West Coast Road Trip

In Our Life, We Heart Travel by Courtney4 Comments


As I mentioned in the post about our hot air balloon ride, I (Courtney) get/arrange adventures for Gary for any gift-giving occasion instead of buying him things so I knew that I had to do something BIG for his 30th birthday which was at the end of January. My solution was a road trip of epic family-style proportions. Gary has been talking about a roadtrip up the coast of California for the last few years and I decided it was finally time to make it happen.

In order for the epic level to be where we wanted it to be, we knew that we couldn’t have this adventure on our own. Randy and Erin Hill (of He & She Photography) and their little guy Linus were an obvious choice for travel buddies since A) They’re awesome and B) They’re really awesome. View their images from our trip on their blog.

After ridiculous amounts of planning we were set to go. We spent the first night at the Hill’s little ranch in Paso Robles (Central CA Coast) strategizing about how to fit 7 people and all our crap into our rented minivan. Several hours and a few glasses of wine later we finally got it all to fit. Barely. (BTW – all the side-by-side square images are from what we Instagrammed – follow us here)

The next morning we took off bright and early in order to make it to our first stop in Big Sur. On the way we stopped to see the Elephant Seals near Morrow Bay (they’re fascinating and disgusting… they got all “National Geographic” on us and were fighting and mating and all that crazy obnoxious seal stuff).

The next break was at Ragged Point which has the most incredible view of the coast line and where my child threw the world’s most horrific temper tantrum (just keepin’ it real folks.)

The final stop for the day was McWay Falls which looks like something out of a movie. Hidden waterfall that pours into the ocean. Ridiculously beautiful and the scene of my other child throwing a horrific temper tantrum. BTW, this whole time Linus was a complete angel. Obviously.

It’s hard to tell in these images, but there was a massive swell that hit the west coast during our trip, the waves were easily over 20 feet tall. It was loud, huge and beautiful.

We finally made it to Big Sur in the afternoon and checked into our glorious little cabin in the woods and explored the area. We thought our cabin had a kitchen, but it didn’t, so we roasted hot dogs over the campfire.

The next day we continued onward and upward towards San Francisco. This was the longest day of driving that we had. Thank goodness that rental van had a DVD player for the kiddos. We also stopped  in Monterey at the world’s most amazing playground.

Somehow Gary had never driven over the Golden Gate Bridge (he says he’s never even seen it but I just don’t believe him.) so we stopped for the obligatory San Fran shots of the bridge and let the kids rage around.

We randomly pulled over for potty break (there was a fair amount of “I need to PEE and/or POOP!” moments coming from the back of the car) and found an incredibly gorgeous spot to take in another beautiful sunset. It was also kind of a dreamy shooting location and we just couldn’t help ourselves.

Above, Joelle is a professional photo-bomber… and below, Linus is a professional hat steeler ;)Lots of this (dancing, above) on the trip… and lots of Charlotte falling down – she’s the less coordinated one out of our bunch :)That night we stayed in a spot we found on Airbnb that was half really cool and half really weird. Just part of the adventure I guess.

Mendacino and Fort Bragg were the next stops and then we found Sea Glass Beach which is exactly what it sounds like: A beach that is almost entirely made up of sea glass instead of sand. Who knew that pollution could be so lovely? Linus was beside himself with how beautiful it was and decided to just roll around in it and bathe himself in it. Freakin’ love that kid. Jo kept exclaiming “It’s so  BEAU-tiful!” and then illegally collected half the beach and stashed in it my pockets. I dumped [most of] it back out before we left. Charlie was just confused about where the sand was.

Quick stop in Eureka for some brews and into the Redwoods for a night. This is when the weather turned on us. However, the rain did not stop Gary and Randy from illegally approaching some terrifying and bad ass Elk in a field that was surroundedby large signs reading “DANGER Do Not Approach the Elk”. It also did not stop us from attempting a rainy hike to see the ginormous trees, although it was cut short by my children whining about the rain and cold.

After an overnight driving break in Redding involving a mall playground and random thai food, we went on our way through Mt. Shasta and into Central Oregon to our final destination: Bend.

Bend was full of the usual fun: Good beer, good friends, family, snow, sledding. We attempted some family walks during which our children were mostly just confused and upset by how cold it was…except Linus who was confused and upset about why he had to be inside so much. Gary’s family threw him an amazing birthday party celebrating his last 30 years which was only slightly dampened by the fact that most of Bend had come down with a crazy flu. I happened to get that same flu at spent the evening in bed with a fever which was totally crappy.

Charlotte lookin’ for someone to POWN with that snowball – if only she could see through that hat and her hair ;) Also, here’s Charlotte falling down (below), again :)

Gary got to go backcountry snowboarding with some buddies (Matt and Kyle). 

The weekend finished up with several other coming down with the flu so we decided to bolt on Monday. We pretty much made the drive in one straight shot through the night (with one quick stop in Redding to explore their new sundial bridge and grab some dinner), landing back in Paso Robles around 2am.

Overall the trip was lovely, quick, a little chaotic and exhausting but completely worth it. We wish we would’ve had more time! I think we could have spent several days at each spot we stopped at! There were lots of things we wish we could’ve done that our kids were just too little for so I think we might do a repeat (but more extended) trip in a few years. Overall, a great and extremely memorable trip to ring in Gary’s 30th. Huge thanks to Randy and Erin for rallying with us and being fabulous travel buddies.

And most of all…Happy Freakin’ Birthday to the love of my life. Can’t wait to be with you for all of the next 30 years.


  1. Korey

    Wow those photos are amazing!!!
    Also you are very brave to take three kids on such a long road trip! I’m scared to anywhere further than an hour!

  2. Tim Rodriguez

    Dude, What an epic road trip! So many good pictures and I’m sure even greater times. Love the B+W shot of Courtney and Charlotte it sure does just capture the soul of your guys’ trip. Gary: that backcountry snowboarding is definitely something I can be jealous of, along with seeing those elk!

  3. Carly Kolbo

    AWESOME!!!! Love Jo & her dresses. :) What an amazing trip!

  4. Caitlin

    This trip looks fabulous! Would you be willing to share your itinerary and the length of time you were travelling?

    Very cool!

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