Our California Trip: Mistakes, Realizations and Letting Go

Last week we went to California for spring break. We had an interesting time. It was fantastic to catch up with old friends and get a change of scenery. It was also oddly and extraordinarily exhausting and we were pretty relieved to get back home. Many more beautiful pictures, a big mistake and a surprising realization, straight ahead...

So San Francisco is a pretty long drive from Spokane. If you consult Google Maps, they'll say the fastest route is through Central Oregon because it's the most direct route. But the fastest way is to stick to the interstates and use your cruise control. We split the trip into two days each way and stopped over in Oregon for the night each way. On the outbound trip, when we got to J's parents house, Theo had dumped a glass of water in his lap and needed dry clothes. It was then that we realized we had left both the kids clothing bags at home! I had spent all that time doing laundry and packing and it was all just sitting in their bedroom. Seriously. How on earth did we do that? We had their toiletries, Theo's diapers, Coco's hairbrush and hair ties, but we had left both clothing bags. Drrh. Classic tired parents, I guess. But there was nothing to do but get on with things. Obviously we weren't going back. And considering how quickly they're growing and that the seasons are changing, forgetting clothes wasn't the worst thing!

The next day, we all went to Enchanted Forest. Afterward, J and I went to Old Navy and got each of the kids a set of pajamas and a full outfit including pants, t-shirt, sweater or cardigan, and also socks and underwear. Theo's still in diapers, so we didn't get him underwear, but that ended up coming in handy. We did a lot more laundry than one would normally do on a one week trip, but whatever. The first night was the only hairy one. In order to wash the clothes they'd driven down in, we had them each just wear a diaper to bed! Coco thought it was a little strange and also a little fun. Lucky for that!

Our first day in California, we went to the San Francisco Zoo. It's a sweet, small zoo with lots of animals. They all seemed to be putting on a show that day. From the monkeys and chimpanzees, to the polar bear, to the tigers, we saw a lot of action! We even got to see feeding time for the penguins, which was really OCD and the zookeepers wrote down exactly how many fish each penguin ate! The zoo was fun, with my friend Kate and her gorgeous new baby and little girl who's about 6 months younger than Theo. But honestly, the traffic we sat in to get there was so horrendous, I felt a bit off the entire afternoon. I didn't even take any pictures!

The second day, we went to Mt. Tam and it was breathtaking. Everything in California is so green this spring thanks to all the rain they've been having. The traffic getting to Mt. Tam and then the twisty road once we were there were both dreadful. But, car woes aside, can you believe those hills?! What a beautiful place. We were all in love with the vistas, bountiful green and fresh salty sea air.

Coco and Theo did not want to leave! But we knew there'd be more traffic so we headed out. :(

Before Mt. Tam, we'd gone to the Muir Woods and it was so peaceful and serene, even with hoards of tourists everywhere. The trees are so huge and impressive. My sunglasses kept falling backward off my head as I tried to lean back and see the tops! For a long while, we stopped in the shady forest and sat on a bench near the stream and just drifted off into our thoughts, thinking about nothing much at all. It's a lovely place to unplug and relax. And if you don't have little ones with you, you can do longer hikes and get away from all the crowds. Even more rejuvenating!

That night, our old college friend and one of my favorite human beings Jeremy came over for dinner at the apartment we were staying in in Berkeley. My friend Sally and her family were kind enough to let us stay in their apartment while they were in Denmark for spring break. It was so nice to be able to have people over and entertain "at home" while on vacation with the kids. Coco and Theo welcomed Jeremy by planting a whoopee cushion on a chair which Coco invited him to sit in. When it blast off and Jeremy played along, they instantly thought he was the coolest. Good times!

The next day was a big one. We went to Alcatraz! Of course we got on the BART going the wrong way and just barely made it to the dock on time. Then the boat boarded late (naturally!) so we had fussed and stressed for nothing.

Alcatraz was incredible. If you go, you must book ahead. And definitely do the audio tour. It really brings the place alive in a way that just isn't possible when walking through the empty cell house. 

My favorite thing about Alcatraz was the perfect light. It was overcast, so diffused yet bright and with the water all around, the water reflected the light so that it was coming from all angles with no shadows. I took about a billion photos of Coco and Theo. Their matching outfits were a total coincidence if you'll believe it. Theo's is from Old Navy (many pieces from the clearance rack due to aforementioned mistake;) and Coco's is from a bag of Goodwill clothes Sally told me about in their apartment after I'd texted with her and told her our clothing snafu. Synchronicity!

We sailed back to San Francisco and met up with one of my college sorority sisters for tacos in North Beach. She decided last fall to quit her job in finance (after 12 years!) and travel for six months. She went to New Zealand, Burma, Florida, the Northwest and just a few days before we saw her, returned to the Bay Area. We had some deep chats and talked about the big things in life: values, priorities, making a difference and feeling fulfilled. It was pretty good stuff.

And then, we were ready to leave and go home a day early. We got up early, laundered all the bedding and remade the beds, made some lunch and then hit the road. We stayed over in Medford and I'm so glad we got home in time to have a day to regroup before Monday. The trip was nothing short of exhausting. We did learn two fun things: Coco is a budding photographer and having a great time of it! And, cake pops really can make all the difference on a road trip. According to J our trip "was fueled by cake pops" and it is no exaggeration. I kept a couple, unbeknownst to the children, in my purse or the glove compartment. At a particularly low moment, I'd whip them out and everything would be calm again. Thank goodness for the cake pop! It also didn't hurt to have the iPad and an old iPhone 4S for the kids to play with. Volume governed headphones mandatory!

As I had mentioned in this post, we had a lot on our minds during spring break. I actually had an interview scheduled while we were there (completely random coincidence) that I ended up cancelling, because it's so crowded and overpriced and miserable, we'd never have a shot at getting back the lifestyle we miss there. While going through Portland, we stopped in our old neighborhood, walked the kids past our old apartment and watched them play in the courtyard. It was completely surreal. On the way back to the car, down the alleyway J and I have walked down so many times, we pulled some blossoms off of a tree and put them in the car for the drive. 

It felt good to cancel that interview and to know that the Bay Area is definitely not the answer for us. And it was nice to go back to our former home in Portland and feel no nostalgia or pull to go back there. Still, I had a lot of questions on my mind on the way home. As we approached the Tri-Cities, we drove straight into this storm, encountering it for the third time. It had hit Berkeley hard and soaked all of us through when we were walking home from the BART after Alcatraz. It raged all night, complete with thunder and lighting. Then, we encountered it again about 24 hours later in the mountains above Lake Shasta. That time it was snow and it made driving rather terrifying. And then there it was, still blowing up and to the east, still letting all that water go. As the drops began to splatter our windshield and J flipped the wipers on, I felt a strange sense of release. I took a deep breath. Then I exhaled, let my shoulders fall and felt something just go.


  1. Traveling with young kids is always exhausting. Once they're older it's gonna get easier (I'm guessing! Mine are two and four).

    We once drove an hour toward my in laws house for Christmas before realizing we'd left an entire suitcase of necessities behind. Had to turn around and go back for it. Both kids fussy as heck at the time too. Yikes.

    1. I'm so embarrassed to admit that this was the second time we've gone on a trip and forgotten a bag!!! SO TIRED. I have to agree with you that it will get easier. I just must! ;) xx


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