Mysteries of the summer vacation

Somebody explain to me how you can pack enough clothes for a 10-day trip to the mountains of California, yet only wear the equivalent of three days worth. Layers upon layers of unworn jeans, shirts and shorts sat stacked up inside my suitcase. There were enough socks to open up my own store. Why did I bring all those clothes? With so many options, why didn’t a single thing match?

And, most perplexingly, did they multiply? Because as I tried to re-pack everything into my suitcase for the journey home, nothing fit anymore. Same number of clothes, yet the stack was twice as tall. I had to wear four layers of clothing on the flight, and bind the bulging suitcase shut with heavy cable and duct tape.

Oh, the mysteries of traveling.

My family and I ventured out to Yosemite, Kings Canyon and finally Los Angeles. We rode horses down mountain trails and across rushing creeks. We stared wide-eyed at waterfalls, all super-charged this year by the heavy winter snowfall. We marveled at 1,800-year-old sequoias that were wide as a house and tall as skyscrapers. And we wandered star-struck through a backstage tour of the Paramount Studios lot in Hollywood.

What a wonderful time. And also full of those family vacation mysteries that everyone seems to have, but no one can fully explain. Like why the minute you get into the wilderness and walk into a country store you are drawn like a zombie to the trail mix aisle. I buy up pounds of the stuff, in spite of the fact that I don’t really like dehydrated fruit dyed some unnatural color that is found nowhere in nature.

Or, why do rental car companies always give you cars too small, or in my case, too big for your needs? I had reserved a mid-size SUV, but found in my stall on the lot the same vehicle that once transported space shuttles to the launch pad. It had seating for 85 people, along with two pack mules, and there was a three-story ladder on the side so you could climb in. It got two miles to the gallon … if it was going downhill and had a brisk wind behind it, and took out whole city blocks as it turned.

The greatest mystery: Why did I agree to take it? All because my daughter took one look at it and screamed, “Yes! We are keeping it!”

She liked that the front end didn’t share the same zip code with the back, and she could create her own little world way back in row 73. (We had to install a clothes line on a pulley to deliver food and messages to her as we drove.)

I can’t understand many of the mysteries of our trip, but maybe that’s what made it such adventure. A break from the routine of our everyday lives, and the key ingredients to a memorable experience. But I sure would like to know what makes dehydrated pineapple glow that color … and why I can’t stop eating it!

Also published on Medium.

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