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.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Pamela: Tink, Mickey and Jack Sparrow

I have a history with Disneyland, as do most people from Southern California. I never worked there like my cousins or some friends, but I have many many memories of times spent there.

My grandparents lived in the next town over. There were at Disneyland on opening day. My parents went on a date to the Magic Kingdom on the second day it was opened. When I was little a real trip to Disneyland with E tickets and everything was a rare treat but often when visiting my grandparents we'd stroll down Main Street (you could get in for free and just pay for the rides) and stop to listen to music and then see the fireworks. I remember seeing Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, Count Basie, and the Firehouse Five, one of my father's favs.

As I got older there were birthdays, dates and grad night. It never got old. I always tried to view Disneyland through the eyes of of 5 year old. It works most times.

As an adult sometimes the stress of getting everyone where they should be when they should be there makes me feel a bit like Maleficent but on a whole our trip to Disneyland yesterday was as magical as ever. My niece's giant smile as her brother made the tea cup go faster and faster. Lark's delight at watching the Disney performers dance and sing. My mother clapping and singing along to a rousing version of "Deep in the Heart of Texas" at the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ" where we were celebrating her 79th birthday. I went on a ride I'd never been on before--Splash Mountain--and some old favorites--Storybook Land and the Pirates of the Caribbean. But my favorite part is always at the end of the day, coming back down Main Street past the candy store, ice cream parlor and arcade and adding one more fond memory to my collection.

1967: Disneyland

9:50 Left for Disneyland. Marge dropped us, Mr. Maus, and Craig off in the parking lot. Rode tram to entrance. Entered and walked up Main Street, U.S.A. A replica of a 19th century American Town was at ¾ scale. First we took the Matterhorn bobsled ride that takes you up in a steep climb and down a series of fast, sharp, thrilling turns. Second we took a voyage in the submarine Nautilas, that was very interesting. Third we viewed the show in the Enchanted Tiki Room. The animation there is fabulous. Fourth we took the mine train through nature’s wonderland where we saw various animals and Painted Desert with an old unfaithful geyser. Fifth we went on the Pirates of the Carribean. This ride cost 17 million dollars and was really fantastic. Ate lunch at Carnation Plaza and listened to an old fashioned band while eating. Wasted time until 12:10. We were supposed to have seats for the Golden Horseshoe Revue but through a mix up we lost our seats and had to stand. Sixth we rode the boat through the “Jungle” full of animals and cannibals. Took train ride around Disneyland. On this trip we saw the Grand Canyon, the Primevil World and got off at Tomorrowland. Seventh we went trough G.E’s Carousel of Progress. You sit in a theater that rotates around a center hub in which are animated displays. Upstairs is progress city, a miniature modern city. Eighth we saw Small World in Fantasyland. As we walked to the gate we registered in the insurance of life and got a free constitution. As we left we got our hands stamped with florescent ink so we could get back in. Took tram to hotel where we were picked up.
6:00 Arrived home, ate, sat around.
7:30 Returned to Disneyland Hotel. Took Hotel tram to main entrance and went in. First we saw great moments with Mr. Lincoln on main street. First you see a slide program on Lincoln’s early life. Then you enter a camber where an animated and very realistic Lincoln gives you a speech. Watched the short fireworks display and saw tinkerbell fly. Second we proceeded to Tomorrowland and rode the Peoplemover that had just opened that day. It takes you around Tomorrowland and through some of Tomorrowland’s buildings. Next we went to the Bell exhibit called America the beautiful. You stand in a circular room and watch 360 movies of various points in the country. Then Craig, Bruce and I left the adults and went to the Up John exhibit but it had been changed and wasn’t very good. We went to the penny arcade and had some target practice with the guns. Had a coke at Cake Gardens and joined the adults again. We escorted them to the Rudy Vallee show in Tomorrowland at 11:00. While they watched that we rode the skyway (a cable car) and the pirates of the Caribbean again. We ran to Fantasyland and rode Peter Pan’s Flight. Afterwards we ran to the Mad Tea Party. Here you turn your cup by turning the wheel in the middle. We turned ours so fast we couldn’t stand up when the ride stopped. Met the adults after the show at 12:00. Exited through main gate, took tram to hotel and car.
12:15 Left Disneyland
12:25 Arrived at home
12:30 Went to bed.

Dave: Handing over our home

I'm still at home, though I'm catching a plane to San Diego later today.

