Category Archives: On the Road

Babies on Planes: Suck it Up

The breeder/non-breeder divide gaped widely today, as metaphorically wide as the gorge of the Grand Canyon as seen from 40,000 feet, when a friend’s co-workers complained, in the middle of the cubicle farm, about the apparent epidemic of babies on airplanes.

I won’t insult you with the entire litany of their bitching, which you probably know the gist of already (babies are loud — the loudest forces on Earth, more powerful that a 747 jet engine; babies do disgusting things like drink milk from breasts — oh the horror of having to see a little sliver of female flesh in this prude American culture of ours; etc. etc.)

I’ve heard this bogus argument before, the one where uppity, ultra clean childless people try to say that babies and their sloppy, overtired parents should be relegated to the barfy back rows of all flights or, better yet, their own planes. No doubt some of you have heard it too, or will see hints of it (especially during the  stressed-out holiday travel season) via dirty looks from polished travelers in all their 3-inch pumps and suits and self-righteous glory.

Seriously, some advice from a seasoned traveling parent: Don’t take this crap — it stinks worse that what’s in that diaper. How many times, sans child, have you had to sit next to A: A large person who spills over into your seat, B: A smelly person (think sweat, too much Brittney Spears perfume, that bag of Burger King goodness), or C: The ubiquitous sick person, coughing strep throat or tuberculosis right into your face? We’ve all had to make sacrifices in air travel, and my baby is not the least of what should be expected and accepted when you stuff two hundred people into a flying claustrophobic tube.

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Red dirt, Big skies, Here We Come…

We are about to set off for a visit to the Mr.’s childhood home in Arizona. Specifically, to the red dirt and open nothingness of a place northeast of Flagstaff that his family calls “The Land.”

The Mr. is well used to this tract, having grown up there with his 8 siblings and 2 parents in a house they built by hand. After nearly a decade with the Mr., I am still not used to this place. Happily, for me, it is modernized some since he ran around barefoot as a kid – back then there was no hot water, no plumbling, no electricity. Solar panels and some other updates have helped. It is still a place where you can get up close to nature – you have to: Here, with nothing but flat red earth and fresh, sharp air for miles, nature hits you in the face.

It is the first time in 5 years we’ve been back, and then first time our little Punkernoodles will see Daddy’s childhood home – “The house that’s half underground!” as they’ve been chanting for weeks. Any anxiety I feel roaming the emptiness of a place so big and frontier-like, 45 minutes from the tiny town of Winslow (cue The Eagles), should be tempered this time by the excitement of these two little innocents, running around the mud and stone and salt bush, exploring this new world in amazement. Or I hope, anyway.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone near and far!

N

Hello Cali…

Mt. Shasta

Mt. Shasta

We made it. A record for the Punkernoodles – Seattle to Cali in one day, by dinnertime. Yes, we did leave Sea-town at the crack of dawn. We usually just say we’ll leave early, but this time we did. Three-quarters of the drive behind us will make for an easy stretch down to Bodega Bay tomorrow, where we get to have a mini family reunion and hopefully prolong our summer sunshine just a little bit longer. It’s tiring, but always a little bit astounding to travel so much ground by your own power. This morning we said goodbye to the Space Needle, shrouded in a misty gray fog, and by this afternoon we said hello to palm fronds and funny towns with names like Yreka, Castella, and Weed (no need to wonder about what the souvenir shops sell there).

It was a long drive, especially with the twang of Dora the Explorer echoing in the background. But it reminded us how wide and raw the Northwest can be, and how beautiful. Oregon seemed to fly by, much of it still green even at the edge of summer. I love the quaintness of the rolling hills and get a little bit freaked out every time by the sharp edges and plummeting canyons as you head through the pass.

But then you get to take in California. I have a love affair with Cali, probably because I spent 9 years there and even more so because setting foot in that state was my introduction to life in this country after a childhood in another. I hope to pass on that passion to the little Punekrnoodles. I don’t know – there is something about those sweeping, stark expanses of valleys and mountains, the way the sun alights a random hillock among the cloud-cast shadows of many more. Something about California says BIG to me – not just in size, but in variety, landscape, possibility.

Other reminders from the day:

How hard it is to take a road trip with a kid who just barely potty trained. Three pairs of panties, one wet car seat, and countless gas-station rest stops (let’s not even go into how I feel about those) later, we still made it.

How the simplest things can thrill kids: a fast-food milkshake, a herd of baby cows crowding their mother, a semi-truck hauling 14 Lexuses.

That it is so easy to forget, in the slug of our daily lives, how important it is to pull loose and hit the proverbial open road. To just spend some time getting somewhere, and in that window of time it takes to get there, to dream and imagine where we might go next.