Travel Tips For Idiots

If your passport has more stamps than my Cold Stone Creamery punch card (hint: a lot of stamps), you are always jetting off to some exciting city, or you fly to Iceland every year for a private viewing of the Aurora Borealis, this maybe won’t be your jam.

(Or, maybe you want to stick around for the inevitable comic relief? Everyone’s welcome.)

Either way, this post is for newbie travelers and the truly inept who never seem to learn (I fall into both categories, BTW).

So, here are some super obvious (to Tammy Traveler) travel tips for the amateur or idiot traveler:

1. Not only do you need a plug adaptor, but you also need to check the voltage on your appliance

I thought I had done extensive research on how to work my can’t-leave-for-the-weekend-let-alone-the-country-flat iron for my first trip to the U.K. I knew for certain that I’d need a plug adaptor to be able to use it and all of my other necessary hair appliances and other electronics.

What Rick Steve’s travel forum and other travel sites need plastered on their front pages in gigantic, glaring letters is “YOU ALSO NEED DUAL VOLTAGE APPLIANCES, UNLESS WHAT YOU’RE GOING FOR IS THE FRIED LOOK, DUMBASS!”*

This’ll be mind blowing to anyone who wasn’t already aware, but there is this thing (some kind of force) called voltage that varies from country to country. In the US, we use 120V and much of Europe 230V.

What happens if you try to use your flat iron only meant for 120V in an outlet meant for 230V is you’ll burn up your device and your hair will be hideous for 95% of your trip (because, you might get in a day or two before you almost burn down your hotel).

I’m not sure you’ll actually really explode anything, but you will ruin your $100 hair appliance and isn’t that just as bad?

I had to wear this stupid hat almost everyday after I blew out my flat iron.

2. You don’t need to buy everything new before a trip

I’m the kind of traveler who feels compelled to buy an entirely new wardrobe, new toiletry bags, state-of-the-art sound canceling headphones, and a Mulberry silk neck pillow before a big trip.

I’m also the traveler who wonders why she can never afford to travel.

I try to think if I had the opportunity to travel to one of my wanderlist sites like right this very second, so I had to take my horrific clothes that I own currently, along with my old luggage, would my trip really be made less awesome?

No, man. It would still be amazing.

For the upcoming trip I’m planning for this summer, I’m trying really hard to validate with a normal person’s rationale if I really need a $20 eye mask just because it says, “Wake me up when we get there” or another cross body purse when I already have 15. I ask myself if the purchase will make or break my trip.

Sound canceling headphones so I can try to get some shut eye on the flight? Yes. Proceed.

New, snazzy luggage when my battered, but perfectly usable suitcase will do? No. Put the floral-print Jessica Simpson suitcase down and back away.

(Besides, luggage is practically mauled to death during its voyage to your location. Buying gorgeous luggage that might get some dings and too much wear and tear gives me heart palpitations.)

Super cute mint-colored packing cubes? No. Get your extra ass out of Target and on a travel site where they offer free packing advice.

Comfortable, yet stylish Adidas walking shoes found at TJ MAXX? Yes, girl. You’re thrifty and your feet will thank you. (Converse are cute, but they have no arch support and they’re flatter than a gluten-free pancake.)

OK, so I bought a new bag for my toiletries, too.

3. Learn how to read a damn map, yo

Back before everyone and that homeless man on the corner had a smartphone and a GPS device, people had to actually rely on paper maps.

In 2010 (right around the time that poor woman showed the world her AT&T iPhone bill that weighed 83 pounds), my boyfriend at the time and I bought a Blackberry specifically for our trip abroad because we were explicitly told it would work in the U.K. Guess what, folks? It didn’t.

Even if it had, it wouldn’t have helped us much in getting from point A to B, because the Google Maps app for phones wasn’t even a thing at the time.

The first purchase we made when we got our rental car was a road atlas. That wrinkled, coffee-stained God-send really came in handy (that is when the boyfriend was using it. My other travel friend did not have map reading skills at all, thus a very comical drive into Blackpool late in the night. Wait for a post on that adventure).

Again, even in our über modern literally-everyone-owns-a-smartphone 2018, the first purchase we will be making at the very first petrol station we come to will be a paper road atlas.

(I’m really going to need to bone up on my map reading skills which are basically non-existent, currently.)

Want to know why we won’t be running our Map apps during our five weeks of car travel all over the British Isles? Because we aren’t bazillionaires, that’s why.

The very helpful assistant at Verizon told me that a travel plan would cost me $40 extra for the month I’m abroad (not bad at all), but that would only cover calls and texts, not data! He very emphatically urged me not to use my phone for anything other than calls or texts unless I’m on WiFi, because if I do, I’ll be receiving a really expensive bill for overseas roaming. Unless the entirety of the British Isles is a WiFi hotspot, I think we are going back to 2010, baby!

So, even though we all now own truly “international” phones, that doesn’t mean your phone will be as useful as it is in your home country.**

4. Check the amenities that may or may not be offered at your hostel or house stay

I hate to break it to you, ya’ll, your house rental MIGHT NOT PROVIDE TP!

When my mom and I realized the houses we will be renting won’t likely have toilet paper, she wrote down in her travel journal, “Costco in U.K.?????? *shocked face*”. I fully understand her fear as I’m a massive toilet paper over-user.

It’s just a good thing we read the fine print and we can be adequately prepared by buying a pallet of TP once we arrive.

Even if house rentals don’t typically provide paper products, most do provide towels, linens, and washing machines, which is a lot more than hostels can say.

Our first hostel stay during our 2010 British Isles trip was an independent hostel. Because I was not exactly gung-ho on the idea of hostels, I had done zero research on them. So, for your convenience, I’ll just say that with independent hostels you’ll be lucky if they provide you with sheets, let alone the damn bed.

DO YOUR RESEARCH.

So, needless to say, this hostel was a real trip. I can’t wait to write up my experience at The Rainbow.

I’ll just give you a little sneak peek:

Do you see the towels drying on the back seats? Those are car towels (you know, the kind that has scrubby mesh on one side and are the size of a hand towel) bought at a petrol station. We had to use those to dry off after showering in a coed shower room. Fun.times.

5. Don’t forget to pack extra underwear in your carry on for the trip back

Maybe this is a huge NO DUH from most, but I’m an idiot. Also, I’ve always figured, I’m heading home to where more underwear lives, so it’s no big deal.

Well, let me tell you, at least from my experience, the trip home is always ten times more painful, uncomfortable, and much longer than the everything-is-still-so-exciting trip to wherever you’re going.

On the return of the previously mentioned trip, our plane was a little delayed getting into Toronto. Then, due to an exceptionally long wait in the customs line, we almost missed our flight to Denver. Almost to Denver, our flight had to be re-routed to an abandoned landing strip in Adobe, otherwise known as the middle of nowhere for hours due to a severe thunderstorm. Thankfully, all flights were delayed going out of Denver, so when we finally made it to Denver, we didn’t miss our connecting flight. Still, we didn’t get into Reno until the early morning hours when it was originally scheduled to arrive around 10 PM.

What does this long-winded story have to do with needing underwear in a packed bag?

