Jenss Family Travels: Not All Scenic Drives Are Created Equal
Rainer Jenss and his family are in the seventh week of their year-long around-the-world trip, and they’re blogging about their journey here at Intelligent Travel. You can follow all of their posts by bookmarking the link here.
I actually found myself quite sentimental handing over the keys to the car that had just taken us from New York to California in the first seven weeks of our trip. “13,162 miles, is that the best you could do?” the dealer asked sarcastically as he took possession of the vehicle. Ah, little did he know that 8,235 of those were put on the odometer in just the last 35 days. And to top it all off, it was done with an eight and eleven year-old in the back seat.
So how did we survive all those miles and time in the car without calling it quits before we even left the States? We made it a rule that the boys could only play with their handhelds or watch videos during long car rides and plane flights during this year-long trip. As a result, they actually seem to look forward to the extended periods of inactivity we’ll face on the road. Then there’s the satellite radio. There’s a station for practically every musical genre, so when driving in Chicago, the blues channel got top billing. In Wyoming, we put on bluegrass, and as we drove around San Francisco, nothing but the Grateful Dead channel would do. I’m sure I’m not alone in the importance I place on the musical soundtrack that accompanies me on long car rides, especially on drives that are scenic and “driver friendly,” i.e. open road. In fact, maybe I’ll start a book called “Roadtunes” in the spirit of “Roadfood” that helped us out so much!
Of course, then there’s the drive itself that made it all worth it.
Sure, there are stretches that don’t offer much in terms of scenery or points of interest, but they’re not nearly as boring or tedious as I had imagined. Carol was fascinated by all the hay bales in the central states, while Tyler enjoyed spotting all 50 state license plates, and Stefan kept a lookout for cool vanity tags, “ICE CRM” being his favorite. And every so often, we had the opportunity to take one of those epic drives you read about in travel magazines or guidebooks. We drove classics such as the 27-mile Acadia Park Loop Road, the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, and through the Serengeti of the U.S. in Yellowstone before we reached Highway 101 and began cruising down the famous Oregon coastline to California. When we pulled into Cannon Beach, Oregon, last Saturday night, everything seemed set for what should have been the highlight of the cross-country voyage.
There are two important factors when taking one of these momentous drives as a family. 1) Make sure to get out of the car often for things the kids will enjoy and 2) hope for good weather. When we woke up Sunday morning to dense fog, we thought our road trip was doomed. What made the conditions even more depressing was the fact that someone we had met on Orcas Island told us we absolutely had to go to Oswald West State Park
to see the country’s nicest beach. Considering she had also spent a lot of time at our personal favorite, White Crest Beach in Wellfleet, Cape Cod, we considered her an expert and were determined not to miss it.
To our delight, the fog moved off shore by 11 a.m., and we spent the day at what we agreed was at least the prettiest beach on the west coast. The next day, we weren’t as fortunate. The fog stayed put and basically shrouded all the lighthouses and coastline we looked forward to seeing.
The day was salvaged, however, at the Oregon Dunes State Recreation Area, where we all raced up and down the giant sand dunes and hiked the trail to the beach. It may have been foggy, but because children so often overlook the things we adults get hung-up on, like weather, we all had a blast. Better yet, the lousy weather allowed us to have the place to ourselves. Everyone else must have been at the Tillamook Cheese Factory, which we learned is one of the top tourist attractions in all of Oregon. Go figure.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
So when we left the mainland after turning in the car, I thought that was it for our American road trips. Well note to self, Hawaii is very much part of the U.S., and the celebrated “Road to Hana” on the island of Maui ended up topping all of our mainland road trips. For this drive, the weather was perfect. Check. The kids had plenty to explore along the way. Check. They loved swinging on the rope into the pools fed by one of Twin Falls’ waterfalls and were absolutely mesmerized by the black sand beach at Wainapanapa State Park.
We also paid the admission fee to visit the Garden of Eden Arboretum and Botanical Garden, which beautifully showcased Hawaii’s finest plants and fauna. The boys didn’t even mind walking the trails through its 26 pristine acres, which tells you something.
There’s one additional factor for a successful family scenic drive, and it is perhaps the most obvious: the scenery itself. And the “Road to Hana” drive, despite its 600 curves, 54 single lane bridges, and 3-plus hour driving time, was absolutely stunning and deepened our appreciation for the beauty of this island. And at least for this day in the car, there was not a single handheld to be found.
Photos: Rainer Jenss