Road Trip: Next Stop – College

GOOD LUCK with the college visits. My heart is soaring and sniffling for you, my friend Julie emailed me before we left for our Memorial Day weekend college tour road trip. She nailed it. (As she always does.) In one year and two weeks Chandler will be graduating high school. Two months after that he’ll be heading off to college. Out of our home forever. Or at least until Thanksgiving break. My heart is indeed soaring and sniffling all at once.

Teaching him how to tie his shoes, how to cook (or at least how to make a grilled cheese sandwich), and (especially) how to properly clean a toilet has all led up my casting him off into the world to survive and thrive outside of our household. It’s enough to make me want to vomit. Happy vomit of course. If there is such a thing.

Thursday afternoon, right after the kids got home from school, we left on a 1400+ mile, three day road trip to visit three universities. Go big or go home right? (Or rather stay home in this instance.)

 

First Stop UCSC

Chandler wanted to start off driving so I buckled down in the back seat with a semi-cranky why-do-I-even-have-to-go-on-this-stupid-college-tour-trip Marley. We battled Santa Barbara traffic, chowed on Double Double’s in Atascadero, and arrived in Santa Cruz about six hours later.

back-seat-of-car
Hangin’ in the back.

 

We can’t afford two rooms -in fact this was a budget travel trip with coolers packed full of sandwich-makings and our rooms booked on Priceline– so we slept boys in one bed and girls in the other since our children refuse to sleep together. We weren’t expecting much from our $50/night 2-star hotel, but it was clean, had enough towels, and the free breakfast included a make-your-own waffle station, so we deemed it a success. (Even though the coffee -if you could even call it that- was incredibly weak.)

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the university and didn’t know if Chandler would really like it or not. We chose UCSC because of the D3 athletic program (Chandler wants to compete in college athletics, but isn’t sure he want to at a D1 level), the majors it offers, and the beautiful location. But it has a reputation for being a bit of a hippie school and Chandler is 0% hippie. Well, he’s an environmentally-minded liberal, but a buttoned-down, rule-following, environmentally-minded liberal.

The campus was amazingly beautiful. It felt more like a mountain resort than a university.

UCSC
This feels more like a vacation than school!

 

“I think going here would be great,” Chandler said to me halfway through the tour. “I love everything about this school, except for this view.”

UCSC Beach View
Yeah, this view sucks!

 

“You’re crazy,” I told him. “The view is amazing.”

“Yeah, but the school looks like it’s in a forest and the view of the ocean doesn’t really fit.”

(Have I ever mentioned that Chandler is a little quirky?)

 

UCSC trees
Trees like this cover the campus of UCSC.

 

In my world forest meets ocean equals perfection. But apparently in Chandler’s world forest meets ocean breaks some kind of rule. And as I said, he’s a rule-follower. Wow, is college going to be an eye-opening experience for him.

 

Second Stop Humboldt State

You might think that taking our 0%-hippie, rule-following, buttoned-down, quirky son to Humboldt State with its reputation of schooling hippies with a capital “H” an odd choice. Possibly. But we do want Chandler to consider a state school. And since he has expressed a possible interest in environmental studies, apparently wants to go to school in some sort of forest, and would like to attend college out-of-state, we though that Humboldt -which is an environmentalist’s wet dream, has a 20,000 square foot forest attached to it, and is closer to Seattle than to Los Angeles- deserved a look. Plus we thought the idea of embarking on a seven hour, 356-mile journey that included driving through San Francisco at 5PM on the Friday of a three-day weekend sounded like lots of fun.

The two things (semi-cranky why-do-I-even-have-to-go-on-this-stupid-college-tour-trip) Marley requested of this trip was to see the Golden Gate Bridge and to swim in a hotel pool. Of course it is our goal in life to bitterly disappoint her (just ask her), so we made sure that even though we had to cross the bridge she couldn’t really see it.

Golden-Gate-Bridge-Fogged-in

 

We arrived in Arcata close to midnight, two hours after the pool closed, screwing Marley once again, and headed straight to bed.

Our tour of Humboldt didn’t start until noon, so after more waffles and weak coffee we decided to check out the town of Arcata and happened upon the 45th Annual Kinetic Grand Championship taking place in the town square.

