For years I’ve been dreaming of driving the coast of California.  So much beauty there!  It’s been beckoning me to come explore.  I’ve always thought it would be such a great way to spend an anniversary or drive with my sisters or girlfriends “some day.”  
Well, this year I realized two things:
1) Dave would just assume stick toothpicks in his eyeballs than drive the coast of California (ok that was a little dramatic, but he’s all about the “getting there” on a road trip, too many stops along the way drive him nutty).
2) My girls are becoming some of my best friends.  They enjoy all that beauty almost as much as I do.
So traditionally when we have gone to Coronado for the 4th of July we drive straight to Bear Lake from there.  
We cut through Las Vegas where Dave catches a flight home for work and we head the rest of the way up.
But this year I thought to myself, why not drive the coast rather than cutting through?  
So we did.  
My three little girls and I took an extended mother/daughter date and drove that gorgeous coast that frames the land from the sea.
As we drove along talking and reading and basking in the glory of all that beauty I couldn’t help but glance in the rear-view mirror over and over again and let my heart spill over with love for those girls of mine I get to spend forever with.  So grateful for them and that they are at such a great age to be such great companions.
First we had to bid goodbye to Coronado and all the people we love there.
We dropped off Elle to head back to her life in Provo:
…a couple hours later sent Dave off on a flight home,
…and headed out on our adventure.  I had asked around about all the best stops we should take along the way, and got lots of good advice from friends who have lived in California for quite a while.  We had a cooler of snacks and blankets and books and maps and pages of scrap notes of things I wanted to be sure we saw and we were all set.
Our first stop was LA JOLLA.
We had been told to go watch the sea lions and that we could actually swim with them if we wanted.

 …little did we realize that sea lions are stinky as stinky could be…no temptation to swim.

But Lucy was quite interested in their “language” and tried to teach herself to “speak” it as we watched them bark away.

We ate a little lunch while Lucy worked on her autobiography.

(She worked on that puppy all summer and it is pretty great I must say!  She’s hoping to publish a book some day 🙂

Next stop was SAN CLEMENTE where our good friends stay each summer.

Loved catching up with them and another friend who was in town.

We also stopped by to visit our friends who took care of us in China who now live in San Clemente.

There are not words to express how much we adore this family.  This little girl was a newborn when we moved to China:

 …and Katie is the kind of person who could whisk all her babies through antique shops and fabric markets like it was the easiest thing in the world and everyone knew her.  She has picked up some pretty great conversational Chinese so she really knew the ropes over there.

She and her daughter Reese also took care of Lucy while we went to Guilin (back HERE) during the tail-end of our stay in China.  Lucy will always remember that fun over-nighter where she got to meet Santa Claus in China at a cinnamon roll bakery (ha!) and have the time of her life with this great family.

They have visited us here in the desert but it was fun to see them in their new element so far from China.

As luck would have it, we also ran into our neighbor who used to live right behind us here in our neighborhood.  So fun to catch up with her a little bit!

We slept overnight between there and NEWPORT Beach where we headed the next morning.
…and happened to randomly run into two of Grace’s best friends at our breakfast acai bowl stop:
Not only that, but we ran into our COUSINS right there too!
We ran into them randomly in Jackson Hole last summer too.  How is that possible??
…and some other good friends from back home.

Wow.  Craziness.

We rented tandem bikes and explored the boardwalk there.

Lucy was a great little bike partner and man alive it made me want to get one of those suckers.

Next stop:  LOS ANGELES…where we ate at Tito’s Tacos:

(so delicious, thanks for the recommendation Katie & Tanner!)
…and stopped by the Los Angeles Temple:

Oh boy it is gorgeous.

Stopped by the visitor’s center:

 Moment of silence for Max:

 …and did our traditional “touching” of the temple. (“If you allow your children to touch the temple, the temple will touch them.”)

We went to Diddy Riese before heading out of town because we heard it was fantastic, and we heard right.

