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EAT, DRINK & PLAY   -   GET OUT OF TOWN
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Long before it became a hashtag and aspirational lifestyle, April and I lived the van life. We spent a summer driving across the US in our VW Vanagon - two months, 30 states and 10,000 miles.
Camping is a four-season activity in California. While all the leaves are brown and the sky is grey elsewhere, we're packed and ready to get away, especially to the beach.
A day after turning 16, my daughter Brooke stood amidst a group of other nervous hopefuls waiting to be called forward. The tension was palpable. Months of training, planning and dreaming led to this moment. Would she get what she came for?
Biking through Ventura County
It seems counterintuitive to drive inland when visiting Santa Barbara during the summer. If it's coolest by the beach, why turn toward the mountains that rise behind the town like a backstop?
Parents of teenagers don't often hear these words: "That was so cool, Dad! Thanks!" But then it's not every day that kids get to pilot a flying dragon. Or at least simulate it.
The morning sun illuminated the tent. I listened for signs of life in camp, but no one stirred. Fully awake, with no chance of falling back asleep, I slowly unzipped the door and stepped outside, careful not to disturb my two still-sleeping teenagers.
What do you know about Santa Cruz? If you answer Boardwalk, "The Lost Boys," and banana slugs, then keep reading.
There was a significant gap in my knowledge of California's coastline. I grew up in Southern California, lived on the Central Coast and spent time exploring the state's far northern coast, but the stretch between San Francisco Bay and Santa Cruz remained unexplored for me.
We have four teenagers in the house now, so travel plans generate scrutiny and prompt unasked-for opinions.
The climb up Half Dome is as much mental as it is physical. Sixteen miles of hiking and 4,800 feet of elevation gain require fitness and training. But it's the last 400 feet that get in your head.
As a father of two teenage daughters with busy schedules, it's not often I get them all to myself. But a day off school for them and work for me gave us the perfect excuse to go exploring in LA.
This is why we live in California.
That was my thought as we paddled in the Ventura Keys late on a Sunday afternoon. While much of the country looks forward to months of shivering, I'm on the water wearing board shorts and a long sleeve tee-shirt and watching the sun set behind a scrim of fog.
This year was, of course, the one where vacations didn't go according to plan. That looked different for everyone, depending on how pandemic restrictions and closures affected your destination.
We lingered on our hotel balcony in Santa Barbara long after the sun dipped below the distant hills. The orange sky shifted to purple as fading daylight made way for emerging stars.
Jumping into a mountain lake is one of the most under-appreciated joys of summer.
Even with reservations, confirmations, itineraries and insurance, travel doesn't always go as planned. Certain things are beyond our control. Like traffic, weather or global pandemics.
As we emerge from the coronavirus shut-down, the mood is decidedly undecided as we look ahead to the months when most of us plan to get out of town.
We can't get out of town right now. But getting out of the house is more important than ever. After days of Zoom meetings and online learning, we need the weekends to trade screen time for sunshine and ward off that feeling of impending claustrophobia.
How do you get teenagers to put down their phones? Big questions sometimes require big answers. Especially now, following weeks of school closures and social distancing.
So try this answer on for size: the world's largest trees. You'll find them in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. And on a short weekend visit before the coronavirus lockdown, I found them powerful enough to overcome the pull of the phone.
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