Catch the Wind

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After the kids ate all of the tiny chocolate pieces out of our trail mix, my wife declared that she had no reason to live. It may seem melodramatic to an outsider, but you have to understand we’d been in the car for a total of 67 hours at this point. Our kids had spent 65 of those collective hours singing made up songs about pooping on each other. Sometimes they sang songs about the imaginary squirrels and mice that live in my daughter’s head. But mostly it was about pooping on each other. Toots and the McGoots’ next album is going to be dark.

Just a few minutes prior to the trail mix incident, we watched two seriously cute chipmunks frolic in harmony at a rest stop, only to turn on each other over a leftover Cheez-It. They battled it out Thunderdome style.  We were beginning to turn on each other in much the same way when my wife noticed the lack of chocolate in the trail mix. She only buys the trail mix so she can eat the M&Ms. Her theory is, if the M&M’s hang out in the same bag as nuts and raisins, they become healthy too. Good by association. I’ve learned not to question her leaps of logic.

So it was looking dire in our minivan stuffed with over-priced inner tubes, a cooler with melted ice and questionable yogurt products. The landscape was classic Southern Utah—sand, scrub brush and the occasional mirage. It was the perfect place to bury a body. Not that any of us were thinking that.

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But then the scenery changed and great spires of colorful rock popped out of that depressing sand. My wife rolled down the windows and cranked Drivin’ n Cryin’ and suddenly, all was well. A happy family of mini-van gypsies cruising toward their next adventure, singing “catch the wind.”

Does this meatball make my head look tiny?

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Groms in L.A.

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So California has swings on the beach, which combines my daughter’s two favorite things: Making me push her on the swings and getting filthy dirty. Like “stumbling around Burning Man” dirty. We’ve only been in Los Angeles for three days and she’s already turned into the stereotypical beach hobo—seaweed in her hair, a strange collection of “treasure” (shells, empty cans, and the occasional discarded CD case) in a bag, and the uncontrollable need to yell at the seagulls.

The beach time has been epic. I’ve concentrated on building elaborate sand castles with real working draw bridges and my kids have concentrated on crushing those castles like a pissed off Godzilla. For my effort, I get to carry them both across the hot sand at the end of the day. Every day is Father’s Day.

But, the kids got called “groms” by real life So-Cal dudes and I got to pay $4 for an ice cream sandwich, so I feel like we got to see “the real L.A.”

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We also rode bikes to Santa Monica to check out the pier, where the kids rode their first roller coaster—my daughter said it tickled her tummy. My son said it tickled his penis. Not sure what to make of that.

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To continue an uncomfortable streak going, he also decided to poop in the most inconvenient place—the Santa Monica Pier free public restrooms, which my wife described as such: “They’re like, kind of nice prison bathrooms.” Imagine chain-link fence walls.

The 11-mile bike ride back from the pier to our borrowed apartment took 7.5 hours because the kids had to stop every 32 seconds to go to the potty. I guess that’s what we get for shoving Gatorade down their throats to keep them hydrated. But we got to stop in Venice Beach and see the guy that roller skates and plays electric guitar—classic Fletch! And Liz bought everyone “I Love LA” t-shirts. They only had a women’s tank in my size, but I wear it with pride.

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Also, a quick note to Californians.

Dear Californians,

I don’t think you should have a vanity plate if you drive a ’90s model convertible Sebring. Your car already says everything you could possibly need it to say. The vanity plate is overkill. That is all.

Sincerely,

Daddy-Drinks

Viva Las Vegas

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Whether you like Vegas or loathe Vegas, you cannot deny that the city is perfectly located. After dragging my family through the desert for several days of hiking and camping in a series of National Parks, everyone was dying for a bit of air conditioning. Enter Las Vegas, land of the well-air conditioned space. We picked the hotel with the most kick ass pool and spent 48 hours trying to get the desert sands out of our nooks and crannies. It was love at first sight for my kids. My daughter was impressed that music played everywhere (even in the potty!) and everyone wore glitter. The kids ate giant meatballs and helped me crack crab legs at the overpriced buffet and spent hours in the wave pool and lazy river. Taking little kids to Vegas is a concern for some parents, mainly because there are hookers everywhere and there’s a good chance you’ll see someone spontaneously combust thanks to a dangerous combination of cigarettes, gin, and polyester. But I see these nuisances as potential teaching moments. In New York New York, there are women who dance on the casino tables in lingerie. My son took one look at the show, and asked, “why is that lady dancing on the table?”

“Because she didn’t go to college, son. Because she didn’t go to college.”

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Road Games

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In Boulder we counted how many Punch Buggies we saw, then we moved on to Mini Coopers. We had epic thumb wars in Moab, and the world’s shortest staring contests outside Canyonlands. (Some new info: my daughter blinks 211 times a minute).

At one point, we tried to teach the kids some Spanish but they just kept making up their own words and teaching us: “chiminobo” “it means lets go to the volcano.”

We had an ice cream eating contest outside of Zion, then Liz tried to see who could stay quiet the longest. That game was over before it started.