What is that you ask? It is a 3-day, 42-mile bike race over land, sand, mud and water. Which means one must convert their “bike” to be able to successfully handle land, sand, mud and water.

kinetic sculpture bike

 

And the crazier the conversion, the better.

pig-kinetic-sculpture

 

Coincidentally I went to this race with my mom and brother 31 years ago with a “why-do-I-have-to-go-on-this-stupid-trip-on-a-holiday-weekend” attitude and ended up having an incredible time, so I was thrilled to happen upon it again. Unfortunately Marley was even more determined than me (at the peak of my teenaged surliness, I might add) to hate everything about our trip and sat on a bench claiming the kinetic sculpture race lame. But she later told my mom it was “kind of cool,” so while not as big a win as make-your-own waffles, I’ll take it as a minor victory.

 

shark-sculpture
This sculpture was called “Bite Me.”

 

After our tour of Humboldt, Chandler met with a coach and liked him a lot. He also liked the dorms.

Dorms-at-Humboldt-State
Yeah, I could see Chandler living here.

 

Marley loved Humboldt and decided she must go there. Plus we went to a really cool record store where she bought two posters (bonus – one of them I absolutely hate) and we both claimed the Ryan Gosling doppelganger who rang us up super cute.

 

Third Stop: UC Davis

After leaving Humboldt we drove three hours to Red Bluff with me taking most of the time behind the wheel. We got there in plenty of time to enjoy cheap delicious Mexican food from a place called La Corona (thank you Yelp) with a big ol’ margarita for me (hazzah!) and plenty of pool time for Marley after dinner. (So, Marley found her future college, talked to a cute -way-too-old-for-her- boy, and got to swim all in one day. Maybe Dave and I aren’t the worst parents in the world after all.)

margarita
It looks a little toxic, but it was pretty damn good!

 

Chandler popped out of bed at seven o’clock on Sunday morning ready to head down to the make-your-own waffle station before it got too crowded prompting us to get shaking and get started with our day. He was mostly excited to visit the Capital in Sacramento, but our first stop was Davis. I think he may have been overwhelmed by its size. And while there were plenty of trees, it was certainly no forest. He did not love it. But they have a viticulture and enology major (translation wine making), so it is my new goal in life to change Chandler’s mind and have him go to Davis. I think he owes me that.

UC Davis
The Mondavi Performing Arts Center at UC Davis

After touring Davis we took a tour of the Capital building and Chandler was in heaven. I know I’ve stated that he’s expressed an interest in the environment, and that is true, but he loves history so much, I think his calling is probably political science. With a minor in viticulture and enology environmental studies. Maybe.

After touring the Capital we had a (very) late lunch at a dive bar on the Delta called Wimpy’s where I was once accidentally abandoned Home-Alone-style by my family when I was a teenager. (That is a true story, but a story for another time.)

Then we headed home.

We’ve now toured five colleges total. I hope to have Chandler tour at least five more. This next year will no doubt, like his entire childhood, go by at warp speed. Six months from now his college applications will be complete. Ten months from now all of the acceptance (and rejection) letters will have arrived. Eleven months from now his decision will have been made. Fourteen months from now my son will be going off to college.

My heart is soaring and sniffling.

Where Would YOU Go if Money Was No Object?

This post was inspired by Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. I chose prompt #5:  8 places you’d go this summer if money wasn’t an object.

Hmmm… do I have to do them all this summer? I guess I’d better get started. And since we’re talking Lotto Dreams travel, I’ll have to hire a Lear Jet so I don’t have to mingle with the type of people who fly tourist. (Which is pretty much me!)

Earth
Earth – photo credit Tonynetone via Creative Commons

#1 Istanbul

When I was in college a favorite marketing professor of mine told tales of her backpacking trips abroad. She was the one who sparked the desire in me to backpack across Europe during the summer of 1986. She traveled to many places and her favorite place hands down was Istanbul. She made it sound so magical I’ve wanted to go ever since. She especially loved the Grand Bazaar where haggling for beautiful and unique treasures was an art form. Most Saturdays Chandler and I go yard saling and haggle over prices of used junk unique treasures. I cherish the time with him and I enjoy our little treasure hunts, but somehow I think shopping for shit we don’t need in Turkey would be way better.

Istanbul-Grand-Bazaar
Istanbul Grand Bazaar Photo credit Brian Snelson via Creative Commons

#2 Italy

I became engaged in Italy and it holds a very special place in my heart. The food, the art, the culture, the people, the gorgeous countryside, the art, the wine, the fooood (yeah, there’s a reason Elizabeth Gilbert ate her way through Italy) – I am madly in love with Italy. However, I have not spent any time at the lake district or on the Italian coast. (Unless you count those nine hours in 1986 when I sat at the very unattractive port of Brindisi waiting for the ferry to the party nation of Greece.) I would love to rent a villa at Lake Como or the Amalfi Coast and spend an entire summer there lying around doing absolutely nothing but drinking wine and eating. (Except that I have six more destinations to visit!)

