Have you ever seen the comedy movie National Lampoon’s Vacation? The Griswold family takes a road trip across the country to Wally World, and succumb to several mishaps along the way. The opening credits roll to the catchy tune of “Holiday Road” by Lindsey Buckingham.
Image Credit: Courtesy Everett Collection
I’m never playing “Holiday Road” to start a road trip ever again.
The minivan was packed. Travel games galore were in easy reach of our 10, 8 & 4 year old boys. My meticulously planned itinerary was a glance away as we began our 3,000 mile, 55+ hour adventure from San Diego, CA to see my sister in Seattle, WA.
Everyone was excited for our first stop, a town just outside Sequoia National Park. The plan was to get some sleep and head into the woods first thing after breakfast. It would have been a great plan, if we’d ever made it to the hotel. About half way there we coasted into a gas station with an overheated van at just after 5:00 PM, when all the mechanic shops were closed.
“This will be an easy fix,” I told my husband as we unloaded into a freshly booked hotel to await the morning so we could find a mechanic. “We’ll be back on the road in no time.”
My assurance started looking pretty dismal after the second mechanic told us he couldn’t help us out, either. Luckily, third time’s the charm! With a new radiator cap, we were on our way to the Sequoias. The park was beautiful and we were sorry to see it in our rear-view so soon, but we had a schedule to keep.
We arrived at our second hotel with grateful hearts to match the ambiance of the quaint woodland atmosphere complete with string lights and outdoor seating nooks everywhere. Directly outside of Yosemite National Park, our plan was the same: good sleep then hit the forest first thing. The traffic to get into Yosemite proved too much for the van once again. Idling, we realized how quickly the van’s temperature gauge flew towards red. Unless the van moved, the engine cooked – and the van moved very little as we inched our way towards the park entrance.
Yosemite was a gorgeous place to take the kids hiking while the van’s engine cooled off. We ate some lunch and saw a deer so close to us that he could have had a bite as well. The breeze cooled off the sun’s rays as water cascaded off surrounding mountains and continued on past our feet.
Making our way towards stop three, Mount Shasta, we detoured into Sacramento for some supplies. Traffic in the city reminded us of our urgent repair needs. Sitting outside the grocery store, I began calling the local mechanics – at 4:00 PM on a Saturday. The stars aligned again and we found someone. Unfortunately, upon looking it over, he asked us to stay in town and come back in the morning.
Sorry, Mount Shasta. Maybe next time.
Under the circumstances, I think we did rather well. They were open on a Sunday, and they had air conditioning. Of course, we couldn’t leave the waiting area because it was 115 degrees outside and we were in a terrible part of the city. The boys were amazing, playing and entertaining themselves for eight… yes, eight… full hours of repairs.
Finally released at 5:00 PM from Sacramento, I was hell-bent on reaching our next hotel over 9 hours away. This was the one I’d wanted to see, and it did not disappoint – even as we pulled up at 3:00 in the morning. Hello Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood, OR. We were so grateful they’d held our room that when our 4 year old when fell out of bed about 20 minutes later, we merely snickered and scooped him back up. We woke surrounded by snow in the summer and gorgeous 360 degree views as we played next to the year-round ski slopes.
You may not believe it at this point, but that night we finally reached my sister’s house. Our van’s A/C, however, didn’t. My brother-in-law knew a mechanic (here we go again) so we dropped it off after a whirlwind Seattle sightseeing trip from the top of the Space Needle to Seattle’s Underground Tour, buried after the city burned in 1889.
My sister and nephew knew a great hike to a waterfall near their home. The trail was shaded and breezy, and slightly covered in dead leaves, branches and rocks. I mention this because the way back down caught me on my backside, with my leg pinned under me. Thankful not to have broken anything, I limped down the rest of the trail with my husband practically carrying me.
With a fixed A/C in the van, we departed Seattle for the trip home.
With a broken A/C in the van, we arrived at Cannon Beach, OR to see the tide pools. I’m positive they were abundant with sea life, but my bum leg would not allow me to get down to the beach. The boys enjoyed the beach time, and the cold waves of ocean that the Pacific Northwest offers all summer.
Arriving in Arcata, CA and still limping after three days, I can at least say I made it into the Redwoods, amidst the gloriously tall trees on the easiest “hiking” trail available. Perhaps I should have consulted a doctor about that knee.
For our final hoorah, we ventured over the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco. It was a sight to behold, surely, if it weren’t for all the traffic reroutes due to the follow day’s annual marathon! Who knew?
As we traveled slowly home down winding Highway 1 to catch the sea breeze, my husband and I couldn’t help but think how perfectly imperfect it all had been. There were tears, certainly, but they were swept away with smiles and laughter as each mishap turned itself into a new adventure.
If you enjoy these ramblings, please take a moment to subscribe to this blog via email!