The Californians: Steph and the family go West

for The Brooklyn Paper
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“C’mon, up and at ‘em, let’s go.”

It is 7 am and time is wasting. It is day five of our California trip, and we have to get up and on the road. Old Route 66 lies just outside the door of our Historic Route 66 Motel, whose parking lot is filled with the rusty old cars and trucks of yesteryear, its sidewalks littered with old long-since-used cigarette machines.

I want to see every bit of California, and I want to show my kids. We stayed with friends in Los Angeles and saw Malibu and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the handprints and signatures in front of Mann’s Chinese Theater. We drove through the desert, stopping for sarsaparilla, corn nuts, and beef jerky at the roadside restaurant and all-terrain vehicle rental spot in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada’s on the way to Death Valley. We hiked up a mountain of Borax to catch the sunset, drove windy roads through incredible rock formations formed millions of years ago, licked salt off the Badwater Basin at 282 feet below sea level, climbed to the top of the Mesquite Flat sand dunes and lunched under a creosote bush in the belly of the Ubehebe Crater.

“Up, up, pack up, let’s go.”

I am unsure of myself, dragging my kids to a different place every day, up and out well before 9 am. Am I the greatest mother ever, or will they remember these road trips with a sigh and an eye-roll, wondering why we could never just relax?

It is the same zest and zeal I poke fun at in my fellow New Yorkers, that go-go-go attitude that is a hallmark of the City That Never Sleeps.

But vacations, in my mind, are no time to sleep. There is so much to do and see. I am anxious to get out there and hit the Rainbow Basin, which supposedly is used in film shoots trying to depict Mars. What about that Calico Ghost Town that shows the life of early silver miners in the Mojave Desert?

The kids finally roll out of bed, complaining the donuts I’ve gotten are gross. We dare to ignore the “no passenger cars” sign to take our rented sport utility vehicle into the Rainbow Basin, and are rewarded for our harrowing four-wheeling through the rock walls with a landscape that indeed resembles something totally otherworldly. The Calico Ghost Town, despite its many touristy shopping opportunities, is an amazing window into a time when people traveled for days and days by horse-drawn wagon to try to find their riches, settling in spots for just a brief period before abandoning them when the gems and minerals ran dry.

Lunch at Route 66 hotspot the Summit Inn featured a vintage jukebox from the ’60s and we played Elvis in homage to the King, who supposedly visited the kitschy diner. After a gorgeous drive, we are in Ventura, walking on the beach, borrowing a volleyball from the girls’ teams practicing on the sandy courts to try our hand (only serves seem to come back to me from my days on the junior varsity team in high school).

We are blessed to be able to travel and I am amazed as I point out all the things that are different from home, the houses on the hills, the palm trees that loom overhead, the world around us that is the same one we live in but that feels so, so different.

We drive through the farmlands just North of Los Angeles, picking our own tangerines and feeding the pygmy goats as we make our way back to the city. Friends in California have fruit in their yards. I pine for this and wonder why it is that we live in the East, especially this winter when temperatures are reaching alarming lows.

But then I remember there is so much to love about Brooklyn, walking everywhere, public transportation, even the living on top of one another, which often can force us to interact more with our neighbors. And there is the frenetic pace, which I take with me no matter where I go and, for better or worse, am foisting upon my kids.

There is so much of the world to see and learn about, as evidenced in the map I have hung recently on the boys’ bedroom wall. Even at high speed, we will be hard-pressed to make a dent in the time we are allotted on this great earth. But we’re going to try.

Read Fearless Parenting every other Thursday on
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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