Making Memories

Not so long ago a friend mentioned that she had a house in Carmel and would be interested in renting it now and then to people she knew. As this is our off year from Mr. Blandings’s family spot in Colorado, I thought this would be a wonderful adventure. The boys had never been to the West Coast, had never seen the Pacific, and I am currently having a mad love affair with California. Perfect. Mr. Blandings was slightly less enthusiastic. In fact, at one point I asked if we had ever been on a vacation that we were both looking forward to. “Our honeymoon. And Napa.” Napa was thirteen years ago.

Flying the five of us to California made the trip a no-go, so I suggested we drive. I had had a very memorable driving vacation with my family up the east coast from Atlanta to Canada when I was eight; I’m sure that it had nothing to do with the fact that my parents were separated before the following Christmas.

Besides, any discussion with Mr. Blandings about going to Europe elicits the comment, “Why would I want to go to Europe when I haven’t even seen the Grand Canyon?” Driving would enable us to vacation in California and check the Grand Canyon off the list.

He bowed to my will. We set off after work one evening as I thought the first five hours would somehow not “count” as a day of driving; not everyone managed their accounting the same way. The following day took us into Albuquerque putting us into the Grand Canyon mid-day the second day (or third depending on your math.) The Grand Canyon is remarkable. Its mass is astounding (negative mass?). And if you have been saying your whole life, “I’d like to see the Grand Canyon,” you’re right, you would. And you should go. Even I, who do not like to be outside, would like to go again to hike and camp there. Really.
Though I did hold the collar of the youngest’s shirt in terror nearly the entire time.

I have to say, Arizona, I don’t think that, other than the canyon, I saw the best side of you. You seemed a little off to me when we were there and I am hoping I have another chance to see you in a more appealing light. One odd thing about Arizona, cities disappear. We would see them noted on highway signs then they would never materialize. Like Winslow. We watched the highway signs for Winslow for miles and Mr. Blandings said, “We are stopping in Winslow and you are going to take my picture standing on the corner.” Amused, I agreed. There was a sign twelve or something miles to Winslow and then, say twenty miles later, it had just never happened. This led Mr. Blandings to believe that maybe this was a little inside joke of the Arizona government; it has not been my experience that government has that much humor.
New Mexico, on the other hand, was stunningly beautiful, and to you, my handsome friend, we will return.

The drive through California was a lovely surprise. It’s hilly, which I hadn’t expected, and nearer the dessert those hills are the most beautiful golden yellow color. It looks a little like someone has laid the most wonderful tawny mohair across the landscape.

And then there was Carmel and the dramatic west coast of Northern California. Carmel’s temperature never reached 70 degrees. To say I did not get in the water doesn’t really say anything because I rarely get in the water, but the boys did. They said it was great. Their lips weren’t even blue. We were there for a week and ate and hiked and enjoyed everyone’s dogs of which there were a million. Give or take.
And then it was time to go home. The drive out had been a delightful meander. Coming back was two hard days of driving to reach the not-supposed-to-be-this-year Colorado house.
I thought a stop at the Hoover Dam, engineering marvel, would help break things up. It did not. Mr. Blandings and I were engaged, but the boys seemed…unmoved.
Even by the Deco details like the terrazzo of the bathroom floor.
Or the design of the door handle.
We soldiered on. We saw ten states in twelve days. As we passed a car with a far-away license plate Mr. Blandings said, “Did you see that? That car had the state magnets, you know the kind you buy at the gas stations, from every state on their trip. We should do that.” We should have, except we were three states from home at that point.
Of all of it, the biggest surprise was Utah. Utah was breathtaking. It was like someone had taken the Grand Canyon and stretched it out like silly putty as far as you could see. Each crest of a hill brought another, even more beautiful vista. And I am quite sure I would have never seen it had it not been for this trip.
It was a beautiful, beautiful trip. If you are ever feeling bunched up or hemmed in or over run, you should know that there are wide, wide open spaces. They still exist. They are not just the stuff of cowboy songs. We saw it with our own ten eyes.
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35 thoughts on “Making Memories

  1. It sounds wonderful. There's nothing quite like a vista. And your boys will surely remember, even if they remember things you thought were minor. My family of origin drove across the country, 40 years ago. The siblings still tell the stories of the wayback and the milkshakes.

