It’s taken me a while to write about our fun road trip because I’m still recovering from last week’s ‘vacation’ to Monterey and Big Sur. This is a long entry so you can read the whole journey or stick to the high-yield summary and pictures.
Saturday: AM: leave SD, meet in LA for lunch with my big sib and family, then drive to Santa Barbara by way of Malibu (bathroom stop at Neptune’s Net), PM: Santa Barbara
Sunday: AM: Hearst Castle, PM: on to Monterey
Monday: AM: Santa Cruz, PM: Chill at Monterey
Tuesday: AM: Aquarium, PM: 17-mile Carmel drive, dinner at Pebble Beach
Wednesday: AM: Aquarium, leave and lunch at Carmel, on to Big Sur, PM: explore Big Sur
Thursday: hike, PM: Leave for Solvang, PM: Dinner in Solvang
Friday: Leave for SD! Stop at Monkish, then home by 6 pm.
One of my closest friends lives in LA. The plan was to meet for Korean food (LA Korean food is DIVINE!) on the way to Santa Barbara. Unfortunately, early in the week her 21-month-old son was questionable for Hand-Foot-Mouth (HFM) Disease so we decided to postpone our meeting until our return back to minimize our exposure.
It just happened that my big sib from med school and residency and his family were vacationing in Palm Springs and spending the weekend in LA. His son was born 3 days after Jacob and we had been wanting to get the fellas together since in the womb so it worked out great! It was wonderful to see my big sib, his wife and meet their son. The boys weren’t too interested in playing with each other but I was happy to see the family and meet this cutie pie!!
Korean BBQ and the side dishes (banchan) were DELICIOUS! I tried not to eat too much because I didn’t want to be uncomfortable on the drive up but as usual, this intention is never executed according to plan. The dwaenjangjjigae (soybean stew) and kalbi (marinated ribs).. soooo good. I highly recommend Parks BBQ in LA! Bonus also is that they accept reservations!
There’s only so much and so rapidly I can eat hot food with a 30-pound toddler and big belly physically hindering my ability to shovel food in my face.
We drove another few hours to Santa Barbara while Jacob napped comfortably in his car seat. Thankfully he LOVES to nap in the car. He inherited that gene from me- anything that has a quiet hum/motion makes me so sleepy. I can fall asleep on the jetway before we even take off for a flight!
It was an expensive and busy weekend thanks to being Memorial Day weekend. Our ‘cheapest’ and ‘closest’ hotel to Santa Barbara was an Extended Stay America in Goleta (about 10 minutes away from SB). Soooo… I’ve never really considered myself high maintenance… but the second we walked into our room, it had this musty/BO smell that I knew I would not be able to tolerate thanks to my hyperosmia superpower status. So we had to switch rooms.
This next room smelled better BUT it had a ton of hair left in the bathtub drain and there was a smudge of bl
ue toothpaste on the bathroom mirror. Oh well, we were only going to stay for a night, I was too tired and Jeff was tired of sherpa-ing everything around town. So, we hung out on the bed for a little bit to rest and then took off to explore SB and get some food.
The last time we had been to SB was when we were PJ (pre-Jacob) and explored the urban wine trail. As we explored Main St., it all sort of came back to me. We ate at various restaurants, had drinks with each meal, explored all the shops. With Jacob, it was a slightly different story! We had to walk slower than a snail’s pace as he wanted to explore (aka touch) any and everything in sight!
We didn’t bother asking for a pack n’play because the last several times we tried to put him to bed in it, he would cry and would kick and he never made it into the pack ‘n play. So we didn’t bother. Not having him go to bed earlier and in a separate area made it very hard for Jeff and me since we didn’t want to go to bed at his usual 8-8:30pm bedtime. I mean, I totally could have but we like to have a little wind-down time after he goes to bed as well.
So, we indulged Jacob and let him stay up a little later while we watched Minions together and hung out. Sleep… much was not had this night. After lights out (after protest that he wanted more Minions), he kicked around, crawled over and around me
for about an hour. I finally couldn’t keep up with him and fell asleep. The night, as predicted, was him sprawled in the bed, looking for contact with me, we slept like an H. We thought maybe he’d wake up later since he went to bed later? Haha, NO WAY!
After some free coffee and ‘breakfast’ of packaged muffins and instant oatmeal (Jacob did not eat any of the oatmeal), we decided to take off for Monterey! WOOHOO!!! After a quick stop through McD’s drive through (they have egg white McMuffins!), off w
e went!! I was so excited to go somewhere and settle down for a few days!
Sunday we stopped at Hearst Castle. I’d never been in in a castle before so I was curious what that would be like. How does someone become that wealthy?!?
