Monthly Archives: August 2014

How to Survive a Road Trip

My parents live 870 miles from my house. Now, one could drive that entire distance, about 14 hours, in one day. It is done quite frequently with people with far better dispositions than myself. I choose to do it over two days, stopping along the way to make it an adventure. My kids are 11 and 9, but this isn’t their first road trip. We’ve done this tango for years. My husband and I have been shoving them in a car, loading the backseat with snacks, pillows and electronics since birth. I have learned a few things along the way.

  1. Be sure you have your vital belongings, before you leave your house. I’m sure this is assumed by most travelers, yet, on my recent trip someone, (who may not be named here, but shares a bed with me), realized he forgot his wallet an hour and a half into the drive. Turning around for your essentials could add an unnecessary three hours to your trip.
  2. Never let your kids drink soda. As much fun as it is to stop for a snack, get a treat, and peruse the gas station convenience store, say no to the soda. The demon elixir creates an infinitive bladder fill in your nine year old’s body that can only be explained in scientific doctrine. You will need to stop every 15 to 20 minutes to allow the toxin to vacate.
  3. Plan your meals at local brewpubs. Fast food has a purpose. The purpose has nothing to do with taste. The major chains offer only slightly palatable “food”, but the ones near a major highway seem to be even below that bar. Steer clear. Search your favorite site online for a brewpub with a good rating. Most have a decent kids menu, but mostly they have BEER. I am blessed with doing most of my travelling in the great state of Oregon, which ranks one of the highest states nationally in craft breweries per capita. The city of Portland alone has over 40 in its city limits. My point being, if you’re in Oregon, drinking craft beer is mandatory. I make it a policy to try and hit a new one each time we drive through. In the past I’ve graced the glassware of Bridgeport, Full Sail and Deschutes with my saliva. All have wonderful restaurants that are family (and dog) friendly. (Oregonians LOVE their pets.) This trip’s journey north landed us in Eugene at dinnertime–and by dinnertime, I mean 9pm, (see #1). I chose Hop Valley Brewing Company for my fix. Food was decent, as was the beer. I ordered their Alpha Centauri Binary IPA–an imperial, because I loves me some hops. I was far more impressed with the name than the taste, but it did the job: relaxing my stiff neck muscles and tuning out the sibling bickering at the table. This is why you stop at brewpubs. Lunch on the second leg was spent at a Hood River brewery, Double Mountain, that is literally across the street from Full Sail. We stumbled upon this years ago, and the local vibe and delicious pizza is why we keep going back. Beer is pretty darn delicious, too. 
  4. Always book a hotel room with a pool. In the summer, that’s a no brainer, but even when we travel in the cold weather, we stay at hotels with indoor pools. The kids need to burn energy, and nothing wears out a kid like jumping into the water, over and over again, spastically screaming “Watch this!”
  5. Bring extra books to read. I love to read on road trips. Luckily, I don’t get motion sickness. After finishing one John Green book on the first leg, I found myself at a store buying another, even though I have a stack of books next to my bed stand at home waiting to be devoured. After I finished the second book, I had to commandeer my 11 year old daughter’s Kindle. Ah, teen romance…
  6. Never return the same way you came. This is a good rule because if you’re following rule #3, there are even more brewpubs to visit! The home of one of Oregon’s biggest stars, Deschutes, the city of Bend is a contender for the greatest beer city. Meeting some dear family friends, we visited Worthy Brewing. The newer facility is gorgeous, including hop, herb and vegetable gardens in the parking lot. Worthy’s commitment to limiting their carbon footprint is everywhere, from solar panels, to the hand dryers in the restroom.  Their Eruption Imperial Red was the first beer on this trip to get my attention. I enjoy being kicked in the face by my beer. Northwest beer tends to be very balanced. (Sadly, I brought home a bottle and didn’t get the same sensation a few days later when I cracked it.) The worst part of the trip to Bend was only being able to stay one night. So many great beers to try, so little time. Good thing we do this every year, sometimes twice. 

I used to dread road trips. Endless hours of “are we there, yet” thoughts. I’ve learned it’s all about your frame of mind. Enjoy the scenery, enjoy being away from your daily grind, and enjoy some craft brews. Make everything an adventure.  

San Diego is for Nerds

Every year San Diego hosts Comic-Con, an absurdly large convention that started as a way for comic book artists and writers and their fans to interact. Over the years it has grown exponentially, to a multi-genre entertainment convocation, that boasts an attendance of over 130,000 fans. I have friends who make the pilgrimage every year, and, in turn, I find it necessary to tease them for it. “Bunch of nerds.” In truth, I love when people are passionate about their hobbies, work, or really anything. Passion is what makes people interesting. 

Immediately following Comic-Con, the city of San Diego was infested with teachers.  I scoffed at my friends noting, “I hope the nerd smell is gone when I get there.” Some may argue this contamination was worse than the week before. 4,000 teachers arrived at the Town and Country Convention Center, as they do every year, (and 4,000 more the week after), to be trained and inspired by AVID, a program that has been incredibly successful for over 30 years. AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination, is a global nonprofit organization designed to give students the tools they need to go to college.  There’s nothing flashy, nothing trendy, it’s all about teaching kids how to write, ask questions, collaborate with others, read critically and stay organized. 

As I sat in my “strand”, or class, learning about proven effective strategies to teach students, and actually walking through the steps of some fun activities like hosting a World Cafe, writing Mentor Texts, and rattling off impromptu speeches, it was obvious. I was just as much of a nerd as any of those fanboys at Comic-Con. I was totally geeking out on graphic organizers, sentence starters and rubrics. The smell of my passion and enthusiasm was polluting the warm San Diego air, and I knew it was awesome. 

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What was even better than total teaching nerdery was that I got to do it next to my fellow Chilton teachers. Eight of us traveled to San Diego, learning and collaborating from 8am to 5pm for three days, not to mention riding in trolleys and taxis shoulder to shoulder, eating every meal together, taking in a Padres game and sharing laughter all along the way. Not everyone gets to work with friends, I just happen to be astonishingly lucky.  These colleagues and friends certainly fuel my enthusiasm for teaching each and every day.

The truth is, I’ve been a nerd my whole life, and I love nerds. People who are ardent, zealous and just truly enjoy the things in their life are the people I enjoy being around. So don’t be afraid to hold up that nerd flag and let it fly. Let’s let our scent fill every city we grace. 

Even John Green gets it. 🙂