I grew up in central New Jersey. My family lived a modest middle class lifestyle, and I’d never flown on a plane with my family (and still haven’t). What we did do was camp. My family went car camping every summer. I have fond memories up through 8th grade of those summers.

When I was in 5th grade (10 years old?), we went on a month long car camping trip from New Jersey to California through the middle states (Illinois, North Dakota, Colorado), and then back through the southern states (Arizona, Texas, Louisiana). My dad was a hobbyist carpenter and had converted our Chevy passenger van to add a bed. That van became my first car, and going to a Catholic boy’s high school, it became our after school locker room and hang out spot before our respective lacrosse, tennis and baseball practices. It was a bit of a “road monger” which was it’s nickname. It was good times on wheels.

But. back to the trip. On that trip visited family along the way, national and state parks, and cities. One of my favorite memories from that trip was actually driving through San Francisco, and my dad bringing back a cake to the van from a Filipino bakery. I’d never had it before and remember it being the best thing I’d ever tasted. Years later I asked my mom about it. A lot of food memories have also been coming back to me lately.

The blog Kawaling Pinoy has a recipe for that cake, Brazo de Mercedes. It looks exactly as I remember it from that stop in SF.

I repeated a cross-country trip again when I was 21 with one of my closest friends in college. My dad passed away this summer. I’ve been having dreams about my dad lately, about those two road trips. I can’t stop myself from fantasizing about camper vans. There’s so much of the West that I haven’t seen, and I’d like to share that kind of experience with my boys.

Writing about the idea of a road trip here feels like making a contract with myself—something I’ve been doing a lot lately. Last year I put down a deposit for a Recon Camper and have been patiently waiting for my build day. Adventure awaits.

[Camper graphic by: <a href=”https://www.vecteezy.com”>Vecteezy!</a>]