At one point, my son tried to see how many Scooby Snacks he could eat without throwing up. Normally, Scooby Snacks are not part of the Averill Recommended Diet, but we let it go. “They’re just graham crackers” we told ourselves. Graham crackers coated in sugar. It’s like meth for 4-year-olds.

Also in Zion, my son tried to see how many tantrums he could throw before I threw him off the side of a cliff. He almost found out.

Now, the kids are watching cartoons in a swank hotel room in Las Vegas and for some reason, my son feels the need to tell me, “daddy, you are not a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle,” about every 30 seconds. As if I needed a reminder.

All this is to say, “Happy Father’s Day” to all the dads out there. In the words of fine ‘80s television: “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the Facts of Life. The Facts of Life.”

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F#$K the Dentist

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So Rocky Mountain National Park was interesting. The kids learned a lot about bears, and I learned that fun size snickers can be used as currency. A half a snickers will get you about 45 minutes of good behavior in the wilderness. Fuck the dentist and childhood diabetes, I think that’s a bargain.
Oh, and my daughter pooped next to one of the prettiest high alpine lakes in the country. Yep. About 20 feet from a line of Japanese tourists, I found myself pushing a giant load of excrement into an icy crevasse while pretending not to notice the thousands of black flies swarming me. A couple of hours later, she pooped on the footbridge next to the visitor center. Looking up at me in a panic, she said, “daddy, I gotta go to the bathroom.” Then before I could respond, she relaxed and said, “never mind.” Two little Snickers bars fell from her zip-off hiking pants shortly after. I just kicked that poop into the stream below with my foot before anyone could call Leave No Trace. Note: if you’re backpacking downstream form Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, you might want to purify your water.
I blame the potty training setbacks on the high altitude.
Some pictures.
My better half contemplating jumping after a long car ride.
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If you’re gonna poop in the woods, may as well pick a spot like this.
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Pee on this side of the road, and it goes into the Atlantic. Pee on that side of the road…
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Going Pro

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The first leg of our trip was in Boulder, where everyone commutes by longboard and adults lay in the grass and read books by the river on a Tuesday. The highlights play out like this: we saw a vegetarian stuff himself into a box, took a couple of runs through the campus of my alma mater (go Buffs!), ate at the same crappy Chinese place that I used to eat at daily while I was in graduate school (a big shout out to Tra Ling’s, where the food comes by the scoop, and the scoops are only a dollar), scrambled to the top of Red Rocks using a climbing technique I call, “shit, I hope this works.”

From there, we were lucky enough to hit Vail just in time to catch a piece of the Go Pro Mountain Games. If you’re not familiar with this festival, just imagine every Abercrombie and Fitch model descending upon one of the most expensive towns in America to compete in professional mountain sports like kayaking, slack lining, and mountain biking. It’s intense. Lots of people with tattoos who are “spiritual, but not religious.” Our minivan was the only vehicle that didn’t have a kayak on top.

We got to watch a bit of the kayaking action and a little bit of the slacklining. We ate PBJ’s while watching a couple hundred people do a massive yoga class in the middle of the village. They were all very bendy.

After stuffing our backpacks with free samples of beef jerky and organic energy drinks, the kids were psyched to try ziplining for the first time, climb the fake rock wall, and ride the gondola to the top of the mountain where we had a mid-June snowball fight. After pushing our kids beyond the point of exhaustion, we averted a massive tantrum at 10,000 feet above sea level by plying them with M&M’s. It’s comforting to know that even in strange locals, where social status depends largely on body mass index, old tricks still work. My kids will do anything if there’s the promise of hard chocolate on the other end of the deal.

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Daddy Drinks Goes West

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The family is at the precipice of the Great American Road Trip: Three weeks, one minivan, two four-year olds, half a dozen national parks, and 2,000 pounds of luggage. There is no event or catastrophe that we don’t have supplies for tucked away in one of our purple suitcases. Lantern, check; snow mittens, check; malaria pills, check; snow chains, check.

We’re hitting the big sites between Colorado and California  (Las Vegas!, Pikes Peak!, L.A.!) but also hoping to tackle some classic American adventures like panning for gold and maybe starting a small forest fire with an illegal fireworks display.

So far, we’re only a couple of days into the trip, so we’re still in the honeymoon phase. I haven’t even started drinking liquor yet. Okay, I’ve had a little liquor. But not during daylight hours, so that’s good.

A couple of questions I’m curious about answering as we make our way further West:

1)   How will my kids react to all of the free porn that litters the sidewalks of Las Vegas?

2)   How do you get busy with your hot wife in a tent with two kids sleeping between you?

We’ve learned so much already in just a couple of short days. For instance, flying with two four-year-olds is fun if let your wife sit with them while you sit in a completely separate row and drink beers and play Transformers. Also, the cup-holder of a child’s safety seat is not a good place to store a handful of smashed turkey for two days. And this is interesting: if you buy hundreds of dollars worth of food and camping gear at Target, the check out guy will ask if you’re a doomsday prepper.

Feel free to write that info down.

Some pictures.

Optimus Prime likes cheap beer.

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This is just one of the carts we needed.

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How cute are these kids?

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