Browsing Tag

adventure

Ice Cream and Nostalgia

Top 5 Reasons 2016 Was One of Our Top 5 Years (of the Past 5 Years)

1.Oodles more readers. Yes, I’m talking to YOU. In case you missed ‘em, here are five of our most-read posts from 2016:

Our Kids Put the Fun in Dysfunctional

Operation: Airborne Lizzie

Be a Cul-de-sac

Swimming in the Rain

Finding My Voice

2. Family adventures. 2016 was an epic travel year. We kayaked with whales. We visited Iceland. We flew over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter I felt certain would kill us all. Most of all, we scampered hither and yon with our kiddos and actually, kind of, enjoyed being together [even though 3/5 of the family yacked all over Frankfurt, Germany . . . ugh, some things you just can’t unsee].

3. We published our first book. Which we have yapped about incessantly and ad nauseum, but which if you have somehow missed all of that you should still totally check out HERE. [Also, if you read it and liked it and have not yet rated it on Goodreads or Amazon, we’d love it if you could do us a solid.]

Here are 5 more awesome books we read this year:

Today Will Be Different, by Maria Semple

Circling the Sun, by Paula McClain

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead

The Somme, by Peter Hart

Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett

4. Everybody is finally out of diapers and pull-ups – hooray! And 2016 was the first year when all of the children finally learned to sleep in their own beds and leave Mom and Dad alone – double hooray! For those keeping track at home, it has been 12 years of interrupted sleep. No wonder we look so old. Of course, as soon as everyone here was sleep trained, we decided to adopt a dog who is not.  Grrr….

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5. 2016 was the year we discovered podcasts – these awesome radio shows you can download and listen to on your phone when you scrub the bathroom or shovel snow. Podcasts take the menial labor of family life and make it transcendent. Do yourself a huge favor and subscribe to a few today. You’ll never look at dirty dishes the same way again.

Reply All – A show about the Internet, trained rats, and so much more. Ever wonder who invented the pop-up ad? Or why some websites make it almost impossible to reach an actual live person? Or what some of those weird Twitter hashtags actually mean? These guys decode the e-world for the rest of us. Try “Exit & Return,” Parts I and II, or “The Writing on the Wall” episode if you are looking for a place to start.

Revisionist History – Malcolm Gladwell looks back at ideas, events, and people in history and reinterprets them. I’m not doing the show justice in this description. The trilogy about higher education in this country is particularly terrific (“Carlos Doesn’t Remember,” “Food Fight,” and “My Little Hundred Million”).

Radiolab – We’ve been listening to Radiolab on NPR because it makes us smarter, but now we can get every episode and revisit them whenever we want. Don’t take our word for it. Go listen to them. “Patient Zero,” “Colors,” “The Cathedral,” “Birthstory,” or any of the dozens of other terrific episodes.

Heavyweight – Jonathon Goldstein takes people back to revisit a moment in their lives when everything went wrong, and whether it was being bullied at school or loaning CDs that you never got back, he tries to help folks fix what is broken, or at least make peace with it. Try episode #2 “Gregor” for a way in.

This American Life – Still going strong. Still the best in the business when it comes to storytelling. They are 600 episodes in. If you have not started listening yet, I am giddy just thinking about all the great stories just waiting for you.

*There are so many more we could have included here: We Turned Out Okay, Invisibilia, First Timers, 10 Minute Writer’s Workshop, The Writer’s Panel, StartUp, More Perfect, Science Vs, and, of course, Serial.

 

Where did you travel? What did you read? What are you looking forward to in 2017? We love hearing from you. Drop us a line at info@dadvmom.com or on any of our social media platforms.

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Adventure

There Is No Such Thing as Lost

Sometimes the kids and I hop on a bus just to see where it goes.

I learned recently that most folks don’t do this.

Maybe it’s from a lifetime of ill-planning.

Maybe it’s because we have lived in so many places.

Maybe it’s because I am a discombobulated traveler.

I dunno.

