On The Go, A Loose Guide to Traveling With General Unpreparedness

With sweet reminder to be easy on my grammar mistakes & editing oversights when it comes to these lengthy posts. The Luxury of second drafting has not been available to me since, uh, oh ... 2011. Though I was never really all that good at it in the first place. . .

The past three weeks with the boys out of school and long rainy days threatening to keep us all indoors for the majority of their time off, I finally woke up one morning and decided to get up and get out in spite of unfortunate weather. I mean, it's no secret how funny we Californians are when it comes to rain, right? You all know. Racked with rampant warnings and constant news updates detailing the intensity of looming storm clouds, flash flood alerts rattling our nerves via local radio stations, people locked up indoors swooning over cups of hot chocolate they waited all winter long to rightfully enjoy in face of our first of what they promise to be a series of proper rain storms in line for an El Nino winter. No one in their right mind wants to go out in the rain here. It's understandable. We're not accustomed to the rain and truth be told I usually I don't want to either. Unless my sanity is at stake. Which indeed it was about six days into the break where staying home cooped up another day with all four kids seemed far more frightful to me than any slick freeway excursion. Plus, when I started to consider how much the rest of the world continues to life and thrive in the face of far more challenging climates, I started to feel slightly silly about avoiding the possibility of any major outings when all of us we so desperate to have a little fun on break.

Nothing we managed inside of those three weeks was planned or prepared for. And I must say - if this blog could be a proponent for anything it might as well be advocate for the unplanned, ill prepared, unplanned way of spontaneous day tripping. I swear it's all we've ever known and these days I'm come to accept that our adventures out won't ever unroll in a readily planned, or overly organized manner. In that I felt the weight of all those "should haves" that get in the way of exploring with kids too often, be lifted permanently from my poor head space. Getting out at all in any decent shape or matter is HARD. Absolutely. But 99 percent of the time we do it because we know the rewards it reaps are always well worth the exhaustive efforts and countless inconveniences it comes to demand. We get out. Because we need to. Whatever happens in the midst of it we just deal with. 

But let me start first by explaining how the addition of our new (ok, used) Ford Econoline van (boasting 8 individual seating options!) has really helped kick up the notion of getting out no matter what circumstances our day begins with. The van is a beast, but so practical, and at this point in life it feels like a middle class suburban mom's dream come true. A caravan to load up the whole gang. With plenty of walking space (!) and room for all their filthy little trucks, trinkets, and souvenirs. So far what I keep stocked in there on the regular is: water, a decent sized snack bag, diapers & wipes, and a pile of four Mexican blankets because the seats all recline so they come in handy big time on the long drives home (or in the case of soaking clothes in which they then serve as our only means of replacement garments but more on that below)  

One of our week's fist trips* came about when we decided to finally visit Jamie on her super adobe consturction site. A visit a year in the making where I figured what better time to pile in and visit sprawling dirt lots and interview** her about the nature of her inspiration in beginning this quest for alternative housing / living. They boys had a blast. Metal (mobile) tractors a'plenty, swing set banning girls, and one big trampoline, bike tracks and everything else boys generally adore. Even the minor injury (Leon was hit by a pellet from a be be gun Arlo found that ricocheted off of a swing and hit him in the tummy) that I've come to almost expect as result of taking four boys into the wild on any given occasion, didn't dare damper their time there.  

The visit was short but eventful. For all of us. We drove home and through a Del Taco for a quick bite, watching the storm moving in with fresh seeds of homesteading blooming in my head. Desperate to learn more. To gain more knowledge about what I always viewed as a long shot as far as building something our own some day is concerned. Thank you Jaime, for that. 

Another day trip sprung on a whim was our trip to the harbor once the storm was in full effect. I woke up feeling Antsy and motivated. I didn't tell the boys where we were going once I decided we were partly because I wasn't sure myself where we might end up. But more to spare me a string of backseat complaints on the way down. Knowing full and well sometimes it's better to surprise than try and convince them.

