2014 EPIC Summer Road Trip: Part 1 – Before the Beginning

summer road trip

It’s taken me a few days to wrap my head around how to approach a stop-by-stop recap of our 2014 EPIC Summer Road Trip. Keeping it honest in here is important to me. I most certainly don’t want to take the ‘Brady Brunch’ approach. That is just not the stuff that blended families are made of and this was definitely not the ‘A Camping We Will Go Episode’ where through a series of events the family bonds and learns some profound lesson ever closer because of it. When you’re here, what you see is what you get. But how do I balance writing about something that is a bit sensitive and sometimes touchy while being honest? Here it goes…

Epic Summer Road Trip

We set out and I had been a bit disappointed because we had asked the girls to each research and choose something they wanted to see or do in California. Neither took an active interest so I was deflated by what I perceived as a lack of enthusiasm. I tried not to take it personally and went on with planning. I was sure they’d love seeing all of the places I had researched and read about. I can now write I had expectations upon my bonus daughters that I shouldn’t have had. Unrealistic is an understatement. You see, I expected that they would be like me when I was their age: full of wanderlust and itching to explore. I would have combed book after book and written out an itinerary of must-see places. I expected kids who thought a road trip was one of the best things in the world.  I did several cross-country road trips as a kid. I ate it up. Back then I didn’t have a DVD player built into the car or an iPad with which to keep myself entertained! The license plate game was plenty fun for me. And we were “only” doing the state of California! Surely this would be a breeze, right?

Not necessarily.

Summer Road Trip – The Plan

I spent months planning and obsessing over details (remember I’m a corporate event manager – it’s what I do). We spent a significant amount of money. We timed the purchase of a new SUV to coincide with the girls’ arrival. I painstakingly made sure that everyone would be okay with the color of their new sleeping bag (though the hubs insisted they would be fine with whatever they got). We bought new camping chairs, new supplies and created checklists so things wouldn’t be forgotten. I planned out our stops and splurges and put so much into convincing myself this would be an awesome EPIC road trip, I overlooked the fact that all kids are different. Take my husband’s 14 year old – she is amazing. She is talented and gorgeous and I am so grateful for the job her mom is doing (and for the relationship I have with both of them). She is funny and clever and I am so excited to see her develop as she enters into high school, though I also want to wrap her in a burlap bag from neck to toes and insist she can’t date ‘til she’s 30! She is also a country girl through and through who isn’t a big fan of the city. That is totally foreign to me since I’m a city girl. It just never hit me that kids would arrive to certain places and not care for them. Ah ha moment: Oh, kids have opinions about things like cities, too!? Don’t laugh ;). I’m still new at this. Instead of me registering things in my head as, “She has personal taste just like the other billions of people on the planet,” I took it as the choice I made to visit a certain place was being criticized. I realize how unreasonable that is now. Goodness knows people think I am nuts for not liking Paris.

The hubs’ eight year old is a bit of an adventurer. She once told me she wanted us all to move to Palau for a year based upon a photo on the cover an airline magazine – and I love that about her. She’ll take the city and the country. She’s tell it like it is and just as with most eight-year olds-a filter? What filter?  I also sometimes forget she’s eight. There is this mature air about her and she’s a bit of an old soul who is very sensitive and serious; and just like her daddy dad it’s hard to tell when she’s excited (before her arrival she called to inform him she is now too old to say daddy – though she called him daddy most of the time she was here). This was also the first time she sometimes didn’t listen to me and ignored my requests. Entering into the next stage of life, I suppose! On the topic of growing up, she is also going through a major growth spurt and a cheeseburger phase.  I was worried she had a tapeworm (I’m kind of not joking) and was constantly trying to balance fruits and vegetables into her diet while discouraging soda to get good stuff in her. From what my co-workers who are parents tell me this is totally normal. See, for me it isn’t. My mom was nutrition queen and til this day I can’t stand drinking soda. It was not allowed in my house. I don’t drink sugar and the rare instances I do, I get horrible headaches. The idea of drinking sweet tea which was not readily available during the girls’ time here in California (much to their chagrin)? Disgusting. What do the girls think of UNsweet tea that I love: disgusting. See what I’m getting at here?