Verona-Italy-Juliet-balcony
Standing on Juliet’s balcony in Verona, Italy the day after my engagement.

#3 London

I spent a semester of college attending school in London and it quickly became one of my favorite cities. Dave and I have often talked about how we would love to live in London for a year or two. I love the museums and the architecture, the parks and the pubs. I love shopping on Portobello Road and Kensington High Street. I can’t wait to take my kids to London one day and show them the sights. My kids don’t really love cities, but I think London would turn them around.

London-Big-Ben
Lovely London – Photo credit Tim Morris via Creative Commons

#4 Greece

Was that nine hour wait in the industrial port of Brindisi and 24 hour barf-over-the-side ferry ride worth it? You bet. During that 1986 trip I went to Athens (don’t bother) and Ios (party paradise) and then returned to Greece in 1988 (before starting my semester in London) to visit Ios once again, and added Mykonos and Santorini. The stark contrast of the white stucco buildings and bright blue sea is just breathtaking. I think I’d skip Ios this time (mostly out of fear that they wouldn’t let me off the boat because I’m too old!) But I would love to spend some serious time there lounging on the beaches of Santori, Mykonos and Corfu reading a book and eating  a lot of simple Mediterranean food and not much else. Ah yes, the art of doing nothing!

Brindisi-to-Greece
Heading to Greece via huge ferry slumber party

#5 New York City

Well, I’m halfway through my fantasy travel summer and of course a trip to New York is mandatory. I haven’t been to New York in eight years and I miss it desperately. I always feel so alive in that city. I love the shops and restaurants. I love the bars and seeing plays both on and off Broadway. I love walking everywhere. And I simply adore the fashion. People don’t dress up in California like they do in New York.  I could stand on the streets of Manhattan and people watch all day.

Side note:  I follow a fabulous blog called Fashables that features street style photography. (Photographs taken of random people walking down the street.) It helps me get my New York fix. But I am dying to go back soon for reals.

Fashables collage
New York street style photography by Ryan Shell of Fashables

# 6 Napa Valley/San Francisco 

Napa/San Francisco totally counts as one place right? I went to Napa earlier this year for the 2013 Wine Sisterhood trip (did I mention it was amazing) and can’t wait to go back. The trip I went on was a girlfriend’s trip, but I’d love to take my husband there. We went in 1990 when we were dating and we are well overdue for a trip back. And since this is a money-is-no-object fantasy, I’d like to hire a limo to take us to all the wineries and restaurants (yes every single one) and drink until I start to slur and eat until I start to waddle. I think a week should do it. I loved the Andaz Napa Hotel and would definitely stay there again. And a trip to San Fransicso on the way to our next destination would definitely be in order.

Chappellet-vineyards
Beautiful Chappellet vineyards in Napa Valley

#7 Hawaii

Dave and I have been there three times – twice to Maui (once before we were married and for our honeymoon) and once to Kauai when Chandler was just under two. As much as I love Hawaii (and I do), I probably wouldn’t put it in my Top 8, but Marley is dying to go to Hawaii. She finds it horribly unfair that Chandler has been to Hawaii and she hasn’t. The fact that Chandler doesn’t remember the trip at all does not seem to sway her thinking about this gross injustice we have committed against her.

Maui-honeymoon
Honeymooning in Maui

Hmmm… now that I’ve looked over my list I’m not sure I’ve really chosen that wisely. Maybe I should ditch London and Greece and tell Marley too bad about Hawaii and choose an African Safari or Costa Rica or Machu Picchu or Puerto Rico. I also love the Canadian Rockies and I’d like to see Columbia and Brazil and Berlin and Croatia. Eight is just not enough. So where would my final destination be?…

#8 Michigan

Michigan? What?! Instead of an African Safari? Well, I’ve already decided to ditch Hawaii (sorry Marley) and all this traveling has made me rather tired. And my mom and uncle own a lovely little cottage on a small lake in Michigan and my cousins own the house next door. It’s like we have our own little family compound. And while it’s not exactly rustic, it’s not very luxurious either -somewhere in between. Just right as Goldilocks would say. There are boats and wave runners and kayaks for sport and plenty of lounge chairs for reading and napping. The trees are green and the people are friendly. (Like scary-weird friendly.) It’s a little bit of heaven right smack in the middle of the country and it feels like home. At the end of a long journey (even an imaginary one) there’s no place like home.

White Lake Sunrise
Michigan Sunrise

What 8 places would you travel to if money were no object? I’d love to know!

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