Things do not always go as planned. This is exponentially true when on the road. Life’s ups and downs are multiplied and magnified exponentially when you travel. You can’t set your heart on seeing Machu Picchu without a cloud in sight, or ending world poverty by volunteering for a month in Nicaragua. You also can’t prevent a stranger in the U.S. from stealing $3,000 from your account while in Bolivia, men in China from spitting meat onto your toes on a 24-hour train ride, or mosquitoes in Penang from eating you alive. In a nutshell, shit happens. Even when you’re on the road with your parents.
However, this post is not meant to be melodramatic. It’s just that travel is (almost) never what you expect it to be; even when you’re surrounded by your parents’ well-intentioned bubble. The perfect vacation/trip/gap year/road trip/cruise will always pose challenges, and force you to stare a little bit longer in the mirror after the end of each day.
Like always, my most recent road trip had its bumps. The day after my parents arrived in Klamath Falls, we were supposed to go to Crater Lake. I woke up excitedly, my hiking boots and camera waiting for me on the dresser, and went into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. As is custom, I checked my phone for my destination’s weather. There were 90% chance of thunderstorms. Ugghhh. My family friend looked up Crater Lake’s webcam, and it was a muddled fog of grey dreariness. No sapphire blue lakes, no islands, no surrounding cliffs. Just an ugly, colorless blanket of yuck.
Fortunately, our hosts were more than willing to let us stay another night and try again the following day. I spent the day reading, riding around the neighborhood on their tricycle from the 1970s, shopping, hiking in Moore Park, constantly checking the next day’s weather, and balling my eyes while all of us watched “The Notebook.”
We did go to Crater Lake the next day, and it was more gorgeous than I could’ve imagined. The trees, the cliffs, the jays, the blues… Ahhh. That was a perfect day.
Alas, the rest of the trip would not go so smoothly. After the mesmerizing beauty of Crater Lake, we drove into Bend around 8:30pm. I must have called at least 15 hotels, which were all booked. I looked on hotels.com. Travelocity. Yelp. Help! There was nothing. We rode into town and I was still calling around, but had now switched to looking for motels.
My parents and I were prepared to sleep in the car, cramped not only with our luggage, but also with a bunch of my shit my parents had hauled all the way from California for me. (Hey, I moved up in here in my Mini Cooper…) I wouldn’t have minded, but my parents are close to forty years older than me and not accustomed to sleeping on any old flat surface. We rolled up on the Bethlehem Inn, and my dad made a sharp right into the parking lot. The sign read “Serving the Homeless of Central Oregon.” And my dad still wanted to ask if they had a room. I couldn’t help but laugh at our situation.
We ended up getting the last room available in a Super 8 down the street. It was about 10pm now, and my mom was talking about going to Carl’s Jr. for dinner. It was her birthday. I don’t eat meat. And it was her birthday! After quite the discussion, I talked them into going to McMenamin’s St. Francis School. I had to practically drag my parents out of the car because they were scared.
“There’s no lights! It’s dark! I can’t see any signs!” my mom exclaimed.
“This looks like where all the city’s boozers go to get wasted,” my dad added.
“I don’t think this is such a good idea,” said my mom. Uggghhh. By this time, I needed a quadruple shot of whatever kind of liquor the place happened to serve.
After much ado, my parents and I ended up having a nice meal, complete with whiskey and cokes, listening to the Grateful Dead, and celebrating being together for my mom’s birthday. (I can’t count how many times I’ve missed her birthday because of being out of the country.) My mom ended up becoming kind of obsessed with McMenamins, and got super excited when we later saw one of their trucks on the freeway.
The next morning, after enduring my dad’s chain-saw raucousness of a snore, we set out for a quick breakfast before we headed to the Painted Hills. We fueled up, noting how Bend’s gas stations were like a trip back into the 1950s compared to the Bay Area, and noticed that we were screwed. Literally. The back tire was quickly deflating, and our nice meal turned into a couple hour wait at Les Schwab Tires. At least they had popcorn for my parents, and wifi for me.
We did get to the Painted Hills late that afternoon. Although we had to deal with horrible traffic due to local fires, it was actually perfect timing. The sun set softly on the mountains, bringing out the earth’s rich colors and making it a spectacular photographing experience. I was sure that something, like being bitten by a rattle snake, was going to happen to me, but it didn’t.
The rest of our road trip went smoothly, save for my dad driving like a maniac in Portland, going the wrong way down one-way streets, rolling over curbs, and making U-turns wherever he pleased. Oh, and that guy in the car next to us rudely complaining about our beams being turned on (which they weren’t), and my dad telling him to “Fuck off!” I asked my dad if he hadn’t realized that I don’t live in the best of neighborhoods and told him to just let it go.
My eyes tear up while writing of these mishaps with my parents on the road. As a solo traveler, I am so used to experiencing new places by myself, or with other backpackers I’ve just met. Being able to share the beauty of travel with the two people who created me- no matter the conundrums- was an overwhelmingly gratifying experience.
I love my parents from the core of my soul, and it’s inexplicably hard to accept that they are getting older. It means so, so much to me that they drove all the way from the Bay Area, California to see me and roadtrip around Oregon. They may be stubborn as hell, too apprehensive, and filled with all sorts of unsolicited advice, but if I had to have travel woes with anyone, it would be with them.