At the end of June, we took our first family road trip to Mammoth Lakes. My brother and his fiance love Mammoth and snowboard there so they arranged to get married at the top of Mammoth Mountain (over 11,000 ft. elevation). It's a 6 hour drive from Southern California, skirting Death Valley with only a few stops along the way. Yes, that's 6 hours in a car with an almost 5 year old and an almost 9 month old. We planned to leave SoCal on Friday morning, arrive in the late afternoon in time for a family dinner, go to the wedding on Saturday, and head back down the hill toward home on Sunday. I'm exhausted just typing that out.... Anyway, here's the rundown of our trip:
Friday, 9:30am -- car is packed to almost bursting and we hit the road. Chelsea is already crying very loudly. Lee is grouchy (he's an anti-traveler). Nate asks after 3 blocks "when are we going to have food and drinks?" I laugh. Or cry. I don't remember now.
Outside of Los Angeles County, we make a bathroom stop at McDonald's in the town of Mojave. Take my advice -- don't add Mojave to your "must visit" list. Yuck. Lee admitted 2 days later that, while I was in the restroom, Nate made the following statement rather loudly in the middle of McDonald's: "Mommy's taking a long time in the bathroom. Is she going poo poo?" Good times.
We start driving through the desert. It's pretty barren and boring. Nate has been set up with a stack of movies and a portable DVD player so he's good for a few hours. Chelsea should be sleeping but after 45 minutes, she decides to wake up. I give her a few toys and she seems pretty content...and probably bored since she has to sit backwards in her car seat and can't see the rest of us.
Eventually, the desert on US Route 395 (a 2-lane highway) becomes more interesting with beautiful mountains and rock formations. We pass Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States (not in this photo).
And then....Hallelujah! Civilization! We pull into Lone Pine, a small desert/frontier town that must survive on the tourists driving to/from Mammoth, Yosemite and other points north.
I knew in advance that there was a small park at the edge of town where we could have a picnic lunch and the kids could play in the park's creek. It's plenty hot outside but the dry wind is nice and in the shade we feel fine.
We stay there for about an hour enjoying the surroundings. Nate, of course, cuts his foot in the creek. He then tries to play on the playground equipment but it's too hot to touch. The ladies restroom here is impressively clean for a park (okay, so if you are a parent, you know that trips are broken up by bathroom visits and, out of habit, you begin to rate them in your head for future reference).
The next stop on the map is Bishop, the largest "city" in the Owens Valley. We thought we might stop here for a break but decide to push through to Mammoth. Bishop is nice and makes you wonder if you could live in a small town. Check this out:
Wow, coming from the land of mega shopping centers, this JCPenney made me smile. Hello 1950s.
Just outside of Bishop, the scenery dramatically changes from desert to mountain, as you quickly ascend 3,000 feet in elevation. It was beautiful. The weather cooled down to the 80s the higher we went.
We got to Mammoth Lakes between 3 and 4pm. Chelsea only slept 45 mins. the entire trip. Nate watched a ridiculous amount of movies. Our car's interior looks like a bomb went off.
Here is our home for the next 2 nights:
We had a nice 2-bedroom condo with a full kitchen. Mammoth Lakes is a winter resort area so that means no air-conditioning, which normally isn't a big deal but the Western US was experiencing a heatwave so there were moments that were pretty uncomfortable. But I'd rather be hot and sweaty in the beautiful mountains than back home so it wasn't too bad. This is the pool area, where Nate and I swam on Saturday morning:
Back to Friday evening -- We cleaned ourselves up a bit and then headed down the road to the house where Ella was staying with her extended family. The dinner was delicious and we had a relaxing time visiting with everyone. When Chelsea started to meltdown around 8:30/9, we left and headed back to the condo to get some rest. Lee and Nate slept in one bedroom that had twin beds and Chelsea and I shared the other one (she was in the pack-n-play we brought with us). The kids fell asleep quickly. The adults didn't sleep very well. Figures.
Up at 6am!! Typical for our kids. We found some breakfast at a bakery and stopped at this park so Nate could work off some energy.
By mid-morning, Nate was dying to go swimming so we headed to the hotel pool while Lee and Chelsea napped. The water felt great and the view was so beautiful:
Chelsea's nap lasted extra long,which was terrific since she'd be up late partying at the wedding reception later. So Lee and Nate picked up some lunch for us and brought it back to the condo. Not long afterward, we had to start getting ready for the wedding. We needed to be out the door by 2:45pm. Kiddos looking good here:
We caravan with the groom, best man & his wife, my mom, and 2 other friends of Eric's to the base of Mammoth Mountain. After meeting up with my dad and Grandma Janet, we all climbed into gondolas and rode up, up, up to the top of the mountain. I was a little nervous about the ride (I have a slight height phobia) but it wasn't bad. There was snow on the mountainside the higher we went but the temperature was nice. Very windy and only slightly chilly.
It only took a few moments to make some preparations before we waited for the bride and her family to arrive. Also, a couple people needed a few moments to get used to the altitude (11,000 feet). I wasn't bothered except that my legs got really tired really quickly trying to climb some stairs to the observation area. Chelsea cried a little bit and immediately fell asleep in the sling I was carrying her in. Lack of oxygen maybe??? She slept the entire wedding and didn't wake up until we were in the gondola going back down.
This is the view from where they said "I do":
Nate was the ring-bearer! He did great. You can see Ella and her dad in the distance and that's the Best Man, Dave, with Nate:
The wedding officiant was a friend of the future Mr. & Mrs. Tony did a really nice job. Love Ella's wedding dress!
Wind was not our friend at the mountain top:
Such a unique and memorable wedding! And they had a few tourists watching too:
Family photos were taken and silly faces were made:
Gondola going down. And look who's woken from her oxygen-deprived coma:
Next stop -- wedding reception. The newlyweds chose the restaurant Skadi as their reception site and we had the entire place to ourselves. It had beautiful windows that offered an amazing sunset view of the mountains. And, since my brother is a music aficionado and has already been to more concerts that I'll ever go to in my entire lifetime, we had "admission tickets" to the reception. So clever:
The food was fantastic but, of course, somebody was waiting the entire time for wedding cake. Wonder who that was...
Enjoying a nice dinner and getting to know each other better:
Nate loves his Auntie Ella. Almost as much as he loves cake.
It was a lovely evening but a long night for our kiddos. We headed back to the condo around 9:30/10 and immediately went to bed.
Sunday morning -- up again around 6:30. Why won't these kids let us sleep in?? Oh well, we need the time to start packing. But before we do, we all head to Mammoth Village for breakfast at a cafe. This is our last Mammoth excursion before heading home. We pack up the car (a lot faster this time) and start the long drive around 10:30am. I drove the first 3 hours and Lee took the last leg. We only stopped in Lone Pine again and went back to the small park for a picnic lunch but it was just too hot (105 degrees) to enjoy being outside. We were a sweaty, sweaty family.
I believe the temp maxed out at 115. XM Radio played an appropriate song for our drive through the desert:
And that's it! We got home about 5:30pm to a very hot and very smelly house (note to self: take out trash before leaving on vacation). Poor Chelsea cried a lot the last hour of the drive -- if she could talk, I think she probably would have yelled "get me out of this car now!!" Once we put her down in the house, she took off and crawled everywhere. I've never seen her so happy! Nate and Lee were happy too. They're definitely homebodies. I wasn't looking forward to the mound of laundry I had in my future but such is life. Overall, it was a nice trip and I'm glad I can say we survived our first long road trip with the kiddos. We have 2 road trips looming in the Fall, both of which are a lot shorter than this. Piece of cake! We're pros now :)