Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Travel's with Zoe

Alison and I have recently taken two long car trips. Up until now the longest drive we have taken with Zoe was a two-hour trip to Monterey, when she was a month old but most of our drives are usually less than an hour, often just a trip into San Francisco or Walnut Creek, each about a half hour without traffic. Most of these short drive’s required a stop at some point, our pulling off the road at the first opportunity, for a feed and a calming down because she had reached a level three crying fit. (Level one is her usual bored or hungry or uncomfortable cry and can be dealt with fairly easily. Level two is usually about the same intensity, give or take, as level one, but usually means she is over-tired and simply requires patients (and pacing) since she usually has to cry herself out. Level three is painful to watch and hear. Sticking a sharpened awl in her ear wouldn’t increase the intensity.) So it was with some trepidation that we even considered a long drive, but we reasoned that flying and all the hassles it entails was more than we were ready to undertake. Plus anyone who has ever traveled with an infant knows that while it takes a village to raise a child, you take a village, or at least their luggage, when you travel with one.

Zoe turned two months old the week we drove to Los Angeles to visit her parents, a 752 mile round-trip journey. Two weeks later we drove up to Ashland, Oregon for the long Memorial Day weekend, 660 round-trip miles. We knew that for the drive to go well we would need her to sleep for a good portion of the drive, so timing was everything; feed, nap, go. The drive to LA is mostly along Route 5, a long, hot, flat and boring road through the central valley. On the day we drove down the temperature hovered in the high 90’s. This meant that when Zoe started screaming we would have to take the first exit we came to, one of the long, empty roads that disappeared into the distance, pull to the side of the road, and walk around in the dust with her on our shoulder. Usually a feed and some shoulder bouncing was all that was needed, but when you are trying to get someplace stopping every 100 miles can really make a long drive, well longer. At one point we were had stopped and were pacing with Zoe in the shadow of a shipping container (next to a fruit stand on a road occupied by miles of farmland) and we’re discussing finding a place to spend the night rather than suffer another few hundred miles. Ultimately we made it and by the time she had recovered from the drive we were heading home.

From this point on I can stop trashing Zoe’s traveling skills, because she seems to have decided that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and on the drive to Oregon she slept for three hours. Three hours! We had to make only one stop on the entire 330-mile trip, at which point my bladder was so distended that it was beginning to block my view. But we have a rule; don’t wake a sleeping baby.

Did I mention the amount of gear we brought with us? It used to be that Alison and I could go away for a long weekend with a bag that could fit in the trunk of my Miata. The trunk of my Miata is about the size of my bladder on the Oregon trip. With Zoe we bought a SUV (a hybrid, thank you), and we do a good job filling that up. Fortunately we also bought a stroller that is about the size of my Miata, so when we got to our destination we would throw Zoe over a shoulder and pile all the crap on the stroller. I could go down the list of things we travel with, but basically it’s everything. In about a month we’re taking another trip to LA, but because we’re only going for the weekend we decided to fly. I’m not sure what gear we’re bringing, but the big stroller is already off the list, which just means I’m going to throw out my back hauling the bare minimum we are going to bring. I’ll report back on that trip after I get out of traction.

I don’t think Zoe will always be easy to travel with, but I don’t think I’m always easy to travel with. But I hope she eventually learns to enjoy our trips. We’ll sing car songs and visit state parks and hopefully I won’t have to say, “Don’t make me stop this car,” too often (it’s my right as a parent to say that at least a few times). But I suppose I should enjoy these early days when often the problem is solved simply; a boob and a shoulder.

[I’ve started adding links to other websites on the left side of this screen. The two I have started with are both sites from friends of mine. I encourage you to check them out.]

See photos of Zoe at

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