This trip, like most, has been a blur of activities, travels, laughs, and some tears. It will all be good memories. As I write this, I’m sitting on a bus, heading to Castaic to determine how to fix our 2014 Nissan Quest. We were coming into LA after going up and down through Tejon Pass. Going up, I got a little worried about our van but assumed it was fine. The headlights were flickering sometimes, and there were a couple of times that I didn’t feel like I had the power I thought I should have. There had been an excessive heat warning ⚠️ and I saw some cars on the side of the road, but we seemed alright.

Belinda and I were talking about our family friend who is also on a family road trip in Texas, and their car broke down. I kept worrying about our car and thought about what a coincidence it would be if something happened to us as well, but we seemed to be ok. We started to see the lights of the Greater Bay area in the distance, and the kids began to ask for one last bathroom stop, so we decided on Castaic and the Mobile Gas station for a pitstop. Pulling up to the stop sign after the exit, I tried to push on the gas, and nothing. When we got out to try to push, we couldn’t make the car move an inch up the slight hill. A couple of guys pulled over and helped push us to the top of the hill.

So we left our car in the gas station parking lot, packed up a few things, and tried getting a Lyft. It took forever to get one, as initially, we wanted a larger car to all go together. Even requesting two smaller cars, it seemed like nobody wanted to drive out of town to pick us up for a like ride into Santa Monica, but eventually, we ended up with two drivers to take us to our hotel.

Map showing direction from a Gas Station in Castaic California to Santa Monica
Castaic really isn’t that far from Santa Monica and our hotel, but it took hours to get there.

Before, I get into more of what we have been up to the last couple of days in the city where the stars live (my Lyft driver told me he works in Hollywood, doing set design… maybe it is true that everybody in LA is trying to make it onto the silver screen), I’ll go back to our time in Crescent City.

We spent three nights in Crescent City. When I wrote The First Leg: Sand Dunes and Family Fun, we had been there a couple of days. A lot of this time was spent at the beach. I played with my Luna Sticks and tried to sleep. I also built sand castles with Arianna and hunted for purple shore crabs with Mateo, Alex, and Alexa. With Belinda, we tried to escape unscathed and from poison oak as we took a walk up a beautiful desert hill.

A Purple Shore Crab
This purple shore crab was probably one the largest they caught.
Jacob and Belinda in from of a craggy cliff
We climbed up this little rock hill/path. We went for a while, but kept coming to giant thickets of poison oak, and really didn’t want to go any further.

Because we were in the land of the coastal redwoods, we also had to make an excursion for a bit of hike through these massive trees. We didn’t end up going through any of the trees that you can drive through, but we took a little stroll on a trail along Prairie Creek. It was pretty, although getting the kids into hiking is hard.

Alex, Alexa, Mateo, and Arianna holding giant fallen redwood
It is really amazing how large the redwoods really are, it’s kind of mind-blowing.

While in Crescent City, we also visited Ocean World Aquarium for a guided tour and a sea lion show. It’s a nice place with lots of fun photo opportunities and cool stuff to see. You also can pet a shark.

My kids, Alex, Alexa, Mateo, Arianna inside a fake shark mouth at Ocean World
Don’t Feed the Sharks
Alex trying to save me from being skewered by a fake pirate
Alex trying to save me from being skewered by a pirate

Angel didn’t want to drive down with all of us and has taken over some for Belinda’s business while we have been gone, but he came and met us in San Francisco. Some poor planning a month ago; we planned for him to get to the airport in the morning, not considering the 6.5-hour drive we would have to make so we could pick him up from the airport and that we couldn’t check into the AirBnB. Driving through the redwood forest at 5 am is serene and beautiful.

I love San Francisco and have been lucky to come here quite a few times (see posts written here). There are a few cities over the years that I’ve been to and just really like the vibe and feel of the city and think if I was to move to a metropolitan, it is where I would go (my non-complete list includes Prague, Florence Italy, Portland Oregon, and back to Cusco Peru). I would add SF to that list.

I don’t know if I ever thought I’d say this because of my nerdy love of the company and their products, but while were there, I got tired of visiting the Apple Store. We went three different days. We ended up doing a slight phone musical chairs game and she was able to get a newish phone. On one of the visits, we got to sit in on a session learning to make our own emoji.

Kids sitting and listening to the session
They were teaching us how to use procreate to create an emoji, a pretty cool app
A emoji with a pink bandana and open mouth
Mine turned out derpy, but was fun to make.

We went to China Town, which the kids all enjoyed and were grumpy with all the walking. We spent a day at Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 were we are a crawdad boil at Supreme Crab. The kids loved the Its Sugar store. We took a million photos at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Make sure to check out the photo album I link below for some of our posing with the stars.

One of the days after eating at Alice’s Restaurant, which was delicious, we walked back to our Airbnb. It was a quiet little community, full of their terraced houses. It was so pretty. We did laundry at a laundry mat, and because Angel was with us, Belinda and I got to go out by ourselves and dance.

Terraced houses
I didn’t take many pictures of houses in we walked through, but I did take this one.

Before we left The last morning, we explored the Golden Gate Park. It is a giant park often compared to Central Park in New York. It is the kind of place I think I could go to every day, and not get tired of being there. We didn’t see that much of it, but we rented a couple of Surrey Bikes. It was fun, but I must start biking again this summer because it killed my legs. After saying goodbyes to Angel, we started the trek to the city of angels.

The Fourth of July in LA was fun. We spent the day wandering around Venice Beach and watching the fireworks from the pier. Somebody fell off the peer right before the show started. Two lifeguards ran up and jumped in after them, which I assume saved the person’s life. Crazy.

Photo of Arianna and Alex being interviewed by tiktokers
One of the biggest things that the kids have looked forward to is seeing famous people or YouTuber/TikTokers. They saw these guys filming and got to have him ask them some questions. They forgot to get the guy’s name.

Both after the fireworks and trying to get to Santa Monica from our broken down car, both took an epic amount of time to find drivers. Our kids now have experience waiting hours for Lyft cars. While waiting in a random alleyway a little from the beach, Arianna talked to almost everybody who passed by to wish them a Happy Fourth of July.

It’s taken me a couple of days to finish writing this up. We towed the van to an auto repair place. They said we would likely need a new transmission. Their expected cost is worth more than we still owe on the car, its value, or anything we could reasonably do (plus the at least week they said we’d have to wait). We towed the car about an hour away to where a friend of Belinda’s lives to get some second opinions and have time to figure things out and make a plan. We rented a car and extended our stay a few days to get the least expensive plane tickets to get everybody home. We will have to figure out what to do about the car further down the road.

Don’t be worried about us, and know that with travels always comes trouble. Change is constant, and life seems to be made up of big and small fires. Those happen not only when we are traveling but also at home. The first thing I will do, other than wish for a vacation from the vacation, is fix our irrigation system. Angel called me a couple of days ago, saying that the water wasn’t turning off for one of the lines, and I’m assuming I need to replace one of the pumps.

You can find photos for this trip at 2023 Family Road Trip - Beaches, Parks, and Broken-Down Cars. There are a lot of great shots of the kids in the wax museum and all the other cool activities we have been doing.

2023 Family Road Trip - Beaches, Parks, and Broken-Down Cars