Serendipity Doo Dah

April 12, 2017

I like efficiency. It brings me much joy when I can wash dishes while listening to my favorite podcasts. I love it when my students use their post-recess moments to finish assignments or study for quizzes as their classmates filter in. I’m in a state of ecstasy when my flight lands ahead of schedule and the car rental line is short.

When I became a parent, I had to give up my membership in the efficiency union and fully embrace the character building and teeth grinding of the inefficiency club.

Drives that used to take 7.5 hours suddenly expanded to epic quests lasting 9-10 hours. There were stops due to carsickness and clean up. Meals went from in and out adventures to drawn-out negotiations. And then there were the potty stops.

Before we left on our journey, I made sure that Elliot sat on his rightful throne. But not even an hour into the trip, nature called on line one. “I need to go potty,” he stated. I sat bolt upright as I had to fight feelings of PTSD from the night before.

We were on the outskirts of L.A., near Arcadia. Usually, I don’t like stopping anywhere near L.A.. It’s usually not very efficient. But then I noticed a PetSmart right alongside the road. “Let’s use the bathroom there,” I said. This was instantly met with cheers, because the pet store might be my kids’ favorite place in the world. I clearly defined time limits. There would also be no purchases and certainly no adoptions. After using a remarkably clean bathroom, we looked at fish, birds, and snakes. We also met an adorable chinchilla and guinea pig. We even found some cats. Alice was particularly amused by Bob. This got our trip off to a good start. I definitely recommend the pet store potty.

And we were off. I figured we could at least go non-stop until lunchtime, but I was wrong. Elliot needed to go again. Fortunately, we were quickly upon the Vista Del Lago Visitor’s Center near Pyramid Lake. I had seen this building before, but never stopped. Upon hearing the name “Vista Del Lago” through the GPS, the kiddos christened it the “Mr. Gelato” visitor’s center. There were displays of animals, short videos, a light-up map of California, and an impressive interactivity that illustrated the water cycle. Unfortunately, there was no gelato. However, once again, there were clean bathrooms. We went in with full bladders and left with so much more.

For stop number three, we ate lunch at Panda Express. This added nearly an hour to our time, but the kids both ate well and for the sake of efficiency, I was able to fill up gas.

Based on the events of the previous night, I was positive that Elliot would fall asleep in the car. His bladder had other ideas. Just as his eyelids were getting heavier, he needed to make another stop. I pulled over at the rest area with two main goals: empty the bladders while avoiding dog poop. Much to Elliot’s disappointment, there would be no wrestling on the grass. Therefore, missions accomplished. While rest stop restrooms lack the cleanliness of a visitor’s center and the cuteness of a pet store, they do make for a fairly efficient stop.

We were on the road again and fatigue was setting in. So I guzzled down some Mountain Dew while on my way to potty stop number five. So much for efficiency records. In spite of all these stops we were just a little more than an hour off schedule. This made me rather happy.

For an extremely inefficient trip, I thought the stops were quite serendipitous. Everything seemed to show up at the right time. Elliot and Alice notified me ahead of time, so pants remained dry. They broke up the trip nicely so it wasn’t a nine-hour sitfest.

A couple hours out, I had a decision to make. We were about to head into the teeth of rush hour, as we approached around 4. My Waze app was giving me mixed messages, but ultimately it wanted to send me through Bay Area traffic. I did not agree. Instead, I stayed on I-5 and headed north past Stockton and through Rio Vista. I slowed down to about 40 mph just outside of Stockton, but that lasted for only one or two minutes. Eventually, we picked things back up to highway speed. Soon we were on Highway 12, racing by windmills, looking at grassy hills, and speeding over an undulating highway. The kids both loved the bumps. It was like a roller coaster. In fact, Alice wanted to drive back just so we could experience the sensation again.

Somehow we pulled into Napa without any major arguments, iPad time, or naps. We did have plenty of the Moana soundtrack, as well as soundtracks for The Sound of Music and Annie. That’s how we solved a problem like a road trip. Not quite the hard-knock life one might have expected.

Alice and Elliot made me so proud. I almost thought about taking them out for ice cream before they had dinner as a reward, but that wouldn’t have been very efficient. Instead we stopped for one of their favorite activities.

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