Tis the season for road tripping—one American pastime my parents have totally embraced, for obvious reasons. They get to see new sights and do it for less than $200 a day, done their way. That means packing a cooler in the trunk full of food, visiting mostly free national parks and landmarks, and sleeping in cheap motels. My dad drives the whole time, and claims he enjoys it. Luckily, he never took it a step further and bought that RV they always talk about. I can bleach the memories of cheap motels out of my memory, but an RV in the driveway throughout your teens leaves a permanent scar.
Aside from China, every vacation I’ve taken with my parents have been a road trip. When we lived in Ohio, we traveled to Ontario, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, D.C., Florida, Tennessee (all on separate trips). After moving to California, which involved an epic 8-day drive in a U-Haul and our car in tow, I was old enough to boycott. I’ve only been with them to Yosemite, and they stopped traveling as much.
Earlier this month, during July 4th weekend, I decided I was ready for another go. Age and mortality have been big themes this year, with the death of my grandpa and my mom finally recovered from her injuries and menopause. With everyone moving into new phases, it feels like nothing can ever be the same again. Of course you can’t stop time or fight change, but sometimes there’s an opportunity to linger on the things that haven’t changed yet—so my parents and I stuffed the cooler with leftovers, brought some sheets for those gross motel beds, the pee bags (my mom has an unfortunately weak bladder) and headed north to the Redwoods and Lake Shasta. The other option was going all the way to Vancouver for at least six days, but there’s a fine line between nostalgia and the makings of a summer horror flick, so I vetoed it.
And like every road trip, I played music the whole time and my dad made fun of it, he raided the breakfast buffet at the motel, my mom the germophobe swore she’d never leaver her house again, and we ate our packed food until I never wanted to see another hard-boiled egg again. We cut the trip a few days short to book it home and enjoy showering and sleeping in our own beds.
“A gold house, a silver house, nothing beats your own doghouse,” my mom said, as always. And it was truly satisfying.