We left on Tuesday the 24th mid-morning, with the return trip planned for Monday the 30th. Our first unscheduled stop was when N, the 7-year-old, had a sudden bout of car sickness and threw up all over himself. We pulled off at a truck stop to clean him and the car up, instructed him in no uncertain terms that he was to spend some time looking out the window and not down at his tablet the whole drive, helped him change his clothes, and continued on our way. Fortunately, that was the first and last problem with illness we had on the whole trip, which I count as nothing short of miraculous!
We had hotel reservations in Bakersfield, Las Vegas, and Oceanside, the three cities where we expected to sleep. My mom was traveling with us, and we needed rooms for the six of us and her. Our older two boys, N and S, stayed in a room with her, and Baby Y and the two-year-old, G, stayed with us. Since N and S are 7 and 5 and can handle their bedtime routines on their own, it seemed like a great opportunity to give them time with Grandma and away from the babies.
We had planned to drive straight through to Bakersfield, which is almost exactly halfway from our house to Las Vegas, but on the way we noticed as we played with our route options that Yosemite National Park wasn't that far out of our way, if we wanted to take a side trip. We decided to go for it and were not disappointed! Yosemite is indescribably beautiful. There was snow on the ground from a recent snowfall, but it was between 45 and 60 degrees the whole day, depending on our elevation, so it was pleasant to stop by the side of the road frequently and see one incredible vista after another. There are many well-placed turnouts and parking areas where you can stop, get out, and enjoy untainted views.
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After a few hours in Yosemite, we continued on our way to Bakersfield. The only problem with traveling in the winter is how early the sun sets. By the time we stopped for dinner at a steakhouse in Selma, California, it was quite dark, even though it was barely 6:00. No longer able to enjoy the scenery, which was fantastic the whole way, the drive became more of a chore, trudging along to Bakersfield in an "are we there yet" kind of mood. We arrived, exhausted, relatively late on Christmas Eve in Bakersfield and were happy to relax in the hotel room.
The next morning, we continued on our way to Las Vegas. Our first surprise was the windmill farm in Tehachapi, California. I remembered a drive as a kid during which we had passed dozens, if not hundreds, of windmills on the desert hills, but I didn't remember where I'd seen them. Apparently, they are along the way from Bakersfield to Las Vegas!
For some reason, Baby Y didn't want to nurse in a traditional manner like, say, the cradle hold, but he happily nursed when I contorted myself into this uncomfortable position.
Soon after, the sun set, and our journey into Las Vegas was cloaked in darkness. The kids fell asleep, and the lights of Las Vegas welcomed us quietly. We were staying at the Suncoast Hotel, off the Strip. We had dinner at an amazing Brazilian steakhouse and then settled in for the night.
Our plan the next day was to have brunch with my grandparents, who live in Las Vegas, and then head over to the Hoover Dam. We had brunch, and my grandparents very much enjoyed seeing the kids, whom they hadn't seen in two years. After a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium on Thanksgiving weekend, we had decided we needed some way to visually track the three mobile kids when we're in a crowded place. I bought bright orange polo shirts for each of them, and they wore them on this trip. It worked great, and we were easily able to spot and count our three boys in the casinos and out and about. We set off for the Dam, but traffic from Lake Mead on to the Dam entrance was so heavy we decided to leave it for another visit and just go down to Lake Mead instead. This made National Park number 3! Lake Mead was nearly empty of visitors, and we drove down to Calville Bay, where there's a marina. We had a snack and wandered down to the docks, where a bunch of ducks found G fascinating.
Back in Las Vegas, we took them to an arcade at Red Rock Casino (where the orange shirts really came in handy!), had smoothies at the food court, and then met my grandparents for dinner.
We were due to leave for Oceanside, our last stop, the next morning. We again had brunch with my grandparents, then hit the road.
One planned stop between Las Vegas and San Diego was Peggy Sue's 50's Style Diner, in Yermo, California. It's a fun place, with a "Diner-Saur" park in the back where the kids played for a bit.
Also, see my companion "Family Road Trip" playlist on my YouTube channel! Subscribe to the channel to see new videos as they're published.