Six Things I learned Super Bowl Sunday

Six Things I learned Super Bowl SundayI am sorry, dear reader, for the misleading headline. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to find subjects other than nature and space to write about. It turns out nothing else inspires me like those subjects. So, as our family returned home Super Bowl Sunday after helping a friend move to Eureka, I had nearly 700 miles to reflect on the incredible beauty of our state and the other lessons learned on our whirlwind weekend trip.

Other than our trip coinciding with the most popular sports observance in our country, I’m afraid what follows has nothing to do with football.

1. California is big. We know this when we read about how our state would have the fifth-largest economy in the world if it were a separate country. And there is nothing like a drive through some of our diverse geography and communities to remind us why so many people want to live and work here. From our arid deserts to our picturesque coasts to our rolling farmland to our craggy mountains to our stunning forests, there is almost every desirable geography and industry imaginable contained within our state. Moving from one to the next is a dizzying experience. And it also informs why the Golden State continues to be plagued with such political and social discord. How can a person with an abundance of space and scarcity of water possibly relate to the lives of those whose reality is exactly the inverse?

2. There are shades of green in Northern California that don’t exist here. Growing up in the shadow of the Southern Sierra, I like to think that our enviable location gives us entry to every biome worth exploring. But however glorious the trees and other flora along the John Muir trail system, they seem to fade into sepia when compared with the emerald and sea foam and hunter and lime and shamrock greens of the North. Even the pictures I brought home to supplement my memories don’t seem to do justice to the hyper-colored trailscapes we explored.

3. Some trends are worth missing. I have been to plenty of Super Bowl parties (Don’t be fooled – I’m still not going to talk about football!) in my day. It’s usually the prospect of good food and great company that pulls me in, though. Since we don’t have television, our family has had a long-held tradition of finding somewhere to hike that day. On the day of our epic road trip, we still managed to explore the redwoods on our way home. Although we typically prefer national parks to tourist traps, we ventured into the privately owned-and-operated Chandelier Tree — featuring a 10-foot carve-out that vehicles can drive through. On Sunday, though, the site was without power and had closed its gift shop and other accompanying attractions. We didn’t mind. Between the lack of power, the Super Bowl observance and the near-freezing temperatures, we had the place to ourselves that day. It was literal heaven on earth.

4. I do not miss having television. I first moved out of my family home almost 25 years ago. For a long time I didn’t have television because I couldn’t afford it. Then I didn’t have time for it. And now, with so many streaming options online, there’s hardly a need for it. But one of the things we do to amuse ourselves when we are traveling is marvel a bit at the television during our hotel stays. I confess that listening to “Groundhog Day” in the background was amusing enough, as was being mystified by the limits to which the human body can be pushed by the contestants of “American Ninja Warrior.” But I still see nothing tempting enough to want TV back. In fact, the commercials seem more unsettling than I remember. (Seriously, when did brand loyalty for toilet paper become the most hotly contested battle in marketing? I won’t even address the issue of subtlety. Or rather the complete lackthereof.)

5. Statistics and assumptions can be misleading. Last week, as the Super Bowl approached, I received a plethora of reports and news releases that warned of the heightened dangers of under-the-influence driving on Super Bowl Sunday. I believe that not every sports fan returning home from Super Bowl celebrations meet the lawful standard of sobriety. But for at least the lead-up and duration of the game, the freeways we traversed were blessedly empty and seemingly safe during our travels.

6. Time passes quickly. Spend it with your family. In the early days of raising my children, I was constantly celebrating all the milestones. Graduating permanently from diaper bags. Having everyone into school. Growing out of car seats. Perhaps it was because my six children came in a span of eight years, and these benchmarks represented independence and a shift toward more common ground between the children that they were cause for such celebration.

That started changing a few years ago. On the first Christmas after my youngest daughter was born, I remember lining up the children, age order, on the couch for a picture. Every year after that for the next six years I would do the same, and compare each photo to see how they had grown in the intervening months. Then, one year, they didn’t fit on the couch together anymore. It happened so suddenly, these simultaneous growth spurts, I could no longer squeeze them in. So we got rid of the sagging, ancient couch and abandoned the tradition. But I remember distinctly feeling that, for the first time, I was a little grieved by the milestone. And I think about it every Christmas, and most days in fact, that some adventures are now behind us forever.

So with each car trip, when I pack my increasingly growing children into our little eight-seater mini-van, I know that it may be the last time. We drove 11 hours on Sunday — an experience I was somewhat dreading leading up to the trip. But now I know it will be one of the happiest memories of my life — spending the day laughing and reading and talking and sharing with my children. My parents and siblings and I are still close, so I know that the adventures my husband and I share with our children once we finally outgrow our car, and our present lifestyle will, evolve into something just as meaningful. But I will surely miss this special time together as much as I cherish it now.

— Rebecca Neipp

Pictured: My husband and children, with various degrees of enthusiasm, pause a moment to let me take their photo at the carve-out in Chandelier Tree — a famous redwood in Northern California. — Photo by Rebecca Neipp

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Story First Published: 2020-02-07