How to road trip with your teen daughter

09 Jun

(and still be speaking to each other at the end)

Traveling with family members is not at the top of everyone’s wish list, but sometimes we fantasize that we can rewrite family history with a fabulous vacation.

Sometimes we even plan trips with our teenage daughters.

If that possibility seems like a probability, consider this weeklong (more or less) itinerary, based on several trips I have made from Los Angeles to San Francisco with a daughter in tow.

The good news about your destination is its rich variety of attractions. With a list that includes Alcatraz Island, cable cars, Chinatown, Haight-Ashbury, City Lights Bookstore and shopping in Pacific Heights, both you and your traveling companion are likely to find happiness.

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The challenge is filling in the blanks on the way up and back.

Rather than racing up and down Interstate 5, the two of you might meander — a bit. Head north on California 99 for a while. Start your return trip with a leisurely drive south on California 1. Stop in small and medium-size towns, visiting the occasional tourist trap and sampling comfort food.

You might even be speaking to each other at the end of the journey.

Getting there

First stop as you head up the 99: Bakersfield, home to some buzz-worthy consignment shops. Check out In Your Wildest Dreams, a 21,000-square-foot superstore that features vintage clothing, designer labels, costumes and jewelry, or Plato’s Closet, where the buyers are laser-focused on the teenage and young adult markets.

Fuel — or reward — your shopping ambitions with Basque food (chops, cold pickled tongue sandwiches, oxtail soup) at the Noriega Hotel or the Pyrenees Cafe. Stop for ice cream at Moo Creamery and then drive to Fresno to collapse and spend the night.

The next morning, if the spirit moves you, visit Fresno’s Forestiere Underground Gardens, a fantastical man-made creation that includes underground rooms, passages and gardens. If your teenage daughter expresses skepticism, extol the virtues of outsider art.

Continue on 99 to Merced and stop for a Bubble Tea at the Sno-Crave Tea House. Try a honeydew milk tea or a dark chocolate snow.

Continue north toward Modesto and, if you’re traveling on a Saturday or Sunday, consider a stop at Beekman & Beekman honey farm in Hughson.

Then make your way to Interstate 580 and high-tail it to San Francisco. (Traveling with a gamer? It might be worth your while to stop at the Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda.)

Coming home

Head south from San Francisco on California 1, and you’ll spot some of the most breathtaking vistas in the state.

In my experience, people of a certain age don’t process this scenery in the same manner as their parents, so keep driving to Santa Cruz, a university town that’s an ideal mix of beach, food and vintage/coffee/book shops.

Walk the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Take a ride on the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster. Head downtown and go retro at A Brighter World so your teenage daughter can make her own tie-dye designs.

Continue to indulge in that free-love vibe and get caffeinated at Caffe Pergolesi, a turn-of- the-century Victorian coffeehouse. Spend the night in Santa Cruz.

Is it heresy to skip Monterey and Big Sur on a coastal road drip? Possibly. But parts of California 1 are still closed, and your teenage daughter may never look up from her iPhone — so make your way from Santa Cruz to U.S. 101 and head to the Santa Ynez Valley, and Solvang.

The Danish-themed tourist spot may not be your first choice of travel stops, but your companion will happily go into sugar shock as she samples the cookies, fudge and candy that fill so many storefronts of the tiny town.

Treat yourself with a dinner at Root 246, a farm-to-table haven, or the Hitching Post II in Buellton.

Spend the night in nearby Los Olivos, known for its food and wine. You might even book a room for a night (or two) at the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn, where the Bear and Star restaurant opened at the beginning of May.

Book a facial or massage for both of you for the next day. You’ve probably earned it.

Stop at the Stolpman Vineyards tasting room and buy a bottle or two to take home.

Upon arrival, toast your successful journey.


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