Roadtrippin 2015: A Tale of Seven Cities

I don’t mean to brag or anything, but the Ambers kind of nailed it with The Roadtrip this year. You guys. We wound up visiting seven cities in four days with five children. I’m no mathematician but I’m pretty sure that all adds up to WHAT THE DEVIL.

I don’t feel like we were moving at a break-neck pace or that we were even operating on much of a schedule. Like I said, we played it pretty fast and loose in the planning department this year. It just kind of worked out that we were able to squeeze in quite a bit. Plus, it didn’t take us long to realize it was best to keep the troops moving along- because when five kids are tired and bored things can start to get dicey.

I intended to break this up into two posts but at the end of Day 2 I lost my internet connection at the hotel and lost my whole post along with it because it hadn’t saved correctly. Just envision some light cursing, a 5 minute denial stage, and lots of uselessly aggressive tapping of the keyboard and you get the idea. Since I am recapping the whole trip in one post I promise I shall do my best to be brief. (That’s a lie. Don’t you know me at all?)

On Thursday morning Amber and I loaded up all five kids, two suitcases, fifteen dvd’s (because we’re not savages), two beach bags, one handy-dandy little car sized cooler, a few good books for the grown ups to read in our spare time (because we like to kid ourselves), and enough snacks and drinks to get us through a harsh winter (because last year we learned the hard way that there is apparently nothing worse than a car full of thirsty children.)


We hit the road and I am happy to report that everyone handled the long car ride like a champ. It was Day 1 and everyone was just happy to be together.


We stopped halfway in Redding and decided that our first order of business was to eat lunch at In N Out, so if any of you were wondering whether we have our priorities straight,  clearly we do. After lunch we decided on a whim to visit the Turtle Bay Exploration Park where we saw snakes, beavers, a real kookaburra, a butterfly sanctuary, and even a bird sanctuary. I would like to point out here that the word “sanctuary” is very misleading. Let’s be clear- it felt much closer to a bird “asylum” on account of all the screeching, flapping, landing on heads, and what-not.


Note Jaxon’s strained smile here. Not a lover of birds, that one.image Halfway through the bird experience I had to exit with the tinies because it turns out that talons touching bare flesh is not a sensation that everyone loves. We killed about two hours there, which was great except for the fact that it was 106 degrees outside and I had foolishly chosen to wear black jeans. There was some sweating and some light drama when it looked like we may not have enough quarters to buy everyone their own water bottle but overall I’d call it a win.

We piled back into the car for four more hours until we stopped for dinner at a random little hole-in-the-wall type of Italian restaurant because we decided that these are the kinds of things you do on a roadtrip. Be adventurous, right? I am sad to tell you that my pesto pasta was a huge letdown but happy to tell you that my Chardonnay was not. And bonus: the kids got to color on the paper tablecloth! Which, in retrospect, was probably a strong indicator of the quality of pasta, but whatever.

We finally arrived at our hotel in San Jose around 9pm, and the kids were still apparently quite full of it so we let them night-swim to burn off some energy while amber and I parked ourselves by the pool with some red wine before we all turned in for the night.


Day 2 started out bright and early with a completely dead car battery.  It turns out that our handy-dandy little car cooler needed to be unplugged when the car was not running and, well, we sort of just forgot that part. I’m not going to lie. It got rough there for a bit. There was a coffee spill, a very near car wreck, some fragile temperaments, and a bit of a wait for some jumper cables.imageAt one point I caught myself with a little extra bass in my voice saying, “Alright. That’s it! Everyone hand over your pokey sticks!” Because when five kids get restless, little coffee stir sticks become weapons and someone will definitely end up in tears because someone else “accidentally” poked them.

We finally got the car running and we made it to the water park where we all had a total blast, thus successfully rescuing Day 2 from the depths of despair.


Around 4pm everyone was getting worn out from swimming and we decided to drive an hour to the town of Capitola where we ate dinner at an overpriced, fancy mexican restaurant. The kids weren’t overly impressed with it but Amber and I enjoyed the best margarita we’ve ever had. Then we wandered down to the beach which I am happy to report was NOT covered in sandy, lifeless sardines like last year. (Thank the Lord for small favors.) The kids threw sand and ran at the ocean like savages while Amber and I sat on the beach and solved all of life’s problems- which is always easier to do after a good margarita.


