Real in the Field Notes: San Diego to San Francisco Road Trip

San Diego to San Francisco Road Trip or,

Song of 12-Hour Road Trips Which Should’ve Only Taken 8

Matthew – In the excitement of a road trip departure, it’s probably best not to encourage your toddler to make sure the DVD player is working.

I’m sure it goes without saying for most but, for some reason, I thought it would be a nice way to keep her excited about the pending 10-hour drive.

For my folly, I find myself driving around for three hours in a futile attempt to find a car audio tech with the chops to fix a jammed DVD player…in two hours or less. Eventually, I make the defeated call home. “Better start downloading movies to the iPad.” We unload more cash at the iTunes Store than we’d care to admit.

Over the 10-hour trip, the girls not ONCE ask to watch a movie

Jen – The bizarre satisfaction of expertly packing a cooler. The artfulness of fitting and refitting your perishables into a brand new ice chest. You are Queen Tetris. Then, the ABSOLUTE JOY which is turning around to see your husband undoing your hard work by unpacking and repacking the same food. “Yes dear…I suppose you can fit FIVE extra ice cubes.”


Jen – The car is perfectly packed, devices are charged, snacks are at the ready, and all that’s left is to grab a few blankets from the bedroom for car naps.

While upstairs I hear the dreaded words, “Is that poop?” Naturally, I take this perfectly timed opportunity to lock myself in the bathroom, ignoring the cries of, “Ummm, I’m gonna need some help down here!”

After a reasonable amount of lag, and only feeling a little guilty, I grab a change of toddler clothes and walk downstairs to face the damage. A clean (although naked) baby greets me with a big smile.

Matthew – We’re off!

Matthew – YES! LA traffic.2010-01-04-ItOnlyLATraffic_article

Jen – Outside LA, we sit in a parking lot called Interstate 5. With the time, we take in the sites. We sit and stare in rapture. In awe of the skilled surgeons who can build from scratch the body parts emblazoned on the billboards before us. Something about “cryofreezing” your fat! Dimple-less thighs. Perfectly straight and blindingly white teeth. And busts as perfectly shaped and immovable as the Sierra Mountains themselves. “Ta-tas National Park – Made in God’s Image with the help of Dr. Robert M. Rey”



Matthew – Mountains, canyons, lakes, farmland.

Matthew – A brand new carseat for Norah. She just recently broke-free of Bucket Carseat’s tyranny and can now look wide-eyed onto the seat-back in front of her. Her old rig was indeed too small, but really, the poor thing had suffered too many car trips with babes who couldn’t handle curves. Not a snack has been eaten in her new carseat and it holds her snugly for the first four hours of our trip.

But who really wants a “new car smell” carseat? Norah certainly doesn’t. She kills its “newness” with one National Geographic-worthy regurgitation of grilled chicken and blueberries. Really need to work on aiming for the bucket.

Jen – We find an off-ramp before sympathy vomit overtakes the family. Personally grateful this happened before we reached the more scarcely populated areas of California’s Central Valley. The Chevron’s bathrooms are surprisingly clean and ready to handle our “situation.” Norah has never been so happy to sit in a paper towel-lined sink lathered with “truck-stop cherry almond” hand soap.


Matthew – Over the mountains.

Jen – Clarke tests out a new carseat as well this trip. Having recently graduated to the forward-facing variety, she’s now proudly taking in the world in front of her. Sturdy, tall, and with a cup holder no less, this booster seat is serious business!

Not a crumb to be found but, that’s okay, Clarke wouldn’t want it to feel left out. She doles out the car seat’s first bout of motion sickness as well. Luckily, the booster seat is spared since Clarke is a travel veteran and as if she was going to win an oversized carnival stuffed animal, she nails the plastic baggie.

Matthew – Driving over the Los Angeles mountains, watching our poor kids’ sensitive stomachs get the best of them, I can’t help but wonder if the frontiersmen would be a little bit mortified or ashamed at our misfortune. I resolve not to give a damn about their backward judgments as their horses weren’t rocketing from sea level to 4,000+ feet at close to 80 miles an hour.

Jen – Everyone is clean at this point. Dry of tears with newly emptied stomachs. Perfect time to complain endlessly for snacks.

Matthew – On the road with three happy babes. Out of the canyon and onto the fast stretch of highway we’ve all been craving. Cruising at top speed…


Jen – For 15 minutes.

Okay…we have to pull over so Clarke can pee. The only problem is that there’s not an exit in sight. Toddlers don’t wait to go.

Against our better judgement, we pull off the highway and bust out the ladybug potty. The lady bug potty is something that happens when the CEOs of Little Tykes and Bedpans Incorporated go drinking together.


She goes while we say a silent thank you to each motorist not slamming into the back of our car at flank speed.

After having been tossed about by the rising and falling pressure of passing traffic, we flip on the turn signal and jump back into the slip stream.

Jen – Dinner is a wonderful success, even if we were “those parents” who had their kids walking around in pajamas and tennis shoes. They are fed, and we can only assume they are tired. 

Jen – Three hours later. Not asleep. Honestly, how is that possible?! I’m nearly comatose and am having to slap Matthew to keep him in the game but the kids look like Father Time just hit the reset button on their circadian Rhythms. Go the !@#$%^&* sleep.


Jen – Shhhh.. They’re asleep. Finally, a moment’s peace….
In San Francisco!


Jen – No, seriously, just a moment.

Matthew – …




  • Tom K.

    September 6, 2016 at 10:19 am Reply

    I would love to see you two tell this story at a comedy club one day. Absolutely hilarious (and wholly accurate) account of what traveling with kiddos can be like.

    • Jen & Matthew

      September 7, 2016 at 2:56 pm Reply

      After dinner and a couple glasses of Monterey’s finest is probably as close as we’ll get. Haha.

  • Mela

    September 6, 2016 at 1:17 pm Reply

    Love this post! Hilarious.

    • Jen & Matthew

      September 7, 2016 at 2:52 pm Reply

      Thank you for leaving a comment Mela! Not a well known fact, but blogging generates a bunch of spam replies. Finding a REAL comment from a REAL friend is the kind of thing that makes your whole day!

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