“Put the Pedal to the Plastic!”

Marina Motel“Mom, put the pedal to the plastic!”


“Put the pedal to the plastic.  Look at this dashboard – everything is plastic.  Way back when you were a kid, cars were made of steel.  Nobody can say, “Put the pedal to the metal!” anymore.

“Thanks for clarifying.  I think.”

And from the backseat Jenny yelled, “Yeah, Mom!  Put the pedal to the plastic!”


Have you ever considered driving 3000 miles with two kids, no DVD player and only the radio for entertainment?

We weren’t on some sort of  Tech Diet.  When they were little, I’d bring a DVD player because that’s what I thought you did when you traveled with kids, in this day of endless options for entertaining kids to make life easier for adults.  Then I learned that my favorite people to travel with are Will and Jen.  Now, when we take road trips, we pack sketch books, library books and journals and leave the CDs, movies and iPods at home.  We have more fun laughing, singing, playing alphabet games and talking.  (We call it singing.)  Without having something to entertain them, they are free to entertain me, and they do.  Road signs and interesting sights along the way create  fodder for stand-up comedy.  If they’re busy watching a movie, they’ll miss the cues.


Mom, why does that sign say, ‘Do not pick up hitchhikers?'”

“They made that illegal a lot of years ago.”

“That’s dumb.”

Just then we drove by a sign that read, “Correctional Facility next right.”

“Oh.  Nevermind.”


Jen, check out the back of that truck.  What do you think he’s hauling?”

“It looks like apples.  Wait.  Those are really red apples.”

As we got ready to pass I said, “Wow!  Those are red peppers.  Quick, roll down the window.  Maybe we can smell ’em.”

“How come the ones at the bottom don’t get squished?”

“I dunno.  That is a lot of red peppers.”

Twenty miles later we see another truck.  “Jen, whatdaya think he’s hauling?  I can’t tell.”

“Maybe they’re yellow peppers.”

“No!  Those are onions!”

“Geez.  That’s a lot of onions.  Don’t roll down the window or my eyes will start watering.”

“All we need is a cattle truck, and they could set up a fajita stand on the side of the road.”

“Mom, they’d need tortillas.”

“Oh.  Right.”

We pulled up close to pass a rickety old truck with makeshift guardrails containing livestock.  “Jen, you won’t believe it!  Look in the back of that truck!”

“Mom!  Those are the biggest pigs I’ve ever seen!  Can you make fajitas with pork?”

And of course the passenger who loves fajitas the most woke when we said, “Fajitas!”  Will rubbed his eyes and said, “Fajitas!  Are you guys ready to stop?  I’m starving!”


Hey, we just crossed the border into Oregon.”

“Mom, do they grow or-e-ga-no in Oregon?  Get it?”

“Nice one, Will.”


Mom!  There’s another one!  The count is at 23!  What an awesome trip!  So far we’ve seen 23 VW Vans.”

Jen loves VW Vans.  We soon lost count in Oregon.




When we reached the Pacific Ocean, the chatter stopped.  All three of us were stunned into silence by the view.  We’ve all seen the ocean before, but every time we see it anew, we have the same reaction.

That silence never lasts long with the three of us.  Just then we saw cattle grazing in a grassy field on a bluff next to the coastline.  “Doesn’t that seem weird to you?  Cattle grazing on ocean front property instead of high-priced real estate?  I like that.”


We saw open fields of crops we couldn’t identify.

We saw farms growing Christmas trees.

We saw hippies and farmers and urbanites.

We saw crashing waves and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge

We saw Eucalyptus trees, Sequoias and Redwoods.

We saw the temperature drop from 75 degrees to 43 degrees in a three-mile drive to a point that blessed us with a view of a whale spout.

We saw vineyards where I wanted to stop and taste, but decided I’ll be able to do that in a few years, so why bore them with that now.

We drove part of the Lewis & Clark Trail and laughed at how little it has probably changed since they were there….  except for fajita roadside stands and wind surfing on the Columbia River.

We had someone pump our gas in Oregon.  “Wow, was that how it was when you were a kid?”


Jenny learned that when she’s really hungry and says, out loud, “I will manifest pancakes!” it works.

Will learned that he can go 11 days without holding onto a golf club or a fishing pole.

I learned that these two are still my favorite road trip companions.




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  1. This brought back a lot of fun memories of the road trips my parents took us on when we were kids. The backseat filled with coloring books, diaries, chatter, snacks, and sightseeing games. We mostly went to Wisconsin, Kansas and Oklahoma so we got really good at guessing crops (It wasn’t all corn! lol) and the smell of manure meant we were almost home. What a great mom you are building these memories and relationships with your kids!

  2. So glad you had such a good time.

  3. Jesse,

    What a wonderful description of what must have been a beautiful trip! I am so glad you had such scenic, delightful, and memory-making travels!!

    Warm wishes . . .

  4. Z,

    My motivation for taking the trips is a bit selfish. I love having them all to myself and watching their reactions when they see/experience new stuff.

    It’s a win/win for all of us!

  5. Pat,

    Thank you. I wanted to recreate fond memories from the trip we took with you to the coast. ;)

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