But I am baffled by train schedules and bus routes, especially in foreign countries. And I have no patience for waiting at a stop while perfectly good vehicles unload and load, especially when my son is so enamored of things that Go! Go! Go!

Friends have pointed out that they prefer to know where their transport is heading before they climb aboard. They have concerns for my family’s hobo approach.

“What if you need a bathroom?”

We look for one.

“What if it takes you way out of town?”

It usually doesn’t.

“But what if it does?”

We hop off, cross the street, and wait for some form of conveyance heading back in the opposite direction.

What if? What if? What if?

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In college, I spent a summer semester in London. Except for a school trip to Canada, it was the first time I had ever left America, the first time I had ever lived in a foreign country or even a big city, the first time I had ever navigated public transportation on my own.

I was a student on a budget. I ate a lot of cereal that summer and ramen noodles. But I had a metro card for unlimited travel during the month of July. So I used it. After morning classes, I would often head to the nearest Underground station.

The London tube is pretty straightforward. Not complicated with numbers, letters, colors and the dreaded express vs. local decision demanded of subway travelers in New York City or Paris. In London, you just pick a colored train route and go. Sometimes, I would take the escalator to a line I had never ridden—the Jubilee or maybe Bakerloo—and ride it to a stop with a name that sounded just as interesting—Elephant and Castle, Piccadilly Circus, West Ham. Sometimes, I popped up in a flea market or in front of a theater. I browsed postcards or splurged on a ticket to a musical or play. Usually, I disembarked in a neighborhood. I walked along row houses with iron fences, or peered through hedges sheltering secret gardens. I crossed unfamiliar streets and made believe that they were mine.

I am not afraid to be lost. No matter where I go, somebody—most people, in fact—know exactly where we are. I just summon courage and ask. Or live in the not knowing. Which is another kind of gift.

Are we on the left bank of the river or the right? Are we heading towards town or away from it? There is something quite freeing about wandering a city and taking it all in. In Toronto, we found a restaurant serving homemade cinnamon rolls. In Paris, we discovered a jungle gym with a merry-go-round. In Germany, we stopped to feed goats.

I am a lousy tourist. If there is a long line at a major attraction or some tower to ascend, I would much rather linger in a café or stroll to a bakery and buy bread. When I travel, I want to feel what it is like to live in a place, not just visit for an hour or a day.

We caught a bus on my birthday that took over an hour to reach our destination. A subway train would have been faster, more direct. But we saw Oxford Street illuminated for the holidays and watched commuters scurrying beneath umbrellas. It was a dark and rainy night in London. And, accidentally on purpose, we breathed it all in.

Babies

How The Worst Typhoon In History Taught Me To Appreciate Crying Babies

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Adapted from Our New Book, Here Be Dragons

 

I never really liked babies. I love my own, of course. But that’s a genetic imperative. Other people’s babies? For most of my adult life, my feelings ranged from mild disinterest to barely concealed annoyance. I never found their outfits particularly cute or their peek-a-boo games terribly entertaining. And travelling with them on airplanes? I always said I would rather be stuck in the back-row-middle seat next to the toilet, than be sitting anywhere near someone else’s baby in flight. Until, that is, I went to the Philippines. In November of 2013, forty minutes after sunrise, in the wake of the worst typhoon in recorded human history, I changed my mind about kids.

When Typhoon Haiyan made landfall on November 8, 2013, it brought sustained winds of 196 miles per hour, and gusts topping 250. Had it hit the United States, its outer bands would have stretched from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles, CA. I flew into the disaster zone with a medical relief team, on one of the first Marine Corps C-130s carrying aid workers. We landed on a pitch-black runway in a city with no lights. Amidst the rubble of a military barracks, we established our forward operating base.

The next morning, at first light, we boarded a Philippine Air Force Huey and headed south. What we saw confirmed our worst fears. Nothing was left intact. Even the sturdiest buildings had their roofs ripped away. The storm surge had rushed for miles, reducing houses to matchsticks. Ships lay hundreds of yards inland, like toys dropped amid the debris. I have been in warzones. But nothing compared to the devastation I saw flying along the Philippine coastline.

