The Cambrian

Lady Tie Di: The family that survives a road trip together stays together

So, here we are, my sons and I, draped over the furniture and on the floor of the older boy’s apartment in Portland (well, Clackamas). The younger son agreed, I am thrilled to say, to go on vacation, see his brother, check out colleges along the way, stop in on family and old friends. How awesome is that? We just got back from touring two campuses today. Phew!

As usual, before we left Cambria, I agreed to let him be the dj in thecar— as long as he loads his iPod with at least some of my music. That is a relative term, I must say. As usual, however, the conversation is somewhat lively and varied. Now that he’s older, he stays awake in the passenger seat most of the time. That’s nice.

First stop, Sacramento. Oh, my, gosh—climate change, as well as cultural change: big city. Lovely campus with no one there (we were more-or-less on a drive-by tour of these various schools on his list). We got to hunker down with some friends that night, former Cambrians, so it was a grand way to start the trip.

Zachary and I’ve actually done this journey north several times. It’s getting to be fun, “oh-yeah-ing” things along the way: “Oh, yeah, there’s the giant cow sculpture,” or “oh, yeah, our favorite town of Drain! We’re getting closer!” While there were a number of people we really wanted to see along the way, we were really on a mission to see schools and Miles, so on we drove.

We’ve really grown fond of the Portland area, whether it’s because the Miles lives here or it’s just really nice for being a city. I think it’s both. There are landmarks I’ve come to recognize and my bearings are not so nearly difficult to find, which makes me much more comfortable all the way around, from feeling good about my son living here to just feeling more at home.

Another treat on vacation is getting to do things, like eat sugary cereals we don't normally get, eat out whenever we’re hungry (although we certainly take enough edibles to get us through some meals) and stop and gawk at the most minute details of buildings, people and other usually overlooked sites (why we don’t do that more at home, I don’t know—OK, I do— but).

The heat is draining us of all life-energy, but the public artwork, open-air art market and insanely tree-lined landscapes fill us up. Not to mention, being together as a family. It’s wonderful to see the “adult” son. Man, that’s a scary concept. Makes me smile, on the other hand.

On we’ll go tomorrow (after a tearful farewell, I’m sure), down the coast to the next college. We’ve been lucky so far, hitting two out of three campuses just in time for an unscheduled tour. We’ll be staying with more former Central Coasters in Coos Bay. The young son is actually pleased about our itinerary, which will take in some older cousins of mine the following night.

As luck would have it, another college on the boy’s list happens to be in Northern California and we happen to know someone going there who will be meeting us to take us around that campus. So far, this has been an incredibly smooth trip. I didn’t really expect otherwise. It just seems that, wow, we’ve come a long way from the days of diaper bags and play stops, or even books of car games. We have plans now (albeit loose ones), we have much more to talk about and we get along more like adults. Well, the better way adults get along. You know, having fun.

You know, financially it was not really feasible to do this trip. I only use my credit card in emergencies, but, hey, my 17-year-old son is still willing to ride thousands of miles in a small car with me, the next step in his future is at hand, and we haven't gotten to come visit his sibling in too long— maybe not an emergency but the feeling of urgency was in my heart.

Who knows how many more days we'll all get to stay together once they’re both going to school, working, playing sports, dating —having their own lives? Ooof, excuse me while I shudder and grab a tissue.

E-mail Lady Tie Di, aka Dianne Brooke, a member of the Coast Unified School District Board of Trustees, at tiedi@ att . net, or visit her Web site at