Rivaling Odysseus - My Family Travels

When my dad approached my brother and me about a two-week road trip to Oregon — in an R.V., with my grandparents tagging along — I wasn’t too keen on the idea. ‘”e’ll kill each other,” was my initial reaction. My brother wholeheartedly agreed, and even my dad shrugged in acknowledgment. Still, my cousin was set on us being at her wedding, and none of us had the heart to say no.

“But why does it have to be in an R.V.?” I whined; it seemed like I was the only person who saw just how insane the plan was: first, drive from my grandparents’ house in the Bay Area to Portland, stopping strategically along the way for tourist-y fun; after the wedding, head out to our uncle’s beach house on the (frigid!!!) Oregon coast for a few days, and then make the same trek back down to Redwood City. “We could drive up in a day if we wanted to!” I pressed. “You know how many fights I’ll have with Grandma.”

Said grandmother is who I consider to be the fabled antagonist in the story of my life. Granted, we’re family, but there’s just something about our relationship that’s — volatile. One second we’ll be having a pleasant talk about knitting, and the next, a screeching argument about the morality of interracial dating. At least I could stand up for myself — but I couldn’t bear to see that woman yell at my grandfather, the sweetest man in existence, especially since the stroke he had a few years ago affected his speech, so he couldn’t argue right back with his wife.

It seemed like our trip was doomed to fail. Within minutes of our departure, the first omen came. As my grandpa drove the R.V. down the narrow streets of their neighborhood, our giant side-view mirror smashed into a parked car’s mirror, which exploded instantly. Everyone in the vehicle except my grandpa gaped at what had happened — he was too busy watching the road in front of him to even notice the collision at the curb. “RON!,” Grandma screeched from the back of the R.V., right on cue. “DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU JUST DID?!” My fears were only confirmed when we made our first stop at Lake Shasta.

I could kind of understand my dad’s logic in choosing to visit the beautiful lake, but the reservation for two jet-skis for the five of us just didn’t add up. My grandmother and anything fast-moving, water-oriented, or fun doesn’t exactly mix; and considering my grandpa has a penchant for things like motorcycles, it wasn’t the best idea to put the two together on a jet-ski. Still, they were getting along pretty well until Grandmommy Dearest made her husband slow the jet-ski down — causing it to flip over, much to her chagrin. The second omen came not too long after that. It was fun to ride the jet-ski by myself, cruising through the water at 40 miles per hour, until I floated too close to a platform in the lake; the jet-ski bumped into it, causing the side view mirror to pop off — a $75 misjudgment.

There was just some hamartia about sending the five of us on a trip — I dreaded tomorrow. Who knew how many more mirrors we’d destroy? We were already set for fourteen years of bad luck, but I just wanted to get through the next two weeks.

Once we made it to Portland, things calmed down a bit. The wedding was fun, as was sleeping in a real bed again; it was when we five Californians traipsed out of the reception that we faced our next trial — we didn’t know how to find our way back from the middle of downtown Portland to my uncle’s suburban home. Add to the mix that all the adults had been “celebrating” heavily and you get a two-hour odyssey around the whole city — an especially enjoyable event for me, as I was sandwiched between my bickering grandparents with wedding gifts piled on top of us.

While it felt inconceivably bad at the time, thinking back now, the trip’s dysfunction doesn’t seem that unlikely — it was just a much more entertaining version of our normal spats. I’ll never understand my grandparents’ codependence, just like they’ll never understand the mechanics of texting. But when I watch the video my dad made of the trip, I’m not embarrassed at how my family bickers and fights; all I can do is reminisce fondly, if not condescendingly. Yeah, we’re probably the unluckiest family in the world — but at least we didn’t break any mirrors on our way back to California.

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