Monday, April 20, 2009

My own National Lampoon's Vacation

For one day, I was Chevy Chase. And, not the good Chevy Chase who made America laugh on Saturday Night Live, or in his movies Caddy Shack or Fletch. No, I was Chevy Chase from National Lampoon's Vacation.

And, my girls will never let me forget it.

In the movie Vacation, Chevy Chase plays Clark Griswold, a family man who plans a cross country trip with his family to visit the fictional amusement park Wally World. After mishap after mishap, the family finally arrives to Wally World only to find it closed for a week due to repairs.

A great watch for the audience, however, in real life with four daughters in a car on a five-hour round trip drive, it's nothing short of hell.

I came up with a plan Sunday morning to take my girls to one of my favorite destinations as a child. Nestled under in the Eastern Sierra mountains, the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery is one of the oldest in the state and one of the most visited.

I told my girls all about the hatchery during breakfast and tried to convince them that it was worth the long drive. They were skeptical to say the least, but agreed that it beat staying home on a beautiful Spring day.

We took off shortly after breakfast and it didn't take long for the 4-year-old to start doing what 4-year-olds do on long trips.

"Are we there yet?"

That was quickly followed by, "Can we stop? I have to go to the bathroom?"

When she wasn't asking one of those questions, the other three were in the back fighting over what road trip game we should play next. Twenty questions, I Spy, and Name that Tune were being played over and over again.

"Dad, I don't want to play that again,'' said Shelby. "They always win and get to pick what they want to play because they are older."

After hearing this, I morphed into my Dad when we used to go on long trips when I was a child. I couldn't believe it was happening, but there was no stopping it.

"Hey girls, why don't you play the Quiet game?"

"What's that?" asked Vanna.

"Let's see who can be the quietest the longest. The winner gets to pick the next CD we play. OK?"

For one minute, it worked. They were quiet and were doing nothing but looking at each other waiting for the other to crack. Then, it was over.

"Dad, this game sucks," said Kern, the oldest and less apt to fall for the trick. "All the CDs are yours any ways, so we don't want to listen to them any way."

With that, we were back to the, "Are we there yets?", "I am hungry,", and "How much longers?". I was about to scream when I finally saw what I was looking for:

Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery, 2 miles

The girls began to scream as I turned on the dirt road that led to the hatchery. After driving for a mile, we reached the entrance only to find the gate closed and locked.

"Dad, what does the sign say?"

"Alani, it says its closed because it is damaged from a flood,'' said Kern. "Well, Dad, that was worth the drive."

I couldn't respond to that the way I wanted to, so instead I unloaded the girls and we had lunch outside the gate while sitting on the dirt road. They asked a few questions about the surrounding mountains and it appeared as if I was forgiven.

Then, Vanna asked a question that she didn't like the answer to.

"Can we go to the mall here?"

"Babe, this is a little town. They don't have a mall here."

"Why did we come here?"

"I don't know, babe. I don't know."


  1. We've all had those trips. Well, not me, of course, because I plan the most perfect vacations. The ones where I never forget to pack parts of the tent... you know, the part that holds all the other parts up. I never do that. All my trips are perfect. Unlike yours.

  2. I'm sorry...but that's one hell of a great story.

    Dad...this game sucks.That's priceless!

  3. I loved this!! HOW many times..has a 'perfect' plan just not been so perfect and you are left wondering, why??? why not just stay home and watch sponge bob! So much simpler!!! :)

  4. Oh, that's terrible!!

    (But funny.)

  5. I usually just say:

    "Yeah, we're here. Get out."

    First time, he looked at me...then looked at the road zooming past us at 70MPH.

    Now, he understands.

  6. hmmmm .... definition of an adventure right? When your plans don't work out-it becomes and adventure, and one they will remember a lot longer then if the hatchery had been open.

  7. you're such a great story teller! personally, i love an impromptu road trip!

  8. I love those movies. Well, you got blog fodder from the day anyway! Road trips are so tricky to pull off. The danger of the drive (and by danger I mean wondering if you'll all survive the drive without making each other nutso) and when you get there if there will be enough to keep everyone happy.
    We are making the five hour (one way!) trek to Berlin in May for a cycling race my dh is in. I am starting to doubt the wisdom of doing this with a 7 and 3 year old...really doubting it.

  9. I love the quiet game - I learned it from a group of students when I was subbing...I'd finished what was left and had about 5 minutes left before the bell rang. The students suggested we play the "quiet game" - I didn't knwo what it was so they explained. The weird thing was they all wanted to play!
    Bummer about the hatchery - sounds like you made it fun anyways!!
    (btw - welcome back!!)

  10. Aw, man... what a bummer!! That definitely sounds like something that would happen to me. I've very spur of the moment with my trip planning, so I'd never know if my destination was closed.
    At least you got to spend quality time with your girls, right? :)

  11. This is hysterical. And I have my hat off to you - four girls? Holy crap. I have two, plus two step-sons now, but I've got my husband to help. You've actually made me feel the first slightest ounce of compassion for my ex.

    Ok, no. Maybe not.

    Anyhow, your girls are absolutely beautiful!

  12. I love the quiet game concept but suspect it wouldn't work with my 2 either! How do you manage to get in a vehicle and only listen to your CDs? I'm so tired of Sharon/Lois/Bram...

  13. Well at least you didn't get lost. We have WAY too many "Mommy got lost" stories. :-)

  14. You have to have a better prize for the quite game to work! And more importantly never admit you were wrong...What?! I knew it was closed. This trip was to show you how underfunded the fisheries are. I mean, look at this - damaged by a flood and not repaired yet. See what I'm teaching you girls? See?!