Road trip

It took some time to notice, but both Sam and I agree the pandemic made our lives a little smaller.

Don’t get me wrong. There were things we did, things we neglected, routines we filled, habits we clung to, all that needed to change. And we stopped being busy for busy’s sake (what was that about?)

But ‘opting out’ also sets its own traps. A certain brittleness can settle in. We needed to stretch.

We’ve gone on cycling trips to help with that. Acadia National Park in 2021. Lake Champlain in 2022. But this year, we felt like we needed to nudge in another direction. After we were invited to a wedding in Phoenix, I got out the maps and started studying road trips. After all, Phoenix is just a few hours from California. As a good friend says, it’s just “map math.”

But I wasn’t planning a grand tour. This trip could reconnect us to our family’s origin story. Sam and his brother and sister were all born in Sacramento. Their father was principal tuba of the Sacramento Symphony until it went bankrupt. We lived there until Sam was 5 years old.

A road trip could help Sam see that he was a Californian and still belonged, if he wanted that option. We took the kids to California several times on summer trips. Sam went back to visit once on his own (his godparents live in Stockton) when he was in his 20s. But visiting a place for fun is different than visiting with an eye toward making a life there.

Many of us don’t always feel we have options and sometimes this seems more so for Sam. We planned this trip to explore his options,. The company he works for has a similar facility in Modesto. Touring the Modesto location could help him think about his future in new ways.

We had all the fun we could stay awake for in Phoenix, and headed out the next day. We took a nice, leisurely detour through Joshua Tree National Park (amazing!) and spent the night nearby.

Sam takes a selfie at Joshua Tree National Park, and I do my best photobomb

Then the next day we headed to Modesto, stopping in Fresno. I suggested a stop at an underground garden. I thought it would be a world’s-largest-ball-of-twine-roadside-attraction type of stop, but it turned out to be a national landmark and completely charming.

The next day, we toured the Modesto facility and wouldn’t you know, Sam already knew some of the people working there. They didn’t have any openings right then, but that’s not how Sam thinks things through anyways.

In the month since, though, I’ve heard him say many, many times, “I have options now, Mom.”

Never, ever underestimate the power of a road trip.










  1. Frances on November 17, 2023 at 2:32 am

    Options make such a difference.

  2. Nancy LeMay on November 17, 2023 at 1:14 pm

    Reconnecting to your family’s origin story is brilliant. Looking at the ocean from my mother’s childhood home in Southern California reconnected me in a way I’ll never forget.

  3. matt v on November 17, 2023 at 2:00 pm

    good for Sam. Love the pic.

  4. Peggy on November 17, 2023 at 5:14 pm

    Indeed. I learned from my co-author, Shahla, to always try to arrange things so that you are expanding options, rather than limiting choices. I mean, that works when they are two years old, but kids age out of that so fast. You just never know what the world has to offer until you open yourself to other ways, or points of view, or choices.

  5. Peggy on November 17, 2023 at 5:16 pm

    And reconnecting as an adult means you get to check the veracity of your memory, and re-imagine how you make meaning. Nancy, I’m so glad to hear about your connection to California.

  6. Ann Hatch on December 10, 2023 at 12:13 am

    Options give you hope. Hope is the stuff of life. Great trip in so many ways!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.