Day Eight: Los Angeles or Bust

Odometer Reading: 1025

I’d hoped to take the Pacific Coast Highway down to my sister’s, but after talking to Uncle Dennis and my brother-in-law Will, they convinced me that it was foolhardy to think we could make it down there in one day. It would slow-going and expensive, two things I didn’t really want. So, instead, we rose early and got back onto my least favorite highway: I-5.

Eight hours later, we rolled into Los Angeles swarming with people and pollution. Just being in LA makes me a little insane and I’m sure the kids were completely baffled by the dramatic rise in my stress level, but the highways just mix and mingle and get all backed up and I feel like I might just lose my mind. I’m sure it has to do with the fact that I’m the driver; I didn’t stress out in Bangkok, Hanoi, Boston or New York City, but I never had to drive there. In LA, I really feel like I’m gonna blow my top. Music turns off. Kids keep quiet and my knuckles turn white on the steering wheel.

Day Seven: Sardines and San Juan Bautista

Odometer Reading: 878

Moving everything up a day, we decided that we’d visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium while staying in Gilroy since it was close enough and besides, then we wouldn’t have to pull out all that camping gear yet again. So, for an hour I bugged the kids to get up and at ’em, hoping they’d be a tad more excited about seeing what is supposed to be one of the world’s best aquariums. We managed to get out on time, though and headed further west to the ocean.

California beaches aren't what they're said to be

Unfortunately as we reached the shore, there was nothing great to be said about it. It looked remarkably like an Oregon beach: cool, grey, cloudy and it stank. Luckily, we weren’t going for a day of sunbathing, we were there for the aquarium, but it sure would have been nice to see the supposedly-beautiful California beaches that people ramble on about.

Pictures after the jump

Day Six: On the Road Again

Odometer Reading: 738

There was no rush to hit the highway again, so we took the morning as it came: repacking our bags and then the car. Every time it’s like a game of Tetris, making sure that each piece fits as tightly as possible into the previous bags with no gaps. Somehow we got it all back in and by 11 a.m. we were pulling out the driveway of Aunt Diana’s place and heading to I-5 yet again.

barren and boring

If you’ve driven I-5 in Oregon, you know how green and beautiful it can be, trees nestled up to the highway’s edges and mountains in any direction it seems. Let’s just say that California’s I-5 is nothing like that. Here it’s dry and brown and barren and flat. In other words, beautiful for about 10 seconds then as boring as all get out
for the next 200 miles.

Lilyana and Audrey kung fu-style

We stopped somewhere along that golden highway to take photos, a viewpoint with this sign designating it as Orestimba, Dry and hot, the kids didn’t want to stay long and I can’t imagine why anyone would live out there, but apparently they do. The flatlands are sprinkled with farm houses and plots of irrigated fields. Still not for me.

The drive to Gilroy, as I may have mentioned, was pretty boring, but we listened to a couple episodes of our new favorite podcast, Radiolab to kill the time. And at the rest stop the girls came up with their own entertainment–using the car door as a funhouse mirror. I checked out the map to figure out how many more miles of dry grass fields we’d have to get to see and they took pictures of themselves in all sorts of poses. Stuart just waited, patient as always.

Day Five: Day of Rest

After not getting to bed until after 11 p.m. and having spent the entire day either walking or screaming, we were all exhausted. I couldn’t even bear to wake the kids and let them rouse on their own schedules. By 11 a.m. everyone was awake again.

It was also nearly 100°F outside. Somehow we’ve landed in Sacramento during their first real extended heat wave. Awesome.

Day Four: Screaming is Fun

When I was just barely six years old we moved from Sacramento, CA (near my father’s family) to Newberg, OR (to be near my mother’s family). I don’t know how soon it started, but it became a tradition that nearly every summer, I would go down to Sacramento–first with just Marcella, then when Stephanie was old enough, the three of us–to stay with Grandma. We’d visit Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Carl. We’d go stay with Aunt Diana for a few days. And they would take us places: parks, the Sacto zoo, Disneyland once and several times we went to Marriott’s Great America.

