The 3,600 mile road trip

My husband and I just got back from the longest road trip ever!

We started by heading west to Carpinteria, California, a tiny old timey beach town a few miles south of Santa Barbara. My nephew discovered Carpinteria when he started working for, which is headquartered there. We hung out on the beach, ate lunch at The Spot, had dinner at Padaro Beach Grill, chatted with the locals, and seriously considered moving into one of the 55+ communities there. The only drawback to Carpinteria is the Southern California freeway system that we’d have to navigate every time we wanted to see our granddaughters! Stay tuned, we may end up there yet.


Carpinteria State Beach

After Carpinteria, we drove north to Monterey, where we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium. What an amazing place! We saw jellyfish, sea otters, thousands or maybe millions of anchovies and other tiny silver fish swimming in circles above our heads, a couple of great documentaries, and throngs of school children. School in California wasn’t out yet, although in Arizona, kids had been on summer break for a couple of weeks already.

On the way to Monterey, we were surprised by the beauty of the mountains we drove through between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. Vineyards as far as the eye can see. In San Luis Obispo, we had beignets that somehow, magically, had enormous fresh blueberries right in the middle of the triangular pastries.

We spent the night in Santa Cruz, at a Comfort Inn about a block away from the Boardwalk. Now, the Boardwalk is a special place in my memory. I grew up in Palo Alto, and begged all summer long, every summer, to go to the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz. I think I actually got to go there three or four times as a kid. I’m sure it’s been modernized and it’s probably a far safer place than it was when I was young, but it still has that crazy beach holiday feeling. We walked out onto the wharf for dinner.


Santa Cruz Boardwalk

From Santa Cruz, we drove to Redding, bypassing the craziness of the Bay Area although we definitely encountered plenty of traffic along the way. We stayed at the Oxford Suites in Redding and visited a place called the Sundial Bridge. It crosses the Sacramento River and on the other side is a big park with walking trails through woods and meadows. It was unexpected! I had picked Redding just for its geographical convenience along the road, but it was a very nice spot.

Sundial Bridge, Redding

Sundial Bridge, Redding

Redding to Portland was the next leg of the journey. We actually stayed in Beaverton, because we could get a better rate on a Courtyard Marriott – my husband loves the Marriott beds and we figured we would need a good rest after the long drive from Redding. We tried to go to the Rose Garden in Portland but ended up in parking gridlock – who knew it was the rose festival that day? Note to self, next time check the events calendar! We did make it in to Powell’s City of Books, my favorite place in Portland. I picked up a couple of used books and my husband got his first glimpse of the glory that is Powell’s.


Wetlands, Beaverton, OR

From Portland, we headed north to Canada. The Seattle traffic was as intense as everyone told us it would be, and we were impressed with the flexible speed limit signs on the freeway. We considered a side trip to the Space Needle but…next time.

We took the smaller, less busy border crossing at Aldergrove because it had a shorter wait time. Small definitely didn’t mean easy, though. The Canadian officer quizzed us at length about why we were visiting Maple Ridge and seemed particularly interested in our Arizona license plate, asking several questions about weapons and concealed carry permits and the like. Seriously. Me. Nope, no guns, no how, no way, no thank you.

The Golden Ears Bridge (so much easier to get to the other side of the Fraser River now!) took us to Maple Ridge. It was lovely to see Aunt Edith and Uncle Max, always my favorites and now the last of their generation in my family. They’re in their nineties and are frustrated that they can’t be as active as they always have been, but neither of them is sitting still. We had a nice long chat, then my husband and I took a walk on the nearby dikes to shake the cobwebs out after the long drive.

Maple Ridge dikes

View from the dikes

On our second day in Maple Ridge, we drove up to Alouette Lake. We managed to confuse Siri, who wanted to send us on a 4-hour journey where we’d drive to halfway between Stave Lake and Alouette Lake and then hike the rest of the way. Alouette Lake is less than a half hour up the mountains from Maple Ridge, in Golden Ears Provincial Park. Luckily we knew that, and double checked the route on Google Maps, which sent us in the right direction. Don’t get me wrong, I love Siri, and she guided us faultlessly on the entire journey, with just that one exception.

We took a little walk on the Spirea Nature Trail after spending a little time tossing stones into the lake. The kids in BC were still in school, and it wasn’t full-fledged summer yet, so it was pretty quiet, but we still saw a few people catching some rays on the beach.


Spirea Natural Trail in Golden Ears Provincial Park

My cousin Elaine recently moved out to Tsawwassen, a tiny town in between Boundary Bay and the Pacific Ocean, famous for its ferry terminal. We had a nice lunch at the White Spot there, and then walked out on the trail by the bay, admiring the gorgeous golf course we walked past on the way from Elaine’s place. We saw our first inukshuk – it’s a kind of cairn built in a dolmen-like shape, used by Inuit and other northern peoples – on the side of the trail there.

We stayed with my cousin Debbie and her husband Pete, who live in the basement suite of my aunt and uncle’s house. It’s a great arrangement. Debbie keeps the whole place shipshape and keeps an eye on her parents’ health, and in partnership with her dad produces beautiful painted birdhouses (Max builds them, Debbie paints them).  They came home from their visit to his family in the Kootenays after we’d been there a few days, and we had fun visiting a crazy place called Granny and Grumpa’s (featured on Canadian Pickers) out in Chilliwack one day.

Canadian pickers

The rest of our stay was a whirlwind of fine food and relaxation. We had lunch at a pub on the Fraser River and another pub in town, and dinner with Debbie and Pete and my other cousin Brenda at a Japanese place. We grilled out on the patio one night, and got a chance to visit with Mel and the kids Scout and Sawyer (Elaine’s daughter-in-law and grandkids). We ate loads of Pete’s delicious salsa. One night Jim and I drove across the bridge to meet my cousins from the other side – my dad’s brother’s sons Mark, Garry, and Donny, and Garry’s wife Rhonda – over dinner at the Spaghetti Factory in Langley.


Veggie Box at Sushi Umibe 

Debbie agreed to paint a birdhouse for us to take to our friends in Boise. We looked at hundreds of pictures on Pinterest for inspiration, and decided to do a barn theme. Watching Debbie make the barn come to life was an education in how much care and creativity and how many steps go into her creations. The end result was beautiful, and our friends loved it. It’s a great fit in their gorgeous back yard.


Debbie & Max’s birdhouse at home in Boise

One day in Maple Ridge, we were surprised to see a pair of deer scampering up the driveway. By the time we came upstairs, they had turned around and were headed off down the street. We also saw a couple of coyotes while we were there. Lots of wildlife on this visit!

Maple Ridge deer

Deer on Thornton Ave.!

We went with Debbie on her morning walk through the neighborhood one day. I took a ton of pictures but the one with the fire hydrant is my granddaughter’s favorite.


Morning walk in the neighborhood

To be continued…






Written by Shan
I spent 25 years conducting performance audits of state agencies, looking for ways they could be more effective and efficient. I helped write countless government reports. I worked with the smartest, nicest people in state government, and was honored to be a part of that group. Now, though, I’m writing fiction (yay! adjectives! dialogue!), learning banjo, traveling, hanging out with my fabulous granddaughters, and – big surprise – I’m still not decluttering that back room that was on hold for the past 25 years.