The family trip to California

Contemplating the much-lampooned Family Vacation, for real.

"I'm on a pilgrimage to see a moose."

What is anticipated with pleasure, experienced with discomfort and remembered with nostalgia?

No, I'm not talking about getting arrested at a political protest or losing your virginity.

I'm talking about the legendary, feared, dreaded and lampooned Family Vacation. This summer, my family and I are flying to California, renting a car and heading north.

When relaying our plans to coworkers and friends, they usually start blinking nervously before wondering out loud, "Two 9-year-olds in a car for a week? Are you high?"

High on life, my friend. High. On. Life.

There are two reasons for this trip.

1. Guilt. I have been promising the kids a California vacation for the past three years. Instead they've been treated to three summers of "Are we moving to Colorado Springs again?" The annual road trips from Tampa to The Springs or back again included fun stops in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis and the site of the Oklahoma City bombing.

They swore this year we were going to visit the birthplace of tuberculosis.

But since the whole family is back in the Tampa Bay area for good, we figured we should finally have a summer vacation that does not include northern Texas, tragedy or dry skin.

2. Change of Scenery. We are still living with my parents while trying to find a bargain home in South Tampa. That's right. My parents. You try keeping two kids entertained for eight weeks with retirees who start drinking at noon and watch CSI reruns all day. There are only so many swimming lessons, library trips and neighborhood walks one can take before boredom sets in and the desire to choke Dad completely overwhelms. Mom is enthusiastic about babysitting, but I'm sure by August she'll demand some sort of salary.

So at the end of July we're getting the fuck out of town.

Here's the itinerary.

We land in Los Angeles. Will immediately try to find Pee Wee Herman's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and maybe that place where I got my first tattoo in 1992. Then we will drive north along the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping every once in a while so the kids can pet some wild seals and I can pose in my new bikini. (Betsey Johnson, bitches!)

Joshua Tree and that hotel where Gram Parsons died are a must. So much for avoiding tragedy.

Side Note: Historical stops make for the most interesting memories. Besides, theme parks are for pussies.

San Francisco is next, where my children can sing "Uncle John's Band" at Haight-Ashbury. (Oldest and Youngest harmonize better than Donny and Marie — plus they resemble those drug-induced hippies in more ways than one.) Maybe we'll hit Alcatraz and a trolley run before heading over to the Golden Gate Bridge to gawk at all the jumpers.

Portland and Seattle are next, but I'm not sure what we should see in each city besides the Space Needle, some veggie food and maybe a commune.

We are open to suggestions, all long as you keep it simple and air-conditioned. We'll also visit with friends and family along the way. Don't worry, readers. I will post pictures and commentary to prove we have not killed each other or run off to Canada.

Bets anyone?

Catherine Durkin Robinson blogs at and is a contributor to CL's blog