Last week I left my home town for a drive to California and back with my daughters, me the sole driver and lots to do on the ground, so not much time to write. I feel like I’m seeing too much too fast, and at a shallow level, that I can’t do any of it justice in print. For once we’ve arrived at our stopover before bedtime, so here I am.
As for schools, so far we’ve toured Santa Clara University, University of California Santa Cruz, Occidental College, and Chapman University. We will do our duty and visit the appropriate home state campuses later, as well as several in Canada. We’re trying to see what each offers and discern the mission and priorities of each and see if the ones that cost so much more would still be worth applying to. Of course Canada’s the best deal by sticker price, but my daughter so wants to study in California. #1 pick so far is UC Santa Cruz, second Santa Clara. More on our impressions later.
I spent all of a day and a half planning the itinerary before leaving, which took care of the first four days: basically a straight run south on the interstate, munching baby carrots and listening to audiobooks to stay alert, a stopover at Grant’s Pass, then down to Santa Clara, where we started our campus tours. Between Santa Clara and UCSC we had booked a rare open campsite at Manresa State Beach near Santa Cruz, where we slept to the sound of surf and woke to the shriek of a frustrated hawk. As I sat by the tent in the morning I discovered that the whole area under the campsite had been colonized by ground squirrels. Right after a posse of kids finished their umpteenth bike race down the sandy trail, up popped a little head and paws started tossing sand out of a tunnel that had been crushed–industrious little thing, though maybe short sighted. The night before I was reminded of my need to restrain my tendency to complain and snap at others when I’m tired, can’t find my flashlight or toothbrush, and feel like I’m doing all the hard work. Especially when I’m supposed to be an example to young’uns feeling the same things. Welcome back to camping charm school.
A treat for the girls was a two night stay at USA Hostels of Hollywood (intro to world youth travel). It looked a little sketchy on arrival but turned out to be very clean, very comfortable, and very conveniently located. My daughters really noticed the jump in the “cool factor” of their fellow guests. We strolled down the Walk of Stars (realized it was no big deal after all), visited Madame Tussaud’s, had excellent service and burgers at In ‘N Out, went to the Hollywood Bowl for an L.A. Philharmonic concert, and experienced the creativity and weirdness of walking back to the hostel down Hollywood Boulevard at 11 pm. It was nice not to have to pack up after that first night, and I was able to find some time to start planning the northward journey.
When my daughter proposed this mother-daughter trip I found the idea intriguing but overwhelming, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that even with one driver and a last minute itinerary, things can work out so well. So far not a bad accommodation, other drivers have been easy to get along with, and it’s amazing how many cool places we’ve been able to see. The night drive through the pass into L.A. with everyone but the trucks going seventy-five mph or more and occasionally drifting into my lane was intense—I couldn’t let the girls talk to me or play music because it took so much concentration.
We’ve eaten well from groceries, free hotel breakfasts, and local eateries along the way, and even picked up a few bargains (clothes in a cafe!). Yes, the world seems smaller, more accessible to all of us. With fewer fellow travelers (than our last family trip to CA), planning is simpler. The actual travel has worked out well—the van navigation system (“Bridget”) worked great and we had no trouble finding our destinations. On the way back we’re taking a more windy route–once we got to Sacramento we headed into the mountains and stopped to swim and picnic at Lake Tahoe, then zigzagged down the other side, drove up through citrus and nut groves and then wheat and ranch acreage, bought cherries and peaches by the roadside, and stayed in Yuba City (another well-kept, East Indian-run, independent motel). Today we crossed into Oregon and drove up to Crater Lake, where we saw those fabulous views, interacted with the local chipmunks and Clark’s nutcrackers (gray, back and white birds), and were then shrouded in mist and pummeled with rain down the other side of the pass.
Tomorrow it’s to Portland (hopes of getting in on a tour stand by at U of Portland) then out to the Olympic Peninsula (We’ve never been there), where we hope to snag a first-come, first-served campsite, and then home, where we’ll be back with the boys, and it will be back to morning swims, regular chores and responsibilities, picking berries and beans, and the job search.