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  1. Default Ideas for California

    I'm so glad I found this site! Love reading everyone's posts :)

    My family and I are planning a cross country road trip to California (we live in Maine) for the fall of 2017. I know it's early yet but I LOVE planning trips and am already looking for things to do. Right now we don't have a specific route planned out so we don't know what we will be able to see/do but I will welcome ANY ideas! We love NP's and anything scenic, natural wonders...we like unique things (for instance I found something called Potato Chip rock somewhere in CA that i'd like to see). We love anything historical- we homeschool so I love to make our trips educational :)

    As we get closer to leaving and have an itinerary I'll post it here to get advice on what is feasible. We have done many road trips before (trekked all the way to Florida 2 years ago in three weeks) so we pretty much know how to plan our route and survive on the road with 4 kids :) We are thinking of seeing if we can do this in three weeks without getting too exhausted. This will most likely be the only time we get over to that part of the country so we want to make the most of it while we're there! We might be able to add another week on depending on how much money we've saved up until then.

    Can anyone tell me what the weather is like over on that side of the country...late September to October? Will we need to pack layered clothing? Living in Maine we think nothing of being out in 50 degree weather in t-shirts :)

    Oh! And are there any foods that are unique to the West that we should try? I love trying out new foods!
    Thanks for any ideas!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Hi, Sarah,

    How long do you intend to stay in California? Bear in mind that it's 6 days in each direction from Maine to CA (depending on where in CA you plan to spend the most time), so that gives you about 9 days here in the state. And it's a BIG state.

    Potato Chip Rock ... well, that's practically in my backyard, just a few miles from me to the trailheads. I haven't hiked to it yet, but it's very popular. You can reach it either from the Lake Poway Trail (a little longer but less strenuous), or from the Rt. 67 trailhead (shorter but steeper, between Poway and Ramona). Depending on how fit you are, you can take either half day or full day to do this trail.

    Weather....California is over 700 miles long and well over 300 miles wide, in places. We also have everything from sea level to 10,000 ft (and higher) in elevation. In September and October, weather would be different no matter where you go in the state. (What it probably will not be, sad to say, is rainy -- we need the rain!) I'd say to be prepared for anything, except a blizzard (unless you're going to Lassen or Yosemite).

    Foods unique to the west ... probably the thing I miss the most when I travel is real Mexican food. After trying different Mexican restaurants all over the country, I realize that being near the border (Mex/USA) gives us a special privilege of having good Mexican food. But....this is just my opinion. New Mexico, Arizona and Texas also have good Mexican food.

    As far as things for your kids, to homeschool....I'm sure you've already heard of, and had experience with, Junior Ranger programs. Somewhere in your travels, find one of the California missions. Find some tidepools someplace, such as Cabrillo National Monument in the San Diego area. (Of course, you may have good tidepools in Maine.) If you can visit the Central Valley, our "bread basket", and read the book Blue Willow (a historical fiction novel set in the central valley), that's helpful. Lassen is a volcano whose time is coming to blow, according to some experts.

    You may find yourself wishing that you had more time. As I said, this is a BIG state, and there's a lot to see.

    Donna in San Diego County

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Learning on the road.

    Not only is CA a big State, you have so many routes from which to choose, and so much to see and learn no matter which route you choose. Sounds like a great educational trip.

    Only a couple of weeks ago I was travelling on US-12 through the northern States - MT/ID - and was thinking what a great route it would be for anyone homeschooling.... or anyone for that matter. There is more history along that route alone than you'd learn for large part of the year in a class room.

    I know there is a family at home who were featured in a road trip program some months ago. They were homeschooling, as they lived permanently on the road in a converted bus, with their 11 children - 6 of whom were born along the way. Everything those children learned was applied to practical daily living.

    When they stopped in one city for six months, and put the children in school, the teachers were surprised how far ahead of other children they were, in every field.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default A Few Basics to Keep in Mind

    While it's true that driving between Maine to California (e.g.: Portland to San Francisco or Los Angeles) can be done in six days, that really only accounts for the driving and a very few short time-out sort of stops each day. If you plan educational stops, and maintaining a pace that doesn't wear out your kids, you'll probably need closer to eight days each way, leaving only five to seven days actually in California. On the plus side, on long cross-country trips such as the one you're planning it is very easy to take two completely different routes, one west-bound and another eastbound, so that you're constantly driving through new areas and passing new historic, scenic, and just plain interesting sites. Finally, as well as historic and scenic sites, there are historic and scenic roads. Among them are the National Road that opened up much of the nation to westward migration, the Wilderness Road through Kentucky trailblazed by Daniel Boone, the Natchez Trace which allowed boatman to return to the Midwest after floating down river in the days before steam power, I-80 which follows the old Oregon Trail along the Platte River in western Nebraska, and the Santa Fe Trail among others. And don't forget the role played by rivers, most notably the Ohio and Missouri.

    Then there are a few logistic items to make sure that you take advantage of. The first is to get an America the Beautiful annual pass that's good for admission to all national parks, monuments, and historic sites. Since its 'year' begins at the point of purchase, you should simply buy one at the first park you come to that charges an entry fee. The other resource is even better since it's free, and educational. That's the Junior Ranger Program which will give your children some age-appropriate activities to help them get the most out of their visit to each park, and upon completion rewards them with some very nice souvenirs including, typically, certificates and badges.

    Those are just some things to keep in mind as you set up your first proposed itinerary. The other major consideration is what your children want. Be sure to include them in the planning - They'll surprise you, I'm sure. And once you have your own ideas of how you want the trip to go, be sure to check back in and see if we can offer some specific sites on or near your route(s).

    Last edited by AZBuck; 07-25-2016 at 07:40 AM.

  5. Default

    We are going to try to plan for a month off to travel the CA area. If we can save up enough money then we might be able to add another week.

    Somewhere in your travels, find one of the California missions.
    Never thought of those! I'll have to check some out :)

    probably the thing I miss the most when I travel is real Mexican food
    That is definitely one thing we don't really get much of here in Maine. Thanks for the suggestions!

  6. Default

    Then there are a few logistic items to make sure that you take advantage of. The first is to get an America the Beautiful annual pass that's good for admission to all national parks, monuments, and historic sites
    I can't believe I've never heard of this! Thank you!

    The other major consideration is what your children want.
    Seriously?! lol JK :)

    I also completely forgot about things like the Oregon Trail and Wilderness Road. So much to do and so little time!

  7. Default

    I'll mention that route 12 to my husband and see what he thinks.

    I would LOVE to just travel like that family :)

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