I’ve had a craving for those things ever since.

Next time we are going to hike to the Hollywood sign.  We ran out of time and I think maybe Lucy would have struggled a bit, but that’s on my “some day” list.

We headed to MALIBU next.

We walked out on the pier:

…and explored Pepperdine for a little bit.

Not sure I convinced any of my girls to make that their dream college some day but it sure is one of the most gorgeous campuses!

We ate dinner in SANTA BARBARA at an Asian fusion place I sweet-talked the girls into:

And did one of our most memorable things of the whole trip that night:
“Glamping” is that newfangled trend where you sleep in beds in a tent, kind of glorified camping, and we all had stars in our eyes about it. So when they offered us a complimentary upgrade to a cabin we weren’t quite sure if we should take it or not….until they told us how far away the restrooms were from the tents.  That wouldn’t have been a good walk in the dark for Lucy so we went ahead and took them up on their offer.  
But even though this was kind of “cheater” camping, we still saw the Big Dipper in all it’s glory, three skunks, one deer and got our pants scared off by some big noises in the trees so we’re still counting it 🙂

Next morning we hit PISMO BEACH:

(one of the last real beach-lounging-beaches of the coast)

And hit SAN LUIS OBISPO for tri-tip steak sandwiches (we heard that’s a “thing” there and they didn’t disappoint).  
Wish I had more pictures of that cute little town, but check out the street sign above.  Even that is picturesque.

We had seen pictures of the big rock at MORRO BAY so we decided we better stop there to check it out.

 I think everyone’s favorite part of the day was riding this four-person bike around:

 Lucy adored it…except when she didn’t.  She was all smiles until her feet jumped off the pedals and she gave us some good scoldings about that.

I miscalculated how far away HEARST CASTLE was from Morro Bay, but we were still on track to arrive with a good amount of time to visit.  When we finally knew an approximate time we’d be arriving (there are timed tickets there), I called to reserve tickets over the phone.  To my complete dismay the tickets were completely sold out!  I was dying because we were pretty excited to see that place.  I asked if there were tickets I could get in person at the castle and they told me kindly that no, they wouldn’t be available and I was out of luck.
Our hearts sunk.
I had called earlier and they had plenty of tickets, so we were trying to get a grip on missing that great place.  It’s a bus shuttle ride to get there so you can’t even see the outside without tickets.
I decided since we were so close anyway we should still pull in and give it a try.
So we did and I must have happened to talk to the right lady because although at first she shook her head and told me she was so sorry, when she saw how distraught I was she told me she’d check to see if any shuttle spaces had opened up.  
She found two.
When I told her we had four, she asked around a little more and saved the day by finding some.  
The only problem was that we had the catch the last shuttle which left five minutes from then.
From there it was like the scene in Home Alone where everyone is scrambling because I had to park the car, rally the girls to RUN to the station, find where the shuttle was leaving from, and get on before it pulled out all within minutes of lucking out with those tickets but WE MADE IT!!
These girls look all calm as they got their bearings straight with their maps as the bus climbed the mountain but believe me, five minutes before they were in a panic right along with their mother.

Made for a pretty awesome memory I tell you!

That place is quite amazing I must say!!

I don’t have time to write most of the history here, but it was built by William Hearst (a brilliant newspaper businessman) and Julia Morgan (architect) and is an extraordinary feat of beauty that brings in architectural elements from all over the world.  William Hearst lived in Europe with his mother as a child and fell so in love with so many things there that he incorporated anything he could into this architectural wonder.

Read more about the history of this place HERE, and HERE.  But beware, it will make you want to go!

The whole tour reminded me of the Great Gatsby, Mr. Hearst held huge parties here and entertained dignitaries from all over the world.

He also had animals imported from all over the world to roam around on his land.  They say there are still descendants of those animals living nearby and every now and again you’ll see a random zebra hanging around.

