Because I’m such an advocate of family travel, I have no qualms about taking L and R with me when I go away to report non-family travel assignments. When I do this, my trips become a tale of two experiences: The reporting process, which often is kid-oriented, and the write-up, which can lack mentions of the girls completely.
We found ourselves in one of these situations this past weekend. My goal: To report a feature about the Anderson Valley for the travel section of a major international newspaper. Momma was away at a conference. So I schlepped girls along for the ride.
The effort alternated between amazingly awesome and incredibly stressful.
On Friday, when we arrived at our 9-room luxury hotel, the girls ran around like wildwomen. (At one point, R screamed the word, “vagina,” incessantly; thankfully we were the only guests there at the time.) On Saturday, when we toured a local artisan cheese operation, the girls couldn’t get enough of the goats and sheep. Dinner one night, at a local pub, was a breeze (thank you, colored pencils). Lunch the next day at a local drive-in was a nightmare that resulted in R picking someone else’s chewed gum off the bottom of the table (and nearly eating it).
The low point of the trip: Both kids crapping out about 15 minutes into a hike in Hendy Woods State Park. The high point? Well, um, it, too, had to do with crapping out.
It happened Saturday, just before we cleared out of town and headed for home. I had to interview a winemaker, and set the girls up for some downtime of quiet drawing at a bistro table just outside. For the first 15 minutes, they behaved perfectly. Then, out of nowhere, L came into the winery and interrupted my interview with a frantic declaration: “Dad, I know it’s downtime, but I have to go poop.”
Thankfully we were in the uber-laid back Anderson Valley—had we been in Napa or even Sonoma, I’m sure the winemaker would have scoffed (or at least winced uncomfortably). In this case, the winemaker took the interruption in stride, and led me and my daughter to a spacious bathroom in the back.
Seconds later, the winemaker chuckled when L insisted on keeping the door ajar while she did her business.
“It’s [Boonville],” the oenophile said. “We’re all pretty open here.”
L’s work in the restroom was a booming success; something about the winemaker’s kindness must have relaxed my daughter in unprecedented ways. More important, the experience gave me perspective on the Valley that I’m not sure I would have gotten any other way: There aren’t many tourist destinations that are great both for luxury travelers and for 5-year-olds needing to go. This specific epiphany probably won’t end up in my finished product, but the lesson wasn’t lost on me.
These are the kinds of things we family travelers remember forever.