Well, after a hell trip home, the cherry on top was that they lost my baggage and I was still four hours from home, as I was living in Elko at the time.

Ya’ll, I had to wear a pair of my mom’s granny panties.

Sure, they were clean, but, *shudders* sharing underwear gives me the heebie-jeebies.

So, if you don’t want to have to wear a pair of your mom’s Hanes Cotton Comforts, pack a damn pair of underwear for the return trip!

6. If you’re squeamish about sitting bare-assed on a public toilet seat, prepare yourself now

I discovered while in the U.K. that toilet seat covers are essentially non-existent there. I had brought with me ONE travel-sized seat cover, so that was basically useless. After a few trepidatious days of testing the waters of sitting bare assed on an alien seat, my butt cheeks did not spontaneously explode, so I started living the way the locals did.

My travel friend? He never mastered the art of just letting it rest. One afternoon in a pub in Oxford he was in the restroom no less than 45 minutes. I had finished two ciders before he came out sweaty and looking like he had just been given a diagnosis of Toilet Seat Hepatitis.

I said, “What in the hell were you even doing? I’ve just finished two ciders and now I’m too day drunk to go site-seeing!”

His response, “You know how there’s no seat covers? Well, I kept trying to lay toilet paper on the seat, but it kept falling in. I used up all of the toilet paper.”

Day drunk in Oxford! There’s that hat again!

Folks, if you’re like my friend, you better start training now if you have a trip abroad coming up!

I hope this has been even a tiny bit helpful to someone out there. If not, I hope it was at least mildly entertaining to read while you tried to gag down your kale salad on your lunch break.

*This really would only apply to those living in countries, like the US, that have such different voltage when compared with other nations.

**This might be entirely different depending on the country you’re from or your phone carrier. Maybe Verizon just hates me.

No, Karen. They Don’t Have Your Brand of Bottled Water

Travel diarrhea, lost baggage, shady hostels-oh my!

These are the best parts of travel, amiright?

I’m actually only being half-sarcastic. The super crappy (often times, literally) parts of travel are always the most memorable.

My memories of The Rainbow Hostel in Dingle, Ireland are some of my fondest, and not just because I didn’t contract hepatitis. But, said memories do have something to do with a coed shower room.

(Hang tight for a blog post about this gem.)

I’m the kind of international traveler who realizes that when traveling in another country, THEY MIGHT NOT HAVE MY FAVORITE TOILET PAPER AND THAT’S OK.

Also, I realize that my accommodations might not be decorated to my tastes and the free continental breakfast might include gray-brown lunchmeat.

IT’S ALL PART OF THE EXPERIENCE, SO SHUT YO MOUTH AND ENJOY IT.

I’m always amazed (but not really, because people) at the kinds of concerns and non-issues people have/had when on vacation.

Whenever you have some time to spare, scroll through some Trip Advisor or hotel reviews. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Here are some “issues” I’ve read about from review and comment sections that are ridiculous with a capital “maybe you just shouldn’t travel”.

1. Complaints about decor:

WHY DOES THE DECOR OF THE HOTEL/HOUSE/YURT/TREEHOUSE DETERMINE HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR TRIP?

Maybe I’m missing something, but do people really go on vacation for the sole purpose of staying in a well-designed hotel room? For example, do people want to see France only if they can stay in an all-white hotel room?

Balthazar, I am not going to Scotland unless we stay in a house that is all tartan. And, when I say “all“, I fucking mean if the carpets, wallpaper, and coffeemaker aren’t tartan, it will ruin my entire fucking experience!”

No?

So, why are these people filling up the review sections with gripes about the decor in their accommodation? ALL I want to know is if it’s decently clean and bed bug-free. THAT’S IT.

You also don’t need to tell me you found a pube on the bathroom floor. I would like to know, however, if you found any kind of hair in supposedly clean sheets. That’s just nasty.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a nice hotel room or house rental, but if how it’s decorated can make or break your entire trip, how about just stay home?

Our gorgeously hideous London hotel room. Sure, none of the furniture matched and their “AC” was a stand fan, but it was close to a tube station, was affordable, and they folded our towels on our bed fancy-like.

2. Food options:

How can people be so unaware that they don’t realize beforehand that a place like Myanmar maybe won’t have a drive thru Taco Bell? This is totally my own made-up not-so-exaggerated exaggeration. But still.

I’ve read about travelers complaining about India having curry, and expecting to find a Mexican server at a Mexican restaurant in ITALY.

Read more of these idiotic and true traveler reviews here.

When I went to the U.K. for the first time I ate cheese and tomato sandwiches literally every day. Only a few times did I deviate from my newfound comfort food. I chose this option because it was (is) freaking tasty as hell and also because I’m not very adventurous, food-wise. I knew ahead of time to be prepared to eat different foods. Instead of complain how a different country from mine had different foods (shocker), I found new foods that I could enjoy without activating my gag reflex. It’s really not that hard.

My mother swore up and down she found the last and only jar of mayo while in England. It was found dusty and alone on a top shelf in a tiny shop. My good friend professed that not a bottle of ketchup could be found anywhere on the British Isles. Naturally, I had to take photographic evidence of their LIES.

3. Expecting things to go your way and ONLY your way:

Another thing that really chaps my lips (I don’t like the phrase “chaps my ass”, because when does an ass get chapped? And, chapped lips are the worst) is how too many travelers don’t leave their stubborn ways at home.

When you’re in another country, with an entirely different culture, maybe you won’t necessarily have experiences that are exactly how you experience life in your home country. In fact, I know you won’t.

One of these differences I learned the hard way was how some English toilets flush. After a long flight and no comfortable bathroom time, it was no surprise that when I got to our hotel room in London, it was go time. When it came time to flush, it just was not happening. Thank God my boyfriend at the time figured out that pumping the handle did the trick, because having to call down to the front desk for help flushing my plane poo, would have been embarrassing.

Actually, now that I’m thinking, that would have made an even better story! Damn.

So, I learned that many of the toilets I’d encounter required pumping. No big.*

(This same toilet also tried to kill me when I sat down on the seat and went sailing off the base of the toilet, because it was just sitting there, not attached at all. And, you don’t see me complaining.)

If you check out the above link, you’ll read about people complaining how a beach was too sandy and how Spain has too many Spanish-speaking people. You’ll read it and instantly feel better about yourself. You’re welcome.

So, I guess what I’m saying is, if your outlook is so cloudy and full of shit that you can’t enjoy the weird/funny/exotic experiences you will have when traveling abroad, why even do it?

Just splash the hot and cold together to get warm (Sage advice from a friend). Duh.

So, unless you’re complaining about travel diarrhea from tainted escargot, lost or tampered with baggage (because there ain’t any way to make that a positive), or filthy, insect-ridden hostels, maybe check yourself before you wreck yourself. Your absurd review could end up on the next “Ridiculous Travel Complaints By People Who Suck”.

The person who sat down next to us, took her gum out, placed it on this ledge to eat her chips AND THEN LEFT IT THERE is totally Karen’s weird cousin, Gayle. She for sure complained about the hostel’s lack of trash receptacles.

