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Vanessa Selbst

Family Road Trip

Moving our United States home base recently meant packing two adults, two huge suitcases, several large carry-on bags, one mostly-deflated air mattress, three pillows, and two five-pound dogs into a cherry red hybrid, New York City bound.

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Although I had driven cross-country before, I usually crammed all of the driving into two or three days, aiming to take the most direct trip possible. This time, however, we had a few extra days to kill, and since Miranda had never seen much of the interior of the United States, we decided to take a more circuitous route. The plan was to go from Vegas to New York, with stops in Tucson, Austin, Memphis, Louisville, and Niagara Falls before leaving Miranda in Albany with her folks, while I would head to Florida to play the World Poker Tour event and get in some golf with my grandmother.

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I knew I wanted to spend some time visiting friends and checking out Austin, a city everyone raves about. As a result, we didn’t see much in Tucson–getting there well after dark and leaving before the sun came up, but we did get to see a brilliant desert sunset somewhere in Arizona. The drive to Austin took fourteen long hours and spanned 900 miles, but the 80-mph speed limit of Western Texas helped take the edge off. I’ve been told it pretty much never rains in Austin, but we managed to make it there for a day of blustery breezes, overcast skies, and sometimes downpours. We tried not to let that dampen our spirits and we basically went on an eating tour of Austin. We had amazing oysters, doughnuts to die for, and authentic Texas barbeque at Franklins, which our friend Scott was kind enough to wait in line for from 8:30 AM to 10:30. I really loved the vibe of Austin and hope to make it back there some day soon.

The next day was Memphis, which was charming from the get go. It has an amazing little downtown, which feels like a quintessential southern town: a cobbled main street with functional trolley cars, an old fashioned Walgreens, historic buildings, and southern hospitality. Everyone we met in Memphis was as nice as could be. The drive to Louisville the next day was another long one, and we arrived there road weary and a little cranky. We hid out in the hotel and ordered in. The next day, I was super excited to see the “Welcome to New York” sign and know we were so close to home. We only had one more stop–Niagara Falls. A snafu with hotel reservations, which we discovered at 11:30 PM after unloading all of our things at a hotel on the American side of falls, meant we had an unexpected trip to Canada, but the remarkable view from our hotel room was well worth it. The next day we got up early and walked along the falls, stopping to pose for a family photo before making the last leg of our trip.

Although this was not the most expeditious route to get from California to New York, I’m glad we did it. It was our first journey together–the four of us (yes, I am counting my dogs. I am one of those people). Sometimes it was too hot or too cold or too rainy. Sometimes we had rowdy sing-alongs to iTunes playlists, sometimes we tried to listen to a book on tape and tuned it out. Sometimes we were tired, sometimes we were amped and raring to go. But some things were always consistent: me, my family, a few of our things, seeing parts of the country I wouldn’t normally get to, and bound for the next phase of my life.

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