  2. Next time try Sedona, AZ. Also a tip, if you ever make it to Winslow or any of the other disappearing cities (Arizona is mysterious like that) go to a pawn shop…really beautiful vintage Native American jewelry @ reasobable prices….they really like their booze if you know what I mean.

    Even though I am quite fond of Arizona I think upi are right about Utah. It has been one of the best kept secret until more recently.

    Everybody should do a good road's good for family bonding even if you don't think that while you are doing it.

  3. I'm having a bit of a love affair with California myself. Everytime I hear that Kings of Leon song, "Use Somebody," I want to sell my house and move to Los Angeles. Never been to California, which I think, for me, might be part of the allure.

  4. Dear Mrs. Blandings, How appealing you have made the notion of a roadtrip seem. It's been ages since I've had one, it seems I only fly lately. As a child my family traveled by car and it was NOT always pleasant. For the most part this was due to the four children my parents had to put up with during the course of these vacations. But I must say my Dad was not the ideal traveler, as he had this male gene thing going that didn't allow him or us to stop for so many of the tourist stops that we all begged to see. I have thoroughly enjoyed your pictures and discriptions of your travels. I look forward to one day following your map, only from the southern part of the U.S. Thank you and I hope your are recovered from this trip. Laughingly, Frances Usher Jackson

  5. I rather fancy you for all coming home alive. Memories of road trips are like child birth, we just do it again, no matter the pain. All the miracles of the earth keep giving us reason enough to go forth. Each place is like a child, we love them all.

  6. What a lovely posting. My husband has tried for 38 years to convince me to take a cross-country trip. Your beautiful pictures and the intrigue of the missing Arizona cities have certainly strengthened his case.

  7. beautiful, Mrs. B.

    We live on the east coast but have been to the Grand Canyon three times. I would go back again in a heartbeat. As I said recently, it is really a spiritual experience…

  8. Thank you for a moving travel log! We take a road trip from Austin, Texas to northern New Mexico almost every year and can't seem to get enough of the big western skies and beautiful terrain – so inspiring!

    In all my travels, which are fairly extensive, I've never managed to see the Grand Canyon, it is now at the top of my list thanks to your post.

    And yes, road trips are the best, so many memorable moments to cherish for years to come and for the family to remember.

  9. I've loved California since my first trip there at 12 years old, and Carmel is such a beautiful part of the state. It's great that your boys got to see so much so young. The Grand Canyon is still on my list.

  10. Mrs. B,
    Being a girl from NH who lived in California 5 yrs (LA & SF), I drove back and forth across the US several times, taking different paths each time. I highly recommend the North, Middle and South equally. The only time I did not like was west Texas….which is a long flat drive that goes on for a day without much to see but cactus and dirt. It is astounding to drive across and see how much we vary. I personally LOVED the Northern route: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas are all breath taking and so different from one another. I would definitely suggest that for the next off year. What about a rental RV…is that what you just did? I'm already planning that trip with my now 2 yr old in about 5 yrs. and can't wait! We'll do that first then India the next year:)

  11. Sounds wonderful; although I think my husband would think early onset had arrived if I said that I wanted to take a cross country car trip. Your pictures are stunning.

  12. That photo of your three boys in the water makes my heart melt. I hope that's me one day — three boys and a lovely road trip.

    P.S. I love Utah.

  13. Mrs. E. keeps threatening me with a road trip across country. Especially sine I've never seen the West Coast. Or the Grand Canyon. Or Mt. Rushmore. Or the Hoover Dam. Eurpoe/ Yup. Africa? Parts. America…. a bit. Go figure.

    Looks like it might not be such a bad idea after all. Five hours in a car is my absolute limit though. Perhaps there's a train?

  14. I am loving your road trip stories. We drove my Tahoe, not an RV, but basically a living room on wheels. It's different now, you know, than it was when we drove as kids. Satellite radio alone makes a huge difference, but the boys had a DVD and portable gaming devices for the long stretches of nothing new. Also, my youngest is 7. Seven is way different than 2 or 4. Trust me.

    Todd – I'm not sure I can encourage you to go to California as it might increase your yearning.

    Rachel – thank you – they are fun to watch.

