Most people we meet admire our sense of adventure, saying we are brave to take our young daughters on the road for an extended trip. Others go further, calling us wise to take advantage of a window in our lives where such an opportunity to travel presents itself. Still others wholly disapprove, suggesting that we are irresponsible parents, putting our own wanderlust ahead of our children’s needs.
Everyone, though, is intrigued to know that we are adding one more person to the mix: Barbara, Daniel’s mom, who will be traveling with us for 3-4 weeks.
“How is it going with your mother-in-law?”, people whisper to me.
Just fine, actually. Barbara’s incredibly intrepid, for an 82-year old, or for someone of any age, for that matter. “I’m no longer a passive reader of the adventure, I am now IN the adventure”, she exclaimed, upon arrival at San Francisco International.
Provided she’s given a cold glass of white wine in the evening, and regular doses of Culture – preferably in the form of museums – she is game for anything.
Nevertheless, we decided to start out slowly, easing her into life in a seventeen-foot trailer.
So, in San Francisco, we rented an apartment in the Haight. Daniel, Lulu and I had the bedroom, with Barbara and Sophia shared the living room, sleeping on separate pull-out sofas. Sophia decided that this made Barbara her playmate, that they would watch Disney DVDs and play Littlest Pets together. The apartment provided welcome shelter from the five consecutive storms that assaulted the California coast over the course of a week, and gave us an economical way to feast on the state’s excellent produce and wines.
From there, we moved into hotels.
The Super Eight in Monterey (best décor yet in the budget category), where we enjoyed a Mark West Pinot Noir and a fine dinner of organic salad leaves, sautéed tuna, rice and green beans, leftover from the previous night’s dinner and prepared in the microwave.
Once we worked out a diplomatic resolution to the battle for TV primacy: Barbara’s news vs. Sophia’s cartoons (plus, ideally, a half an hour to watch Jeopardy!), it was smooth sailing.
The next two nights found us at the Kronborg Inn in Solvang, Central California’s only Danish village. This establishment featured our largest room yet AND our own door opening directly onto the heated pool and Jacuzzi.
Having downloaded our first movie ever from iTunes – a huge advance for Luddites - we put the girls to bed and crowded around the laptop to watch ‘Sideways’, a mid-life crisis wine adventure set in the Santa Ynez Valley, where we were staying.
Our final hotel stop took us to the heart of Hollywood – the Best Western on Franklin Avenue, very well appointed with super-comfy beds, a marble shower for two and gelatin print black-and-white photos of Hollywood legends. Through the lobby was the fantastic Café 101, a 70’s décor diner with friendly staff and great food.
After four nights chez Johnson-Marcil, we moved into the trailer. We picked an upscale RV park, Sam’s Family Resort in Desert Hot Springs. Here, for $44 a night, we bask in views of serrated mountain ranges – stony, grey, blue, snowy – sweepingly brush-stroked pastel desert sunsets and our very own full mooned night sky. Included in the price is a leisure complex, complete with heated pool, four hot spring fed pools, waterfalls, pond and gardens. Nice.
So far, we’ve slept in two configurations: (1) Daniel, Lulu and I on the double bed, with Sophia and Barbara on the top and bottom respective bunks of the new bed designed and built by Daniel, and (2) Lulu, Sophia and I on the double bed, with Barbara and Daniel on the top and bottom bunks.
Updates to follow shortly – wish us luck!
Pictured: - Daniel, Sophia, Barbara, Lulu and Connie Bruce. Cousins Barbara and Connie were reunited in Mill Valley, CA after about 60 years. Lots to catch up on - Barbara and fellow octogenarian Grandmother aka Sue - Claire, Lulu, Sophia and Barbara at the Getty Center, Los Angeles
Claire – On maternity leave from career as editor of monthly finance trade magazines, and occasionally a freelance translator. Half-American/half-English, raised in the suburbs of New York, has lived in London for almost nine years.
Daniel – Furniture designer/maker based on London’s Columbia Road flower market, for ten years, also an aspiring painter and DIY supremo. On one-year career break to reconsider options. English by birth, but mother is half-American and spent part of her childhood in Bronxville, New York.
Sophia – 3.5-year old spitfire who loves school, singing, swimming and being a big sister
Lulu – Born May 8 of this year, a model baby who eats, sleeps and gurgles.
Special guests – American, British and international friends and family who drop in along our trip to see whatever part of the country they fancy. They’re welcome to travel in the car with us and sleep in an adjoining tent.