Finally we all piled back into the car and drove another 30 minutes to the town of Aptos where we swam again at our hotel and then the kids had all kinds of fun pestering each other through the door that adjoined our two hotel rooms before we all passed out from exhaustion.

On Day 3 we drove to Monterey where we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium. On the way there some attitudes started going downhill so Amber and I gave a stern talk and threatened to cancel the aquarium and just go shopping for ourselves if they didn’t start getting along and being thankful. Sometimes when kids are being jerks, you’ve just got to give a stern talk and then turn up the music and dance it out.


It worked like a charm.

Everyone cheered right up and we went on to have a lovely day at the aquarium.imageWe must’ve been feeling benevolent due their good attitutes because we let them each pick out a stuffed animal in the gift shop. And everyone knows that stuffed animals can easily take over your life if you’re not careful.


But look at those faces. They were so happy.

We left the aquarium in the afternoon and drove to Santa Cruz where last year on our roadtrip we discovered a delightful little restaurant called The Buttery. So that obviously needs no further explanation. We knew we had to go back. It was just that good.


We stopped in for an iced coffee and some beautiful pastries to-go and then decided to revisit Seabright Beach in Santa Cruz because we had such a great time there last year. Somehow on our trek down to the beach our lovely, handcrafted, expensive pastries wound up in the hands of 5-year-old Violet, who clutched them to her body, upside down, jostling the box the whole way to the beach.  Upon opening the container it became clear that aside from licking the box, there was no hope of eating our treats like civilized people. It was a low point.

For the next few hours we lounged on the beach and I daresay it was my favorite part of the whole trip. The kids squealed and giggled and ran and played. They buried each other in the sand and made sand castles.



It was relaxing and perfect. Once it started to get cold we loaded up one last time and drove to San Francisco for the night. We had promised the kids a “sleepover” for our last night and booked only one hotel suite for all of us to share. The kids were pumped. We were a little nervous to attempt this on the third night when everyone might be on their last nerve, but remember! The Ambers are fun and brave!

We stumbled into our room at 10pm, exhausted, only to discover a room with 1 king bed and a sofa sleeper instead of 2 queens with a sofa sleeper. You guys. This meant there was seven of us and only one real bed. With no other 2-queen rooms available for booking. We chalked it up to part of the adventure and made beds on the floor. The kids partied like it was Christmas morning while Amber and I collapsed on the bed and ignored the chaos. As you can imagine it was super easy to get everyone to sleep and we all slept wonderfully all night long with no interruptions…Except the opposite of that.

Nonetheless they were stoked to have managed an out-of-town sleepover and it was all smiling faces the next morning.


Day 4 was our last day and we spent the majority of it seeing downtown San Francisco.

We played games in an old-school arcade down on Fisherman’s Wharf.

We saw the Golden Gate Bridge.


We braved the 90 minute line to ride the trolley.


We walked for miles exploring the city.


It turns out that in some situations five kids is a lot of kids- and trying to navigate a crowded dirty street for 4 hours is one of those situations. Someone is always thirsty, someone always has to pee, and there is constant head-counting to make sure everyone is accounted for.

Finally around 6pm we made it on the freeway to head home. Over the next seven hours the kids went from arguing over grievances such as “chewing too loudly” and “hogging the air vent” to total delight because “You guys! We get to eat dinner together!”


While it was an exhausting few days, it was also a great few days. There were highs, there were lows, and there were memories made.

We can’t wait to do it again next year.


4 thoughts on “Roadtrippin 2015: A Tale of Seven Cities

  1. Evie

    Sounds like the best trip. I love how honest you are in sharing the highs and the lows. Because thats REAL life. I’m really familiar with the area, we visit family there couple times a year and lived close to Monterey and Santa Cruz. Sadly we took it for granted. Thanks for keeping it Real.


      Thanks for reading, Evie! Since you were a local we’ll have to ask you for tips next year if we go back!

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