So here are two girls from a different world and I am expecting that they are going to be experiencing the same emotions as a 38 year old woman about an ELEVEN-DAY summer road trip that will require hours of driving and spending time in places I chose in hopes of us all having a good time 24 hours a day 7 days a week. See how I set myself up for some disappointment here?

summer road trip
Now that the girls are back home I’ve had some time to reflect and realize how silly it was of me to take the approach I did. Don’t get me wrong. We had a good time and I think we all took some really fun memories with us, but next time around the hubs will plan the vacation and I will go along for the ride…it’ll be on a plane and we’ll stick to one place where we can just veg and relax for a week! I am capable of learning new lessons and oh did I learn! So stay tuned. You’re in for beautiful scenery and some fun, sometimes frustrating and most definitely humorous times!
Part II of our adventure can be found by clicking here.


  • tannawings

    You know the kids are new with this whole bonus Mom thing too, and for either of them to really admit they had an epic time would be a very unusual ! I bet both are talking non stop about how much fun it was, sharing pics and talking to friends though about how fun you are 🙂 It sounded like a wonderful time, and amazing places and a time they wont soon forget.
    Don’t be too hard on yourself for their lack of enthusiasm it’s pretty typical behavior.
    You did great,

    • Heather Wilson

      Thank you. Sometimes, I feel so clueless. Not in that “poor me” kind of way, but just in that, “WOW this is hard and parents have the hardest job in the world and I can’t believe I ever thought for a minute I actually knew something about this,” kind of way LOL. Thank you again. All I can hope is that they have good memories and know that everything we did was for them; truly, with love and hopes that they would remember it for years to come.

  • Thea

    Hey Heather, I loved your honesty in this post and as tannawings has said don’t worry too much, it sounds to me like you’ve given them a wonderful opportunity and experiences they will remember for a life time. So whether they took the same things from it as you, they will have still taken something valuable from it which will help them shape their lives in years to come – that’s an amazing thing to offer a child.

    I’m feeling like i’m somewhat in the same position, maybe not the same boat, but an adjacent boat.
    I’m about to go on my first solo travels but i’m meeting up with people along the way. I have two very young cousins – 9 & 11 i’m visiting in France (with my uncle and aunt of corse) and I’m been racking my brains, making lists and collecting supplies for all sorts of fun activities we can hopefully do together that they will love – but I have no idea if they really will enjoy the plans I’ve made, I just have to hope they’ll get something out of it!

    Then I’m off to the states for the first time, first stop NY with a friend and then on to California on my own (which i’m so excited about). The thing that worries me the most is not all the flights, or getting lost, or finding a place to stay but that me and my friend are so very different I’m praying we don’t clash too much and still enjoy the trip!…

    …so ramblings over I feel very much in a similar (though different!) position and hope that things go well and whatever happens I learn from the experience!

    Thanks for sharing, it’s reassuring to hear other people having slightly bumpy travels too x

    p.s. Sorry for the long long message I had to stop myself, could have gone on for hours! 🙂

    • Heather Wilson

      Haha no worries. I appreciate the comment. First, I hope you have wonderful and safe travels! Will you be in San Diego at all? Do let me know! 🙂 I love meeting people! Thank you for your kind words. They are much appreciated. Just remember to have some alone time and take space. Opposites attract, but sometimes you need to pull them apart to remember that! 😉 Have a great time!

    • Thea

      Yes! I really hope I will be. I’ll be spending most of the trip in LA, but I’m hoping to stay in San Diego for a few days and wander up to San Franscisco for 3 or 4 days too. Who knows what will happen I have plane tickets and thats it so far! I’m trying to Couchsurf as much as I can as I’m more interested in doing the “local thing” than the “tourist thing” so we’ll see where it takes me! I will definitely let you know when I’m in town, it would be lovely to meet a friendly face and get the insiders scoop on Southern California!

  • Michele {Malaysian Meanders}

    I am finding that as my own kids get older and have developed their own (differing) opinions, making everyone happy while traveling is near impossible unless we are all at a Disney park. If 3 of the 5 of us are happy, I call that success. I’ve also been trying to get them involved in the planning. Sometimes they are disinterested, and I end up having to give them 3 choices (all acceptable to me) of activities to pick from for a day. Other times, they are full of suggestions which go against what *I* want to do. We are in the midst of planning a NY trip, and all I can say is that I have no intention of going to as many toy stores (4) as they would like.

    • Heather

      Thank you for the advice/feedback. I am new to (bonus) parenting and sometimes just feel so clueless. LOL that is very smart of you! Four toy stores! (Have to admit does sound kind of fun, though).