Before we left Somerville, I was certain of two things: one, we would not darken the doorstep of McDonalds or Walmart on this trip, and two, Max would be just fine without a DVD player.
We stopped at our first McIndoor Death Trap Playland on a rainy afternoon in Western New York on the first day of the trip. We have stopped at half a dozen others since, including this evening. I nursed a flat diet Coke and Max made friends with several adorable local kids who were dressed up in starched white clothes for a school Christmas program. Somehow, none of them left splattered in ketchup.
We made it to Tennessee before I caved and bought an inexpensive portable DVD player and a few movies. At Walmart.
Extended travel with very small children is challenging. There will be many times when you have to find a suitable place to stop and let them burn off energy, and many more times when you will find yourself paying $25 planning to spend several hours exploring a pueblo, only to leave 45 minutes later because your small child is covered in mud and begging to go play at Donalds.(OK, I will admit that while I am having a blast, it is fucking insane to take your three year-old on a cross country trip.)Max has held up surprisingly well, save two minor irritants: he is a bossy backseat driver who occasionally demands that we“go home now, just for a little while”or insists that I need to “turn left, goddamnit!”, and he handles crossing timezones by waking up ravenous at midnight and again for the day at 3 am.
Always call ahead to confirm that the gorgeous indoor pool featured on the hotel’s website is in fact open. Otherwise you may find yourself trying to console a wailing child who wants to swim, and prostrates himself on the floor in front of the reception desk and screams “What is wrong with the pool? Did the water go down the wrong pipe? Did someone poop in the pool? Will it open later?” as a crowd of amused post-menopausal onlookers laugh in your face.
Without a pool, you will find yourself anxiously scouring local websites searching for children’s museums, and wondering if an out of order pool is an emergency worthy of busting out the bribe of last resort: a pink plastic tube of mini M&Ms.
This afternoon we visited Taos Pueblo. The Pueblo is gorgeous, peaceful and muddy. I felt very large and blonde and conspicuous, with my Rebel and photography permit slung around my neck,clutching Max as he begged to run free with the throngs of wandering dogs.
The Pueblo is home to approximately 150 people, a few of whom were outside working on various projects. I’m certain they think visitors are both annoying and slightly insane for paying the entrance fees, but little did these Taos Indians know that they were in the presence of Grunty Who Flees Bad Man, one quarter Sokoki (St. Francis Abenaki), Crazy Bitch, one eighth of same, and Son of Crazy Bitch, Who Sleeps Little And Argues Often. Unfortunately, we lack papers as my great grandfather was a mean Irish bastard who was embarrassed by his wife’s heritage. Fucker.
After leaving the Pueblo, we decided to drive out past the Taos Ski area just to see what was there. In addition to pines weighed down by gobs of marshmallow snow, we passed a young guy and his dog, obviously homeless and hitchhiking. Grunty noticed that the man had taken off his coat and placed it under the shivering pup. We decided to stop and grab some groceries and dog biscuits if we passed a store on the drive back from the ski resort. We did not find a store, and when we neared the intersection, the young man and his dog had moved on. Or so we thought. As we neared the outskirts of Taos proper, we saw the man again, leading his dog on a leash as the sky began to darken and the temperature noticeably dropped. I stopped at Cids, a local market and bought a jar of peanut butter, some bananas, cheese, milk, english muffins and dog treats and we turned around hoping the man and his dog were on the same stretch of highway. We were unable to find them, and can only hope some kindhearted person gave them a ride or helped in some way. It is very cold here in Taos tonight, and this man and his dog were only one of several down-on-their luck wanderers we have spotted since arriving.