I had a romantic notion of driving the Pacific Coast Highway. And yes, there truly is something romantic about the way you can come around a curve and find yourself inside the most beautiful postcard shot with shimmering waves and majestic cliffs...it's breath-taking. It's also a lot of driving.
The way I planned the trip didn't actually have us getting to the coast until the 4th day, which I almost felt bad about, like I was cheating by calling it a "PCH trip." The most accurate name for the trip would have been "A Drive from Seattle to LA" and the subhead could have been "Mostly on the PCH." But whatever, it was my vacation and I called it the PCH trip.
We flew into Seattle at night and I loved it right away (well, right after the hour-long wait at the Hertz rental counter) - it felt different than most cities I've visited and I liked that. We checked into our super cute room at the Maxwell Hotel (whose slogan, "Meet me at the pineapple," is so adorable that they almost didn't even need to be as good as they were, but they were).
|The Maxwell Hotel|
|Three Girls Bakery|
It just doesn't seem possible that people are walking around having no clue who Nirvana is. And that, my friends, is how you know you're old. Sigh.
We ate some ridiculously good sushi for lunch. We ordered Owen fried gyoza, and then he had the revelation that he actually likes shrimp nigiri and California rolls, which is a pretty enormous breakthrough for a picky eater with texture issues. (Seriously, getting him to try the stuff was more than I could have hoped, but the fact that he likes it is amazing.)
Dinner that night was at Ivar's Salmon House. It came recommended somewhere as being kid-friendly and having a nice view. Both of these things are true. The salmon was great. The kids were happy. That made us happy. We all went back to the hotel and slept.
The next morning was the first day of road tripping! After a repeat visit to Pike Place (the kids really loved those pastries from Three Girls) and a stop at Freeway Park (which we had seen on as the site of the parkour competition on Jump City: Seattle), we were on our way to Portland.
Although it could have been just a 2-3 hour drive, we decided to detour over to Astoria to visit the Goonies house. The one were Sean Astin and Josh Brolin's characters lived (a.k.a., the reason they needed to find all that gold) Yes, it's a real house! People actually live there though, so you can only see the outside.
Soon we were back on the road for Portland, where we arrived just barely in time to get ready for our fancy dinner because...I forgot to mention this...it was our 10-year wedding anniversary! A 6 o'clock dinner with my children was not how I pictured my 10-year anniversary, but in the grand scheme of things, it was perfect.
We ate at the Portland City Grill because it appeared slightly fancy, had a nice view (it's in a skyscraper) and seemed doable with the kids. I had noted in our reservation that it was our anniversary and when we arrived, the table was decorated for the occasion and we got a card signed by the waitstaff...I mean, seriously? It was really a sweet gesture.
|Thanks, Portland City Grill!|
A note about the Hotel Monaco Portland: The hotel is really nice, but I thought I had booked a suite with a bedroom that is separate from the living room with the sofa bed (because, hello, it was our 10-year anniversary), but instead, we found that the "wall" was actually a fancy curtain. It was all one big room. An expensive big room.
After Portland, we headed straight out to the coast. Here's where my trip planning began to break down. I hadn't noticed that we'd be passing directly through Oregon wine country. We seriously passed a dozen vineyards and wineries and didn't stop at any of them because 1) we needed to get to our next stop before dinner and 2) I didn't think the kids would enjoy it. Lame, I know.
We ate MN State Fair-quality Pronto Pups on the side of the road for lunch and then we finally hit the 101 and the ocean! It was so exciting to finally see it after that long day of driving through grassy fields.
The drive down the Oregon coast is really gorgeous. Scenic views and lots of tiny cute towns.
So anyway, I didn't love Florence as an overnight destination, but the next morning it redeemed itself when we went to the Dunes. If you've never seen them, the Dunes are just the craziest thing...sitting there between ocean and forest, is just miles and miles of sand. It looks like the desert.
