December 2, 2009

The bags are packed and lying on the floor, just next to the door, just enough of them to fill the back of our Honda Element. Last year, while Stella was busy growing eyelids and swallowing for the first time, we headed to Europe with two mini backpacks. This year, with Stella standing and learning to point, we leave for a cross country road trip with two suitcases, two large gray bins, a high chair, a travel pack n play (BRILLIANT, by the way) and two tote bags filled with her toys, clothes and other random necessary baby objects, like a breast pump, Baby Bjorn and a months supply of diapers. Not to mention a few curtains that we hope to strategically use in different parts of the Element to block the sun from dropping in on Stella, who will no doubt have enough things going against her already.

There are certain days when Stella barely makes the brief, twelve mile trip to Pasadena. There are other days when she barely makes it out of downtown without throwing some sort of mild tantrum, pleading with us to be freed from her car seat confinement. This trip is estimated by Google to take upwards of twenty-nine hours. Maybe longer if we hit construction, pile-ups, bad weather, or any other number of road clogging happenings.

Apprehension, anyone?

I told the man yesterday that we needed new tires because we were heading out on a road trip.

Up North, he asked. He said it more like a statement, as if everyone goes North, than he did as a question.

I said, no, we're going East.

Who's we, he asked with measured curiousity.

My wife and daughter, I stated with a tinge of optimism.

How olds your daughter? He sort of snickered when he asked this, knowing full well a kid like myself couldn't have too old a daughter.

Nine months.

(laughter, slaps the desk, more laughter)

Ever heard of an airplane, son?

Despite all of this, and our recent babycenter update, and our obvious lacking when it comes to reality, we leave in a few short hours for Las Vegas, our first of many stopovers...

I can't believe this room costs $28 either. I guess when the Vegas
surburbs are turning into hood, things are not going well for the city.
We all had a great night and a good sleep. Had a nice little mexican
meal before retiring to our giant room. Stella crashed in the
bathroom, which is where she crashes during the day at home, and slept
11 hours. We read (reading Manhood for Amateurs) and watched half
of the Family Man before hitting the sack.
The carpeted floor means less worry for us (our loft floor is
concrete) and is big enough for all if us to chase each other around
(which is what we've been doing since we arrived). My knees are
starting to ache.

I forgot what the cold is like. I forgot that below freezing means 
your legs begin to feel numb, that your eyes tear up, that your lips 
chap on contact with the frigid breeze. Stepping out of the Honda this evening into the icy cold air, I was 
immediately reminded of why I used to take two steaming hot showers 
every day. In LA, with a job that keeps me at home and weather that 
keeps me in sandals for nine months a year, I'm lucky to get two 
showers a week. So it's here in Green River that we find ourselves tonight. After 
crossing through a slice of AZ and most of Utah, we are getting closer 
to our first pit stop: Denver. Stella has been near perfect thus far and seems to be adapting to life 
on the road just fine, taking in the changing landscapes and different 
sleeping quarters (though, of course that could change in a matter of 
minutes). Andre Agassi's autobiography, Open, has made the trip even more 

What used to be red licorice and potatoe chips has turned into TJ's
fruit leathers and cashews. And some peanut butter cups, of course. :)
Other random trip info:
The Element is averaging 26 miles per gallon. It's not the 41 that our
Civic used to get, but we don't have to carry our luggage in our laps.
So it's a nice trade off.
Even though we are on a straight road in the middle of no where,
without another car in sight, Kari still uses the blinkers.

After four perfect days with Josh and Emily in Denver, we are back on
the road again. Our aim today is Omaha, some 500+ miles away.
Blizzards and high wind and sheer boredom stand as obstacles, so we'll
see how far we get. :)
I have traveled by interstate from Los Angeles to Denver six times now
and not once has it gotten trite or uninteresting. In fact, it gets
better with every trip. The desert and mountains and rivers get bigger
and more memorable...
This will be my tenth trip between Denver and the Midwest and I can
tell you that it only gets more forgettable. And don't think
Colorado is any better, as I did as a kid. I used to think there would
be a glorious moment when I passed out of Nebraska on Interstate 80
and into Colorado. I believed wholeheartedly that the Rockies would
suddenly appear out of no where, that the dull brown fields would give
way to green forests and that the gray skies would open up to an
endless sun. Not quite. From the border to Denver is more of the same.
And that long stretch of nothing is what we find ourselves on now, 105
miles from Nebraska, where we will innevitably encounter more fields.

On the phone this morning, my mom told me that when I was just a
little guy on road trips, I would point at big semis and say "truck"
over and over.
I still have an unusual fascination with the big rig, especially that
secret compartment in the back where the truckers live. Oh how I would
daydream as a kid about that little cab and how I could live in it and
be on the open road forever.
And that's the thing. Even out here in east Colorado, where the earth
lies flat and seems void of color, I am still mezmorized by the open
This never gets old.

Joni, Mike and Miles arrived this evening from San Diego and the Jackson/Ussher/Morgan Christmas is in full swing. It's the first time the entire family has been together since Miles was born...I think my parents are going to burst with delight.

Our Christmas Eve started with fajitas and ended with some round-the-world ping pong and Dutch Blitz. The middle was filled with pass-the-kid between Aunts and Uncles and Papa and Granny.

Tomorrow morning we'll light a fire and open some presents...

It came down to the math. If we stuck with our original plan of
driving the 481 miles from Indy to Kansas City, we would still be left
with another long day of travel from KC to Denver. And driving 8 hours
of the day means keeping Stella busy for six of those hours.
Driving at night, on the other hand, means Stella sleeps while we
munch on sunflower seeds and listen to NPR.
So instead of spending two days and twelve hours playing peek a boo,
singing songs and reading her duck book for the fiftieth time, we
opted to drive the extra 600 miles through the night to Denver.
With 171 miles to go, we have managed to go through one large Coke, a
pack of sunflower seeds, several powdered donuts and a lukewarm

Kari just took the helm with less than a hundred miles to go. We're
both exhausted and looking forward to our bed.
I remember spending long days and nights on buses in Asia and wishing
I had a nice comfortable bed waiting for me (it was usually a
barebones matress in a room without air conditioning).
Tonight there is no wishing and I couldn't be happier about that.