In 1967 my father bought a Pontiac Catalina and a dingy old travel trailer and took his girlfriend, my brother and me on a road trip. Over the next 8 weeks we drove 13,498 miles, visited 51 parks, and saw wonders like geysers, redwoods, grizzlies, and the Summer of Love in San Francisco. The trip made an indelible impression, cementing my appreciation for the natural world and the American landscape. This summer Pamela and I hope to repeat the experience for our family.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pamela: Bags Fly Free

4:00 a.m. arrived much too soon. We were awake before the cat. Early flights are not my favorite things. To make our escape easier we loaded the bags in the car the night before. Hurrah for Southwest Air and their 2-bag policy.

We each took our baggage limit. The girls each have their suitcases of clothes and each a large duffle bag caring all our sleeping bags. I carried one large suitcase and our ice chest filled with camping supplies. Dave will follow on Saturday with his own suitcase and an old army duffle bag filled with misc. sleeping pads, shoes etc.

We purchased a new tent from REI and had it shipped directly to my mom’s in Fallbrook, CA. It’s waiting for us along with a new rooftop carrier, and a box I shipped a couple weeks ago carrying half of Dave’s mother’s ashes (more on this later.)

Even with the limit of checked bags we are still loaded down with carry-on bags so heavy we can barely left them. Gone are the days when Dave and I could travel to Europe for two weeks with nothing but one carry-on bag each.

But this time the extra weight is worth it and much looked forward to—not so much for the work I have to bring along or the algebra book Lark has to tote—but the tradition of the Vacation Goodie Bags!

When I was 5 my mother loaded my brother and me in the family station wagon and drove us from LA to Washington where we were to spend the summer on a small island in the Puget Sound. Before we left my mother gave me a large container (it must have been an oatmeal box or coffee can) brightly painted and filled with small toys, treats and activities to fill the time on the long car ride. To this day I still remember that wonderful can containing new crayons, finger puzzles, little wax bottles filled with brightly colored sugar water, and red whip licorice.

When we started traveling with our children I created our version of the Vacation Goodie Bag—surprises that would be revealed only when we were on the road. Each would get a new book, some easily managed toy or activity and a bag of treats that came with the understanding that no more candy would be purchased throughout the trip. One child would regularly eat all of it at once (still does) and the other would parse it out over the length of the trip.

In the spring when Dave and I broached the subject of this trip with Lark and Linden one of the first questions asked was, “We will get a Vacation Bag, right?”

This year’s Vacation Bags included:

Linden: The new Rick Riordan book Red Pyramid, a bag of candy, Sudoku, mini markers and crayons, a small beanie baby cat named Bentley, and a watercolor travel journal.

Lark: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, logic puzzles, copies of "Seventeen" and "Rolling Stone," candy (half eaten already), and a watercolor travel journal.

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