We didn’t book any tours ahead of time ($25/adult, kids under 3 were free, yay!) because we didn’t know what time we’d arrive. The closest tour to our arrival was the Cottages and kitchen. The tours are not meant for young curious toddlers, let me tell you! You have to stay on these 3×4’ rugs throughout the cottages and everything is real so you can’t touch anything. Can you imagine trying to enjoy the intricacies and décor while trying to make sure your toddler doesn’t destroy anything!? Not a fun time! The kitchen and wine cellar were cool. Sadly the huge pool was being fixed so we couldn’t see the marvelous pool in all its glory.
After a few hours of carrying Jacob and trying to keep up, I was ready to drink something cold and sit in the car. Jacob fell asleep in the bus ride back from the castle (you have to take a bus to the castle itself from where the visitors’ center/gift shops are).
Next stop, Monterey! I prayed that our next hotel would be a step up from our SB/Goleta venue and I was excited to be able to stay put for a few days and do some walking/exploration.
Jeff and I are not big spenders when it comes to hotels. We’ve splurged at Vail (because we had to) and a little nicer than usual for our honeymoon (but not too much). We’re usually out and about all day so there’s no point in spending a lot of money on a hotel. We decided to splurge a little for this trip since it was our babymoon, anniversary and probably last trip for a while!
The Intercontinental hotel in was right by the water, beach and walking distance to the aquarium and Cannery Row (the main drag). It was wonderful! We walked to dinner at the famous The Sardine Factory where Jacob ate bread and steak while enjoying a movie.
Monday we explored a little bit of Monterey and Pacific Grove and then decided to check out Santa Cruz. Jeff wanted to check out this famous surf town. It’s an hour north of Monterey and the drive was easy. Unfortunately, this was the holiday so everyone in the world had the same agenda and traffic was a biotch! We got to the beach and checked out the surf- it reminded me of an older, hippier, more drunk/smoking marijuana crowd of Ocean Beach in San Diego.
After trying to drive through the main beachwalk and sitting in traffic, we said, let’s blow this joint and get back to Monterey! All the restaurants near there were tourist traps and didn’t look that appealing. Of course, being close to the water meant the seafood was fresh (and aromatic) but I wasn’t into seafood these last 6+ months . PJ I would’ve loved all the seafood but now… noooo thank you!
Jacob fell asleep on our drive back to Monterey and we went back to the hotel. I was over sitting in the car and dealing with crowds so after Jacob’s nap, we explored the town, went to the beach and just chillaxed. Tomorrow was going to be a big day! Monterey Aquarium Day!!! WootWoot!!! Our Monday night was a continuation of the previous nights- Jacob resisting sleep and kicking/tossing around for an hour. Me or Jeff waking up every few hours to make sure we weren’t smooshing him or that he had fallen out of the bed.
Tuesday was another early day. We had some coffee (Nespresso coffee is very delicious and easy) and then ventured out to a nearby café/deli for a light breakfast before getting to the aquarium. So.. there is only one café/deli that is right before the aquarium entrance and their breakfasts/food is EXPENSIVE! A breakfast sandwich (nothing too exciting- eggs, sausage, cheese) was $10.50?!? Say what?!? A fruit cup was $6.50?? I couldn’t believe the prices! But I figured our hotel and the aquarium cafeteria was even more expensive!
I had high hopes for the aquarium. So far, the Shedd Aquarium is the best I’ve seen. It’s huge with tons of exhibits, fish, sharks, 3D and 4D movies, a dolphin/manatee/polar bear exhibit. I love San Diego but the Birch Aquarium is no match for the Shedd. Also, Finding Dory was based after Monterey’s aquarium. We have watched this movie a million times and the aquarium in the cartoon looks AMAZING! So I had high hopes!
Monterey Aquarium charged $50 for an adult ticket and thankfully kids under 3 are free! $50!!??! That is insane! I told Jeff we’re going to stay there ALL day to get our money’s worth!
The aquarium is great- it’s clean, there are bathrooms everywhere, water fountains too. The displays are SO clean – there are no fingerprints, no dirty/murky waters, super clear! They have huge aquariums for their Open Sea, Kelp Forest and lots of little tanks instead of overcrowding their tanks. Now, as a mom and pregnant lady, I’m always looking out for kid-friendly zones/activities, bathrooms, changing tables and lactation rooms. Monterey definitely did not disappoint in that arena!
After a few hours of trying to chase after Jacob, I was ready to go home and get horizontal. Jeff also loves all things ocean and water. The aquarium’s open sea exhibit is HUGE and they have sharks, turtles and Jeff’s favorite, tuna. He was mesmerized and kept coming back to that tank. Sigh.
