NJ to L.A. With Three Kids and a Dog: Westward Ho!

Jennifer Stern September 26, 2010 2 Comments

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Lunch at the Silver Moon Cafe Santa Rosa New Mexico

Lunch at the Silver Moon Cafe on Historic Route 66

Amarillo, Texas 

Saturday, November 21, 9:58 a.m. 

This is the third post about our exciting journey from New Jersey to California.  The first leg of our trip and new lives included traversing Delaware and Virginia.  Our road adventure continued on with my second post documenting Arkansas and the various cities and towns we past in Tennessee.

We are talking to Ginny (my mother-in-law) on the car phone as we beat tracks out of Amarillo, Texas… no one in the family seemed to have loved the Texas panhandle very much. Maybe everything is bigger in Texas, but not necessarily better! 

We’re driving alongside Historic Route 66, though there are no route markers or much else of anything interesting to look at… I remember Rte. 66 markers from when I made the trip years ago–I wonder if they were all stolen? 

We stayed at a La Quinta hotel last night–and this time we went to no fewer than TEN hotels to find one that was a) affordable, b) large enough, and c) accepted dogs. Holiday Inn, Days Inn, Sleep Inn, Comfort Inn, Howard Johnson’s, Hampton Inn–the list goes on. And we had to end up eating both lunch and dinner at IHOPs yesterday. Lunch was fine (okay, I had breakfast–blueberry pancakes), but Mike and Tristan were both way less than thrilled with their tough and dried-out chicken dinners. Suffice it to say that Ralph got a nice treat in his breakfast this morning. 

At least we had a HUGE suite with a king-sized bed, so all the detective work was worth it. 

Texas Flags of the Lone Star State

Flags of the Lone Star State

Michael just tuned on 105.7 FM on the radio–”Western Swing and Other Things”–he’s getting into the local flavor, apparently… 

The sun is out, and there are vast expanses of prairie and blue sky stretching out before us. I’m looking forward to getting into the really interesting scenery in New Mexico and Arizona. 

(Postscript: Just passed an 18-wheeler with “POULTRY PIMP” in big red lettering across the back. Just thought it was funny…) 

Arizona 5:09 p.m. 

“Arizona is all sandy with mountains and I don’t wanna stay in a place like that!”, piped up Will from the back seat, moments ago, as we crossed the border from Texas… 

We have met, nay, exceeded, our 450-mile-a-day driving average. When we stopped for gas in Gallup, Texas (I was driving, a fact that none of the passengers particularly seemed to care for), a shabby-looking man tried to scam Michael out of money by saying he couldn’t afford to buy a gallon of gas to drive his family home. The kids were a little shaken up by that incident and by groups of Hispanic teens wandering the streets who seemed to be dressed only in large, black, baggy clothing. (I guess my kids have been a little sheltered.) So on we pressed. 

Michael is now at the wheel (a source of great relief to all concerned parties) and we’re taking in an AMAZING sunset as we head towards Holbrook, Arizona, which will hopefully be our destination for the night. 

Gorgeous Arizona sunset

Gorgeous Arizona sunset

“Oh, good,” Michael just announced while listening to a radio commercial. “They have car dealerships in Holbrook. That means maybe they’ll have wine for you.” 

I think my husband knows me just a little too well! 

Needles, CA
Sunday, November 22
8:34 p.m. 

We made it to California!! But we’re not home yet. We still have hours and hours of desert driving before we make it to Burbank

I am full of some halfway-decent Chinese takeout (in Needles? Who knew?) and lying across a double bed in one of our adjoining rooms (the boys have one, and we have one, so Will at last gets to sleep in a “real” bed tonight, not a cot or a rollaway) at–wait for it–a Motel 6. Yup. MOTEL 6!!! How the snobbish have fallen… 

Truth be told, it’s pretty slim pickings here in the middle of Nowhere, Desert. We tried the Days Inn but the room smelled like smoke–ICK. So, Motel 6 it is. 

Ben is sitting on the bed next to me watching “Storm Chasers” and Tristan is–of course–on Facebook. These kids have been fighting with each other and me for computer time every night this week!! 

Santa Rosa New Mexico at the Silver Moon Cafe

In Santa Rosa, New Mexico at the Silver Moon Cafe

Wow, what a day we’ve had. We really pushed ourselves and the kids hard yesterday–we drove more than 500 miles to make it to Arizona, so we were exhausted and ended up eating Domino’s Pizza in our room again. But we did stop off for lunch at a really cool place on old Rte. 66 in Santa Rosa, New Mexico–the Silver Moon Cafe, which had incredible Mexican food. Unfortunately, they also had a gift shop, which always makes me want to shoot myself when the kids are with me! Needless to say, we dropped money on more than food–a “Rte. 66″ baseball cap for Ben, a cowboy play set for Will, and a hacky sack for Tristan. (To his credit, Tristan also selected a tiny purple Indian rug as a gift for his grandmother in New Jersey.) I also picked up a couple of postcards. 

