Join photographer and Teva Explorer Tara Rock on a family road trip through national parks and seaside towns, living every day in the present. Words and Photos by Tara Rock.
When I was growing up, some of my fondest memories were our family road trips. But I have the most random memories of our trips— throwing snow and cracking the windshield from the cold/heat of our minivan rental car so the rest of the trip we had a cracked windshield, sleeping in the parking lot of a McDonalds because my dad was too tired to keep driving to our next destination, catching fireflies in a jar at my grandparent’s house.
These are the kind of random moments and experiences I want to capture when I travel. Sometimes when you go on a journey it’s not always the destination that matters but the moments in between.
Our last road trip in California ended right before COVID-19 quickly spread in the United States. At first, it didn’t feel right sharing these photos and our travel story to California. It’s such a difficult, strange time to navigate but it’s nice to feel a sense of escape, engage with others, and talk about something other than the news.
We are actually feeling very grateful we had the opportunity to travel and come home when we did. Now we’re in self-isolation…waiting. And while we wait, here is a glimpse into how we spent ten days on a California road trip.
Tara’s road trip essential: Original Dorado in Birch.
DAY 1: The road to Yosemite
We drive all day to make it to Yosemite before dark. I want to stop at every fruit stand and take photos but we don’t. We only make stops to use the bathroom and grab a burrito. I love seeing all the farms and fruit stands go by. We try to guess what they’re growing— clementines, cabbage, grapes.
We don’t take any photos. But sometimes you don’t need to.
We get to our airstream in the middle of the forest and I don’t ever want to leave. I start playing Talking Heads’ “This Must be the Place.” Tyler tells me all my dance moves look like different renditions of skanking (regardless of genre).
Otis decides he doesn’t like to sleep anymore. None of us sleep. All you parents who go on vacation feel me, am I right?
Hiking snack break in Yosemite.
DAY 2: Yosemite
My sister tells us, “You don’t ever have to get out of your car at Yosemite. The car ride itself is so beautiful.” I don’t know why she would say that. Then Otis falls asleep in the car when we get there and I know why. Tyler and I take turns getting out and running around. The massive granite walls of El Capitan and Half Dome look more impressive from afar, right? I think so. I take my chances running in the middle of the road to get the best view.
We go on a one-mile hike to Yosemite Falls. In between meltdowns and a thousand detours, it takes us two hours. The sticks are more interesting than the waterfalls for Otis. I don’t mind and am completely satisfied that a 3-foot stick is keeping him entertained (who wants to do a 7-mile, strenuous incline hike to a beautiful view anyway?). The kid loves nature. And I love to watch a kid who loves nature.
Tyler wears the Original Universal in 90s Multi.
Founded in 1907, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is the oldest amusement park in California.
DAY 3: All I can remember was a random donut shop in El Bano. The donuts were good for the road.
DAY 4-6: Santa Cruz
We catch up with friends, get some really good coffee (but it’s really all about the cookies), and I keep fantasizing about moving to Santa Cruz.
We try to be good, respectable tourists and visit the Santa Cruz Boardwalk but it’s still closed for the season. We spend way more time there than the average person would. But there are no people and so much space! Otis gets particularly attached to a statue he names “Uncle Monkey.” It was hard to leave.
We take a few strolls through the redwoods and have an impromptu birthday dinner before heading down the coast.
Tara wears the Original Dorado in Birch.
DAY 7: Big Sur
I have been through Big Sur several times over the years. It never gets old but feels oddly different with a child. We stop at places we don’t know the names of just to get Otis’ energy out. We run down paths and gaze at the ocean. It’s so beautiful here. I keep noticing all the flowers. Spring is here. It only seems fitting to stick wild flowers in my Original Dorado sandals everywhere I go.
Day 8-9: Cambria
I keep falling in love with all these small towns along the coast. We wake up early and walk along the coast. Tyler attempts to surf what little swell we’ve gotten the whole trip. I stick more wildflowers in my Dorado sandals and go on a bike ride.
We eat some of the best Mexican food (on our trip) in Cambria but pass on the wine tastings nearby. I’m bad at day drinking.
“I keep falling in love with all these small towns along the coast.” Cambria, CA.
Spring mood: Original Dorado in Birch.
Day 10: Driving back to L.A.
I find a field of flowers and want to lay in it. The poppies stain the bottom of my pants and the white straps on my Original Dorado sandals (a sweet reminder of our road trip maybe?).
We use this drive as a time to reflect on our trip. This is what life is all about. I love being on the road and in a new place every few days. It makes me feel alive and free.
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