This pool is usually filled with gleaming water, but it has been drained because of some leaking problems and also because of the drought, but it gives an idea into Mr. Hearst’s vision.

I don’t know that swimming pools were the norm back then in the early 1900s, especially humongous ones like that!

The views are amazing from up there.

 And castle light is always quite breathtaking, especially when it’s bathing your darling daughters:

The tour ended at this huge decadent indoor pool:

Amazing stuff right there.
We had a kind of funny experience racing to Big Sur after Hearst but I’ll have to wait for tomorrow for that now that the day is nearly gone and the kids are almost home from school.  
For now, I’m headed to cajole Lucy into joining me on the burning hot sidelines to cheer Claire’s soccer team on.  They lost to this team 6-1 last time (their big rival), hopefully they have better luck today!

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  1. What a fun trip. La Jolla is one of my favorite places. Even though the sea lions are super stinky I lo e swimming and snorkeling there. We went there in July and I had a sea lion swim right up behind me, then it swam around with loads of people out further.

    1. Where do you get disorganization from? Because it took them longer than expected to go to Hearst Castle?

      Ha, when I read "Home Alone" I was sure, you had left Lucy behind. 🙂

    2. This is what I teach my kids before they speak to others or comment online on things. Here's what I teach:

      T is it true?
      H is it helpful?
      I is it inspiring?
      N is it necessary?
      K is it kind?

    3. This is what I teach my kids before we head off on a road trip:

      D Do I know where I'm going?
      I Is there time to get there?
      T do all my family members have Tickets?
      S is Someone being asked to bend the rules for us?
      Y Yes!

    4. Asking if there is any way to get on the bus/buy tickets isn't really bending the rules, is it? It doesn't hurt to ask. I assume Shawni was kind and I doubt she was rude. Kindness goes a long way, and there obviously WAS room and tickets WERE available because they got to go. I can tell you right now, there are lots and lots of people who would do the same thing. It doesn't hurt to ask. I feel like it's always ok to ask, as long as you aren't rude and understand that sometimes you will be disappointed. In this case, they got to go. Maybe next time they won't.

  2. I am not a fan of long drives, but along the west coast is an exception – I've done LA to SLO. Maybe I'll do the rest one day. How fun to do it with your daughters!

  3. I can't believe how many people you run into that you know. Especially in other states or even other countries it's either a super small world or you know everybody!! 🙂

  4. Wow! You covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time!

    I did a similar trip with my boys a couple of summers ago although we took more time at each spot. First time I took a round trip with kids without by husband; I was nervous but ended up loving it. Highlights of our trip included swimming in the ocean and pool at the Annenberg Community Beach Club in Santa Monica, The Getty Museum in LA (amazing kids programs and even more amazing arch. gardens), scootering on the boardwalk in Venice beach, glass bottom boat in Moss Beach. All highly recommended for anyone reading and planning a similar trip.

  5. I've actually always been so impressed on how productive you are on fun trips like this, which to me, if you're disorganized your not going to be able to do or accomplish much for the day. Here you are doing fun things, planning ahead to meet up with friends etc. Things like that take time to plan, so way to go. Way to always be so adventurous!

  6. I'm so glad you guys to see the coast! I am lucky enough to live in Pismo Beach and work in San Luis Obispo and I adore it so much. In my (somewhat biased) opinion the central coast of CA is the most gorgeous place on earth, I love so much when people get to experience it. I have been reading your blog for years and just love your family so much. There is so much of your lives that I relate to! I got my degree from BYU, my little brother just returned home from his mission, and I'm sure many more things. Thank you so much for making this space such a positive and happy one for everyone to visit!

  7. What a great trip:) We live on the coast in the Bay Area. When we drive to a comp soccer game or anywhere that will take us more than 10 min to get to, we turn on the app-WAZE. It's free and will re-route you around an accident. I highly recommend it if you are here again although it probably works anywhere that people are using the app.

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