By the time you read this I’ll most likely be dry, but at the time of this writing that is not the case. I am something less than wet, having been soaked hours ago, still slightly more than damp. The moisture is a mix of sweat and river water, having spent hours today atop a raft in hot weather and rushing rapids, hours more in a car on roads long and winding.
My family is equally saturated, even the youngest — who used the last few moments of the day to dunk himself in the calm, rapids-adjacent waters, disappointed as he was that the boat didn’t flip. However, his skinny body dries faster than most, always burning like a constant coil, a power source in the backseat charging the friction between road-weary brothers with books in their hands where devices should be.
It was the end of our summer vacation, and it was fantastic.
Our journey was a love letter to the Golden State, staying within the confines of its border, a stretching embrace between beach and boulder. We have lived in California long enough, and we figured it was time to take a look around. It was a need based in experience.
I grew up in Arizona, and didn’t see the Grand Canyon until I was 25. I always joked that I had seen enough of it on The Brady Bunch, and frankly, I was not interested in eating beans from a flashlight. The truth is, my family never thought to go there. Sure, we took a few trips to the amusement of Southern California, and I recall a fishing hole or two, but as a rule our vacations were spent closer to home and sometimes in it. Aside from one cross-country road trip in high school, my family did not put a lot of emphasis on travel.
Granted, vacations are expensive — even our in-state trek cost far more than I was comfortable with — but unlike my own childhood I want my kids to understand the value of travel is on par with other big-ticket items like health care and education, each of them rights that have been priced as privilege.
With apologies to the internet, travel is what truly connects us. Real conversations run deeper than 140 characters and the grammar graveyards of the comment section. You cannot click on empathy.
On our trip we met people from all over the world, all of them drawn to the break of the California coastline, the majesty of Yosemite’s everything, and the constant dance of art and nature. We shared laughs, drinks and stories as our children played together in rustic game rooms and resort-shaped pools, ignoring language barriers and assuring each other that we are all far more alike than politics would have us believe.
How do we put a price on that?
This morning I got in a boat, entrusting my safety and that of my family to summer help and sunburnt strangers. We went over the rules, had a quick lesson, and then we all plunged into the Kern River, a tub full of tourists, expanding our individual limits together in timed, fluid motion. Our souvenir was the thing we were doing, and we all chipped in.
Rivers are always changing: depths, banks and course. The same is true for those that float upon them, and that hardly needs a metaphor.
All things considered, being dry doesn’t seem that important.