We circled the village of Tanauan and identified what we assumed was the clinic. Between the scattered rubble and crowds of people, there was no way to land. So we diverted to a strip of empty beach a few miles away. As we approached, people sprinted towards the descending helicopter. The pilot hovered a few feet off the ground, and we leapt. As our ride lifted away, a crowd of villagers gathered. We had been warned that they might try to take our supplies. The opposite was true. They were hungry and scared, but grateful, and they helped us make our way to the clinic.

The makeshift hospital was set up inside the former city hall, one of the only buildings left with walls still standing. Hundreds were already gathered, seeking medical help. Most had walked miles. Wounds were starting to fester, and the air stank of gangrene. I made my way to the second floor where a surgery was underway.

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All day and all night, patients arrived in a steady stream, bearing gaping, jagged gashes, many of them showing signs of gangrene. For a rookie like me, those injuries were at least straightforward. Open, clean, disinfect, pack, and bandage. That I could handle.

The “injury” that knocked me off balance, oddly enough, had nothing to do with the typhoon. Late one evening, a pregnant woman arrived on the back of a moped. She was in labor, but struggling. The clinic was blacked out, lit only by the occasional flashlight and our headlamps bobbing up and down as we worked. Patients lay huddled in groups on the floor. Our OBGYN led the expectant mother to the “operating table,” and immediately determined a normal delivery was out of the question. Because of how the baby was positioned, a C-section would be necessary to save the lives of both mother and child.

The surgeons decided to begin the operation at dawn. When the first ray of sun split the horizon, I said a prayer. Please help this mother. Please save this baby. As the surgery began, a few of us huddled on the floor around a camp stove. Someone brewed a pot of tea, and we sat in silence, sipping from tin mugs, straining to hear the doctors talking softly to each other as they worked. Then, a sound I will never forget. A baby’s cry, healthy, strong, and defiant.

I felt the sun warming my neck, looked down into my cup, and wept. I tried to make my tears less obvious. My team in the Philippines included some of the toughest people I have ever known: combat medics, Special Forces operators, a paratrooper from the French Foreign Legion. When I looked up, I could see we all felt the same thing—our faces wore identical expressions of exhaustion and relief, but above all—joy. That baby may have been crying the loudest, but we all joined in varying degrees.

Six hours after that sunrise, we called in a Philippine Air Force helicopter to evacuate our most critical patients. A cardiac case, an amputee, a new mother, and a six-hour-old baby girl were airlifted to Manila. Miracles do happen. Even in the wake of tragedy. To this day, whenever I hear a baby cry, I smile inside.

Even on airplanes.

A version of this article originally appeared on Fatherly.com.

Adventure

Findings: Days 6-14

 

For the first few days of our cross-country trip, I was on a roll. We drove, ate candy, argued about the iPad, and just when we thought we could not stand one more moment traveling together, we arrived somewhere magical.

After that, the kids fell asleep and I wrote about it.

Then I fell asleep and we started all over the next day.

It was a pretty great routine, but like most charmed journeys, this one was unsustainable.

Somewhere around day 5 ½, instead of writing at night, I ate half a bag of Cheetos and went to bed. While this is not a dietary practice I can recommend, succumbing to semi-slothful behavior after several weeks of packing boxes, lugging furniture, and saying goodbyes . . . well, that’s something to which I can give my full stamp of approval. To everything there is a season — a time to laugh, a time to cry, a time to pack, a time to move, a time to write cathartically about friendships and farewells, and a time to process all of that with junk food and sleep.

Thus, while I had hoped to amass two weeks of pithy truths and inspiring stories of my family triumphing in the face of roadside adversity, what follows, instead, are the briefest of highlights — some awesome, most ordinary — from the rest of our trip across America:

–We swam beneath a small waterfall. I fell into a muddy creek carrying our only towels. Ken and I argued about crossing other people’s rivers.

–Lizzie, Katie, and Henry rode horses. Ken and I did not.