This is the first in my Travel Tuesday series in honor of my upcoming trip abroad this summer. I can’t wait to share some travel stories, tips only idiots need, and much more! Buckle your seat belts and ready your barf bags, people. We’re bound to hit some gnarly turbulence.

*British friends, was I imagining this or are many toilet flushers pumped to get the toilet to flush?

How Do I *Make Shit Happen*?

Sometimes, I look at the lives of really successful, happy people and I wonder what I’m doing wrong.

All around me, people are purchasing their first homes, buying appliances and custom cabinets for said home, adopting pets, traveling, investing in IRAs.

And, here I am, buying a coat rack and feeling like that means I’m an adult.

It’s not like I haven’t tried.

I have.

It’s not like I sit around feeling sorry for myself all the time.

Sometimes I do, though. And, when I do, you better believe I really go all out with crying over dog videos in my onesie pajamas.

I tried really hard last year to find an affordable home to purchase that would provide me with the next step: adopting a dog.

I never found that home.

Maybe I was too picky, too hesitant, too scared of a major first step, but I’m going to give myself the benefit of the doubt on this one.

I chose one of the worst times to look for a home to buy in my area, as home prices are at a record high. I also wasn’t comfortable buying an overpriced home in a bad area. I’m no home buying expert, but that didn’t seem a wise investment.

Yet, still, I see people my age buying homes in my area.

What the actual fuck?

I’m planning a trip for this summer to the U.K., while at the same time, I can barely afford the gas to get across town during my monthly “week of poverty” before payday.

How are people, with huge families no less, able to travel so much?

What the genuine fuck?

I wonder sometimes if it’s my outlook. I try to have a positive outlook on things, but that’s hard when you feel like life is constantly beating you at some game you never knew you were playing.

I know a great many people will say that the power of positive thought truly exists. I’m not here to say I necessarily disagree.

But…until positive thought pays off my student loan debt, I’ll probably be a semi-skeptic.

Sometimes, I wonder if I’m not a hard enough worker or I lack gumption.

I’ve been looking for a side hustle to help pay for aforementioned trip.

I’ve looked into VIPKID, which is an online tutoring company. You tutor kids in China, so that means I’ll have to tutor with my Flock of Seagulls bed head hair and with sleep crusties still in the corner of my mouth, because the time slots for my time zone are un-Godly-early.

(I’m still highly considering VIPKID. I’ll just be a total sleep-deprived grouch is all.)

I’ve gone so far as to schedule a vehicle inspection with Lyft, but I keep getting this text message:

I’ve rescheduled twice, and Lyft doesn’t like to give out a phone number so one can problem solve using spoken words.

I didn’t even want drunk people puking in my car anyway, Lyft.

I should probably just figure out a way to make a side job happen and quit my bitching, but a very dominant, stubborn part of me knows I already work my ass off as a teacher, so I’m not thrilled at the realization that my career isn’t cutting it in the having-money-department.

So, all this to say, my goal for this year is to learn the secret to making shit happen.

Maybe it really is positive thinking? Maybe it’s not being more concerned about binging on Call the Midwife, but binging on bringing in some Benjamins? Maybe it’s not worrying how old I’ll be when I finally own my own refrigerator?

In fact, my first order of business is to quit worrying about everyone else.

(Maybe I can get this tattooed on my forearm?)

So, do you know the secret to making shit happen? Sharing is caring!

Apple Hill Shenanigans 

This is a rant and a dedication. So, buckle your seat belts, people. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

After yet another carb-filled and merrymaking trip to Apple Hill, I’ve learned more than just how far I can push the load-bearing limit of my clothing or exactly how many fruit-filled pastries I can eat before my stomach implodes. I learned this year that:

1. People are assholes, even when they are surrounded by apple pastries, alcohol, and an endless assortment of exciting crap to buy.

2. Surrounded by said assholes, if you’re among non-assholes, you are far richer than the dick in the Tesla who thought it was cool to park in the pick-your-own apple orchard.

This Apple Hill year, I brought along my childhood best friend. We’ve legit been friends since we were two. Some years we’ve hated each other, but, somehow, we always find each other again.

This is the absolute epitome of our friendship over the years. Me, being a complete and utter tool and her, 1000% over my B.S.
This is us totally rocking the thirteen-and-awkward-af stage.
Thank GOD we discovered flat irons and tweezers!

The first time this friend attended our Apple Hill shenanigans, my mom almost lit the motel bathroom on fire trying to light a Hostess Sno Ball turned into a birthday cake fireball from hell. My aunt almost didn’t see her 45th year.

Since, my friend has admitted that her trips to Apple Hill without us are just not the same. 

We left for The Hill in the morning on a sunny, way-too-warm-for-fall Friday. Despite the fact that the weather report said it’d be almost 80, I wore a scarf and ankle boots, because, HELLO, it’s practically a basic bitch law that if you go to a pumpkin patch, you wear a scarf and boots.  Bonus points if the pattern on your scarf is chevron.

Our first lunch was spent at a popular spot, so it took almost an hour to stand in line and get our food. Because it was still early, the wait and the endless people didn’t affect my mood too much. 

I totally had my selfie stick and I wasn’t even ashamed, except I still can’t take a decent selfie. HALP!

Right after devouring a cheeseburger and garlic fries, it was sprinkled caramel apple time! It’s tradition!

SPERNKLES

#sprinklesporn

After I got my sprinkle fix, I was pretty much over walking around in the heat, looking at the same stuff, different farm.

While my mom and aunt looked at every single item, at every single booth, making friends with every single crafter as they went, my friend and I parked ourselves in the shade with an apple cider slushy.

We are sweating our balls off in this picture. Can you tell?
Note to self: apple cider floats > apple cider slushy 😑👎🏻
 

After way too much time in the sun and heat, we decided it was beer o’clock, so we headed to the Jack Russell Brewery. It’s the only brewery in the area, so it is a must-do every time we go to Apple Hill.

Without a doubt, every visit to Jack Russell is memorable, and this time was no different. 

This year, though, we decided that we very much dislike the people who own/run this establishment. They are rude with a capital bitch-eat-a-Snickers. 

Due to the unseasonably warm weather, the umbrellas were a hot commodity. After a table full of college-age girls near us had left, we tried to position their umbrella so we could get some shade. As we were trying (and failing) to make the umbrella grace us with sweet shade, one of the Cave Bitches (their meadery is in a cave-like room and they are serious bitches, thus their apropos nicknames) started going around closing the umbrellas.

Um, are you blind

This incredibly unfriendly lady wouldn’t know customer service or kindness if they each, in turn, smacked her upside her RBF. 

So, after being so kindly assisted with the umbrellas, we decided to just move one over to our table. In the process of doing this, we struggled a bit as the umbrella was awkward and there were quite a few trees. 

From the meadery cave, about 20 yards away, the Cave Bitch started screaming at us. 

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! YOU’RE HURTING THE TREES!” 

This terrible person couldn’t even crawl out of her rotting crypt to speak in a regular voice level or to, gee, offer to HELP US?!

I hope we ruined your tree, Cave Wench. 

