In 2014, I wrote travel columns — mostly about adventures with my daughter — for Scoutie Girl magazine. Click the headlines to be taken to the full essays.
Sticky black bubbles rise up through the grass in Hancock Park. The tar continues to seep upward as it has done for almost 40,000 years, right in the heart of Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile. I couldn’t wait to introduce my daughter Sorrell to the La Brea Tar Pits.
The showpiece of the park (for me, anyway) is a large pond surrounded by a chain-link fence. Two fiberglass mammoths stand on its shore, watching the struggles of the papa mammoth. He is “mired” in the tar that lurks invisibly beneath the surface of the water. The diorama is so sad: Papa has his head thrown back, mouth open in a scream, while the baby stretches its trunk out as if throwing a line.
November 3, 2014
I rarely allow myself a day off, so when I finally did, I wanted it to be really special. That meant escaping my office, leaving my computer behind, and being completely unable to do work.
My plan was to leave home hours early, have a leisurely drive north, and spend a relaxing day at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Sonoma County.
October 7, 2014
“I bet I’m the only kid who goes to cemeteries on vacation,” my 11-year-old daughter boasted.
My daughter Sorrell’s been visiting cemeteries since she was an infant in a Baby Bjorn. I think her first was immediately after an exhibit of funeral antiques at a local history museum, but I have a photo of her bundled up to visit the Leland Stanford mausoleum on the grounds of his namesake university. She was all of eight months old.
September 9, 2014
We didn’t get shown to our room so much as directed to it. The crewman walked us to the hatch. A very steep ladder led down to a small vestibule with a sink and a mirror. Four doors led off of it to the cabins.
“Always go down facing the ladder,” Adam directed. “And remember, it’s a few steps farther down than you think.”
August 5, 2014
“I didn’t know they were so big,” my daughter Sorrell said, not taking her eyes off Niagara Falls.
A vivid rainbow arced above the horseshoe-shaped Canadian falls. We leaned over the railing to gaze down at the Maid of the Mist, creeping closer to the base of the cascade.
“The boat looks like a toy, doesn’t it?” I asked.
“We’ll ride on it tomorrow,” my mom promised.
July 17, 2014
I grew up in the country, so it’s important to me that my city-girl daughter grows up with a healthy respect for animals. That may have taken root too well: she wants to adopt one of every animal she comes across.
When Sorrell was little, she wanted a deer. She spun a whole scenario that when we visited my parents, she would capture one of the white-tailed deer who came down to drink at the creek. She would put the deer in a sack and carry it on the plane back to San Francisco, where it would become her pet and live in our backyard.
She drew lots of pictures to illustrate key parts of the plan.
We walked up to the ticket desk in a knot. The clerk asked which ride we wanted: if we did the motion simulator, the three of us could go together, but the machine moved on its own. No one would be controlling it. If we chose the flight simulator, it only sat two.
Sorrell really wanted to fly the simulator herself….
Joan of Arc has long been a heroine of mine. That she was a warrior when women rarely left their villages would have been enough to intrigue me, but that she led the French army to victory against the English while a teenaged peasant girl amazed me.
Who would want to eat in the dark? When I told my friends about San Francisco’s Opaque restaurant, the general reaction was “Why would you want to do that?” As my birthday drew nearer, I made a reservation. Then I told my husband, Mason — and gave him the out that if he didn’t want to come, I’d try to find another date. I couldn’t envision going alone.
The last time I went to the Detroit Institute of Arts was in the late ’80s when my husband and I drove down to hear punk rock icon Lydia Lunch speak. Woodward from the highway looked like a demilitarized zone, lined with gutted derelict buildings and full of windblown trash. We were relieved to be able to drive into the garage beneath the art museum and not have to leave our car on the street.
Detroit has changed a lot since then, but its money woes linger. Last year, when there began to be talk of selling some of the city-owned artwork, I decided I needed to take our daughter down to see the DIA one last time, while its collection was still intact.
One of my favorite places in New Orleans has nothing to do with voodoo or food or letting the good times roll. Instead, it’s a small museum full of dusty poisons and wicked-looking metal tools. I couldn’t wait to introduce my daughter to it.
Some opportunities have expiration dates. Beyond the traditional bucket list, I need to do all the things that I can only do in the company of a kid now, while my kid still wants to keep company with me. Besides that, I love the idea of sleeping in strange places. Ever since the program started, I’ve wanted to sleep overnight in the California Academy of Sciences at their Penguins + Pajamas event.