I’ve been back in Plumas County a whole week after six weeks in Los Angeles County. For most people in Plumas County that sounds like some sort of hell…. but hey, you guys had a fire and for the first time in my life the air was better in LA County than Plumas!

So I used to go on vacation to exotic locations hoping to get lost in the world and have to use my wits and body to get home….trying to find opium in Laos, navigating subways in South Korea , staring down purse snatchers in Budapest, being chased down the beach by single guys chanting teach me English in the Phillippines, a Japanese izakaya where my bosses chanted eat the horse! eat the horse! until I swallowed a mouth full of basashi—raw horse sushi---waking up in my bellydancing clothes and not remembering ever putting them on….that sort of thing….

But now I have two kids and a car with over 100,000 miles on it and a grandmother in southern California who needs to be convinced by the end of my visit to move in with my aunt. So adventure travel is all about driving down Interstate 5 to grandmother’s apartment we go.
My husband was working on getting a job, and then working so he couldn’t spend six weeks with us in southern California. ….so this was also my first experience as a single parent.
I piled the kids in the car after the last T-ball game at home in Greenville and plan to make it to Santa Nella, CA—Diego wants to stop here because of the windmill of Pea Soup Andersons with bright lights. I understand completely. This is the same reason I’ve been to Reno, Nevada—inexplicable pleasure of blinking or moving lights in the night air.

For most of the evening, we stop only at Starbucks bathrooms along the way. No one peed in their seat or projectile vomited for the first four hundred miles so I was feeling pretty damn confident. The last thing as the mother in the front seat you ever want to hear from the back seat is a quivering voice that says’’mommy?...and then (hurl sound).

So we stop in Santa Nella where my son is totally excited about the idea of continental breakfast (as well as the blinking lights)! Since we don’t allow sugary cereal in the house, vacation is the time to go nuts…he selects a box of Trix! And doesn’t of course know what it is because we don’t have tv and he tries it with milk and exclaims to me---it’s candy! It’s a candy cereal! Mommy! They made a candy cereal! He runs to wake up his sister. Paloma—they’ve got a cereal and it’s made of candy!

At this point I feel like a bad parent because having neglected to raise my kids on TV and processed food has made them kind of like first generation immigrants , they are wide eyed on the world and so unhip. They love motels with their TVs and pools and air conditioning and bottles of lotion and shampoo. When a commercial comes on it’s no different than a show and they want me to stop the DVD and play it back. (And no they don’t know TIVO exists either). What the heck is this mommy?! It just makes my kids look stupid not to know about crystal meth and munchies in kindergarten but…we still feel it’s for the best to keep them out of these particular cultural loops.

So we are driving along, just got gas, got my double green tea latte to go, kids are hydrated and asking are we there yet, been driving two hours just passed a sign that says 100 miles to Los Angeles or so—it’s a clear day and I can see the Grapevine in the distance. And so can apparently my car because it goes from 75 miles an hour to about 0 in the space of 1 minute. Like it took one look at the Grapevine and decided—100 degree heat? LA traffic? You guys go on with out me. I’m staying here.

So that’s when the trip starts to get REALLY cinematic. Normally I don’t wear flip flops but both Paloma and I had flip flops on. We are under dressed and hair is flying everywhere in the wind as we walk along the highway shoulder as I can see a Chevron station in the distance of about a mile. I’m not getting cell phone reception on the highway.

The kids of course think it’s great! They’ve always wanted to walk on the highway shoulder among the diapers thrown from car windows, the broken glass, tumbleweeds , strips of tire, and snakes. Paloma is swinging my hand and beams up at me like this was all planned. She carrying a doll and we are bent and hurrying in the wind and all of a sudden I get the distinct impression that we look (pause to pose) exactly like that sign on the 5 between San Diego and Orange counties about beware of Mexicans with children crossing the freeway—in a hurry!

We make it to the off-ramp. A trucker rolls down his window and says ‘Hey Mama, you and the kids want a ride?” He winks at me and nudges in the opposite direction. Hmm…nothing out there in his direction but more tumbleweeds and various places to dump bodies. “No thanks, I shout back to him! Think I’ll try my luck at this gas station here.”
When we are just about to the sidewalk in front of the gas station, a cop pulls up and walks over to me.
“That your Toyota Corolla on the highway there?” Of course, I want to say back—you see any other women with two children looking like they are out for a weekday stroll along the highway in 100 degree heat outside of Bakersfield?!. But , I don’t.
“That’s me. I’m calling triple A now.” In truth, I was. And of course was told that I was out of Northern California and technically in Southern California and the wait would be 90 minutes until someone could get out here.
“Your kids 3 and 5? That’s how old mine are.”
“Really?” I say guarded. Full disclosure here: I grew up in unincorporated Los Angeles County in the 1980s. I am scared of cops.
“Our car fell off the road,” Paloma lends by way of explanation to the cop, “see it up there? Now we are walking! It's fun!” The cop smiles at her. Good girl, Paloma.

“Ma’am, why don’t you finish up your call with AAA. I’ll sit here with the kids until you are done. Hey kids, you want ice cream?”
It’s not even 11 am of course, but ice cream from a CHP is too good to be true. And the kids spend the next 90 minutes in ice cream heaven on the side of a Chevron station , some of it spent with a cop happy to play with them in the sprinkler that’s spraying probably pesticide laden grass with water. Diego looks at me and says thank you! Sure Diego, I planned this to happen.

Of course that’s nothing compared to the tow truck ride 90 minutes later to Bakersfield. They get to ride without car seats above the world, looking down at the road. The husband has called his sister , she’ll be picking us up in forty minutes. That’s their favorite auntie (Auntie Tia).

Kathryn of course in good graciousness looks at me and says, you know if it was just you, I wouldn’t drive out here to rescue you. Don’t I know it! One woman alone goes Greyhound or Amtrak; women with children garner much more sympathy.

In the parking lot as we pile into her Ford Navigator five hungry salesmen approach us as we cart all our belonging for six weeks into her SUV.
“How are you liking the gas mileage on the Navigator?”
“Better than a dead Corolla with two kids on the Interstate.”

Never saw a salesman back away so fast. Ah, the power of tired ordeal laden motherhood on a hot summer’s day.