Having come into a small sum of money, I did what any 40-something man would do. I quit my job, flew to Las Vegas, bought an RV, and took my family on an epic California road trip. My ex-colleagues think I went insane. My wife says I had a mid-life crisis. My tax lady says it’s one of the more novel attempts to avoid tax debt she’s heard of in a while.
All I know is that I have found the key that unlocks any door, if that door is “adventure findable on any open road.” The sense of freedom is undeniable. The scent of the unknown is palpable. The Gypsy Blood is strong in this one, and it beats to the rhythm of my heart as every mile ticks by: the metronome of the road trip.
For our first trip, we decided it had to be something larger than life. Something the kids would remember for the rest of their days. We wanted our kids and their friends to experience things they might never get a chance to see again. In my mind, that meant only one thing. Southern California, and as many theme parks and attractions as we could stuff into a ten-day bag.
The day after Christmas, I woke the kids up at 5:00 am. Santa’s revenge I called it, though they didn’t understand what I meant. “Just get into the RV,” I said. “We’re going on a little adventure.” Stephen, the 11-year-old, his five-year-old sister Arwen, and baby Kai all clambored into the RV, buckled in, and went back to sleep. At least they did until we got to the homes of two of Stephen’s Boy Scout friends. With Jakob and Damian in tow, we began the 1000 mile journey (1083 to be precise!) away from Portland’s cold and rain, to the cloudless, beautiful beaches of San Diego.
The first leg of the journey was the long slog through Oregon, up and over the potentially hazardous Siskiyou mountains. It being late December, we ran the constant chance of a winter storm coming in and the I-5 having to be closed. There’s an alternate route south, winding over to the Pacific coast and the very scenic (but slow!) Highway 101. It would have added four or more hours to the trip.
Fortunately, we had fair winds and favorable skies for almost the entire length of our trip. We only saw residual snow drifts at the highest elevations on the road, including Siskiyou Mountain Summit – a pass that cuts through the range, and also has the distinction of being the highest point along the length of the I-5.
Our descent down from Siskiyou Summit brought us into California, and down past this little giant. I made the mistake of telling the kids that it was Mount Shasta. Turns out it was only Mount Hebron.
No, Mount Shasta makes itself known in glorious ways. A long, wide turn to the left alongside a tall mesa comes along with a sign on the road that says “Vista Point.” With nothing really spectacular to look at, the average traveller might say, “Well, that looks lame” – and then they’ll kick themselves for having not made the exit. The turn takes you past the mesa and there stands Shasta.
Once past the snowy peak, we wound our way down into the foothills and then the great valley, and there made our first food stop: In-N-Out. If you’ve never experienced In-N-Out, all I can tell you is, “I’m sorry.” Everyone else understands. I pounded down a Double Double like I had just been exposed to food for the first time. Honestly. I would have taken pictures, but the burger didn’t last long enough to pose for even one.
I did, however, film the kids with theirs. (Film edited to protect sensitive viewers from watching meaty carnage.)
Sunset came, and California took that opportunity to show the kids how beautiful it can be, even just in the middle of a freeway somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
Night fell, we reached our 12-hour window, and just as everyone was getting too cranky and tired, Sacramento came into range of our sensors. We plotted a course for a quiet little RV Park out on the east side, called Sacramento Shade RV Park. Unfolded all the beds, put everyone in one, then closed off Mrs. Nomad and me in the back, and promptly ended the day.
Epic road trip day one: nothing but driving. Driving, driving, driving, but we’re more than half-way there now. Tomorrow ought to be a piece of cake. Right?
This post is Baby-Kai approved!