So we ended up at the harbor. Swinging by the Crab Cooker for steaming cups of red clam chowder and french bread loafs straight out of the oven. We sat and ate our soup and listened to whatever spooky*** pod casts I found (Brother's Grimm and something about the Demon cat?) And then busted out of the van to run around a cool new play space there on the sand in soaking clothes. The ride home was cozy and slow. Stripped of wet clothes they sat happily in underwear with a heater blasting. A blanket of their own to cover up with, watching flashes of lighting spark from outside those big wide window panels.

Turned out to be one of my favorite vacation days yet. Further convincing me that the less expectations you set forth on these trips, the better the outcome. For everyone involved. And so many times just getting it the car is the bigger battle. Figuring out where you're going even when you begin your destination without a clue, is a heck of a lot less stressful. And fun if you let it be.

Our second trek to the desert we decided on late the night before. Knowing that our friends were in town camped out in the park, and wanting to take the opportunity to let Arlo race around the open sand on his new quad. 

Early on I set the directions on my phone for the website to Camp Ryan inside of Joshua Tree Stae Park, which failed me but led us instead through the most breath taking back road through the park's "Wrong side." Piecing blue skies, new thin snowfall at the foot of smoke singed staggered trees. It was about 20 minutes into the drive where we started to realize it might be the wrong way but with scenery that pretty it's hard to really care. Once we decided to turn back, we let everyone out to play in the snow where they each built their own tiny snowmen (Hayes befriended, kissed, hugged, then ate his) and the older boys chucked snowballs at one another till they were wet, mad, and exhausted. 

We arrived in the park late but with enough time for a little rock climbing (which always makes me nauseous to watch) introduced our boys to the three on site: Howard, Rowan and Dexter who's Tonka truck collection helped forge an instant bond between all 7. And left with promised plans for more play dates in the future since Jesse and his family will be in the area for the next few months shooting the next issue of his magazine, The Collective Quarterly. 

Evening found us another 20 miles down the way to visit W & E. for vegetable soup at dinner and cold quad rides around the property. The boys were given free range with metal shovels and dug what they believed would become impressive launch pads while we sat by the fire dreaming about owning one of the many vacant & neglected structures scattered along the same street as theirs. 

The ride home sweetly rekindled my love affair with Leonard Cohen**** (now that I have an auxiliary cord in my possession once again) A gripping kind of love which wanes through the years only because I like to give up listening to him in long bouts to fully appreciate him and the songs upon my return. It's all they've heard in the van since that night. Because I think we can all agree if this season should be granted one defining voice it would most certainly be Mr. Cohen's. 

Lastly, a phone call from a fellow school friend convinced us to stop by the park for some good old fashioned puddle stomping. Which Leon did. Like any kid might armed with newly thrifted black rubber rain boots made for stomping.

Not pictured: a day trip to the Science Center in L.A where I detoured our initial plans for the zoo, then the Santa Ana site, when I learned entrance was free, I had two extra kids with me, and had in fact forgotten my wallet. And you know what? Turned out to be a pretty fantastic museum experience. Highly recommended for local readers who've yet to make it out there. Hard to beat an earth quake simulator, astronaut photo booth, space shuttle interiors, and 2 dollar tight roped bike ride three stories above the museum. So good I can't wait to go back.

And there you have it. A few examples of us on the go thoughout three weeks of Christmas break for the simple purpose of getting out to preserve sanity day to day. Without structured plans or solid preparations. Stumbling into snow we never expected, friends we've never knew before, songs we still need to learn to love, rainstorms on the road, and wild quad rides at dusk. Things I hope they never forget. Hours and outings that stand above and beyond all the rest. Long after the plights of petty quarrels and traveling mishaps fizzle out and fade away.

Post Footnotes

* Sounds track being: Janis Joplin & Lunch being: an 8 dollar drive lunch via a Del Taco drive through on the way back. 

** Full interview and more photos of Jamie and her home on the Ma Books today, Here 

*** We listened for free via some random site I stumbled upon but I would greatly appreciate any recommendations as far as pod casts or audible book options go. 

**** And while I can't say the boys all fully on board yet with the Man locked in the Tower of Song, I still hold out slim hope that one of them will grow up and write a book titled "All I Ever Learned about Women I Learned From Leonard Cohen in the Back Seat of an Econolpne Van on Those Long Car Rides Home." 
A mother can dream, right?
Leon, Maybe .....

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