I had had just enough alcohol to feel brave, so in order to not make a scene, we moved to the other side of the outdoor seating area and drank an ungodly amount of beer. 

Apple Ale- similar to cider, but not as sweet 😋

The next morning, it was Apple Cider Donut Time. Along with Beer o’ Clock and Cupcake Thirty, it’s one of my favorite times of the day! 

A friggin masterpiece

I was pretty much in heaven as I devoured my fried cake and coffee. But, then, some asshole’s dog wouldn’t stop barking. 

If you know me personally, you know I’m obsessed with dogs. I love the shit out of their drooly, adorable faces, but sometimes dogs can be left at home. 

I know that’s a novel concept for some people.

This particular dog, the one who majorly interrupted my enjoyment of the sound of my gluttony, simply could not handle the sight of other dogs. 

So, one must ask…

WHY THE FUCK DID YOU BRING YOUR OTHER-DOG-HATING DOG TO THE MOST CROWDED RANCH, WHERE OTHER DOGS ARE SURE TO BE FOUND? 

Because I’m an asshole (that’s Asshole speaking). That’s why. 

After this, I had a mediocre apple treat that contained, precisely, one slice of apple, bought a metric ton of fudge, and drank even more cider.

I mean, I love me some pastry, but just pastry is too much pastry.

When we were attempting to leave the 80th farm of the day, a woman, unearthing her child from underneath all of the crap she bought and was storing in her stroller, decided a fine place to do this was smack dab in the middle of the narrow roadway.

At this point, I was still hungover, sweating profusely, and had killer acid reflux from all of the apple I had eaten. 

I couldn’t even. 

After six hours, she was finally done unloading the stroller and we were able to leave. 

I may or may not have rolled down my window to thank her for making us late for more eating.

Don’t keep this fatty from her eighth apple brownie. Don’t even.

Despite the rude and pretentious people we encountered, the bullshit heat, and the unbearable indigestion, being with people who made my food baby bump jiggle from infectious laughter made it all worthwhile.

My favorite part of the trip was leaving the brewery, drunk and laughing obnoxiously at the spaceships we found by the Porta Potties (they were bee catchers). We piled into the car (don’t worry, my aunt was driving and totally sober and capable), excited for impending Chinese dinner (as if we had not had enough). My mom kept yelling, “Look out, Dana, there’s a car!” every time we passed every reflective sign on the road. I was laughing so hard, I could barely breathe, as I sang along (horribly) to Eric Church’s Springsteen, head back, staring at the endless stars in the sky through the moonroof. 

So, take that Idiot Dog Owner, Stroller Simpleton, and Cave Bitch, you were no match for 10,000 calories all from carbs, fabulous, but unnecessary junk, and 100% necessary-for-my-sanity ladies who know how to party. 

Apple Hill 2017 is one for the books. 


I won Apple Hill!

When I think about 17, I think about my best friend. 

Travel Tuesday- The Point Reyes National Seashore 

I was inspired by An Historian’s post on the Aran Islands, and by my continual wanderlust to write about my recent trip to the Point Reyes National Seashore in California. 

Now, it’s not Ireland or anywhere near as exotic as Croatia (read The Wandering Flamingo’s post about her holiday on Šipan Island), but if you’re on the west coast of the United States, and anywhere near San Francisco, it’s a must-do! 

My good friend, Holly and I had originally wanted to drive a piece of the Oregon Coast during our summer vacation girls’ getaway. When we realized that our busy schedules and dwindling teacher bank accounts wouldn’t support such a venture, we looked into checking out the redwoods. I’ve been through the Redwood National Park a couple of times, but not Holly. But, again, we were faced with time constraints. 

Before packing it in, and putting off our trip for another time (Don’t do this, ya’ll. Time is fleeting, and you never know if you’ll get around to seeing everything you want to in one lifetime), Holly suggested we head just north of the Bay Area to the Point Reyes National Seashore. 

Being in Reno means quick access to the San Francisco Bay Area. On a good day, with minimal traffic, one can find themselves perusing the funky shops in Chinatown in 3.5 hours. 

Finding our way to the Point Reyes National Seashore took about the same amount of time, and bonus: no crazy city traffic and hobo street sprinters.

Our first stop along the national seashore was the famous shipwreck in Inverness, California. (I loved being in Inverness *again*!) Often described as “Instagrammable”, it was a fun place to stop and take pictures we, of course, posted on Insta. 

Everything looks better after filters. Amiright?

The strange shipwreck was cool to see, but what was most beautiful was the drastic drop in temperature. It was so nice to leave the 100-degree temperatures behind, even if the humidity gave me an insta-perm. 

The first major stop we made was to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. If you plan on checking out the lighthouse, make sure you visit the National Park Service website for operating hours, as the lighthouse is closed after 4 PM Monday through Friday. Also, if the wind is too strong, the steps leading to the lighthouse will be closed.


It’s important to be aware that the climb to and from the lighthouse is incredibly challenging. Not only will you be climbing the equivalence of 30 floors, the wind is intense. On more than one occasion I felt like I could easily be carried off the cliff by the wind.

Read more about my epic climb in my Trail Fails post. 


Be prepared with extra water, walking shoes, wet wipes and a full tank of gas, as amenities are lacking. Speaking of amenities, the bathrooms are not fabulous and there is no running water to wash your hands. 

All that said, the views of the shoreline, surrounding landscape, and ocean are breathtaking. 



After nearly being blown clear off the coast at the lighthouse, we continued along the seashore. As we drove winding roads that cut through tall fields of grasses being whipped around by the relentless wind, the contrast between the wheat-colored grass and the ever-changing aegean and teal blue water was striking. 


I don’t know why, but this view evoked an Eastern European or Middle Eastern feeling in me. I’ve never been to either, so…I dunno?
 

After a brisk hike along an expanse of the seashore that seemed entirely untouched, we continued on to another location that was eerily desolate. 



Maybe it was because it was late in the afternoon, or it was due to the fact that there was no one else around, but the Marconi radio facilities building felt so incredibly creepy to me. I think, maybe, it was also the long, tree-canopied lane that leads to the decades-old building. I envisioned myself alone in that building, at night, watching as my untimely demise came slowly, but assuredly down the road. 

*shudders*


On the second day of our girl getaway we hung out in some huge trees:


Ate a picnic lunch on Stinson Beach:

 


And, got a killer view of San Francisco from reeeeeally far away:


I’ve seen the otherworldly Scottish Highlands, the impossible green that is Ireland, and the patchwork perfection that is the English countryside, but the Point Reyes National Seashore is another kind of beautiful. 
Really, there is no comparing one beautiful place with another. There are so many kinds of beautiful, that no matter how hard you try, you’ll never see them all in one lifetime. 

Point Reyes is a rugged kind of beautiful, and despite the tourists, remains, somehow, wild and untouched. 

Have you ever been somewhere that reminded you of someplace else, even if you’ve never been to that someplace else? Ever been to a beautiful place that feels undiscovered and wild? Let me know in the comments! 

Comparison is a Bitch, Man

We’ve all heard the quote: “Comparison is the thief of joy” by Theodore Roosevelt. If you’ve never heard this one before, you’re welcome. 


