International Writers Magazine: Travel
Weeks on the Road with Teenagers Vacation Paradise?
wife and I have two teenage sons 16 and 14. Were
going on a family vacation to explore California. The elder son
is soccer mad and we shall be on the road during the World Cup.
Were planning to cover 2000 miles in the middle of summer
often miles from any civilization and any TV. Even my 16 year
old son doesnt have enough music on his iPod to get him
cramped car, hours of driving, boredom, bickering, flailing legs and
arms encroaching on each others precious space. iPods blaring in each
others air space, hours to the next Rest Area, sounds like fun doesnt
Actually, we had a blast. We spent three weeks on the road, hiked in
the mountains, lazed on the beach, had a snowball fight, canoed on an
alpine lake, shopped in downtown LA , got very hot in the desert, cycled
across the Golden Gate bridge and saw some wonderful wildlife and spectacular
scenery. Bored not a chance. Cramped never. Oh
and we managed to see every England football game too.
So just how do you survive such a trip? Easy you do it in an
RV. In our case, a 29ft motor home. We had done this before in
the Canadian Rockies a couple of years ago and we all loved it.
We flew into San Francisco and soon we were standing beside what would
be our new home for the next three weeks. Renting an RV is similar to
renting any other vehicle with one important exception. Buying
the correct RV miles package is crucial so know how far you plan
to drive as additional miles afterwards can be expensive. Half of the
fun of an RV trip is planning the route beforehand. We had the added
complication of trying to match our itinery with that of Beckham and
the rest of the England team nine hours removed. One tip
youre going to be spending a lot of time together so paying for
a little more room is money well spent. Our 29 ft home had a separate
double bedroom and the boys had the choice of sleeping above the cab,
on the sofa or on the converter bed. We had lots of room and were never
quite sure where we would find them in the morning.
Before receiving the keys, we had to view a comprehensive video showing
us how much fun we were about to have. Although eager to get started,
it was useful to learn how to do all the hooking up filling the
water tanks, connecting into mains electricity and yes, dumping the
sewage. Make sure the kids watch this theyll be the ones
well, you know. So it was time to take ownership of this baby. First
job unpack and stow the suitcases. Everything was easily stowed in the
ample cupboards on board. Books, iPods, drinks and snacks all strategically
placed within easy reach
. of the boys that is. No more digging
around in the trunk looking for some phantom socks. We checked the map
and we were ready to explore.
With "California Dreaming" playing on the CD and expecting
to see the Beach Boys any moment, I settled into the drivers seat. It
felt more like an armchair I was comfortable in about half a
second. "OK boys, where to?" I asked. Beach, mountains or
into the National Parks ? "Supermarket" my wife replied -
and she was serious . Despite the urge to get out onto the open road
and feed our pioneering spirit, we had to show great restraint and head
for the nearest supermarket that had a good size parking lot where we
could commandeer half a dozen parking places. But first some essential
groundrules. Remember how tall the RV is fortunately we
had the height posted right in front of the driver. Amazing how now
you actually pay attention to those bridge height signs. Then we went
through the reversing routine before every reversing maneuver,
the boys were dispatched from the RV and posted at each of the rear
corners so that they could be seen one in each wing mirror
so they could guide me in. Be prepared to say often and loudly
"I cant see you"!
And so we finally pull out onto the public highway. I feel as though
we should have at least a police escort for something this size. We
find the first supermarket with a reasonable sized parking lot
other RVers are already there. No-one pays attention to how well
you park this first time. Parallel parking comes later (Im joking).
We abandon the RV (this time Im not joking) and hurry away before
someone associates this appalling parking with us. We load the fridge
freezer and find all sorts of cubby holes to store our supplies. Were
stocked and ready to go.
