So, welcome to our Christmas. Not as great as a sitcom, but much less of your time invested.

Dar used to love pools. But he closed out 2016 the way he began it, hating them. He won’t get in anymore. He screams if we try to bring him halfway in. On this trip I seriously contemplated activating the metaphor about throwing someone in the deep end of the pool. Yes buttinskies, I would have been right next to him. But…I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to torture him.

What gets me is that Dar likes water. He will linger for minutes on end at sinks and water fountains. He likes baths, until the moment that the portable shower nozzle threatens to get water in his face. And he used to love swimming! His former teacher at the Y, Jimmy, used to marvel at how fearlessly Dar plunged his face into the water.

On Day 1 at our hotel near Joshua Tree National Park, after I took off his robe, Dar barely wanted to get his feet wet. The hotel had these mini-geysers, little fountains that spurted a roughly two-foot gurgle of water. I thought he might like those the way he likes sinks and little streams and muddy puddles.

Nope. Wasn’t having any; preferred to whine.

On Day 2, our only other day at this hotel, I decided to let Dar keep his Lightning McQueen robe on. What was the point of taking it off, anyway? Besides, it was cold by Southern California standards, by which I mean, about 45°F at 10am. And then…lo and behold, Dar was all about the mini-geysers. As long as he could keep his robe on. As long as it could keep getting wet, as it most assuredly did. Maybe Dar had simply been cold the day before?

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Sometimes the rest of the trip went that way. Sometimes, you let Dar be comfortable, and everything flows. For example, he loves car rides. That makes road trips very easy. Joshua Tree was a breeze partly because we rarely left the car. Dar absolutely enjoys watching the scenery go by. Perhaps it’s a satisfying blur, who knows. On the other hand, stopping can be an issue. In Death Valley, we stopped at Badwater because, hey, everyone says it’s the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. (This actually isn’t true if you count caves or manmade drilling.) Everyone walks out onto the big, big, salt flats. Well, everyone that is, except Dar. He was freaking out. Meltdown-orama. Everyone staring at us. Now, it would be nice to believe that Dar has superpowers and that his ears were reacting to greater-than-normal pressure in this place 282 feet below sea level. Yeah, that would be nice. It just wouldn’t be true.

Dar doesn’t always love walks, and his brother’s legs are tiny. These facts tend to limit the nature-walk portions of our vacations. Just for the heck of it, I decided to push the family to walk Death Valley’s most popular walk, the Golden Canyon, which goes all of 1.25 miles. Dar’s brother ran out of gas before the halfway point. He went back to the car with wifey. Dar and I soldiered on. But he kept resisting. He kept squirming out of my grip and sitting down and picking up little sand-rocks and sluicing them through his fingers. Finally I gave up before the 1.25m were done. Sigh.

On the other hand, Dar was perfect for my bucket-list day on the 395. A longtime Californian, I had never before set foot on Highway 395, and I had several items to check off my list. And it was one of the shortest days of the year, and I really wanted to do them in daylight, so I wasn’t sure what would happen.

It all turned out perfectly. For most of the bucket-list items, Dar could stay in the car. So he was happy, and that certainly contributed to my level of happiness.

The planned and achieved bucket-list items were:

1 Town of Darwin, CA (we didn’t quite get there, but we got a photo of Dar next to an intersection sign, close enough)


2 View of Mt. Whitney

3 Manzanar (Dar did freak out during the museum tour; appropriate?)

4 Bristlecone Pine Trees (road was closed for winter, couldn’t do it; next time we come back and steal the 5000-year-old tree)


5 Mammoth Resort/Mountain/Lakes

6 Schat’s Bakery at Mammoth (only problem was being stopped too long while they made our food; Dar freaked, but wifey came back with mmmmm-good bread just in time)

7 Mono Lake

8 The parts of Bridgeport in Out of the Past (1947)

9 Mottsville, Nevada

I know what you’re thinking: you love Mottsville too! Joking aside, I find it weird that if you drive literally 20 minutes east from South Lake Tahoe, you come upon flat-boring Nevada-ness as far as the eye can see. It’s almost like going behind the scenes at Disneyland and seeing the characters with their headmasks off.

Plus we snowmobiled for the first time ever. And Dar was “tee-tee-tee”ing the entire snowmobile ride, telling me he loved it. So that’s good. He was like a kid on his first time on a “Harry Potter” ride.

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Someday, Dar’s brother will understand my awkward theme park metaphors. But Dar almost certainly won’t. And that never fails to break my heart. And thus my heart needs these vacations. And this was a good one. Thanks Dar.