Family

check-in-the box (Part II)

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The hubs sits across from me in the office.  He feels bad that we drag our three sons to work with us during the week.  What kind of a summer vacation is that?

I remind him of the observations I have made over the years.  Our sons could easily be in our home plugged into PCs, phones and iPods over the entire summer break.  I could be shuttling them to planned activities, camps, theaters or theme parks to entertain them.  But would I be spending quality time with them?

Down time from the constant to and fro of the school year is welcome.  There are no summer bridge books this year.  Two of my sons choose to read, on their own, because they want to.  The growing teens sleep for ten hours; sprawled across couches and chairs in our conference room and offices.  When needed all of the boys assist with sorting parts in the shop.   In another week our lazy, summer days will be over as the shuttling begins in earnest and the back-to-school month of August begins.

Each month, this summer break, we have had an unplugged activity.  I hadn’t realized I was doing this until the boys brought it to my attention on our trek home from the in-laws’ mining site up north.  Over spring break we had traveled across four state lines and within our own state’s boundaries; we accrued more mileage than the four states combined in one week.   What seemed like a simple excursion to break up our drive unknowingly became an adventure all of its own.

The hubs and I are native Californians but we never truly appreciated our golden state until he was stationed in various places throughout the country and traveled overseas. Ironically, last weekend, we returned to the central coast; the area I am from.  But growing up in this region is a vastly different experience when you are an adult.  As a teenager I drove my girlfriends to local beaches but never ventured further afield; aside from field trips to museums or Hearst Castle.  Four years ago I had attempted to take this route north but the highway had been closed to rockslides.

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After camping with the in-laws at their gold mining claim we had left late; moving boulders from dirt roads so that when my in-laws left their site in a week’s time their trailer will avoid the bumps in their path.  Their trailer tire had been flattened and we hope the patched rubber will allow them to ascend to the main road to a tire repair shop thirty miles away.   When we finally obtained cell reception the GPS chirped that we would not arrive at our half-way point  until nighttime; defeating the main purpose.  I longed to see the steep cliffs along the Pacific Ocean in daylight.  I sighed.  At least I would finally have facilities and running water; namely a shower.  After four days and copious layers of Repel mosquito repellent; I pined for soap suds and shampoo.  I called our lodging destination to let them know we would be a late arrival at 10 PM.  We enjoyed our dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory, surprisingly another first, and after a brief gas stop, we were making good time; merrily on our way.

In the dark, as we traversed rolling hills, the hubs commented that my SUV was acting funny.  And within five minutes our engine cut-off and we found ourselves coasting to the side of the road near the intersection of two highways; in the middle of nowhere.  This section between the two major north-south thoroughfares of our vast state is sparsely populated; at the San Andreas fault line.  There are no lights and as trucks blazed by I saw the worried lines on my middle son’s forehead.  The youngest blissfully unaware, chattered about various topics.  The eldest and hubs went under the hood; in hopes of a quick fix.  It was 10:30 PM.

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An hour and a half later the hubs diagnosed fuel pump failure and the Triple AAA tow truck was on its way.  The last time we called for towing it had been for my cousin; stuck at the entrance of Kings Canyon National Park two years ago as we waited alongside.  It had taken over five hours, of northern and southern regions arguing which was responsible; for her vehicle to finally get towed.  Thankfully, by ten miles we had crossed into the southern region.  In the pitch black of the night the affable driver fit our family of five.  The planets had aligned.  Unable to reach our original lodging destination to let them know we would not be arriving, a hotel cancellation near the repair shop allowed us a room at a 45% discounted rate; dog included.  In the midst of full occupancy  rooms and the Mid-state Fair in full swing; we had been extremely fortunate.   It was 1:30 AM.  The hubs grinned.  Our trip was full of spontaneity.

By 2 PM the next day we were road trippin’ out.  We passed the various wineries of the region; knowing one day I would return here again to explore them.  But for now we headed north on the route closed four years earlier; the route I’ve only been on once before at age sixteen on another family vacation with my late cousin.  My own childhood home lies on this road, further south.

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And as the miles were logged and the windows rolled down, I could finally, once again, breathe.   One of my favorite songs came to mind; one that always makes me think of home.  I stuck my arm out the window in-flight and saw the son directly behind me do the same.

Get your motor running
California Interstate 1
Pacific Coast Party
If you’ve got to work today
Get yourself a new vocation
Pacific Coast Party
You don’t have to mind Father Time, Mother Nature
Get yourself in line take your time
And watch it slip away ~ Smash Mouth (2001) Interscope Records

Time moved in slow motion.  Upon missing the parking lot for Piedras Blancas we made the next left and found ourselves away from the crowds.  We hiked to the elephant seals to enjoy them in solitude.

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We made many stops along the way; unhurried.  When the hubs asked where I wanted to pull over for a picnic, he had already moved off the road to a grassy, flat area.  I rejected this idea and as he huffed about my lack of spontaneity, pulling back on PCH, I spotted the rock jutting out from the shoreline.

Over there is perfect!

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He asked me again if I was sure, dubious on how we would hike there.  But, always the trailblazer, he found a worn, overgrown trail that went over a mud bog and a fence.  And finally, we were climbing the rock; overlooking the depths below as waves crashed at the base.  The sounds of the Pacific Ocean filled our senses; various shades of blue seen for miles in panoramic.

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We noted several cars temporarily parked next to our own; the occupants hoping to find their way towards us.  But the mud bog and fence were a deterrent and we were able to monopolize this particular vista; all to ourselves.  When we decided to finally leave, two hours had passed us by.

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Our gas station stops were scenic and interesting.  At Ragged Point I went in search of expresso and became distracted with the amazing view.  Hours later in Carmel I finally obtained the expresso and as we crossed through Monterey and the scenic coastal valley where a large portion of our agricultural crops are grown, we headed south.

Didn’t we start here?  the middle son asked.

We crossed over the mountains and fault line we had been stuck at the night before.  Yes.  We had just been here twenty four hours before; traveling 143 miles on PCH and 116 miles on the 101.  We still had the long trek home (this was our halfway point from our camping destination up north).   The windows remained down, the radio turned off.  We had a day’s worth of uninterrupted family time; stuck within the confines of my SUV.  Our spontaneous detour was quite memorable.

I will always associate road trips with quality time; learning about the other four inhabitants of my family, our furry canine and even myself.  I was thankful my fuel pump had gone out; extending our family vacation an extra day.

There is a new road, or mishap, that awaits us around every bend.  It’s always our choice to decide how to handle it; as a detour or as an adventure.

I continue to learn spontaneity and I put the check-in-the box for Big Sur.  I choose adventure.  Someday I hope my sons will too.

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