–I grew tired of carrying Henry one morning, and accidentally set him down in a pile of red ants. The hundred or so crawling up and down his legs bit him/stung him (note to self: look up what it is ants do) at least a dozen times before I realized my mistake and swatted them off. Poor boy had legs like chicken pox. He could only be consoled with watermelon.

–When it comes to catching them, kids love fish. When it comes to eating them, not so much.

–There are good people living in San Antonio, Dallas, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. (There are good people living lots of other places, too. We just didn’t go there.) Without exception, even when we had to battle traffic, weather, or adjust our itinerary to make it work, visits with old friends were a delight. If you do nothing else today, look at a map, and scheme a trip to see a faraway friend. You won’t be disappointed.

–I am a mustard snob. I get a little judgy when restaurants only have yellow mustard and not stadium or Dijon.

–I had a grown-up, mostly civil, in-search-of-common-ground conversation with a gun owner and we parted, I believe, understanding one another better. I was reminded to seek out those with whom I disagree. How else will we change the world?

–Lizzie led a horse to water and it did, indeed, drink.

–When we waved goodbye to Texas, a scorpion scrambled beside our car and waved back.

–The closest I came to crashing in 3000+ miles of driving occurred an hour from our destination when the car in front of me slammed on his brakes because someone was weed-whacking fifty feet away. Prior to this, I had never considered gardeners a threat.

–We had Dairy Queen for dinner two days in a row. The food was not good. But I loved it both times.

–I have not been flossing.

For the many folks who have asked, we are safely in Ohio now. Staying with family and living out of suitcases while we search for a new home. Thanks for blanketing the road before us with warm thoughts. We are excited about this new chapter, and looking forward to the big things to come.

More on that next time . . .

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Awesomeness

Day 3: Detour

Today began with a detour. Ken wanted to see a cave.

Yesterday, it was a meteor crater. Tomorrow, probably some rocks. I tolerate my husband’s little sideshows because they:

  1. get us out of the car
  2. make him happy
  3. give the kids something new to complain about.

Because unlike their father, our children seem only to want to see two things on this trip—Cheetos and Minecraft (ßwhich, for anyone fortunate enough not to know, is a game that will consume your child’s soul from about the age of 7 until, I dunno, maybe forever).

Thus, we plotted a course for Carlsbad Caverns, which sits—my apologies to the locals—deep in the corner pocket of nowhere.

Just after Albuquerque, we got separated. Ken, child-free in the big truck, was able to travel at roughly the speed of sound, whilst I, driving the minivan/clown car pulled off 14 different times for coffee, ice cream, hot dogs, apple juice, and then so various individuals could poop and/or pee. (Yeah, okay. I see now how those stops were probably related.)

And, of course, because I was playing a Math game with Katie while listening to Henry tell me how “that cloud looked like an alligator” and “that cloud looked like a meatball,” I missed the exit. Which would not have been that big a deal, until Ken called to say he was already at the caverns and where was I and could I please try not to be late?

Of course we were late.

Ken phoned every 10 minutes to check on our progress.  We skidded in shoeless and needing to pee (again!?) at 4:51 just in time for the final elevator of the day.

I learned no facts about the Carlsbad Caverns. How deep they were? Who found them? Why they were there? I intend to Wikipedia this info shortly.

But they were spectacular. Hundreds of feet underground, we emerged from the elevators, and turned to see enormous white caverns. Miles bigger than anything I had imagined. And rather than dark and dank, much of it was gently lit to reveal glowing structures. Vaulted cathedral ceilings dripping with piercing stalactites. Naves of calcified crystals and stalagmites. Glassy water ponds, and quiet stone seats for rest and reflection. Strategically placed lights gave the whole place a reverent glow. We spent over an hour wandering the caves, peering into seemingly bottomless pits, finding shapes in the stones. Katie saw the seven dwarves, Santa, and a Christmas tree. Henry found jellyfish and spaghetti, and Lizzie found a small theater populated by the tentacles of a giant squid. Rather than another one of our forced family marches, it felt like a religious pilgrimage. Everywhere I looked, I saw relics – statues of saints, a prayer nave, a series of benches that seemed ready for church. The cavern was even laid out in the shape of a cross.

