A couple of times a year, my brother, parents and I pile into my mom's PathFinder, and we set off on an 8 hour journey from our home in the Bay Area to my grandparent's home in Henderson, just shy of Sin City. In previous years, it's been the bane of my existence, being crammed in the backseat with my hyper younger brother, with my parents singing along to the Mamma Mia! soundtrack (yes, it is genetic) and taking pit stops in run-down little rest areas in the middle of the desert.
But over the years, I've come to appreciate it more. Even though the sounds of I-5 make it too loud to have a decent conversation, I've found that if I lean forward a tad I can hear my parents talking to each other as they do to other adults, with topics that are more interesting than what they normally bring up to me and my brother. I've found that if I lean my head just right, the bumps from the road vibrate my head from the window, and I can make my teeth chatter.
And, of course, as with all trips, there are traditions. Stopping at Wasco, in the same exact store, and eating cheap deli food while beating away the flies. My parents turning on the classic rock station and asking me who the artist is, in a somewhat successful attempt to make me more knowledgable about music. Counting the windmills as we drive by. Inhaling deeply as we pass Gilroy and its abundance of garlic.
But, this year, I made a few new traditions. About three hours in, after our early lunch, I pulled out my laptop and DJed for the next hour or so, merging from rock and pop to showtunes and Glee as time went on, eventually stowing it away for lack of battery power. I made friendship bracelets, practicing my technique. I found a comfortable position to doze off in, with my sweatshirt balled up behind my back, my head resting against the window and the seatbelt strap, one leg curled up on the seat and the other stretched on the floor as far as it will go.
Of course, even my new traditions can't change what makes these trips, well, traditional. As soon as we get in the door, we're attacked by a rabid Shi Tzu, then greeted with hugs from our grandparents. Gramma offers us strawberries and crackers and cheese, then we all sit down for spaghetti and salad and chicken and brisket and all sorts of good things. We all sit contentedly for a while after dinner, chatting, and then we go watch TV, or go on the computer, and relax. In the morning, there are fresh bagels with cream cheese and lox, and Gramma's french toast casserole, and then we all get ready to go swimming.
This is my Las Vegas.