s s much more to it and it makes me intrigued to watch my children become adults (something that is happening faster than I’d thought possible). It makes me grateful for our little family and for all the family members who are a part of our lives.

three weeks is all we have

All we have to plan this trip, but so far we’re doing all right. I’ve got the car rental taken care of and reservations for the first two nights of camping, then we’ll be lucky enough to stay with friends and family throughout California.

Yesterday I trekked it down to the central library (a trek indeed when live out of the city proper and you don’t have a car) and picked up a couple of travel guides for Southwest USA and for California. Strange to look at guidebooks designed for foreigners, but as I read through them I realized that the Arizona, New Mexico, Utah area is all foreign to me, too. Audrey was finally getting excited about it and over the next week we will be marking the map with places to visit. Must-sees. If Audrey has any say in it, there will be plenty of camping, but I’m pretty sure Stuart is going to veto it as often as possible. We’ll see… I think that final week is going to be spent in a tent.

Oh and I found out about that Skywalk where, heaven help me, you can look through the glass bottom to see the Grand Canyon gaping beneath you… yeah, it’s about $85 each with all the different fees. Not going to happen and frankly, I’m relieved. I’ll do almost anything for my kids, but that one was going to require some serious panic-quelling.

Personally, I can’t wait to finally see the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde.
photo from DesertUSA.com