We decided to go for a sandrail tour, which is basically someone driving you through the dunes at 60 mph for 30 minutes. It was amazing and also terrifying at times, as the drivers are trained to shoot straight up a dune, only to then make a sharp turn and fly back down it, and repeat.
|You can't see the terror behind the goggles.|
Owen, on the other hand, loved it. He could not get enough. While Aidan sobbed about it being the worst thing ever, Owen exclaimed that he would like to go on it a million more times. So I guess that sort of balanced out my parental guilt...plus, it was sort of a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so I'm glad we all did it together.
From here it was a lot, a lot, a lot of driving. Scenic driving, yes. But still a lot of driving. And I say this as the person who never did any of the driving. Thank goodness my husband loves to drive.
We eventually found ourselves among the redwoods, which is always magical. Those trees make you feel so tiny.
|Misty and everything|
The next morning, we crossed the street to see the Trees of Mystery attraction, which is pretty much a path through a section of the redwoods and then a gondola ride up the mountain. It's lovely. I'd recommend it as a stop as you're passing through this section of the redwoods, but not as a must-do destination.
I was more than ready to get to San Francisco by this time. However, I think I was a tiny bit ambitious in the distances I expected us to cover everyday. This day had a few mishaps with switching to the 1 from the 101 and we ended up on the windiest, narrowest roads I've ever experienced in America (again, thank goodness I wasn't the one driving). But, in the end, we made it to the Golden Gate Bridge right at sunset.
We stayed in a nice hotel in San Francisco and I was more than happy to oblige the kids' request for room service dinner. Ahhhh, amenities.
I ♥ San Francisco. Truly, deeply, I do. We got to stay for two full days, which was wonderful but not even close to enough. Of course we rode the trolley, saw the sea lions, had ice cream at Ghirardelli, Irish coffees at Buena Vista, dim sum in Chinatown, and pasta in Littly Italy. We even hit the playground in Golden Gate Park, which was a surprise highlight. It's easy to get so focused on "sights" that you forget that kids really just want to play.
I definitely entertained a fantasy of moving there to write novels and take the kids to the playground every afternoon. I believe I even suggested that maybe we try it for a year...there's only the slight issue of my husband trying to run his improv theater from afar.
None of us wanted to leave San Francisco, but the kids had Legoland to look forward to and my husband and I were excited to finally see some friends on this trip, so off we went in our Nissan Rogue...
Again, it was a long drive for a single day and it was hard to fully enjoy the scenery when all you really wanted to do was get there. What I'm saying is, if I had truly wanted to enjoy the PCH, I should have booked more stops in between cities, but the reality is that I like being in cities better than enjoying nature...a point I might have overlooked slightly when imagining this trip.
We got to make a pitstop at Pismo Beach, which I had never heard of, but my husband recognized as an old favorite of Bugs Bunny, which led us to discussing the "Kill the wabbit" song and thanks to technology, I was able to pull up the full "What's Opera, Doc?" cartoon and show it the the boys in the backseat as we drove. I love the future!
(This might be the appropriate place to tell you that no, we did not have a DVD player for the trip. The boys each have a Nintendo DS and an iPod Shuffle, but Aidan gets carsick, so we actually talked a lot.)
Pismo Beach was worthwhile if only because I got the shot that I already showed you, but will show you again because I love it so much.
We also had a lovely McDonald's dinner in Santa Barbara (which Aidan pronounces like Hanna-Barbera) before rolling into LA at 10 p.m. There was brief unpleasantness thanks to there being no bedding on the sofa bed where the boys needed to sleep, but that was remedied and we all went to bed.
LA was all about friends. We met my former editor from the college paper(!) with his wife and son at Legoland, which was super fun. We got to meet our friends' baby (who is now 1) for the first time and catch up with several other friends. And I got to go out without any children with one of my oldest BFFs. Yay!
We even got to spend an afternoon at the pool...the pool on the roof of our hotel, looking out at the Hollywood Hills. It was awesome. And I had a pina colada in the sun...and then I was struck by the notion that we could have so easily just gone on a beach vacation for those whole 12 days. Rather than driving next to the ocean, we could have been laying next to it..ah, yes, but that wasn't the point of this trip.
The point of this trip was to see the coast, take the kids to places they'd never been, and have an adventure...and to cross off #11 on my 40 by 40 list! Success on all fronts.
But the point of the next trip is definitely going to be to do as little as possible.