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Ultimate Road Trip With Kids – Monterey Bay to San Simeon

    It was the best of times…it was the worst of times.

    We drove into Monterey from Yosemite arriving at our hotel late at night. As our condo near Yosemite was not equipped with laundry service, we combined that with some maintenance items that we needed to do in Monterey. We packed for about a 7-day rotation and we were on day 6 with camping scheduled for that night. The hotel did not have laundry services either and so for the first time in my life I took 7 days worth of 7 people’s clothes to a Laundromat.

    On a positive note, I finished about 7 loads (washing and drying) in about an hour and a half! Sweet. On another note, there is quite a clientele at Laundromats, I was entertained and repulsed at the same time although that is not necessarily new as I can be entertained and repulsed while doing laundry at home as well.

    We stopped for lunch at a fantastic deli on Cannery Row (Austino’s Patisserie) and walked to the aquarium. Funny thing is, it was actually cheaper for us to buy a Monterey Bay Aquarium membership for an entire year than it was to pay for our family to go for one day. So now we are members of an aquarium halfway across the country from where we live. I told Scott that with our annual park pass and our new membership here that we should really plan an adult-only getaway back to CA sometime this year and we could go back to Yosemite and to the aquarium for FREE. He reminded me that we were ON our vacation for the year and that the traveling and food and drinks and accommodations for said trip will NOT be free so unless we win the lottery we are out on another vacation this year – oh well, I tried.

    The aquarium was AMAZING! The jellyfish exhibit alone was worth the entrance fee. They were so beautiful and hypnotic in the way they moved. I could have sat all day. (These pictures are unedited because they are THAT vivid without it!)


    This cracked me up as the entire school of fish was swimming in a circle the same direction minus one little fish – can you find it?


    There were several other things to do and see including a very hands-on section for the kiddos in which they got to hold crabs and touch starfish, rays, and sea urchins.

    aquarium collage

    There was another area for the Littles that they loved. Dax especially liked the section where he could play IN the water and Grace loved the area that she could feel the waves (essentially by jumping and playing on a water bed!) The big kids loved the hammerhead sharks, the penguins, and the live sand dollars.


    We left Monterey and drove south on the Pacific Coast Highway which did not let me down that day! It was a beautiful sunny day for our drive through Big Sur and some of the most incredible coastline I have ever seen. We stopped at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see the beach and the waterfall falling right into the ocean. The kids wanted to climb down (illegally) to the beach to stand under the waterfall (and so did I, to be honest) but we did not.

    Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park



    The rest of the trip to our campsite near San Simeon was beautiful as we watched the sunset over the Pacific. YES, we watched it set while driving. So we got to our campsite in the dark AGAIN. (Thirty miles of twisty coast roads is way slower than you would imagine!)


    This is the worst of times part, we arrived at the campsite at about 9:30. Not too much of a problem aside from setting up the tent in the dark part. But we didn’t have firewood and we had a late lunch and an ice cream treat so we hadn’t eaten dinner (roasted hotdogs – yum). And while I can choke down a roasted hot dog, there is no way I could have managed an ice-cold one. We walked to the camp hosts but they were closed which was quite a disappointment. The park ranger at the ranger station directed us back out of the camp and to town about 2 miles, read 15 minutes. away.

    We set up the tent (which was in the rooftop carrier) and then set off to town. About 20-seconds after we turned from the campsite to Highway One (an extraordinarily dark road at night) there was a loud boom. Scott realized that he had just placed the rooftop carrier’s top back on the top without latching it or buckling it. So guess what the boom was? The whole top of the carrier along with a couple of bags of extras that we had stored up there fell onto the highway!

    Some things were shouted as Scott pulled over and ran down the highway to grab the top before it was run over. The kids were scared, Lily started crying and I just began to laugh. (Lily later said it made her feel like everything was going to be OK – so good reaction, I guess). Scott got the top (good) but two cars drove over a bag of stuff (life jackets, towels, extra clothing) dragging and scattering it all over the highway (not good). We actually ended up finding everything (that we know of) and bundling it all back in.

    We made it to town and got wood. Then drove back made hot dogs AND s’mores. Scott and I enjoyed some nice cold drinks by the campfire. Dax earned the title “best marshmallow cooker man” as he toasts them perfectly brown (the way I like them vs. burning them black which is the way the other kids seem to cook them-LOL).

    We all had a good laugh about the topper incident and enjoyed recapping the day. The kids fell asleep and Scott and I stayed up in total awe of the clarity of the sky. There were so many stars, and we could see the Milky Way, AND we both saw a shooting star.

    All in all a pretty nice ending to that incident.

    To note – we stayed at the Hearst San Simeon State Park Campsite and we received notice before the trip that due to the drought in California the site would be without water. They did have port-a-potties and they did offer to refund our money or charge us significantly less due to that fact. We decided that we would stay (as it was just for the night) and so the foray into the gas station late at night (while the cause of the biggest problem of the trip) did allow us to use the restrooms and wash up before eating and bedtime. We packed up early and left the following day so it wasn’t that big of a hindrance to us but could have been difficult had we planned to cook (and needed to wash dishes) or had we needed to wash up ourselves.

    Ultimate Road Trip 2014

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    Terri L

    Terri has been married to her best friend, Scott, for 20 years and together they have 5 children. She has been blessed to be able to be a SAHM since her first was born over 14 years ago. In addition to finding new and creative ways to entertain 5 children, she enjoys date nights with her husband, photography, reading, and traveling with her crew.