Later that afternoon, we decided to do the 17-mile drive through Carmel and check out the Lone Cypress tree and Pebble Beach. Jeff is amazing at golf. I am not as into golf as Jeff is. I’ve heard (through Jeff, of course) how shi-shi Pebble Beach is and how expensive it is to stay there let alone play a round of golf. So going to Pebble Beach was a must do activity.
The drive through Carmel did not disappoint. There are only a few entrances and you have to pay $10 to get in. If you spend >$35 in the town, you get your $10 reimbursed to you. The drive is gorgeous, the homes are gorgeous, the water is beautiful.
We made it to Pebble Beach and got out, walked around and found a place that looked good to eat. It’s been hard (first world problems) for me to crave anything because I feel so full all the time. Jacob enjoyed running around the beautiful greens and laughing/making noise while Jeff ran after him and tried to make sure he wasn’t disturbing people as they finished at the 18th hole.
Dinner was delicious, the customer service was great, I couldn’t imagine living/being in that world, though. I’m simple and low-maintenance, I think. I felt pretty bougie while I was there. Bougie, according to urban dictionary, means Aspiring to be a higher class than one is. Derived from bourgeois – meaning middle/upper class, traditionally despised by communists. This is not to be confused with the medical term, bougie, a thin, flexible surgical instrument for exploring or dilating a passage of the body.
That night, I noticed Jacob breathing kind of heavy and having the sniffles. I thought, could the aquarium be that powerful with its germs to start a cold less than 24 hours exposure? Those are some plentiful and infectious germs‼
Wednesday was anniversary day! We had a lovely breakfast at our hotel (slightly overpriced but delicious) ventured back to the aquarium thanks to the ticket type we purchased through our hotel that allowed a second trip back. By now, Jacob’s nose was spontaneously and continuously spewing thick green/yellow production with a mild, occasional, nonproductive cough but luckily no fever or irritability. Sometime a few months ago he learned how to blow his nose and he can definitely wipe his nope with this shirt sleeve or find Jeff or my pants/clothes to wipe his nose on.
After a few hours of crowd, walking and germs, I was over it. Am I the worst mom in the world? I wanted to get going on the next part of our trip.
Carmel is a 20-minute drive or so and it’s a cute beach town like La Jolla. Jacob fell asleep in the car on the ride down and I was worried because he hadn’t had any lunch yet. We found a street close to where we needed to go look for some art for Jeff’s mom and parked. Dametra’s Cafe was Mediterranean food and it was good (though overpriced). Jacob stayed asleep in the stroller so Jeff and I finally got a meal to ourselves and without Jacob sitting on one of our laps (usually mine).
I have a habit of eating really quickly because I needed to take advantage of this quiet time- you/I never know how long this moment of peace will last! So I shoveled food in my mouth and then get overfull really quickly! My belly has gotten big so usually one meal or two a day is a salad.
At lunch, we realized that we could not drive straight down the 1 highway to our hotel so we’d have to drive a roundabout way that would take 3.5 hours or so and we’d miss the pretty curvy drive. Luckily, we were able to get out of one night at least and possible a second night from this hotel so we found a last-minute deal at a ‘nice’ hotel in Big Sur. We stopped at CVS for some snacks and Children’s Advil and left for the 2-3 hour drive to Big Sur.
I had no idea what to expect from Big Sur. A few of my friends had been there. One couple were avid hikers and nature lovers. My other couple friend also enjoys hiking but also told me there wasn’t much to see or do. The drive was gorgeous. Lots of hills, mountains, the famous Bixby Bridge (from Big Little Lies).
We get to our cabin room at Big Sur Lodge and next to our parking space is a turkey! A big turkey making lots of noise! And I thought, he’d better not touch my car! And what if he attacks us? I made Jeff unload all the luggage into the hotel room and make a clear path for me to “run” into our room. This sentence makes me laugh because if you know my current status, you’ll know there is no real running of any kind.
Inside the cabin room, it’s nice and spacious. No TV (as advertised) but we go to the bathoom and the towels are thrown on the floor and toilet and the toiletries were open (soap on the dish). I said, oh no, not again, we’re going to have to call the registration desk and get another room and move our stuff again! Sigh! I just wanted to get horizontal and put my legs up!
Jeff risked his life going to the car and getting us another room. He has video of the turkey chasing his car like the velociraptors from Jurassic World. Our next room was across the street in another cabin and it was a quick move.
