37 miles of 'Hola Lola': Memories of a family road trip

The family road trip has been the joy and undoing of many parents. With the long hours of driving coupled with children's short attention span, parents are extremely vulnerable.

AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Al Seib
Traffic is snarled on the southbound Interstate 5 at the intersection with the Glendale 2 Freeway early Monday morning July 15, 2013 in Los Angeles

I am a firm believer in the squabble stop. For the uninitiated, a squabble stop is a timeout due to squabbling in the car. And, in order to maintain its efficacy, it must happen immediately. Which is why, somewhere north of Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Interstate 5, we stopped. Not right in the midst of a lane, of course, but on the side of the freeway.

The infraction? My 10-year-old son, feeling drowsy, had rested his head on top of his seven-year-old sister's toy box. This heinous crime caused a great deal of shrieking, at which point I pulled over. I have a no fighting rule in the car. You think texting is a distraction? Try concentrating on the road with three screaming kids in the back. So we pulled over.

Where, you might ask, was my husband in all of this? Back home. That’s right. I took our kids on a family road trip without Daddy. Lest you think that we have marital troubles, the road trip was our way to get from our home to overnight camp in northern California. My husband's job didn’t allow for him to take off for that length of time, so I did what any good wife would do – I left him behind. Crazy, though, I am not. So I brought a mother's helper along to better my chances at child-wrangling.

There was a lot of driving on this trip – 514 miles. One day, we covered over 266 miles. It was 266 miles of are-we-there-yets? and I can't take it anymores. I think there was some lovely scenery too.

And then, appearing on the horizon like a mirage, our hotel. Thank God, because all any of us wanted to do at that point was get to the pool. (Actually, after 266 miles with my kvetchy kids, what I really wanted was the bar. But it wasn’t even 3:00 in the afternoon. And it didn’t seem right to stick the sitter with all three kids.)

When did I become the parent, responsible for driving and making reservations? How did this happen? Wasn’t I just piled in the back of the station wagon with my sister and brothers? And not much has changed. All we cared about was staying in a hotel with a pool. And HBO. One summer, we saw Grease 2 every single day of our vacation. Every. Single. Day.

My kids are no different. Their expectations are as shockingly low as ours were. Oh that hotel is SO nice, gushed Lilly as we drove past a motel with a pool in the parking lot. Note to Lil's future husband skip the fancy digs. Motel 6 apparently meets my daughter's standards. 

Later, somewhere on the road between San Luis Obispo and Napa, the kids remembered Lola. Lola is the protagonist of a catchy tune by the marvelous Zina Goldrich and Marcy Zinner.

"Hola Lola" tells the story of a young girl from Lima, Peru, who travels to her cousin Harry's birthday party in Honolulu and fears the language barrier will prevent the other children from including her in the celebration. The tune is upbeat, the lyrics are smart, and my kids demanded it be put on repeat.

For 37 miles.

Which took me back to the Summer of '86. "The Glory of Love" was the number one single on the Billboard Charts thanks to its inclusion in "The Karate Kid II." Deep in the throes of teenage angst, I listened to a 90-minute tape of this song on my Sony Walkman during a family driving trip. The entire trip. With just one song.

Kind of like my kids listening to "Hola Lola" on repeat for 37 miles. Kind of.

The trip was a success. Not only did we arrive at our destination with the same number of people with whom we left, but with the same people. And back home again too. Memories were made; some good, some not sharable. But good enough that we're going to do it again.

Note to self:
Do not forget the following items next time:
1. Pack n' Play (whoops!!)
2. Baby monitor
3. Lilly's blue blankie
4. Lilly's menagerie of stuffed animals
5. Water bottles for the car

On the up side: 
It was a really smart idea to bring blankets. The hotel didn't have one for the crib and Jacob was a little cold. And individual journals for the big kids was a stroke of genius! It is fascinating – to see what made an impression on them.

And the duct tape came in all kinds of handy.

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