With the navigator in place, map at the ready, the boys plugged into
their iPods with feet up, we pull away. I feel like a truck driver embarking
on a mission with precious cargo I suppose thats what it
was really. We head south on Californias Pacific Coast Highway
Route 1. We havent been driving for 10 minutes before one
of the boys asks for a drink. Sure the fridge is full. By the
time we have driven for an hour, drinks, snacks, magazines and abandoned
shoes and socks are strewn through the van. The boys are more horizontal
than sitting. The van resembles a cross between our living room and
the boys bedrooms already. I guess you could say we have made
ourselves at home.
We head for Los Angeles but were in no hurry. The road
runs along the Pacific coast and the scenery is breathtaking. Its
heading for lunchtime and were getting hungry. We pull into a
small parking lot by a remote beach. Sheena prepares lunch we
have a microwave, four ring cooker and oven - what more could a girl
desire? We eat at the table whilst watching others struggle with their
picnics down to the beach. After lunch, one of the boys washes and puts
the dishes away (and yes, we have just about every dish and utensil
you are likely to need). "Were supposed to be on vacation"
moan the boys as they do their chores. Maybe it was a little bit too
much like home.
Although we had our own itinery, it was flexible and if we wanted to
spend more time in any one place we did. We went to the beach ! As others
returned to their cars encrusted in sand, we stepped into our own hot
shower and changed before driving on.
visited Monterey, took the famous 17 mile drive admiring the Pacific
breakers on the right and gawping at the mansions of the rich and
famous on the left. We drove through Pebble Beach and stopped to
walk around Carmel. Didnt see Clint but the mission is well
worth a visit. Further down the coast near Morro Bay, we pulled
over to see a hundred elephant seals dozing on the beach. They were
apparently adolescent males who were just hanging out here for a
few weeks. The comparison with two teenage boys was not lost on
us. It was awesome to see this natural wildlife up so close.
Although we had
pre-booked some of the campgrounds before our trip, there were many
evenings when we just showed up and took what we could. Most sites had
a full hook up though we did stay in some with absolutely nothing. One
was on a hilltop overlooking the Pacific. At night, after we had finished
our meal outdoors and the camp fire had died down, we were treated to
a sky emblazoned with millions of stars and the sound of waves crashing
ashore. It was perfect.
We left the relative isolation of the coast and soon headed into the
traffic of Santa Monica as we approached LA. We decided to explore LA
by bus - no point fighting the traffic in an RV. From the hubbub of
the city, we headed towards Death Valley passing through the Alabama
Hills and the Mojave desert. This was Bonanza country. We had a well
stocked fridge, enough food to feed an army AND we had air conditioning.
We stopped wherever and whenever there was something to photograph,
needed to eat or needed the rest room. No more having to run behind
trees (which would have been difficult in the desert).
We continued north towards the snow capped peak of Mount Whitney
the highest point in the contiguous US. Needless to say, we stopped
often and explored. And so we headed like good tourists - into
Yosemite. We traversed a couple of passes lots of very winding,
steep bends forever climbing or descending the mountainside.
You have to concentrate on these roads but you are rewarded with breathtaking
scenery. As I carefully coaxed my 29ft baby around each corner believing
I was the largest rig on the road, around the next bend would come hurtling
a Winebago that put us in the shade. We spent three days in Yosemite
hiking among the Redwoods, admiring the waterfalls, driving up
to 10,000 ft and even enjoying a snowball fight with boys (even in late
June) before heading towards Lake Tahoe.
could easily spend a month in Yosemite alone. In Tahoe we hiked,
lay on the beach, took the canoe out on the freezing water (trust
me on this one), imbibed the fresh, clear air and generally took
in the spectacular scenery of snow clad peaks surrounding us. We
enjoyed Tahoe so much we decided to stay an extra day before heading
back to San Francisco. What itinery ?
We covered almost
2000 miles in three weeks. We played on the beach and in the snow, we
drove through the desert and over mountain passes. We saw wonderful
wildlife, experienced the glamour of Hollywood and witnessed some of
the worlds best scenery. We often stood outside at night, watching
the millions of stars with nothing but cicadas as neighbours. Then we
would climb back into the RV, brush our teeth and turn off the lights.
It was good to be home.
© Chris Zawistowicz
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