Friday, 3 January 2014

The Road is Long...

Three days have passed now since the Velo Family returned from our Christmas Holiday on the Pacific Coast. While I'm glad to be home in my comfortable bed and familiar places, it is always sad to see the end to a holiday, especially one with so many memorable moments. Our whirlwind tour of San Francisco left us wanted more but grateful for what we did experience, and the unseasonably warm weather in Venice Beach and Los Angeles gave us some much needed fun times in the sun. It was the trip home, however, that inspired our journey to begin with. Since moving to the West Coast in 2007, it has been a dream of my husband and I to drive along the Pacific Coast Highway and see all the natural beauty we'd only seen in movies. So with about four days until our rental car needed to be returned, we set off North from Venice Beach for the slow, jaw-dropping trip home.
This trip I also rediscovered my fear
of tunnels through mountains!
A washroom break in Morro Bay gave us this
lovely and unexpected view
Our first day of travel would take us to Santa Cruz, CA, with stops along the way whoever the mood caught us. It truly was more beautiful than I could ever have expected. Having just spent three days along the Coast, I was well aware of the majesty of the waves, but nothing could have prepared me for spectacle of the massive waves meeting the cliffs along the coast. Words and photos could never truly depict the reality, and I was instantly thankful for our determination to do this trip, despite the obstacles we faced on our trip down from Vancouver. With many stops along the way, what should have been a seven hour trip quickly became nearly double that, meaning we didn't have the time or the daylight left to take a walk through Big Sur and see the giant redwoods. It's always good to have excuses to come back though!
We also met this guy in Morro Bay, just hanging out having a nap with his buddies

It's hard to complain when this is
the backdrop to your road trip!

The next few days saw much of the same, with many more stops along the coast, including a return to Cannon Beach, OR and some self-indulgent stops in Astoria, OR to visit the Goonies House, and Snoqualmie Falls in Washington to see the iconic scene featured in the opening of the 90's TV series, Twin Peaks, and a stop for some cherry pie and a "darn good cup of coffee". When we finally reached our front door, the whole family was exhausted and thankful to be out of the rental car and in the warmth of our home. After settling back in, I had time to reflect on our travels, and what new perspectives the journey gave me.

Muir Woods just outside of San Francisco is surprisingly busy on Sundays, so we were forced to discover Muir Beach instead...what a shame ;) 
The kids in awe seeing the beach from "The Goonies". I've yet to see Cannon Beach not covered in fog. One day...
Even though it's not sunny like California, the Pacific Northwest is home to many beautiful landscapes as well, like the majestic Snoqualmie Falls.
With views like this, it was
worth travelling by car

Not so much a revelation, but one thing I appreciate from our trip is that most of what I was able to see and experience on the coast we could not have done without a car. There is little access to many of the places we stopped unless they were more well populated places like Santa Cruz or Cannon Beach, where bus lines and travel groups are organized to allow people to travel there. I do know people who have cycled along the Pacific Coast Highway, but haven driven past many brave people on two-wheels, it is not an activity for the faint of heart, rubbing shoulders with fast moving cars and breathing in exhaust along the way. So had we not buckled down and rented a car, our trip would have been missing all the spontaneous stops along the beautiful coastline.

The view from one of our many spontaneous stops along the way
Winding our way along the
California Coast
The view on a windy morning in Santa Cruz.
There are certainly worse places to have a stopover during a road trip!
They were always much happier when not
trapped in the back seat of a car

What I also learned is that I don't miss long car trips at all. My entire childhood was spent like most other people my age. Road trips with the family to visit relatives long distances away, for family camping trips, and even the long haul from Southern Ontario to Florida for a stay in Disney World. Even as adults, Chris and I would make similar trips throughout Ontario and Quebec to see friends and family. Now, after almost four years without a car, I have forgotten the monotony of long car trips, and the stress of driving itself. Be it our car trouble on the highway heading into Los Angeles, or the never-ending winding roads along the coast, it was not long before I was dreaming of the relaxing experience of travelling by train or plane. And then there was our children, not accustomed to being stuck in small spaces for hours on end. Without making you relive our trials and tribulations of siblings fighting or car-sickness, I can tell you I am not eager to get back into a car for an extended period with my kids any time soon.

After our eleven day road trip, I feel
like we have so much to be thankful
for and to look forward to!

Our family road trip over Christmas was epic to say the least, and a very long time coming. We have some wonderful memories that will stay with us always, as well as a continued desire to explore all that the Pacific Coast has to offer. My husband and I can now officially mark some 'to-do's' of our travel list, and add a few more for future travels. We have also re-affirmed our choice to live car-free, fully understanding all the stress and cost involved with car-ownership. We certainly don't regret our decision to take this slow, car-centred trip, as we were able to have experiences we wouldn't have had otherwise, but we also know we won't be rushing off to the dealership anytime soon to get a car of our own. In the end, it was exactly the trip we wanted and needed to take, satiating our need for travel for the time being, and leaving us excited for family adventures to come!

Chris and I share a geek moment from our childhood at the Goonies house
Oh no! The Fremont Troll in Seattle has our kids! Poor guy ;)


  1. It's always nice to read about your travels as you talk about so many different aspects apart from the places you've been to. This reminded me of our trip in April when we went by bus from Van to Portland, by train from Portland to San Fran and then rented a car to go back to Seattle along the coast and through some beautiful regions in California, Oregon and Washington. Living a car-free life and also being used to shorter distances in Europe, I was also glad to return the car afterwards as you just spend too much time in it during these few days. However, it really gives you a lot of flexibility on such a trip.

    1. I completely agree, Andreas. Although, we are now looking at doing the trip by train next time. Much more relaxing ;)