I’ve written here before about how my wife and kids and I take the occasional weekend trip to a place we have in Mariposa, Calif., which is about 45 minutes from Yosemite National Park. I should clarity what this “place” looks like.
My wife found this joint not long before we met and while it is awesome, it could also qualify for one of those extreme-home-destruction-and-remodeling shows. Located on a little more than four acres, the “house” is actually a mobile home, but you might not get that at first because the previous owners at some time during the Ford Administration put a peaked roof on the thing. The shingles on it are peeling up everywhere because the local squirrels and birds use them to hide all kinds of their nuts.
And speaking of the previous owners…The story we got was that they, well, just got too old to be out in the boondocks anymore and sold it before moving to a retirement home. You know how some places are sold “as is”? This joint put the “as is” in that description. Not only did we get the house, we got everything in it, including the Packard-Bell Hi-Fi unit that’s about eight feet long and the 1970s wood-encased TV set that, with a 25-inch screen, had to be the height of RCA’s TV-entertainment style and technology almost 40 years ago. The thing weighs a ton and I can’t believe the floor has caved in under the weight of the monster. There is even one of those [very] old-school dials used to turn the antenna in hopes of getting a better picture from the Fresno TV stations, which seem like a million miles away.
There’s also the garage, which was full of a riding lawn mower and enough tools and parts to start a machine shop, and the old jam shed which, after we worked our way around the Black Widow spiders and cleaned it up. turned out to contain several mystery jars dated 1979. All of the rest of the furniture, and reams of personal bill statements and medical records came with the place, too. It was like these people had been Weather Underground fugitives for 30-plus years, got a tip that the feds were on their way, and decided to bug out and leave everything behind.
To get to Mariposa from our home in Oakland, it’s 170 miles door to door. And we can do the drive in three hours on the nose. Or, rather, we could do the drive in that amount of time before we had kids.
Anyone who has kids knows everything changes once you have them. And one of those things is, well, doing anything. You can never just lock the front door behind you and go. We used to throw a couple of changes of clothes in a bag, jump in my truck, and be out there in time for dinner, no strings attached. Now? As much as I try to get everyone out the door and loaded into my ride by 7 a.m., with the dreams of getting into Mariposa around 10, that never happens and I become and morning grouch. This last weekend, because of all the kid shenanigans such has having to eat before we go, playing with their food and not eating it before we go, making sure we have enough clothes loaded up, iPads full of Disney movies and food for the 24-hour sojourn, we are lucky to get out the door by 8. And when you add having to stop for breakfast down the road, because nobody ate what I tried to feed them at home, and allow for the likelihood of an unplanned bathroom break, making it to the ranch, as I sometimes call it, in four hours is a major accomplishment.
Now, getting back to the drive. In addition to all the clothing and other stuff we bring, we usually tote along one giant cooler of supplies. Sadly, these supplies aren’t just five cases of beer like one of my buddies and our dates took on a fraternity function back in college. No, we load up on food. Why? Because after burning up more than $100 in gas in barely a day, we try to find some way to economize on expenses and that usually involves making lunch, dinner and breakfast the next day ourselves. How many times have you taken your kids out to eat, only to find that they are suddenly averse to kid staples like chicken nuggets [mostly, if they aren’t McDonald’s] or say they “hate” barbecue ribs and brisket [because they are insane]? We figure we might as well bring our own stuff, control the situation at home, and eliminate the chance of one of them having a public meltdown at the local Denny’s.
But that means that we need to bring a lot of food with us. I believe in Gen. Colin Powell’s doctrine of bringing way more force than is necessary to bear in a battle, and I apply that to my kids’ food. It’s why when we go on a trip, we bring way too much: It’s better bring more than you’ll ever possibly need because you never know what your kid is going to not want to eat.
You can see a good portion of what we hauled out to Mariposa in the photo above. It is insane. In the interest of full disclosure, I decided to make a list of everything we packed and give a justification as to why we needed to load up like the Allies preparing to hit Normandy on D-Day:
–One gallon of whole milk. Goes without saying. Need that for the Honey Nut Cheerios.
–One Costco-sized box of Honey Nut Cheerios. Because you need something to pour the milk over.
–One box of Eggo waffles. In case the kids won’t eat the Honey Nut Cheerios.
–One bottle of pure maple syrup. So the Eggo waffles don’t get lonely.
–One stick of butter. So many things would suck without it.
–A dozen eggs. Pour off all but about a tablespoon of the leftover bacon grease and scramble the eggs in that pan. Thank me.
–Simply Delight orange juice. Good on its own. Ever better in a Mimosa.
–Coffee. Should go without saying
–Half and half, regular and fat-free. Something for everyone.
–Four bananas. Because you never know when someone needs a dose of potassium.
–Two Hawaiian bread rolls. One of the givens that the three-year-old will eat.
–Three crunchy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. One bagel with crunchy peanut butter. I mean, what are the odds that we might not find a McDonald’s down the road, right?
–Cheetos. Because the orange coating on the kids fingers also goes well with the back of the car seats. And their clothes. And our clothes, too.
–Ruffled sea salt chips. See the Cheetos reason above and think the opposite.
–Four boxes of Tree Top apple juice. Four boxes of chocolate milk. Two boxes of vanilla milk. Because the kids can’t go 15 minutes without needing a drink. And then needing to go to the bathroom.
–Four Cokes and two Diet Cokes. Nothing is better than an ice cold Coke. I wouldn’t know about the Diet Stuff. My wife handles that.
–Six bottles of good craft beer. Because the drive is going to eventually end.
–One can of smoked oysters. My wife heard Dr. Oz saying that eating oysters will help keep your hair from falling out. Science!
–Seven Yukon Gold potatoes. For mashing. One of the things that would suck without butter.
–Broccoli. To make you feel like you ate something healthy during the weekend..Chances are you’ll just leave it on the plate.
–Leftover bean and cheese burrito. Because the kids will usually eat it without a scene.
–Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. When asked what she wants for dinner, the three-year-old asks for this approximately 142% of the time.
–Coarse sea salt. The only seasoning you really need for your two boneless Ribeyes and one filet. Speaking of which…
–Two boneless Ribeye steaks and one Filet. Because…Duh.