Dinner was at Nepenthe- our friend told us it was high above so you could look out at the cliff/mountain. According to the website, it was not cheap! But that I was still not hungry so I ordered some tofu/vegetarian dish that was ooookay. Jeff got steak that was undercooked and overpriced! But the view was beautiful!
One of the perks of this hotel was that it included park fees for a few neighboring state parks. There was a nice hike that was on the hotel premises so we did a quick 3 mile-ish hike. It was pretty vertical on the way up and with my big belly and lack of shape-ness, I walked slower than a turtle! The views were gorgeous and there was only one other couple hiking so it was like we had the whole mountain to ourselves!
On the way back, our turkey friend was back! This time we had no car to be our barrier so I was scared! Somehow the turkey ventured on its own somewhere and I “hustled” back down.
Breakfast was at the lodge restaurant and then we were going to take off toward SD! We were going to have to stop near SB though because otherwise it was an 8-hour drive for which no one was mentally prepared or invested at this time.
On the drive to Solvang or SB, we tried to make a stop at Paso Robles for lunch. Too bad I could not enjoy any wine tastings! I do love some wines from Paso Robles. L Most of the wineries didn’t have lunch though so we stopped at Wendy’s and drove to Solvang, a cute little Dutch town our friend told us about. We found a website called hotelstonight.com that gives you deals (better than nothing) for last-minute hotel stays!
Our hotel was $100 and it was as nice as our most expensive one (Monterey). Jacob was acting very unruly at dinner, climbing over furniture and running around, and not eating anything. And by Thursday, I was in need of something other than American food. Solvang had a pho restaurant but I figured we were going to get Asian food in LA on the way down so I thought I could handle another night of hamburger and fries.
Friday morning, I was happy to get moving closer to home! We were going to stop in Torrance at Monkish Brewery. Luckily Torrance had a lot of Korean restaurants to choose from! Unfortunately, by the time we got up and ready to go, traffic was a beast toward LA so it was going to be a 3-hour ish drive! So we hustled out of there, got some McD’s breakfast on the way and off we went!
We got to Monkish around 1pm and my desire to go home outweighed my desire to eat Asian food. We spent some time at Monkish and then started our 3-hour drive back to SD.
I missed my friend in LA on the way back too. She had to work and wouldn’t be able to meet till 6pm or so and we also didn’t want to expose her son (who just recovered from Hand-Foot-Mouth) to Jacob’s powerful cold.
We finally arrived home around 6pm and I was SO happy to be home! I can’t even remember what I ate for dinner but didn’t want to drive in SD Friday traffic to get some Asian food. Jacob was ready to get out of the car as well and kept saying ‘Beach’ so we
went to the beach where he could run his legs and we could all get some fresh air!
I was nervous about how he’d do with bedtime and being back in his own crib. My friend who did a week road trip with their 2-year-old last year, said after this trip all the sleep training went out the window. I was scared. Thankfully Jacob did AWESOME and slept through the night by himself and I finally got a nice solid evening of uninterrupted sleep!
A couple of things I love about being home is (1) my bed, (2) my coffee, (3) my liquid soap (which I packed with me because I abhor bar soap so much), (4) my towels and my favorite- my awesome, soft and wide toilet paper! And after a week of eating out, I was ready to cook and eat some healthier, home-cooked food!
We survived a week of driving and being away from home! Some people are professional travelers and love to travel. I don’t think I qualify as one of those people. Traveling is stressful- packing is stressful, the crowds get to me, I have little patience for anything, I get antsy/bored in the plane, I worry about finances with hotels, food, activities even though I shouldn’t worry!
Road trips are great because other than the decreased cost of not having to buy airplane tickets, you can pack anything you want into the car! You avoid germs of airports and airplanes and long waits! Although traffic is a pain but you can time the trip so
Some things I learned after this road trip:
- Time your meals/travels around your kid’s naptimes
- Bring plenty of snacks and hydration, movies, activities
- Bring a lumbar support/neck pillow
- Be thankful that your child loves the car and doesn’t get motion sickness when watching a movie.
- Be thankful that your husband is a good sport and good sherpa.
- Be flexible with your itinerary and meals, keep your expectations low
- Be flexible with your and kid’s bedtimes and meals.
So much for a shortened version of this trip! This was as high-yield as I could get! Thanks for exploring the North California coast with me. Now, it’s back to the grind. Although to be totally honest, I haven’t downloaded all the photos from my ‘real’ camera yet. I’m so happy we did this trip for our anniversary/baby moon. I have to wonder, how is it going to be traveling with 2 kids? I don’t anticipate traveling for a while!
What fun family trips did you and your family go on? What advice/tips do you have for traveling families?