Source
Ever since coming across this six word, seemingly inconspicuous sentence, my view on comparison has been utterly transformed. I think I’ve always known, we all know, that comparison kills the joy you possess for what you have in life. 

But, it’s just a subconscious understanding, only nibbling at your consciousness when you feel like poop after comparing your cracking pleather Target purse with your friend’s (still nice) pleather Coach bag.

So, I’ve always known on a deeper level that comparing myself with others never ends well, but it wasn’t until reading that quote did it marinate and sink in.

But, because I’m me, it was not a quick fix. I still compare myself, despite knowing it’s not helpful. This is akin to eating a donut everyday for breakfast. I know it’s not good for me, yet I still have chocolate cake donut in the corners of my mouth on a daily basis. 

I’m about to be real with ya’ll.

(I think by now you’ve probably gleaned that this isn’t my usual satire post. I hope I haven’t lost any of you from forehead-on-keyboard boredom.)

Lately, despite considering that quote on a regular basis, I’ve been comparing hardcore where I’m at in life, and with my blog with literally everything and everyone I deem “better” than me. 

Here are some examples:

So and so (x 10) bought a house, so now I feel like I’m failing at adulting. Some of my friends and acquaintances own more than one bed and the latest front-loading washer and dryer. The largest appliance I own is a fucking microwave. It’s easy to get down when you aren’t there yet, despite trying really hard to be. It’s especially fucky when you’re in your mid-30s and you’re still not quite sure how to become a real adult. 

So and so goes on luxurious vacations twice a year and I’m just over here like, “I went to IKEA in Sacramento…” It’s too easy to feel anxious and stir-crazy jealous when you witness endless world traveling on Facebook while you sit on your couch with a pint of ice cream and your only door, at the moment, to the rest of the world-Karl Pilkington and An Idiot Abroad. 

So and so can wear a tank top without fear of knocking over someone with their swinging turkey wings. This ones rough, because nice arms can be obtained, but it’s harder than all the effort needed to achieve everything else in this post combined. 

So and so has thousands of followers after less than a year and gets hundreds of likes on their posts in less than 24 hours. When I come across crazy successful bloggers, I wonder what I’m doing wrong. Why have my posts never gone viral? Why have I never been Freshly Pressed on WordPress (and what is that even)? It’s almost scary how easy it is to compare yourself with other bloggers. When I do this (all the fucking time), I instantly feel less than or worry I’ll be completely irrelevant tomorrow*. 

After many discussions with my blogging buddy, An Historian, I’ve decided enough is enough.


Not only is comparing myself to others depressing, it’s killing my inspiration to be creative in my own unique way. 

It’s time I re-read, more than usual, if necessary, my favorite quote. Here are some truths I’ve learned since my comparison-quote-awakening:

1. Apartment-living ain’t half bad. Not only do I never have to pull a single weed or replace window screens with my own money, when I plug up the toilet beyond basic plunger repair with my abundant toilet paper use, I can call the landlord, instead of the plumber. Also, some people live in squalor. I have granite counter tops in my bathroom. Basically, appreciate the shit you have. Also, if I’m ever destined to own my own house, it’ll happen when it’s meant to happen. 

2. So many other less fortunate people in the world would kill to have my TJ Maxx special, but they’d use it to carry food home to their starving family. Buck the fuck up, baby! 

3. Further, it’s not about the material. When you’re dead and gone, your more-than-my-rent-expensive handbag might find its way to a thrift store where some meth head might steal it to store their meth. Or, some careless person who gets pen marks all inside might own it after you. Shit, maybe it’ll find its way onto the giant ocean garbage mountain and some Humpback Anglerfish might use it as its home. Did your bag really matter that much in the grand scheme of things? The answer is “no”**. 

4. Travel is one of the most sought after things in life. It’s worth it to skip the Starbucks to save a few bucks that can quickly turn into a few hundred bucks. All of that can be used to go somewhere that can mean more than any material object (even an Ombré Pink Drink). 

5. My body isn’t perfect and never will be. Other than a few freak alien exceptions (Candice Swanepoel anyone?), we all have imperfect bodies. We all have body parts we wish were firmer, smaller, bigger, flatter, etc. Whenever I get to feeling really self-conscious around taught-skinned gorgeous women, I pretend they are hiding a huge skin flap on their butthole (I saw that on an episode of Embarassing Bodies, so that’s a thing now). Also, we can’t all be hilarious and gorgeous. 

6. Comparing myself with other writers, especially those in my same genre is the most detrimental comparing I do. I’ve decided that just because someone else is an exceptional writer and is genuinely funny, doesn’t negate the fact that I can be too. I have my own style and so does the next funny guy. We can all be funny. We can all support each other. Kumbaya and all that shit. 
 

7. Finally, there will always be someone who has better, looks better, and seems to always have all the luck. On the flip side, someone is probably looking at me, thinking, “Why, oh why, can’t I be like that magestic beast?” 

OK, that last one made me choke on my oatmeal cookie Halo Top. 

But, you never know.

Life is mysterious. Live your life in a way that makes your heart sing, your creativity blossom, and your belly feel happy and full without worrying about anyone else.

Fuck yo couch. 

*This in no way denotes that I do not appreciate the massive recognition my blog gets from my amazing supporters. I love you all times one million cupcakes. *muah*

**If you love material things, don’t be offended. I love the shit out of material things. Why else am I at Target every weekend scrounging through the discount bins for my 1,453rd cute pencil/magazine/flower/makeup/whatever holder? I feel you. 

Trail Fails

Historically, I have never been the one who is known for her athletic ability, nor have I ever been loved for my adventurous outdoorsmen spirit. Because I do not possess either of those. Never in my life have I been asked, “Hey, want to snowshoe across Siberia with me this winter?” (Who fucking does that anyway?)

Despite this, I have really been wanting to get into walking local trails for exercise. Well, if we are being completely honest, I just really want to marvel at the beauty of nature while I sit my fat ass on a comfortable rock. Doing this while eating something, like a dripping slice of watermelon heaven would really just be the cherry on top.

Because getting anyone I know to just sit in nature with me, without sounding like a total lazy loser, is a hard sell, I have been trying to be adventurous by engaging in hiking.

Well, I can most assuredly say that hiking don’t want my fat ass. Hiking wants me to just stay at home with my Halo Top ice cream and Netflix. Hiking does not play.

I’m going to detail three times I failed on the trails recently. Really, this could also qualify as a “This Is Why I’m Fat” post, because almost anyone would have given up after the first failed attempt. So, I hope the Trail Gods are listening. Ya’ll have some work to do…

A week or so ago (I’m a teacher on summer break, so I have no idea what day it is), a friend and I went on a much-needed girl getaway to the Point Reyes Seashore in California.

I stand or crouch behind all of my friends in pictures to appear smaller!
It was gorgeous, but strenuous. We did a lot of walking, trailing, and huffing and puffing.

1. The Stair Climb of Doom

Our first order of business was almost dying on the stairs to and from the Point Reyes Lighthouse. The climb is equivalent to 30.flights.of.stairs.

30 flights, ya’ll. 