    Chris – In the scheme of things I think you are ahead, but when your children are older it is a must.

  15. American rocks, no doubt. No pun intended here. I too have toured our western states with simple amazement at the grandure. How lucky you and I both are to have had that experience.

    The Washington Post had an advertisement some time ago that suggested that if you didn't subscribe to the Post your world narrowed to the width of your shoulders. The same can be said for remaining ignorant of the wealth of our country's natural beauty. Congratulations on your trip and delighted to welcome you the fortunate few to have had a that opportunity. Ann

  16. Have not been a fan of road trips with children, but now that the nest is empty may have to change my mind. My favorite road trip story came from my MIL. Her father was the typical German male who thought the car's lack of gas determined when to stop. My MIL was young with a young bladder. Her mother, the poet, the Gemini air-head (as is my beloved husband, her grandson) had the brilliant idea of using that "little door" they conveniently put in the floorboard of their Packard for potty trips. For years the two wondered why the battery in that Packard never seem to last as long as they thought it should!

    Glad you are home safe and sound with lovely memories and beautiful photographs.

  17. Great pictures and commentary! Some of my greatest childhood memories involve me smooshed in the back of my parent's station wagon.

  18. I really wanted to see a picture of Mr. B standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona! (There is even an official Standin' On A Corner website, no huge surprise I guess.) Of course the shots of the boys are magical. Always appreciate how you take us along for the ride.

    When my grandfather retired, my grandparents and their best couple friends drove from Virginia to California and Washington state then back — in a champagne Buick or some similar sedan 🙂 They loved it and thought it was almost like a civic duty to see the whole country in addition to going abroad.

  19. This sounds like a wonderful trip, Mrs. B! Glad you all had a great time and are home safe and sound.

  20. Glad you enjoyed your trip. We did something similar several years back and actually found Winslow and the corner. My memory is spotty but I think that's where we stayed at La Posada, an old railroad inn that was being renovated into a delightfully quirky hotel and restaurant. Did you make it to Zion National Forest in Utah? So many great sites to see. My kids are older now and no longer a captive audience but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

  21. We are heading to Carmel – in a month – can't wait! Any recommendations on where to eat or what to do? Would love your insight. Thanks, Maureen (

  22. Loved this. It read like a short story. Perfect pictures and descriptions. My only complaint was no images of beautiful Carmel!!! Hope you are saving for another post!

  23. I hope you got a bit further north into Bolinas and all that country–stunningly beautiful. what a wonderful post, I can so relate to hanging on the boys' shirt collars in sheer terror….my sons and I drove route 1 to get to Bolinas in a severe thunder storm, and I practically sobbed with fear the whole way, imagining Jim Bond type dives off the face of the cliff….Dominique

  24. I am so jealous. we were booked to drive elisabeth's car to Boca Raton for college – stopping along the way in nola and seaside.

    Ben found out it is a 19 hours drive and now his "man" in the office is being paid to do the drive.

    we will fly. to say I am p.o.ed is an understatement.

    We took a 3 week holiday each summer growing up – in our station wagon. we went from texas to Canada twice – on both coasts – by car. the best memories of my childhood.

  25. Dear Mr. B – now that you know you can do all those hours together in a car sort of comfortably, this is what you need to next vacation. Put yourself, dear Mrs. B & the 3 mini-B's onto a Qantas plane & head on over. Sure the transit time would be 24hrs., but it would pass in a flash. You won't regret it – I promise.
    Millie ^_^

  26. Good lord – we're all going to Carmel this year! I wonder if our trips overlapped at all? Wasn't it just the most fantastic time -so glad your family had a good time there 🙂

  27. We drove to Florida and back this year, and last year, to Texas and back. What started out as crazy has really morphed into something we all love, even the five year old back seat drivers, who this discovered Mad Libs. This was a wonderful read, I'm so glad you enjoyed your trek. And achingly sorry you missed the corner in Winslow AZ, what a fine sight to see!

  28. I live in Utah and it is magnificent (moved here from Palm Beach, FL 24 years ago!) Found you just now on Cresendoh – am a closet decorator – your blog is addicting……RE: Utah – at first, if you aren't an outdoors person, it feels too roomy but then you realize you can breathe and nothing can top the flamboyancy of nature.

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