It is a good thing that while I was down there, I did not know about the bats.

Nearly half a million bats sleep by day in a chamber deep within the Carlsbad Caverns. And most evenings, they emerge all at once to feed.

Of course, Ken needed to see this.

My husband does not know the meaning of enough is enough.

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At 7pm, more than satisfied by our journey through the caverns, and on the cusp of hangry, I allowed myself to be ushered by Ken down to a stone amphitheater to meet Ranger Lacey.

At 7:30, she said it would be any minute now.

At 7:45, she mentioned that if they were coming, they usually would have emerged by now.

At 8, she said that occasionally, due to weather or circumstances beyond our understanding, the bats did not come out at all, and the park had to close, and yeah, that was a bummer, but you could always come back to the middle of nowhere New Mexico another time.

The kids were getting restless. Folks began to leave. Even Ken was ready to call it.

But at 8:07, the bats flew.

I expected to hear the swooshing and whooshing, screeching and maybe the scraping of claws (confession: most of what I know about bats is from cartoons). Instead, 400,000 animals formed tornado after bat tornado, dipped and circled soundlessly, before lifting to the sky in flight. I sat with hundreds of people in utter stillness. 500+ folks silent as a church. Cell phones strictly forbidden. Watches set not to beep. So we just sat there, strangers in the twilight, mystified and united by bats.

Well played, husband.  A pretty great day.

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Despite my hope to capture reverence and beauty, all of my photos of the caverns look like the mouths of aliens.  You can see way better images here.

Also, even though WE could not photograph the event, others have.  Do a quick Google search of “photos of bat flight Carlsbad Caverns” to see what I’m talking about.  Pretty rad.

Photo credit for the banner image on this page: Carlsbad Caverns National Park. © Chris Walters Photography

Awesomeness

Cross-Country Day 2: Your Singing Is Hurting My Band-Aid

 

We had some trouble getting out of the motel this morning. Our plan had been to awaken early, pack up quickly, and head to the Grand Canyon swiftly before the heat of the day and the arrival of the weekend tourist buses.

But leaving LA yesterday took a physical and emotional toll, thus we were all bonkers tired this morning, plus the kids wanted pancakes, and then Henry cut his foot during one of his epic leaps from one advertised-as-a-queen-but-totally-a-double motel bed to the other while Dad was trying to nap, so it was nearly noon when we finally made it down to the parking lot—which was empty, except for two vehicles, both ours.

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As we set out for the Canyon, I was reminded of why I had skipped it on my three other cross-country road trips. It is not exactly on the way to anywhere, except, I guess, to itself. The kids argued about the iPad, and Henry complained the music was making his Band-Aid hurt, and Ken and I wondered aloud about whether the gal at the front desk had been exaggerating when she told us about the 30-45-minute long line just to get into the park. With Henry’s bum foot and this crazy heat, there would be no hiking, and what was the point of visiting the Grand Canyon if we were only going to look at it?  I had half a mind to just turn us around again to keep driving.

But then we saw the helicopter.

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Yes, it was expensive.

Yes, it was (initially) terrifying.

But then, it was just awesome.

The pilot played the theme songs to Chariots of Fire, Star Wars, and 2001: A Space Odyssey as we headed toward the Canyon, but then when he reached it, he cut off the music and let nature speak for itself.

Hovering above the Grand Canyon made it look simultaneously big and small, made us feel both all-powerful and insignificant. And after I overcame my fear of all of us plummeting to the ground in a fiery crash, I enjoyed the ultra-modern journey backwards in time.

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We got back to the car and the kids resumed their arguments about whose turn it was for the iPad and who would pick the next movie. But I hardly listened. I floated above them, my mind full of rusty red rocks, and I piloted our minivan east.