I just thought I’d reiterate in case you missed it the first time.

It’s like the freaking Wall of China!
I’m 1000% sure my friend didn’t let on to that fact beforehand, because she knew for certain that it’d be a hard pass from me.

Despite the fact that an elderly man passed me on the hike up the stairs (do you see him in the picture?), and I had to stop at every rest point, it was actually totally worth the sweat-drenched pits and rat’s nest hair (it was so windy, that my phone almost blew away several times).

Fat Pro Tip: Stop to take a picture of literally anything every five minutes or so in order to catch your breath. They’ll have *no* idea!

2. Cataract Fall-Down-The-Hill-Trail

The day after almost needing to be airlifted from the lighthouse steps, we did some more adventurous trailing. I figured, “Why not? Might as well work on another bunion!”

The first few trails were quite easy, as there was no elevation or climb whatsoever. It was absolutely grand. Because we didn’t have to expend energy on moving our bodies up a steep hill, we had energy to climb trees and crawl into reproductions of Native American dwellings. I felt like an obese kid again (I was actually not obese as a child, strangely enough).

My legs were so sore from the previous day’s adventures, I almost didn’t make it out of that squat.
How I got up in that tree…I still don’t know!
 

It wasn’t until we thought it would be a good idea to try to find the Cataract Falls did we have problems. This is also the part in my story where I’m going to be putting All Trails on blast.

Not only was the following hike not “easy” as it was mistakenly rated, one of the lengths of the “loop” was not a trail at all. It was a grassy hill, and we almost broke our asses more times than I’d like to admit as we stepped/slid at a snail’s pace the whole entire way down. 

(I was also insanely afraid a mountain lion was going to come up behind me. Do you think that was irrational?)

Does this look like a trail to you??
This was a steep mother-effer!
When we made it to the bottom of the hill and the actual trail, we found that our pants, socks, and shoes were positively filled with foxtails and these terrible poky stickers that were absolute bitches to get off of our clothes and shoelaces.

We sat on the ground for a good 20 minutes, plucking shit out of everywhere!
If this wasn’t bad enough, when we got to our first trail marker, nowhere did it say “This way to the waterfall”, and the names of the available trails had nothing to do with the trail we thought we were on. We went the wrong way for 30 minutes before we got service on our phones and could see where we were on the trail.

When we finally found the waterfall, after a huge descent into what looked like middle earth, it was stunning and worth the trials we went through to get there. Well, it was a beautiful experience until I realized that’d I’d have to climb back to the car at some point.

Honestly, at one point during the hot, sweaty, and ugly hike back, I questioned how much it would cost for Search and Rescue to retrieve me from the trail.

It was so bad. And hard. 

The waterfall was a pretty anticlimactic affair, but the surrounding area was beautiful in an otherworldly-way.
3. Jones Creek Loop Trail AKA Call For Help

After being back home for a week or so, I decided that I would try hiking again (Why? Maybe I am a masochist, or I feel I deserve punishment for past transgressions?). So, the boyfriend and I looked up easy trails in the trees. Shade FTW!

We settled on the Jones Creek Loop Trail because it was rated as easy and only 1.5 miles.

We used the All Trails’ directions app, and it took us right to the trail head.

After a little trek that was almost all uphill, we came upon a sign. It said, “Jones Creek Loop”, and it had two arrows pointing to the right and to the left. Considering it was a loop, we figured it didn’t matter which way we went, as it would just bring us right back to where we started.

We seemed to be hiking quite awhile when the boyfriend remarked, “I think 1.5 miles seems longer when we are on a trail, because it’s not just a straight stretch?”

At least the scenery was gorgeous!

At this point, we were getting a little apprehensive. We also realized that our “loop” did not seem to be looping back to where we started whatsoever-we just kept heading further and further away.

We saw a man coming off of another trail (I will get to the myriad off shoots of unmarked trails in a minute…) and we asked him how to get back to the parking lot. He said we needed to go in the direction we were headed in, but for three or four more miles.

HOLD UP.

Somehow we got onto the wrong trail, but we had not taken any of the unmarked trails that veered off of the main trail.

At this point, my stress began causing my asthma to flare up, and I saw images of us, emaciated and half-eaten by mountain lions, in front of my eyes, like a mirage.

We decided to just keep walking and hope the guy didn’t know what he was talking about.

Ten minutes and almost all of our water later, we saw another guy coming off some other trail. I tried to stay calm when I asked him how we could get back to our car. While I was asking him, the boyfriend was off admiring some bark, pretending he didn’t belong to the sweaty girl who was in a near panic.

The guy said he was headed to the parking lot, and we could follow him.

A half mile later, we saw what looked like civilization and our spirits rose. We came upon a parking lot, but we quickly realized, stomachs sinking, it was not our parking lot.

As we were looking at the posted map and trying to look cool, like, “We meant that”, the guy waved us over.

He realized that he had led us to the wrong parking lot. He offered us a ride back to our car, three miles away.

We had somehow ended up on the 9 mile trail called the same damn thing as the 1.5 mile trail.

So, we ended that trail fail crammed into the cab of a tiny truck belonging to a very kind man. The whole way back to our car, I was trying not to reek of sweat and defeat.

We massively failed on the trails again only yesterday, and I was going to write about that fail too, but I have already gone on long enough.

The clouds were epic!

I will say, though, that the most recent fail is not entirely our fault. What in the actual eff is up with All Trails and their “easy” loop trails? Not only are they not easy, whoever is creating trails that feed off of the loop ought to be taken out back and given a stern talking to. In my mind, a loop is just that, A LOOP. Yet, every single trail we have tried is not really a loop, but a maze of deviating trails that go off in every fucking direction.

Really, it is no small miracle that more people do not get horribly lost in the woods on “easy” trails.

Or.

We are just utter idiots, and we need to take a “Trails For Dummies” course.

Tell me: Have you ever gotten lost on trails? Is it just me who can’t seem to find my way on “easy” trails? Help a fatty out! Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

The Mattole River Resort

You might remember that before we started this crazy little road trip down memory lane I suggested you bring along a spare tire, a life vest and rat poison. 

Have you been wondering where rat poison* was going to come in? No? You didn’t read that part? You just skimmed. OK. Well, we’re going to need it today. I guess you will just be eaten alive by monster rats. Sorry not sorry. 

(Actually, I am sorry, because I love you all, and I wouldn’t want to lose anyone of you in such a terrifying way.)

So, as we have all learned, my mom was an ace at finding great motel deals. 

These budget hovels saved money so that we were able to afford the expensive treatment for scabies that we’d need when we got home.

One of the absolute best, or rather, most memorable trips we took was to the Mattole River Resort.

Straight out of the California Chainsaw Massacre, this “resort” is situated along the Mattole River in Nothern California.

For those of you not familiar with Northern California, it’s good to be aware that it’s absolutely filled to the brim with hippie hill people. 

I don’t want to offend any potential hippie readers I might have. I’m a huge supporter of the notion, “You do you, boo”. So, I’m not hating on hippies, per se.

I’m just accurately painting the scene, people. I’m just setting the stage.

