1. Maps are important. Plans are not.
2. It is very, very important to check the battery life of your new camera BEFORE taking a zillion pictures of a less-than-spectacular river and then going to Crater Lake and having it die five minutes into the driving tour.
3. You cannot swim in Crater Lake. Not if you are nine years old and inclined to be cranky about strenuous exercise in general, steep hikes in particular (1.1 mile long and 700 feet of elevation gain, so you can do the math there), and freezing your little toesies off. So please don’t ask that question, fourteen times in a row.
4. Toilet paper is not a luxury item if you are accustomed to having it. Small, cheap hotels may not fully grasp this concept. Bring your own.
5. Laughing is important. Bedtime is not.
6. If you see five deer, two of which are alive, DO NOT mention the other three to your daughter.
7. Vultures are just as ugly in person as they are in pictures.
8. If you can only finish half of the single best hamburger you’ve ever eaten and you take the rest back to your hotel in a to-go box, and you have a little bit of a funny tummy around 10 p.m. due to what you will later determine was a little too much heat and driving, you will be much happier if you do not absentmindedly look up from your novel and think, “My tummy feels odd, I must be hungry” and eat the other half of your burger. It is far better to eat only half of the single best hamburger you’ve ever eaten, than to have to sadly watch all of it come back up.
9. Fueling your car is important. Really. I mean it.
10. Good news – it is not physically possible for a child to indefinitely refuse to poop.
11. Bad news – it is not physically possible for a child to indefinitely refuse to poop.
12. See Item #4.
13. If you are going to sing your newly composed song “Welcome to Mosquito Land” in high, tiny mosquito voices and laugh yourself silly, think carefully about how long your throat can maintain that pitch. Sustained periods of singing nearly two octaves above middle C is not good for your health.
14. Bathrooms are important. Your timetable is not. (What are you doing with a timetable anyway? Throw it out!)
15. Don’t forget your pillow at the hotel.
16. Use bug spray downwind. Whenever possible, fart downwind too.
17. Even National Geographic specials on Our Amazing Solar System have questionable commercials after 11 p.m. Some of these questionable commercials cannot be muted. Pay attention, or it will be slightly more educational TV than you had in mind.
18. I’ll just tell you right now – there is NOTHING between Sisters and Detroit. Better to know this now than to find it out while you’re driving with your legs crossed at 10:45 p.m.
19. If you really, really, REALLY have to go, pick a nice private spot by the river bank that is for SURE wide enough to stand on, because if you are currently engaged in bodily functions, you do not want to make the gradual and cold discovery that the little rocks you’re standing on are closer to the water than you thought and now you are going to have to either pull up cold wet jeans or figure out how to get back to the car in your altogether without mooning Highway 22.
20. Some days you’re going to spend a little more than you expected. That’s OK.
21. Peanut butter sandwiches and blueberries make a good lunch. Also dinner. And breakfast, if necessary. Eating them outdoors while you listen to a waterfall crashing into an emerald green pool below makes them taste a lot better than they do at home.
22. Take only pictures, leave only footprints. (Repeat this until your children are ready to throw their peanut butter sandwiches and blueberries at you.)
23. Say it all together now: It’s OK If Mommy Doesn’t Go Swimming.
24. If you think there is even the slightest chance that 45 minutes from now you may be four-tenths of a mile from home and about to blow up into a thousand tiny angry pieces from your dire need to use a restroom when your children get into a squabble and start knocking things around the back seat until things start spilling into the plastic fittings for the seatbelts and there is truly no option but to stop and clean it up, DO NOT STOP FOR DRINKS. They can have a cherry smoothie another day.
25. 590 miles is a long way. But if you laugh and sing and eat M&Ms in bed at midnight, it goes by amazingly fast.