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All Rise for the Mug of Glory!

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Dad’s Corner

By: Justin P. McCarthy   |  December 2, 2022

By July of 2021, we were seasoned pandemiological explorers: we had stayed home and stayed safe most of the time, hiked every foot of open space we could find anywhere near our house, plumbed Grubhub’s most questionable depths (looking at you, Tandoori Mahal) and rolled the dice on a handful of regional trips[1].

Planning our summer a few months before, we had decided we still weren’t quite comfortable loading everyone onto a plane, and–as we’d just driven to San Diego–we weren’t super jazzed about another long drive, either. We Googled around for nearby places we hadn’t been to and landed on AutoCamp Russian River in Guerneville[2].

AutoCamp, with sites nationwide in amazing places like the Catskills, Cape Cod, Yosemite and Joshua Tree, is a quirky, glamping-ish resort chain offering unconventional accommodations ranging from luxury pop-up tents to Airstream trailers. Still a bit twitchy at the thought of time in enclosed spaces around other people, we liked the idea of an open-air layout with free-standing “rooms.” We reserved one trailer for the kids, and one for Katie and me.

We spent three nights there, cool in the shade of the redwoods, and three days exploring the town, the beach and the forests nearby. By each late afternoon, we were all exercised and rested up, but not quite hungry for dinner. The kids had burned through their allotted hour of screen time, and we decided to push our meals later since–between squirrely Wi-Fi and a (welcome) lack of TVs in the rooms–our usual vacation habit of watching a show or two together wasn’t an option.

One night, Katie and I decided to hold an analog family gaming tournament. I had stuck two decks of cards and a handful of our favorite boxed games[3] in the “I’m bored! What can I do?” tote. We set the games on a table near the kids’ room and put out some snacks–because all family game time must feature good snacks!

On a whim, before we started, I walked over to the lobby store and bought a souvenir Autocamp mug. The kids all wanted to drink from it while we played, and we had the idea to offer the mug as a prize to whoever won that night, provided they handed it over to the next winner. We settled on calling it the “Mug of Glory,” and it has been changing hands after heated contests almost every week since.

Having a prize, especially a silly, frivolous one, to fight for keeps everyone invested and (alright, a bit) more focused when we play together. The Mug comes with special rules, too: the holder can use it all week in place of a regular glass or cup, and can have a typically restricted weeknight sweet drink with dinner. The slow-sip sibling taunts have been epic.

Since the Mug doesn’t travel well, and because it’s fun, we’ve accumulated some complementary artifacts over time. In addition to the Mug, the victor of each match receives, until they are reluctantly handed over with the next defeat: The Hat of Glory (a Stetson from Alisal Ranch), The Bell of Glory (a miniature Swiss alpine cow bell from the Jungfrau gift shop), and (don’t judge) the Shot Glass of Glory, from New York’s Hayden Planetarium.

We are a family that likes its traditions, and our regular battles for the absurd Objects of Glory are right up there with the best of them. Whether you were raised with rich traditions or not, it’s worth putting in the time to nurture them in your family. The results can be Glorious!


[1]  That’s “trip,” not “vacation.” The last time we took a vacation was in 2009, before Jack was born. Katie and I had a glorious romp through Spain before meeting her father and brothers in Morocco, where we all proceeded to get violently ill from a bad chicken tagine. Instead of exploring Casablanca and Marrakech as we had planned, the five of us spent a week sleeping it off at a friend’s place in Rabat, where I lost 15 pounds. Still, there’s a rosy glow about those weeks in my memory: every big outing we’ve done since has been a “trip.”

[2] TL;DR Guerneville travel guide: Wander among giants at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Preserve, frolic at Johnson’s Beach if it’s warm, get the Korean fried chicken at Pat’s International and chase it with an ice cream from Nimble & Finn’s.

[3] In no particular order: Sushi Go!Exploding KittensCards Against Humanity: Family EditionSettlers of Catan (with the Cities and Knights expansion), Monopoly, and Hearts.

Justin P. McCarthy lives in Tiburon with his wife, Katie, and their three children--Jack, Ali, and Claire. He’d be delighted to hear from you at
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All Rise for the Mug of Glory! Read >>

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