So, after a long day of winding roads, weird little backroad towns, and uncomfortable back seat living, we finally made it to our “resort”.

(I have to mention that before we made it to the resort, we stopped at a convenience store. The whole drive there it got foggier and foggier every mile we drove. If that wasn’t creepy enough, my mom said there were two men sitting out in the front of the store who were straight out of Deliverance. She said we don’t remember this part of the trip, because they wouldn’t let us get out of the car!)

Mind you, when one hears “resort”, especially one who watched their Dirty Dancing VHS on repeat, they think rustic, but posh, nicely furnished and expertly appointed “glamping” cabins. 

We all should have known better, for it was my mom (and aunt-I can’t leave her contribution out of this) who booked the place using her discount travel bible.

Again, Grandma is not having any of our shit.

The Mattole River Resort was far from being a resort. 

I remember little snippets from our stay at the Mattole Cult Compound. I think that I blanked out some of the memories to save myself from developing multiple personalities. 

I recall that, as we were bringing our belongings in from the car, doubt set in. The cabins were filthy. Positively disgusting. 

The woman running the place had promised enough beds, because there was a hide-a-bed in the couch. 

When we pulled it out, one of the necessary legs was missing, and instead of a mint on the pillow, there were mouse turds. 

Mouse turds, ya’ll.

In the bed.

When my mom and grandma were looking for another set of sheets, a blanket, hell, even a tarp at this point, they opened a closet to find an unexpected surprise. 

They had no clue what it was, but it was behemoth and a nest of some sort. My mom said they just shut the door and didn’t open it again the rest of the stay. 

I don’t even remember sleeping at this place. As in, I don’t recall being in a bed, covered with a blanket, nothing. I probably slept standing up or in the car. I don’t know how I didn’t just straight run away from my family at this point. 

Apparently, we stayed two or three nights. The first night we arrived it was late, so it’s understandable why we stayed. I’m not quite sure why my mom and aunt subjected us to this horror-story-waiting-to-happen for more nights than were necessary. 

My mom said it was because there was nowhere else to stay for a bajillion miles in all directions. We’d booked our stay, driven hundreds of miles, and it was going to be fun, damnit. 

My mom said, as beautiful as the surrounding landscape was, the Mattole River Resort was, “…horrible in every way.”

Three people who didn’t quite mind the Mattole River Resort were my two cousins and brother.

The daughter of the owner (who, my mom swears, couldn’t have been more than ten years old) took them down to the river and introduced them to pot for the first time.

My brother and two cousins recall that trip being pretty groovy, man.

Every picture from this trip is blurry. Our minds were probably negatively affected by all of the mouse poop. Also, in looking at how young my brother was, I’m wondering if only my cousin was involved in the Mary Jane incident?

As for me, I’m fairly certain my weird neurosis about germs, vermin, and motels with anything less than a four star rating is directly related to our typical Smith** Family stay at the Mattole River Resort. 

I hope my Family Vacations From Hell series has been enjoyable and at least mildly amusing. I hope my stories bring back funny and warm memories from your own past. 

Because I’m a satire writer, everything I write has some sass and asshole to it. These posts were no different. 

It’s important for me to point out, however, that as much as these true accounts sound horrifyingly hilarious, they are some of my most beloved memories.

Had my parents been like every other Dick and June, my memories wouldn’t be nearly as wonderfully ridiculous. 

This series is dedicated to my parents, because thanks to their annoyingly thrifty ways, my brother and I were afforded a childhood filled with amazing trips and experiences. Not only did we go somewhere exciting (or slightly terrifying) every spring break, we spent every summer at our family’s lake cabin, AKA Heaven on Earth. On top of that, they sent us both to Washington, D.C. on a school trip our 8th grade year, and it was my parents who funded the most rewarding experience to date-my trip to the U.K. and Ireland. 

Mom and Dad, you do you, boo. You’re perfectly imperfect just the way you are, sleazebag motels and all. Love you both. 

*Apparently, the cabin was only infested with mice and not rats. That makes it so much better.

**Not our real family name.

My Brother’s “13th Birthday” 

When we turn 13 in our family, tradition dictates that you get to have a big birthday celebration- one you won’t ever forget. This momentous occasion may or may not include naked hippies.
The year my brother turned 13, my mom planned a trip to the bay. San Francisco is only 3.5 hours away from us, and we grew up visiting the eclectic Crazy Street People City quite a lot.

You must know that my mom is quite thrifty. Before Expedia or Trivago were even a wild idea, my mom obsessively scoured the discount travel brochures and books. Part of what made all of our travel adventures so memorable is due largely in part to my mom’s awesome motel finds in her travel books (I’m saving her best find for the last post in this series).

My mom rocked the early 90s so hard.

My mom swore she found the hidden gem of all hidden gems in the heart of the city.

So, Mom, Dad, Brother, Grandma, and I packed into the car and schlepped over the hill.

The motel was a gem, alright. It was not only located in the center of the city, but it was smack dab in the middle of the worst neighborhood, on the worst street and it was the worst motel on said street. 

Because we are budget travelers through and through, we all slept in the same room-Grams and me in one bed, Dad and Brother in the other. My mom ordered a cot from the front desk, and slept with it right up against the door, because she was concerned the homeless man peeing right outside our room might try to come in to use an actual toilet.  

Throughout the night, we were serenaded with the sounds of men moaning, shrill female laughter, and the sound of a cat dying… or mating. And, it all sounded like it was right outside our window. 

It was sketchy with a capital how-did-we-not-get-bed-bugs. 

In the morning, on our way to see Alcatraz, there was a woman going absolutely bat-shit-crazy on top of a guy’s car. Like, she was on all fours on the hood, screaming and pounding her fists into his windowshield. The poor guy looked like he had no idea what to do as he was just sitting in the driver’s seat with his mouth agape. 

I would have just turned on my windshield wipers to try to wipe her off. 

Ain’t nobody got time for that. 

My Grandma was thinking, “Who are these crazy fuckers, and why did they bring me along for the Worst Side of San Francisco Tour?”

That same trip, we almost met our demise at the rest stop on top of the summit. 

The entire weekend was stormy and rainy. As we headed back home, the rain was immense. We felt like Noah’s ark as we parted the waters on the highway home. 

As we crested the summit over Donner Pass, it began to snow. Tradition dictates that we always stop at the rest stop on the top of the mountain. 

Forget that it was dark, snowing, and the rest stop was seemingly empty, no, we had to stop-it was TRADITION (someone probably really had to go: MOM). 

The vibe at the rest stop was bad. In hindsight, we should have just driven the hour more until home. 

My mom walked my brother and me into the main area, out of the snow. From there, we went our separate ways to the restrooms.

As my mom was waiting, she noticed two shady-looking men in the shadows. What normal, pure of heart and mind kind of person just lurks around an empty, freezing rest stop in the middle of nowhere, late at night? 

She said later that a ferocious chill went down her spine. Something just wasn’t right.

At this point, another vehicle pulls up, and my dad gets out of the car to retrieve something from the trunk.

As the lights from the car pulling up shine into the rest stop doorway, my mom glances over at the two men. From across the room, they give each other a “Not-this-one” look and they subtly shake their heads. 