The intense, crazy push to get our house ready for the house sitters is done. I had a busy day tying up loose ends at work. No disasters occurred during my last hours. (The final disaster happened on my next to last day, so I was able to get it out of the way without too much stress.) Now I just have to put a few things in a suitcase and I'm outta here.

Yesterday I met the house sitters, who seemed quite nice. Our short time together made me feel like our life was mildly paced. Roger, Eva, and their two little girls had been up since five. They had driven up from Long Island, having taken a ferry across Long Island Sound. They arrived at Northampton, did a final walk-through on their house, signed all the closing papers, signed their construction permit, explored their new digs for a short time, and then arrived at our house.

Needless to say, the little girls were a little wound up. While I tried to perform a household mind meld with Roger, Eva wrangled kids. Lark and Linden had dragged out our few remaining kid toys and the little girls instantly glaumed onto them. Plus, they started re-interpreting other things around the house as sources of entertainment. I insisted they don't view Percy that way, which prompted some tears. Lark has a three-foot tall plastic penguin, which largely acts as a decoration. But not for these girls. One immediately dragged the penguin to the living room, even though she wasn't much taller than the plastic bird.

The whole time the kids were on the verge of melting down, so Roger and I handled everything as quickly as we could. Then they left to begin their new lives. It reminded me so much of the move our family made to Northampton nine years ago.

It's a strange feeling to hand your entire material existence over to people you've known for an hour, but I felt good about them. I'm not sure how Percy and Zephyr will feel about Zuke, their big black dog. But, as I told the animals last night, "Change is good."

Linden: A.K.A Tila (with help from Lark)

The last two days have been packed with adventures. It all started when we went to a Mexican restaurant on Thursday. There we all ate our meals and enjoyed them immensely. Afterwards we peered into the bakery/spice shop. In the spice racks we found linden tea and discovered that the word for linden in Spanish is Tila. (TEA-la) Now, Lark has sworn that she will call me Tila for the rest of my life. In the bakery we all enjoyed our different treats, which included, giant Frisbee rolls, macaroons, homemade fruit bars, rice pudding ice cream and churros. Following the bakery we went over to the San Juan Capistrano mission, which was beautiful. All the flowers were in full bloom and the giant carp roamed the fountains searching for something to eat. One fish was so big that it was bigger than a loaf of big bread. We took way to many pictures of the big fish and flowers. We wandered into the Zorro exhibit and saw the various Zorro accessories. Later we stumbled blindly onto San Clemente’s beach and built a sand palace, which we dubbed Fort Venice. We then went to a modest sized restaurant on the pier where we got a great view of the waves crashing across the beach. We got to watch the surfers beneath us as we slurped clam chowder. At that point it was late and we were all quite exhausted BUT continued to adventure by going to see THE KARATE KID. HEYA. (Karate noise) I think I can say that everyone loved it. With the closing of the movie we had finished the adventures of our first full day in California. Once home, we collapsed our tired bodies onto various pieces of furniture.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lark: Hunger and impatience

I want to shoot something furry and small. and cute. and then eat it. because I am sooo hungry.

Lark: The smiles are stored near the liquor

The old man across the aisle played solitaire for a few hours but then I presume his battery died because he put the laptop away and proceeded to try and sleep. That is fairly difficult due to the frequent announcements coming from the overly cheery flight attendants and the chairs that are so incredibly straight they would be uncomfortable for a stick figure. Relentlessly this man tried to sleep but every 30 seconds he would shift into a different position or would try and stretch because of the small confinement. It was hard to tell how old he was but he looked like a nice fellow. He smiled at me when we boarded, oh so long ago, and he didn’t get frustrated when the flight attendants with too much makeup announced that we would have a delay due to the “storm.” This man never got angry. He once got frustrated at the crumbs clogging the touch pad on his mouse but that is understandable because it makes the mouse slower. We cannot have that. No, not at all. A slow mouse would lower one's score in solitaire.

The ex-plastic flight attendants in their red, white and blue apparel come on the intercom to do the mini speech that is given EVERY single time one is to ride on an aircraft. “The life vests are located directly under the seats in case of an emergency and please make sure your trays and seats are in the full and upright position. In case of emergency oxygen masks will FALL FROM THE SKY. There will be four of them. Fasten them like so around your head and breathe calmly in and out. Parents please fasten your masks before helping children and others around you. The cushions on your chairs can be used as a flotation device.” These wannabe sexy flight attendants do a little dance in the aisle while this is all going on. They motion under the seats and to the various exits leaving the plane. They model the new fashion statement of life vests and oxygen masks. They smile vigorously all throughout the duration of the speech. When this is all over these polite and kind flight attendants go into the back of the plane where immediately their kind faces fall to the floor and they have a coke until they are needed again.

