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6,000 Miles + 5 States = A Close Knit Family

My family took a road trip from Texas to Oregon and back. This 6000 mile trip took us through 5 states, 5 national parks and in the end brought us all closer together.

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The why

Pierre Padovani

My family and I went on a two week, 6000 mile road trip... with a family of four... 2 adults, 1 teenager, 1 pre-teen. In an SUV packed to the gills. Mostly with snacks, iDevices, charges and other electronics. But with some needed essentials like clothes, water, a flashlight, and an actual print out of the route in case we ran into lack of internet. Fast, furious, fun. Why would we subject ourselves to a two week, 6,000 mile road trip? We realized that all of the family vacations we had taken had been very commercialized and very crowded (think Disney during the summer). Much of the time spent had been trapped in what was presented and not what nature provided. We wanted to expose our kids to the beauty of nature and work on strengthening our on family bond.

The planning

RoadTrippers / Via roadtrippers.com

We decided that the entire family should be involved in the planning of the route and the places we wanted to visit. We took everyone's input and made sure to give each person at least one place or thing they wanted such that it was planned into the itinerary. A road trip requires careful planning and we used the website RoadTrippers. This site helped us plan our driving routes, gas stops (very important!!!), time between stops, food and even helped us find unique places along our route that we wouldn't have known about. The family spent days using this site exploring and planning the routes we wanted to take.

The lodging

HomeAway / Via homeaway.com

We decided early on that we would stay in either a vacation rental or a bed and breakfast at each stop if possible. We wanted the feeling of 'home', and didn't want to be stuck in a cramped hotel room. We used HomeAway and BedAndBreakfast.com to find and book most of our stays. We wanted a feel of community as we explored and experienced each of the new places we visited. We were not disappointed. The vacation rentals provided a sense of being inside a community and a much appreciated and needed washer and dryer during the 2 weeks. This allowed us to pack lightly. Each bed and breakfast provided great local guidance and a great home cooked, hearty breakfast to start our day.

The drive

Pierre Padovani

For our route, we had three known 'bad' days where the drive would be long and the scenery boring. We used those days to engage ourselves in conversations, with minimal device time because we were in limited cell coverage. Win win. Once we hit those scenic drives, everyone was in awe and talking about what was being seen outside. We eventually got to the point that the kids put away their iDevices. Miracle! We talked, laughed, sighed with satisfaction that each long drive brought us new insights.

First Stop: Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest

Pierre Padovani

On the drive from Albuquerque, NM to Flagstaff, AZ we stopped at the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. The painted desert had astounding views of multi-layered and colored stone. Our kids recalled a Phineaus and Ferb Disney episode that highlighted this national park. The petrified forest was unexpected in terms of what to see. There were very few trees. And it was desolate. My wife had been there as a child and recalled seeing a lot of petrified wood lying about in plain site. We went to the gift shop and commented as such. The gift shop clerk commented that for years people have been stealing the petrified wood. Interestingly enough, the clerk added: "A lot of people mail the rocks back. There is a huge pile outside of the Ranger's station. Those people had a terrible string of bad luck after stealing the petrified rock from the national park so they returned them anonymously. The Rangers are not distributing the returned rocks because they are trying to save it for future generations to see." Karma.

Grand Canyon

Pierre Padovani

Straight out of National Lampoon's Vacation movie, we saw The Grand Canyon on our way out west. We drove into Flagstaff in the early afternoon, and headed straight to the canyon. We spent a good two hours viewing this incredible site before heading back to Flagstaff. And just like the movie, we got out of the car, quickly snapped a picture and got back in the car. This has provided endless hours of amusement for our family as we reminisce about the trip. A definite bonding moment.

Paso Robles

Pierre Padovani

We had an unexpected surprise on this trip with our stay in Paso Robles, CA. It was a long drive from Falgstaff, but Paso Robles was a good stop on our long path to San Francisco. We stayed at the Sun Dance Bed and Breakfast. Amazing! We were greeted with wine and hors d'oeuvers and appropriate drinks for our kids. The owners quickly realized that we were exhausted and provided dinner for us. We spent the evening relaxing in the back yard, the four of us laying in TWO of the lounge chairs because we all wanted to snuggle (!!!), and enjoying seeing the stars. The kids had never seen the stars at night because of the light pollution where we live. We had the most amazing breakfast the next day and off we went to the San Francisco area.

San Francisco

Pierre Padovani

What can we say that has not already been said about San Francisco? The kids loved climbing up to Lombard Street... my wife and I panted and sweated behind them. We ate the best clam chowder inside of a sourdough bread ever... thankfully it was downhill from Lombard Street. The kids still talk about that. And we visited the Ghiradelli chocolate factory. Still a favorite memory for all of us even if the chocolate we bought did not last long.

Napa Valley

Wine Country Inn / Via winecountryinn.com

We spent some time in Napa Valley. All of us were in awe over driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. It never gets old no matter how many times you do it. The climate change is extreme. We went from sunny and hot to sunny and cool Fabulous. We stayed at the Vintage Inn. Highly recommend. Very elegant, classy, and spot on with everything that they do. And we ate at the Bottega. Five star. Will not disappoint. We all still talk about it... has left a great mark and memory with us. The kids still recall the truffle fries and the grand entrees they ordered. Lasting memories.

Redwood Forest

Pierre Padovani

We drove through the Red Wood Forest. Slowly. Taking our time. Taking pictures. Lasting memories. Hugging trees along the way and snapping pics. Looking up and seeing a vast forest as far as the eye could see. Priceless. Words cannot describe the experience. My advice: drive through, slowly, stop, get out of your car and absorb what you see. Priceless. If you rush through, you have done this incorrectly. Go back to the entrance and start again. Slowly.

Oregon Coast

Pierre Padovani

We drove to Walport, OR. Great ocean scenery along the way from San Francisco. Oregon provides its own sense of charm with light house tours, glass blowing shops, and great sea food.

Saguaro National Forest

Ron Medvescek / Arizona Daily Star / Via tucson.com

We drove through Tucson, AZ on our way back to Texas. The Saguaro National Forest and the Desert Museum are both a must see. As is Sabino Canyon which we hiked. Mount Lemon is a treat because if you catch it at the right time of year, you can drive up there to see snow and then come back to Tucson and swim!

Carlsbad Caverns

National Park Service / Via national-park.com

We visited Carlsbad Cavern on this road trip. We hiked down the bottom of the caverns (about a 2 hour easy pace downward hike) and had a chance for our eyes to slowly adjust and see all the beautiful geographical changes. The bottom was the best. There were so many things to explore and new things to learn about.

Pierre Padovani

We then drove home. A long drive. But the good news is that no iDevices came out. We talked. Great conversations. About what we had seen. About what we were seeing right now. Thoughts about school. Thoughts about dreams. Thoughts. Thoughts. Thoughts. Conversation. More conversation. So so so great.

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