They then disappear. 

She’s still convinced to this day that those two men were waiting around to do something bad. She thinks that they noticed that there were two other people in our car and then, when the other car pulled up, they figured whatever they had planned would not work on us. 
We all majorly had the creepies the whole way home. The entire car was silent as we counted our blessings/reevaluated our direction in life/cursed whoever’s idea it was to stop at the rest stop (MOM’s).

That, kids, is why you don’t go into rest stops-especially at night! Shady people try to do shady things at rest stops. Always find yourself a Starbucks restroom. Or a tree. Anything is better than an “empty” rest stop in the dark of night.

When we finally arrived home, exhausted, but grateful to all be in one piece, my brother says, “Next year, on my 13th birthday, can we just stay at home and do our usual thing?”

MY MOM FORGOT HOW OLD HER ONLY SON WAS. 

My mom felt pretty ridiculous having to admit that she miscalculated and thought he was turning 13, and thus, why he got such a big, super special Birthday. 

I think the next year for his birthday we did just what he wanted, and we were all pretty grateful. 

Family Vacations: Road Trips

Sing it in an awfully-out-of-tune-voice with me now:

I’ve come back long ago

Long way down the Holiday Road

Holiday Road

Holiday Road

Holiday Road

Holiday Road…

I’ve been humming this song for days now, as I’ve been mentally preparing for this hum dinger of a post.

The National Lampoon Vacation movies have always been a staple in our family home, because somehow Chevy Chase and the gang got ahold of our vacation stories and made a movie about them.

Not really, and for legal purposes, I have to add that I’m joking.

But, for real, growing up, our family vacations were always very Vacation-esque ridiculous.

This is going to be a three-part series, because I’m attempting to not write novels every time I post. So, for the next three days, you will be positively inundated with family vacation stories straight from own personal National Lampoon series. 

So, care to take a ride? Make sure you pack a spare tire, some rat poison, and a life preserver, because it’s going to be a wild ride.

Literally Every Road Trip 

It didn’t matter where we were going-whether it was a trip up the Oregon coast or a day trip to some backwoods swimming hole, it was guaranteed that we would have car/boat trouble. I can’t count how many sketchy BFE car repair shops I’ve miserably waited at, while one of our hoopties was getting patched together. I’ve probably been to more car repair shops than to actual landmarks. 

Maybe we had trouble on road trips, because this was how we traveled?

I remember once, after days of packing and prepping for our 800-mile, two days of car hell up to our family’s lake cabin, we didn’t even make it five miles out of town before our vintage Winnebago pulled a big nope-I’m-not-going-fuck-you and we had to drive back home, defeated. I want to say we didn’t get to leave for real for almost a week.

One of my mom’s favorite family vacation horror stories is when she and my dad took my two cousins, my brother, and me to the Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park in Austin, Nevada in our ever-trusty Winnebago. She said we were coasting along, everything was going grand, and then, out of nowhere, the engine cover blew off. 

This all-important cover is what protects the engine and the inhabitants of the motorhome from the engine movements and the dust and debris from the road. 

My mom said that the second the cover flew off, everyone in the motorhome was covered in a thick layer of dirt. All she could see were the whites of our freaked-out eyes. 

For the entire rest of the drive to the park, she had to sit on the cover to keep it on. “It was only 80,000 million degrees hot. No big deal.” She said of her hot seat. 

Another Winnebago adventure happened after my mom thought it would be a great idea to take the behemoth beast camping without my dad. She wanted to meet my aunt and uncle at some campground in the middle of nowhere. All I remember is that she buckled my brother and I together in the front seat, and she kept saying over and over how everything was going to go great. 

Except, it was us and we were in the fucking Winnebago, so it didn’t go great. 

Somehow, we got a giant rock stuck between the rear tandem wheels and she had to call my dad to come rescue us. This was back in the early 90s, so I don’t know how she called him. Maybe they devised a bat signal, only it was a ‘bago signal, and was a giant “W” in the sky. 

My dad had to deflate a tire to get the rock out-all in the pitch black, in the middle of nowhere, in a freak torrential downpour. 

I would think they’d have just given up while they were ahead at this point, but no.

Back when I was about eight or nine, we went on a week-long trip up the Oregon coast. While we were inching along an especially harrowing stretch of the road along the coast, my dad’s axle broke off the driver’s side tire. He was in our old truck, and it was carrying the weight of our 70s-era camper shell and 8 tons of Shasta soda. That was actually pretty scary to watch from the trailing vehicle (we could never just bring one vehicle or one immediate family. No, it was the entire extended family and every moving vehicle we owned. It was straight-up carnival caravanning). 

Only a small fraction of our family. You would feel us coming long before we arrived.

What I remember most about that particular event was that while we were waiting for the axle to be repaired, I ate an entire can of pizza-flavored Pringles, and for the rest of the trip, I was shunned by the entire family for being such an unmannerly pig.

We made it to the Sea Lion Caves-a real feat! My brother was pitching a fit in this picture. My mom is probably threatening him with his life.

One summer, I think it might have been the same year as the Pringles Incident, we got majorly stranded out in our bay on Coeur d’Alene Lake in upstate Idaho.

Not only were we known for our hooptie cars, our boats weren’t much better. Actually, my Grandma’s Party Barge was brand new 30 years ago, and we’re still riding it, hoping the pontoons don’t fall off.

I think this was pre-Party Barge. But, look at those beauties!

So, this particular summer we had a speedboat at the lake. I can’t remember now if it was my grandpa’s old boat or my uncle’s. Either way, it wasn’t working for some time and after some extensive repairs, my uncle thought he had it up and running. So, the entire family piled in, other than Grams, because she was the only smart one of the lot.

We got precisely halfway across the bay and the engine just died. No sputtering, just gone and died dead.

One second we were cheering, the wind was whipping through our hair as the boat jumped the wakes left behind by other boats, and the next, we are at a dead stop and the entirety of the boat’s passengers are silent. No one said it, but we all were thinking it: “Typical!”

We spend the next 10 minutes trying to flag down Grandma, who is just a blob of a figure, sitting on the deck of the cabin, we can barely make out. She does not notice us sitting in the middle of the bay, and if she does, she probably really enjoyed her afternoon of silence.

My grandma next to her pride and joy. I’m surprised any of us crazies even got to see the inside of this thing!

We end up finding an old splintery oar to row, row, row the boat painfully, slowly to the closest shore, which happened to be the one opposite of the cabin. We tie up at a forgotten dock, and trek it, on foot, back to the cabin. We had to go all the way around the bay, on the tiny road that barely had room for two cars, taking turns carrying my brother who, despite being told multiple times by our mother to put on shoes, did not put on his effing shoes. I’m pretty sure he came into contact with poison ivy that trip. Kinda serves him right, the dweeb.

We call it the “*Smith Curse”. It started many decades ago. If more than five family members assemble for a trip, the trip will go to shit. But, those are the only ones worth remembering. 

The other night, as my mom and I were laugh-crying about these crazy memories, we hear my dad’s voice, from the TV room say, “Don’t mention that damn Winnebago!”

*Not our real family name