View Larger Map
California is big.
Now I’ve always known this, even before I lived here and started driving around. I’ve driven from north to south and deep into the middle, too. And I’m not afraid of road trips; I’ve driven across country once (spending the better part of a day crossing Pennsylvania, before I knew people I would like to visit) and once, when a friend and I were 100 miles into a trip before realizing we’d forgotten something, we happily turned around to get it and set off again. Good company, good songs on the radio, some snacks along the way — what’s not to like about a road trip?
Road trips with the kids, of course, are another story. Our first big (over 2 hour) drive with Ben was when he was just a bit over two. We flew the red eye from San Francisco to Washington, DC (no sleep), drove from DC to Richmond, Virginia (no sleep) and then, after breakfast, drove from Richmond to the Outer Banks. For the last leg, I was in the back seat, crammed next to Ben, my sister driving and niece in the passenger seat. They might as well have been in another country, doing the snack-music-conversation thing happily while I read George and Martha Tons of Fun over and over again. Tons of fun it may be for George and Martha, but not for me, not for seven hours. (Thank goodness, it was a great vacation, and as I recall, Tony did Ben duty on the drive back).
A road trip doesn’t have to be long to be rough. When Eli was a little bit, we’d drive into the city most days from our temporary house in Marin, to take Ben to preschool and check the progress of our renovation. Often we’d have dinner with friends in the city before driving the twelve miles back to Marin, and I would spend the drive with my arm stretched back, straining out of its socket, trying to give squalling Eli a finger to suck, until I gave up, unbuckled my seat belt and climbed into the back to comfort him (or, more accurately, myself).
Luckily the kids are pretty good travelers these days — luckily because there’s a lot of California to see! Over the last weekend, we drove 9 1/2 hours to Yosemite and back, put about 500 miles on the car, ate one box of Trader Joe’s mini peanut butter crackers, half a dozen Z Bars, a bag of dried mango, a bag of roasted almonds, some carrot sticks and a lot of dry cereal. We listened to Dan Zanes, Chris Molla, The Beatles, Maroon 5, and Diablo’s Dust. We played 20 Questions (more on that later). Although we timed our drives to coincide with Eli’s naps, he napped a total of 2 out of the 9 1/2 hours. And yet, we did it all without any tears or many raised voices.
I think we’ll do this again.