Road Trip

I only have my kids for spring break every other year so the plans that I make are pretty important to me.

We usually start talking about it before Christmas, throwing ideas around and looking at travel websites.

This year my son, Luke, finally said out loud the terrible, unspoken words that we have already known for fifteen years.

“I hate the beach.”

He may as well have hit me over the head with a paddleboard, thrown sand in my margarita, and stabbed me with sea glass. He knows his California mama loves her beach time. His younger twin sisters, Grace and Isabelle, are surf and sunshine girls too. We glared at him, sending estrogen darts across the kitchen island.

“I mean, fine, we can go, but I hate sand and pools are boring and I always get a sunburn so I’ll probably just stay in the hotel room and order room service and watch ESPN.”

Good Lord, at 6’2” and 235 lbs., my room service bill would probably cost more than our airfare. Besides, I only have Luke for (deep breath) two more spring breaks before he goes to college, so it matters to me that we make memories that he actually wants to claim as memories.

The girls stormed upstairs in a huff, and I turned my pale, winter face towards him and asked, “Well, what do you like then?” I was hoping for something other than ESPN and Xbox.

He was quiet for a minute, the only one in the family who thinks before speaking, and said, “I like lots of things, just not the beach. I like cities, and seeing places I’ve never been. I like history and cool museums. I like road trips, especially now that I can drive. I like navigating and being able to stop when we want. I like music, and time to chill. And I really like good food and going to awesome restaurants.”

The kid is a foodie, though he would never say that word. He is an incredible cook and an adventurous eater. He watches the food channel. And let’s face it, my growth-spurting offensive lineman can eat.

Suddenly he said, “Let’s go to New Orleans.”

The girls were game, and so we are leaving in a few days for a family food-focused road trip—kind of like the Griswold’s vacation, if Clark were a chef. Luke will share the driving and take over the navigation, which is a blessing because I am hopeless. With Luke at the wheel, we will probably stop at every Whataburger we pass, which is already an issue for Grace who gave up fast food for Lent and says that we aren’t allowed to get any either because she doesn’t want “secondhand diabetes.”

They already have a long list of road rules about shotgun, passing gas, retainer breath, complaining, fighting, hogging the backseat, over-packing, bathroom stops, posting unapproved photos, and taking turns choosing music. We will stay in the French Quarter, listen to jazz music, check out the World War II museum, and take a late night ghost tour that leaves from a creepy voodoo shop. We are bringing dress clothes for brunch at Commander’s Palace, and we are already wondering how many meals we can pair with bananas foster. Luke says that we are going to stop at Café du Monde for beignets at least twice a day.

By the time we roll back into Austin several days later (and I do mean roll) I hope that we have as many memories, inside jokes, funny stories and cute photos as we do extra pounds. I hope that we don’t want to sell our car, and each other, on eBay. I hope that all those hours on the road and being crammed into a hotel room will remind us that no matter what, we belong together.

And after New Orleans, we stop home for a night, switch suitcases, and hop a plane for a couple days at the beach, where Luke can get caught up on ESPN and the girls and I can tan our beignet bellies by the sea.


Illustration by Joy Gallagher

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