California road trip
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A dad’s memory lane is his young daughters’ new adventure

By Brian Braiker

 

When I wasn’t busy making sure my 4- and 7-year-old daughters were happy, fed and well behaved on the flight from New York to Los Angeles, I was thinking about what it would be like to show them where I grew up.

We live in Brooklyn, and this was the first cross-country trip I’d taken alone with both of them, just us three musketeers. I was excited to go home: show them where Dad is coming from—literally and figuratively; take them to my old stomping grounds; give them a sense of their roots.

But it wasn’t until I felt the key click into the ignition and I pulled out of the airport parking lot that I realized I had it all backwards. This trip was to be about unique experiences for them, not trodding old ground for me; about adventure and exploration, not nostalgia.

I popped my iPod into the stereo and queued up the California playlist I’d made for my girls. We rolled down the windows and rolled north up the 405, the fat lemon of a sun making a distant memory of New York’s dark and gritty subways.

From the backseat I heard Calla, my younger daughter, singing along to Joni Mitchell. “This song makes me feel emotional,” she said, eyes glued to the greenery streaming by her window. We don’t have a car in New York, so already the trip was something new and exciting.

The week would stream by almost as quickly as the palm trees we passed on our way up L.A.’s canyons to my parents’ house. We stopped for burgers at a place where, as a newly minted driver tasting his first four-wheeled freedom 20 years ago, I spent hours with my high school friends. It was nice to visit an old haunt. Nicer still to watch my 7-year-old taste her first burger from Apple Pan.

“Daddy, can we come back here every time we come to California?” she asked. I nodded, of course, my mind alight with the excitement of all the firsts we were going to have together.

Over the next couple of days we did a lot of the standard stuff, criss-crossing the city with ease and abandon: La Brea Tar Pits (“Daddy, you look like a short-faced bear”); Disney Concert Hall (“Can we get violin lessons when we go back to New York?”); In-N-Out, with the off-the-menu burger variation I taught them to ask for (“double-double, please, ANIMAL STYLE!”).

I got to see even the most familiar nooks of the city through fresh eyes thanks to their enthusiasm: The Santa Monica Pier was like Coney Island with a face lift and an attitude adjustment, the drive along the Pacific Coast Highway a revelation. We hung out with my brother’s boys, the younger cousins. Gathered by our parents’ pool, the three generations remembered some of our best years in that house—and looked forward to more of these reunions in the California hills.

At the end of the week, we tossed our beach-salty clothes into the back of the car one last time. We were all ready to head home, ready to start the new school year. Cranking the stereo one last time as we cruised south down the freeway, we talked about everything we did, and everything we’re going to do the next time we’re in town.

“But first—I’m serious, Dad,” said Freya, while her little sister dozed, “I want violin lessons.”

With up to 12 cup holders and multiple storage areas throughout the cabin, the Chevrolet Traverse is an ideal vehicle for road-heavy driving with your family, making juggling keys, coffee and kids a lot easier. And if you have a compatible smartphone, you can stream your California playlist via Bluetooth® wireless technology* to its available Chevrolet MyLink touch-screen into the wee hours of the night.

The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.

Brian Braiker is a senior editor at Parenting magazine and the father of two girls. He has written for Rolling Stone, Newsweek, The Guardian and many other publications.

*Go to gm.com/bluetooth to find out which phones are compatible with the vehicle.


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