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Goodbyes

Sisterhood of the Traveling Mops

I have always maintained that dating is unnecessary. If you really want to test a relationship, move together. Not move IN together. Just move. It doesn’t even need to be your stuff. Pick up a piece of furniture and maneuver it across town. If you can carry a sofa down a flight of stairs, become lodged and unlodged in a too-small entryway, and get both it and you largely unscathed into a rental truck – or better yet, a beat-up minivan – idling by the curb, AND still be talking to one another at the end of that escapade, go ahead and marry that person. The rest will be gravy.

But my theory got an upgrade today. Because it turns out that the moving test also works on friendships. If you really want to know who your friends are, just make some plans to leave town. Then step back and feel the crazy love.

Over the course of the past month, there have been parties and bounce houses, beer, wine and cake. My friends and I have discussed gun legislation and sung karaoke. I was taken to swimming pools, movies, dinner, pedicures, and the beach. In fact, I had so much fun saying goodbyes, that I hardly had time to pack.

Thus, rock bottom came the night before last. My friend Sara stopped over with ice cream to check on my progress. Seeing our home largely unchanged 36 hours before our moving day, she launched an organizational intervention. Markers, coins, flip-flops, and sticker books all found their mates. Giveaway boxes were filled. Piles formed. She got the ball rolling. And then I suspect that she then spread the word.

dadvmom.com_SisterhoodOfTheTravelingMops_boxesTruthfully, I don’t know what she said or to whom, but all I know is that the love and assistance never stopped flowing. I am a person who does not like to ask for help. I like my friends. I hate moving. Why would I want people I like to help with something I hate? I don’t want to spread my misery.

But I learned a new kind of Math this week. I can’t wait until they start teaching it in schools. It turns out that when I share something that I dislike with folks that I love, magic happens. I should have remembered this from the great Ohio exodus of 2014 or the Connecticut relocation project of ’09, but these past 36 hours reaffirmed everything I have ever believed in the fundamental awesomeness of all the people I know and love.

Because it turns out the LOVE + HATE = LOVE.

That’s right. FRIENDSHIP (love) + MOVING (hate) = FRIENDSHIP.

Women arrived to clean my closets. They emptied my pantry, and packed sweaters into boxes.

Folks took my kids to breakfast, lunch, dinner, and tea. The children ate ice cream cones and baked bread all well away from me.

Though I was packing furiously in a house emptied of food, I never went hungry. Pizzas appeared. And seltzer waters. And donuts. And cookies. And avocado toast. And burritos, liquor, Twinkies, and string cheese.

Whenever I hit a wall, more women arrived and put themselves to work. It was like Little House on the Prairie, but with Swiffers and Adirondack chairs.

An hour before my landlord arrived to inspect the rental property, a dozen of my mom friends were in my house. Julia mopped the kitchen while holding her baby in a carrier. Lauren swept with an infant in tow. Mothers brought vacuums and Windex when it was discovered that we had mistakenly packed all of our cleaning supplies. All hands were on deck. And while I suppose I was the captain of that very dirty and sinking ship, I was also a passenger. And all of these friends took me on a pretty great ride.

So Ashley and Ashley, Julie and Julia, Leah, Melissa, Erin, Wendy, Lauren, Lara, Sara, Corrita, Stephanie, Toni, Breezy, Teresa, Whitney–and whoever else I am forgetting–thank you. You were like guardian angels. And unicorns. Thank you for the magic.

Whenever I am faced with a task that is impossibly big, I usually just double down — I work harder, stay up later, dig deep and get it done. Determination, stick-to-it-ness, strength . . . these are attributes I have all but mastered in my adult life. I am hereby checking them off of my list.

There are others, however, that I am clearly still working on. Grace, for instance. And vacuuming. And the belief that when I fall, someone will catch me. Or someones. Sometimes, I guess, when a task seems insurmountable, it is because we were never meant to tackle it alone.

They sorted my laundry and scrubbed my sinks. They fed my family and delivered spare mattresses all over town.

Moving, people. The worst, best thing that there is.

LOVE + HATE = LOVE

Adventure

Adventures Are Worth the Mishaps

After a series of decisions that, in retrospect, may have been unwise, I am driving from Los Angeles to San Antonio and back. Alone.

