Wild West Car Trip, pt. 2 (Texas To SoCal)

On our first day of the Wild West Car Trip we got up at 5 am and hit the road trying to reach Phoenix by the end of the day. In case you haven’t driven from central Texas to Arizona let me tell you, it’s boring. There are a few small towns and bathrooms are few and far between. Potty breaks took at least half an hour because our only option would be some tiny gas station with one bathroom. What a drag!

El Paso was the only city along the way and it always surprises me how close Mexico is. Right against the freeway is barbed wire and the Rio Grande at the border. The shabbiness of Mexico is quite pronounced.

And then there is New Mexico. Rumor has it there are beautiful parts of New Mexico. While I believe this to be true, I haven’t seen any of these parts. Instead let’s just call it the ugliest state in America. It always makes me laugh when I see the state motto on the sign when you enter New Mexico. “Land of Enchantment”??? I hear Inigo Montoya’s voice in my head saying, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”


We forged on and made it to Phoenix in sixteen long hours. It was by far our longest leg of the trip and it was nice to get it over with at the beginning. There was much napping along the way. Are you digging the frying pan in the back of the car? I bought it especially from Goodwill to use for camping.  Only the best!

Sleeping in the car

Mister’s sister lives outside of Phoenix and she was sweet enough to put us up for the night. She’s a fabulous cook and hostess and it was a delightful pitstop. You have no idea how hard it was to leave those nice beds knowing it would be a whole week before we’d get to sleep in separate rooms with real beds again.

Carries breakfast

The drive from Phoenix to Southern California was so much shorter than the day before. Only six hours!  My niece and her husband are newlyweds at USC so we stopped by to say hello, check out the campus and take them out to dinner. Afterwards they drove Arabella and Finn around to see some of the sights in L.A. while Ada and Jasper and I got stuck on the freeway in Santa Monica for a bajillion years.

At USC film

The babies and I (yes, we still call Ada and Jasper “the babies”. We know that they are not actually infants but they shall always remain my babies and will be called thusly) arrived at our first campsite–Leo Carillo State Park, outside of Malibu–to set things up while the big kids were out playing tourists. Only we arrived just as it was getting dark. And remember that part about how I haven’t camped in 30 years? Yeah. It was a smidge hard trying to figure out how to set up our tents (we brought two small ones because it turns out our big one was missing a bunch of poles. Glad we checked before we left home!). No cell service meant I couldn’t even find a you tube video for setting up the tent. Finn came back eventually and showed us how to pitch it. (The next night we had it put together in about two minutes so we didn’t remain camping imbeciles for long.)

The campsite itself was really nice with quite a few trees. Because it was close to the ocean, it was sandy but camping is dirty no matter where you go. We were at site #128 but the site next door (#126) was super cool underneath a giant tree that looked like something out of Lord of the Rings. If you ever go there, try to get #126. Both sites are close to the bathroom (a nice thing if you’ve got kids who need to go often). Leo Carillo is right next to the beach but the camping area is a bit too far for a walk. Lots of families had bikes which would have been perfect. Unfortunately these same kids with bikes were up with the sun, riding around and shrieking at 6 am. Because I am a smart girl, I came with ear plugs but I could still hear those little brats anyway.

leo carillo site 126

And then began the strangest and most wonderful thing that happened almost every day for the rest of our trip: the weather was cool outside. I woke in my sleeping bag feeling pleasant and fresh; no sweat, no stickiness. And no mosquitos or fire ants! I simply adore Texas but there are a few things about it that are simply terrible. Mostly, the Summer. It’s bad. So yay for the Pacific Ocean which made everything lovely and temperate!

After we woke and had breakfast (cereal because I’m not making two fires in one day. What do you think I am, a pioneer?) we broke camp and headed down to the beach. This is mostly a surfing beach which means that if you try to go in the water all the surfers will yell at you and tell you to get out of their way. Pardonnez-moi, surfers, but we don’t know the etiquette of such things. Besides, it’s the ocean; I think there’s room for all of us.

The kids were ecstatic to run and play after being cooped up in the car for two whole days.

leo carillo beach

kids laughing buried sand

If you have ever taken a child to a beach, this will be a familiar sight to you: a child showing you a shell; a shell that looks like all the other shells. But you will exclaim with delight and said shell will be kept with all the other treasures such as boring rocks and bent bottle caps.

mom look at this shell

After we packed up, slightly sunburned (sloppily applied sunscreen because I just never learn), we rolled down the windows to cool things down. Only one of the back windows wouldn’t roll up.  Finn has spent quite a bit of time at the local garage learning how to fix cars, so he took the door apart. (Oh, he also brought some tools and duct tape unbeknownst to me. He’s awesome.)  After proclaiming it a lost cause we decided to drive to the next big city and find the Chevy dealership.

It was a perfect 75° and although it was windy, it was a great drive.


We finally reached Ventura and had lunch and gassed up at Costco. Costco was pretty much the thematic element running through our entire trip. When you’ve got a gas-guzzling suburban, you need the cheapest fuel possible. And you can’t beat a hot dog and drink for $1.50. And then you can stock up on beef jerky and fresh fruit too.  Most of our camping meals were ready-to-cook things we bought at costco and kept in the cooler. And we had every salad mix they carry. I think we stopped at Costco almost every day of our trip. Although there are places we went that were not near a Costco. In such places I would panic and wonder what in the world we were doing so far from civilization.

costco pit stop

Anyway, we found the Chevy dealership and they explained that they were too busy to help some poor, weary travelers. (Thanks a lot, jerks!) and they were kind enough to suggest we google another garage that might be able to help (again, thanks Chevrolet!). Instead we found an Auto Zone that amazingly had just the part we needed, despite our car being pretty old. And they let us use their tools.  Between Finn’s knowledge of car stuff and a helpful YouTube video, he installed a new window motor and . . . (some other part. I forget the name of it) and we were good to go after only an hour or so.  Did I mention that Finn is awesome?

Finn fixing car window

Once we had the window going up and down, we hit the Pacific Coast Highway and headed North. This song was running through my head most of the time. Its smooth, retro vibe was the perfect accompaniment for the windy, open road.



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