Our original plan, since we figured we’d have a day or so to “play” once most of the hard driving was out of the way, was to visit the Grand Canyon or possibly even Las Vegas. However, since I left my cell phone several states behind, with Judi’s cell and home phone numbers in it, I couldn’t get in touch with her, and Michael started worrying about too much crowding/traffic at the Grand Canyon. So Plan B was to visit Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona, Arizona (which we chose purposely, since we lived on Oak Creek Road in East Windsor, NJ). Once we saw the name on the map, we just had to go. It turned out to be a great choice! 

The scenery was incredible–unbelievable canyon views, waterfalls, rock formations, etc., Even the kids, who thus far have been largely unimpressed by things like stunning landscapes, got into the swing of things when we drove up to the top of the canyon and got out to take some photos and have a look around. 

There were approximately a dozen or so Native American (Hopi, I think) vendors lined up along the walking path, all selling many different kinds of jewelry–rings, bracelets, necklaces, hair clips, etc. I couldn’t resist and ended up buying a beautiful hematite necklace set with a dozen different beads–turquoise, carnelian, quartz and more. I could have done a lot more damage, but I reminded myself that we’re not even positive if Michael has a job yet, and quickly reined myself in! 

Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona Arizona

Breathtaking views at the top of Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona Arizona

We literally stumbled upon a wonderful place where we had lunch–a creekside resort/restaurant at the bottom of the canyon called the Junipine Resort (8351 N. Highway 89A, Sedona, Arizona; (800) 742-7463). The fish tacos were absolutely delicious! The kids inhaled the food and Ben (a conoisseur of french fries if ever there was one) pronounced the fries the best he’d ever eaten–an honor formerly reserved for the beach snack bar in Cape May New Jersey

After lunch we wandered around a bit and even got to take a tour of one of Junipine’s wonderful two-story villa-style creekside cabins, which are very comfortably appointed with full kitchens, woodburning fireplaces, and large wrap-around decks with hot tubs. The setting is completely serene and idyllic with wonderful views of the creek and surrounding forest. 

Various activities including fishing, hiking, biking and horseback riding are available. You can also tour the canyon and surrounding areas by Jeep, hot-air balloon, plane or helicopter. I thought the Junipine Resort would make a wonderful place for a family vacation or even a reunion. We will definitely come back here! 

Sedonoa Red Rock Arizona

Red Rock country, Sedona, AZ

Since poor Ralph had been patiently waiting in the car, it was time to bid the Junipine goodbye and press on through Sedona, where the most unbelievable red rock formations dazzled us. The kids were finally starting to sit up and take notice, especially when we located the rock formation known as Snoopy Rock (which resembles Charlie Brown’s famous beagle lying face-up as if on top of his doghouse). We passed through the chic downtown area of Sedona, with its hip boutiques, art galleries, New Age metaphysical shops and spas. Again, I wouldn’t have minded stopping and spending quite a few days exploring the area further. But we have a moving van to meet!

The next installment of our journey concludes with my final article From NJ to L.A. With Three Kids and a Dog: (New) Home at Last!

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avatarAbout the Author:

Jennifer Stern is a mom of three teen boys, who provide her with constant inspiration to write. She is also a fitness professional/junkie who teaches everything from Spinning to Zumba. A New Jersey native, this is her second time living in Southern California. She loves the L.A. lifestyle, but does miss eating decent pizza and bagels--so she consoles herself with excellent Mexican food. She and her family live in Burbank.

Tags: Sharing Experiences, Travel Excursions
2 Comments to “NJ to L.A. With Three Kids and a Dog: Westward Ho!”
  1. avatar Road Trip West through Dickerson, Knoxville, and Memphis Tennessee says:

    [...] Be Continued on our trip through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona… VN:F [1.9.4_1102]please wait…Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)VN:F [1.9.4_1102]Rating: +1 [...]

  2. avatar Glendale Days Inn Motel Lodging Grand Finale to our Road Trip says:

    [...] a Dog: A Cross-Country Journal 2. NJ to L.A. With Three Kids and a Dog–The Journey Continues 3. NJ to L.A. With Three Kids and a Dog: Westward Ho! VN:F [1.9.5_1105]please wait…Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)VN:F [1.9.5_1105]Rating: 0 (from 0 [...]