Unfortunately for us this time the time when they are needed came all too soon. That dreaded announcement came when we were waiting on the runway for lift off. It announced in syrup sweet, yet slightly static voice that due the “heavy rainfall” it would be a little while until we were able to fly. In the meantime they would turn off the engines to save fuel. Good for them. Save the planet. Most people groaned inwardly while those obnoxious old ladies complained out loud. Everyone whipped out their various whirring and beeping devises to tell people on the other end that they would be late. Then these people were chastised for having electronic devises present.

The only one on the plane that did not show disappointment even though his seat was next to a young couple was the old man across the aisle. He just kept playing his solitaire and didn’t even look up when flight attendants with the badly colored hair announced that a problem with the plane had been located and we would be turning around and going back to the gate. Once at the gate it was relayed to us useless passengers that they were working on fixing the plane but we wouldn’t leave anyway due to the rain and we might switch planes if they can’t fix it but no one can actually makes this decision so we will just sit here. On the plane. In the rain. Which is what we did for 3 and a half hours while no one could decide. Then finally the shorter less obnoxious one of the flight attendants announced on the intercom that we were moving forward. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Moving forward… in the world cup. And that America had beat Albania and we (America) would be progressing in the soccer world. Everyone groaned again but we were slightly happy for the soccer nerds.

By this time every one had read the evacuation manual to the point of memorization and had laughed at all the ridiculous things in the catalogs which lived in the Kangaroo pouches which were all to close to our knees. We had all said, seen, and thought everything interesting if we didn’t starve to death we would have died of boredom. If it wasn’t for the handy bag of candy distributed by mother I don’t think we would have made it. The man across the aisle continues to play solitaire and it made me wonder who is winning. Man or technology. Eventually the plane is fixed and we are not leaving but gas needs to be put back in the plane. Around 4 hours after getting on the plane we depart for San Diego.

Now the plane flies at a height of 36,000 feet and last we heard we were above Nebraska… Wherever that is. The old man is finally asleep but he looks slightly pained. Those lovely flight attendants had made their last rounds a few hours ago with the mini everything food and soda. Still the old man sleeps. Then those helpful flight attendants retreated back to their lairs where all of their smiles are stored next to the liquor. With luck I believe we will get there before dark.

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.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dave: Sweat equity

In 1988 my brother Bruce and I went to Pittsburgh to help my mother move from her house to California. Hoping to preserve her modest equity with our sweat, we wanted to fix up the house as best we could before she sold it.

It was a monumental job. The house had not been cleaned out in 35 years. There was all kinds of unspeakable cleaning disasters. We worked like dogs, every day, all day. To make matters worse, Pittsburgh was in the middle of a record-breaking heatwave. Every day was 90+ degrees with 100 percent humidity. We swam in sweat.

Late in the day we would clean up and go out to find something to eat. Then we would return and do some more work, usually lighter duty tasks like sorting.

Pamela and my friend Bruce Favish had arranged to messenger me a bottle of single malt Scotch. Oh man, did we appreciate that. Every night Bruce and I would have a nightcap to calm our nerves so we could sleep and get up to do it again the next day.

Preparing for this trip is starting to remind me of 1988. I had a shot of Scotch last night.

It was good.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Linden: the torture of the broom

Yesterday I cleaned my room it took about 12 hours physical torture. AAAAAAAAAAAAAhhhhhhhhhh

Dave: I am really looking forward to a vacation

Driving an average of 300 miles a day, or whatever we end up doing, is going to seem easy. We have all been working so hard to get ready for this trip.

We've got house sitters taking care of the house, and we're trying to make the place presentable for them. They have two little kids, ages 2 and 4, so Lark and Linden have to hack out some space in their rooms so the kids can be comfortable.

We're cleaning like crazy, and I have to find a way to make our various construction projects, inside and out, look less than hideous. The yard is littered with boulders and 200 pound flagstones from my wall project. Every single one of these rocks equates to a broken ankle for a two-year old. And our downstairs is crammed with every power tool known to carpenters, with about a quarter inch deep of sheet rock dust frosting the scene. I have to try to deal with all that today.

Most of my time seems to be spent as the IT manager for the trip. Between the two laptops, our new smart phone, our new MiFi, and three digital cameras, I am spending a couple hours every day wrangling with with software. But, what would a trip to a national park be without a pouch full of electronic gear?

Like I said, I'm really looking forward to driving 300 miles a day.