The other Amber and I recently embarked a road trip. Just us, five kids, and the open road.
Some people might think that sounds crazy and that we’ve clearly suffered a lapse in judgement.
I just like to think we are fun and brave.
The truth of the matter is that other than my husband, she is the only person I could be trapped in a car with for 16 hours (more on that later) and a whole gaggle of children and not want to club myself over the head.
In fact, we might even have a little fun.
The Ambers (I can talk about us in the third person. It’s allowed) have been best friends for nearly 30 years now, which means that aside from my immediate family she’s been in my life longer than anyone else I know.
There is an ease between us that’s been hard earned over many years.
Even when it’s hard, it’s easy. Through childhood, adolescence, high school, dating, college, marriage, moves, jobs, and motherhood our friendship has never faltered. And there is never any drama, which a rarity among women.
So for all of these reasons, and the fact that our kids are basically obsessed with each other, we decided to make it an annual tradition to take a road trip. No husbands, no babysitters, no plane rides to exotic places. We do not stock up on expensive car entertainment or pack fancy activity bags for each child like Pinterest suggests we should.
We go about it the old fashioned way: with loud music, lots of snacks, and making up games like “Let’s see who can run to the other end of the sidewalk the fastest!” at potty stops. Although, I supose “old fashioned” might be a slightly generous term considering we had air conditioning, DVD players, and Siri directing our every turn. But let’s not get bogged down in the details.
It was after much planning and deliberation (translation: barely any planning and no deliberation) that we decided on Santa Cruz for our first ever Annual Road Trip. It’s somewhere neither of us had ever been, it has a beach, a boardwalk, and it wasn’t too far away. Win, win, win!
This was very nearly the perfect destination, except that we decided to take the “scenic route” to get there- because remember, we’re fun and brave!– turning our 7 hr trip into a 16 hour marathon.
I’m dead serious.
I can’t even…
I don’t even understand.
The whole reason we took the scenic route was to stop at a zoo inEureka and a famous “sea glass beach” in Fort Bragg, neither of which we ever laid eyes on.
We decided to skp the zoo because it was rainy outside, assuming we were getting close to the sea glass beach anyway. Lies. All lies. Damn you Siri!
After committing to our lengthy route, and adding countless hours of hairpin turns along the coastal highway, Fort Bragg turned out to be Fort Drag. We searched unsuccessfully for the mythical glass beach only to be informed by a kind older park ranger that, “They really should stop advertising that. All the glass on the beach has been picked up, and the tide is coming in anway, so it’s far too dangerous for kids.”
This is what we get for thinking it was some kind of bright idea to take children to comb the beach for glass.
I mean, really.
At least there was an ice cream shop.
So back into the car we all went, until we finally reached our destination roughly 17,869 hours later. Luckily the kids were all champs. It was Day 1 and they were all just happy to be together. No one threw a fit and other than us telling them “Y’all need to work it out!” a couple of times, no one really fought. There wasn’t even any crying until the last 30 minutes! Glory!
We arrived at 1 am feeling tired and slightly frazzled but ready for a good time.
We spent the next couple of days in Santa Cruz where we had some wins, and some fails, but overall it was a blast.
There was some highly questionable “meat” at a mexican restaurant down on the boardwalk. There was the time we piled into the car and ventured out to the nearby town of Capitola. We searched for parking for 15 minutes (which is a long time in a hot car full of excited children), unloaded 2 giant snack bags, 2 beach bags, 5 children and various beach toys then trekked a few blocks down to the beach only to find it covered in dead fish and crowded with hundreds of kids in red swimsuits doing drills in the sand. It was the wierdest thing ever. I’m not sure if it was a lifeguard camp, or surf camp, or some kind of kid-gang, but the crowds coupled with the pungent dead fish smell was enough to drive us out.
For a brief moment we actually considered staying, because all the other people didn’t seem to mind or even notice the fact that we were surrounded by sandy, lifeless sardines– but then Violet started stabbing a dead fish with her sand shovel…and all it takes is one fish head landing by your towel to send you packing.
There was the time we went to the boardwalk and immediately decided we hated it. It was hot, dirty, crowded, none of the kids were into it, and a certain little boy proceeded to cry for a half hour upon arriving because he didn’t win a Ninja Turtle prize after I paid the $10 for him to throw three balls in about 5 seconds. The carnival business is quite a racket.
There was the surprisingly hostile environment at the Jelly Belly Factory where on two seperate occasions old women were quite sour, for being in such a sweet place.
There was a moment I briefly considered leaving one of my children in Corning.
Ah, but let’s not forget all the wins!
There was a delightful little restaurant called The Buttery…so that obviously needs no further explanation.
There were giggles and squeals and hours of play on the beach.
We found sea lions off the pier, and a quaint little lighthouse near a rocky bluff.
There was a moment in a Taco Bell on the last leg of our drive home while the kids were coming unhinged- we were pretty much one moving spectacle by this point- when I cracked a joke and we just burst out laughing until tears ran down our cheeks and Amber choked on her crunchy taco causing everyone around to stare nervously. It was kind of perfect. After all, there aren’t many things I enjoy more than a hearty laugh over a crunchy taco.
There was bonding and laughter and memories made, which is exactly why we did it.
We survived it. We even enjoyed it. My kids waited all of 12 hours after returning home before requesting to see their beloved Boersma girls again, so clearly all is still right in the universe.
The Ambers are definitely fun and brave enough to continue the roadtrip tradition next year. Although we did learn a few things for next time:
- Whatever number of water bottles you think you’ll need for a long car ride- double it. This will also double the number of potty stops, but by God, we can’t let them go thirsty.
- If you’re wearing flip flops in the vicinity of 5 littles, your toes will get stepped on multiple times a day. You will be expected not to mind this.
- Crossing the street with 5 littles is the equivalent of crossing the street with 5 drunks.
- Never underestimate the power of candy. Also, never underestimate the power of promising a “surprise” even if you have no clue what that surprise is yet.
- Anytime after hour 7 in the car, expect psychotic bursts of hysteria. Laughing and shrieking one minute, crying and wailing the next. The kids may do this also.