I will confess: until I looked at a map, I thought the two cities were closer together. But in order to save face, I left my husband with our three kids and embarked on this fool’s errand anyway.

Up until about an hour ago, the trip was going pretty well. The 1987 station wagon that I drove for the first 1400 miles was surprisingly reliable. It only stalled twice, and only once at high speed. When I hopped out the second time to push it through the Starbucks parking lot, passersby were super-chill. As though they saw women pushing cars and carrying cappuccinos all the time. I did not run out of gas this time, even after I forgot to fill up the tank and drove 19 ½ miles past empty. All in all, to quote the policeman who cordially ticketed me in Arizona: “I was surprised by how fast that car could drive.” The lack of air conditioning was a bummer, especially in the desert, but the radio worked, and when I finally figured out the cruise control near El Paso, it was smooth sailing from there.

The problems started when I picked up the other car, or truck rather, from my in-laws’ ranch north of San Antonio. First off, it is a stick-shift vehicle. Which was actually no trouble at all, because, unlike the babe in the movie version of this story, I can totally drive a standard. I’m only including this information because it reminds me what a badass I am. Which is important, given what just happened. I was towing a trailer. Which is also not a big deal, since I hauled a bunch of canoes around for a job after college. But I did misplace my sunglasses earlier today. Which prompted me to stop and buy new ones, along with a cable to plug in my phone, so I could listen to music and podcasts and audiobooks instead of annoying AM talk shows, which seemed to be all I could get on the truck’s radio. I was listening to an episode of WNYC’s Radiolab (don’t worry Jad and Robert, I don’t blame you) when the trailer tire pretty much exploded. I pulled over on a desolate strip of I-10 and thought about what to do next.

This is the point in my story where I feel like readers might be tempted to insert a lesson: You see girls, that is why we don’t drive across the country alone.

Except I went into this trip knowing there might be trouble. In anticipation of 2800 miles of mountains and desert, I took precautions. Both vehicles had tune-ups. New tires, new brakes, topped off fluids—the works. I brought tools and spare parts for fixing the kinds of things that usually go wrong. I had a spare tire for the car, a spare tire for the truck, and a spare rim for the trailer. I had 2 emergency bags with water, flares, and a tire-patch kit.

But none of those safeguards prevented the blowout and ensuing (small) fire after I drove twenty miles to the nearest town on the rim.

So now I am sitting in a Burger King in Fort Stockton, TX (population: friendly), listening to an audiobook, eating the first Whopper, Jr. I have had since college, and waiting for a mechanic that the nice cashier Maribel called to see if we can fix any of this.

Maybe we can. Maybe it will be 20 minutes and some lug nuts. Hopefully, 75 bucks from now, I’ll be on my way.

Maybe it will be trickier. There is a pretty big hole where the fender used to be. The brake rotor looks melted, too. My choice to drive for help might have messed up the axle. It’s possible the trailer will live out its days here in west Texas, while I head out with the pickup truck, my Radiolab podcasts, a little less dignity, and this novel I’m listening to about women of the French Resistance in WWII.

But here’s the thing: I am a grownup girl and perfectly capable of navigating all this. While the breakdown has been inconvenient, it is not a catastrophe. If I am to raise my own daughters to be independent and brave, to demonstrate chutzpah and panache, I need to blaze some trails, even occasionally on one wheel. Adventures are worth the mishaps. I want my kids to live in possibility, not fear, and to know that surmounting an obstacle or eight makes a person stronger, smarter, and more comfortable in her own skin.

In The Nightingale, one woman risks her life to transport Allied soldiers across the border into Spain. Another forges identity papers and hides Jewish children. We all like to believe that—in the face of danger or injustice—we, too, would do the courageous thing. But how will we ever act with valiance in the face of peril if we don’t occasionally practice a little everyday pluck?

I may have sacrificed some time today, some nutrition, and maybe even a whole trailer, but for me, the message is clear: You see girls, this is why we drive across the country alone.

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New DadvMom.com on NY Observer today.

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