Aunt Diana and the kiddos

Back then it was owned by Marriott, the hotel chain, but after several name/owner changes, it is now called California’s Great America. I have some fond memories of riding the rollercoasters and the freefall ride, the carousel that greets visitors and being there with family. So, when my Aunt Diana, who was hosting us in Sacramento, asked whether we’d like to go to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom or Great America, the decision was easy for me. We all went to Six Flags on our last big California trip in 2002 and there was something nostalgically wonderful about Aunt Diana taking another generation, my kiddos, to the same park we’d enjoyed twenty years ago.

Day Three: Leaving the Desert

Odometer Reading: 367

As soon as the sunshine slipped through the trees, I got up, rolling my sleeping bag and getting the kids to walk up and do the same. I had hoped that the chill of the morning would keep the mosquitoes at bay for a while, but, again, as soon as I opened the trunk with all our bags of clothes, they were all over me. So, while the kids did their things, I got the food back into the car, then their sleeping bags as they ran for the safety of the car. Stuart and I broke down the tents, not bothering to clean them off or even get them into their cases. We just shoved them into the trunk; I’d take care of them when we hit Sacramento.

Lily at the roadside breakfast; Scoop Away=portable kitchen

Still dressed in their pajamas, we left Crater Lake National Park and drove south toward Klamath Falls. Along the way we passed long and shallow Klamath Lake. According to our Only in Oregon book, it’s more than 20 miles long and 8 miles wide. Somewhere past the lake and past the city proper, we pulled off onto a side road for breakfast. There, in the gravel, we pulled out our kitchen box and the ice chest. The kids ate cereal and I prepared another round of hot cocoa on the propane burner. It was all fine, despite Audrey’s worrying that we’d get in trouble. In fact, the electric company guys waved as they drove by. As we ate, falcons flew above us to their nest.

Day Two: Rocks and Mosquitoes

Odometer Reading: 174

Despite turning the heat on the yurt (what a lovely invention) it was still a bit chilly in the high desert when we woke up sometime after 7 a.m. I made some hot cocoa for the kiddos (cooked on the propane burner instead this time!) and found an intriguing entry in our copy of Only in Oregon, a rock garden out near Bend. Of course, the book didn’t have an address for the place and my map didn’t list it and I couldn’t just Google it. But my sister could. So I called her up, she searched it, read me the driving instructions and I wrote them in blue Sharpie on the only paper I could find, our now-empty food bag.

pointless pretty path

With Stuart as my navigation guide, we managed to drive straight to Petersen’s Rock Gardens. Thankfully, Google got this one right because there wasn’t a single sign until we got to their street, then it was only a small plywood sign propped against the fence.

this bridge ain't fallin' down

Petersen’s Rock Garden turned out to be a highlight of our time in eastern Oregon; we spent more than an hour looking around at all the creations that Mr. Petersen constructed nearly 50 years ago. There were bridges and buildings and water ponds and fountains and lots of miniatures houses, mansions, and churches. The kids thought it was great and were willing, even though I resisted, to run through the sprinkler to get to the small island in the middle of a lily-covered pond. The array of rocks was astonishing, with obsidian, cinder rock, and petrified woods, among many, many others that have names I don’t know. The strangest thing about the place? The forty peacocks they have that wander the property, yelling what sounds like “Help!”

Day One: Heading South and East

suitcase/bag/sleeping bag version of Tetris

We’d been planning a road trip since last summer and I got the crazy idea that we’d merge it with a visit from my sister’s family. So when my sister flew home, she took only her son, leaving her daughter for us to bring home via our meagerly planned road trip. So today, we loaded up the rental car and started driving south, then east.

tree graveyard in the national forests
a small part of the Deschutes National Forest

We drove south to Salem and then onto Hwy. 22 over the Cascades to eastern Oregon, stopping to check out the information kiosk about the B&B Complex Fire. Seeing the vast number of burned trees in the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests awed all of us. Come to find out, ninety-thousand acres burned that year (2003) and seven years later, their grey trunks still stand, an eery forest of ghost trees. Hill after hill was covered by the sticks, reminding me of Mt. St. Helen’s eruption two decades ago.

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