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  • Kristan Higgins

The long and winding road

McIrish and I just took our longest vacation ever. Two weeks of togetherness in the great wilderness of our national parks and visiting Dearest Son in Utah.

The takeaway? National Parks are America’s best idea. And also two weeks of nonstop togetherness might be a wee bit too much. Yeah, yeah, we love each other very much. And without McIrish’s steadying hand, I probably would’ve fallen to my death a few times. But I have a lot of people I see and talk with regularly—my daughter, my sister, my friends, my dog. McIrish only has one person. Me. (Well, also our grandson, who shares his love of dirt and sticks but is short on full sentences.)

In Yosemite, we saw a lot of those super camper vans. “We should get one of these!” McIrish said, awed by the efficiency of space. “We could go a way for a month in one of these!”

I side-eyed him. “You could go away for a month in one of these. And I could go away for a month in one of these. But we could not go away together in one of these. Not without a murder.”

Homicide aside, I was already picturing the stuff we need just for bedtime alone. Where would my special soap go? My cotton balls? My moisturizer? What about my retainer and special wedge pillow for between my bony knees? Where would Huggy Pillow sleep? What about my bunny slippers? Would the van fit a king sized bed? No. Both of us are somewhat violent sleepers. We’d be bruised and battered within days.

Also, I get carsick. And my god, I got carsick. All those winding roads, hairpin turns…no guardrails. So-called "state highways" in central California that are no wider than a cow path, and where 18-wheelers blew past us doing 80 mph. Up and down the mountains, around and around the curves, and at the end of the day…you stay in the van. No. Please, no.

Then, there’d be eating. If you didn’t mind beans from a can, I think van life could work for you. McIrish is a great cook, and I’m a great eater. “Could you make pasta alla Kristalina in a van?” asked I. After all, this is the dish he named for me. I require it at least once a week. Even coffee would be hard, given that McIrish is a coffee snob and only likes two kinds of beans in the entire world. Only he and he alone can make coffee he likes. He’d be dead after a week of van life without his beloved Peet’s dark roast, drunk out of his special mug.

Also, wifi. Listen. We’re Americans. We like TV. Sure, we lay on the ground at 10 p.m. one night, gasping with awe at the stars. It was amazing! You know what else is amazing? Roy Kent. We left for vacation after finishing Season One of Ted Lasso, and I missed Roy. I think McIrish missed him even more, as Roy is a role model for the “why talk when you can growl” form of male communication. Aside from TV, my job requires me to check my email at least once a day. Would we have to drive an hour to get reception? Yes! We would. Enough reception to watch Ted Lasso? Sadly, no.

Laundry was also something we took for granted before this vacation. After week one, we found a sad little laundromat in Nowhere, California. Maybe three of the twenty washing machines worked. The place was staffed by a woman who sounded like she’d spent the first ninety years of her life smoking Camels. Her face said We don’t like strangers in these here parts. Her body said I have spent thirty years adrift at sea, eating the occasional seagull to survive. Every person who came in eyed us, then muttered to the ancient manager. She muttered back, then jerked her chin at us, then muttered some more. We smiled, sweating. After all, I subscribe to at least eight true crime podcasts. I know the drill.

Oh, it was a fantastic vacation, but who wants to hear about that? It was the gritty stuff that made it fun. And the redwoods. The redwoods made it incredible.


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