But the Garcias were going to find a way.
By February, the kids and I came up with a plan. We were going to make doubly-good on the promise by doing a cross-country sabbatical "warm up." We would take one trip out of town every month over the next year from February 2021 to February 2022 to bond as a family of three and develop our road-warrior mentality before the epic trip in the summer of 2022.
We did it. Let me tell you how it all went down:
Siletz Bay, Oregon
The week after the memorial service we stayed at a condo on Siletz Bay. We splashed around in the freezing cold water, ate at Mo's and played arcade games. Back then everything was still pretty locked down, so we kept it simple. It was for the best as we were still pretty numb emotionally from all that had happened.
Washougal River, Washington
We found this amazing basement apartment hanging over the Washougal River. Even more amazing is that it belonged to Kevin and Andi, who are travel bloggers, travel guides, travel authors and world travelers. Go follow their latest crazy adventure here. Oh, and we climbed Beacon Rock!
We stayed in a travel trailer in someone's driveway! This trip was fun because we saw a lot of friends in the area. We went caving in Bend, walked along the river, hiked to a waterfall. Ate crazy food and stayed up late. Some amazing memories were made in our three days in Central Oregon.
Lincoln City, Oregon
Washougal River, Washington (Trip #2)
Kevin and Andi invited us back and we couldn't say no. Just a couple months before the Washougal River AirBnB was retired forever, we stayed a second time and the weather was oddly no better than in March. It's ok. We played cards and swam and watched Hachi.
Northwest Youth Conference, Beaverton, Oregon
The first every NWYC was in July of 2021. Inspired by the end of local COVID shutdowns and a desire to unite the youth of Oregon and Washington, our local pastor founded a new 3-day meeting for youth that was every bit of a success. This is the only trip of the 12 that the kids did separate from me.
Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
We had so much fun with the AK fam in May, we decided to take a big trip to see them for two weeks. Kenai Peninsula had me combat fishing, eating reindeer dogs and exploring Anchorage. I'm thankful for my job that allowed me to work remotely for most of the time I was up north.
The most special of all the trips in 2021 was the one we took to Astoria to mark what would have been our 20th anniversary. Good friends spent the first half with us and Mom came for the last. We stayed above the river pilot station and watched them come and go as they went to guide the ships. I was able to visit some of the restaurants that Anne-Marie loved and walk the boardwalk that carried miles of romantic memories. To mark the occasion, we threw 20 roses into the Columbia River and watched them drift off into the dusk. She would have loved it.
Great Wolf Lodge, Grand Mound, Washington
This was the most commercialized of our trips. Great Wolf Lodge is an indoor waterslide park wrapped in a giant hotel. The kids had all kinds of fun in the wave pool and riding the giant slides. Late night pizza, loud music and too many sweets made this a favorite for the kids, but not nearly so much for Dad.
A return to our former home gave us a chance to relive some of the good times we had between the years of 2011 and 2014, when the kids were little and Mommy was their whole life. We drove by the old house and ordered from the old coffeeshop. The best part was reuniting for the first time with so many of our friends from the area. A little piece of our heart is always going to be there.
Rockaway Beach, Oregon
Special times continued in December when my brother and his family flew in from Iowa to spend Christmas with us. The sleepy town of Rockaway Beach welcomed us with open arms on Christmas Eve and gifted us with snow on December 27th. It's the first time I've ever seen snow at the beach. It gave us every excuse to spend indoor time together doing puzzles.
The twelfth trip was our own special finale. We stayed in our hometown of Portland, Oregon at the Heathman Hotel. This is something we would never normally do, but it felt like the perfect finale. Quality time spent in Pioneer Courthouse Square ("Portland's Living Room") and playing ping-pong at Punch Bowl Social made everything come full circle. If you haven't tried it, I recommend vacationing at home.
Twelve trips in twelve months! And with that, the pre-game was over. We learned a lot about being on the road, packing quick, enjoying through fatigue, making check-out time. So how about a 50-day-long, 31-state megatrip? We had four months to finish planning the 2022 Garcia Radical Sabbatical.
Random notes on the 12 trips:Best food: Homecookin' in Alaska and Astoria (which always delivers).Shortest trip: Washougal trip #2. I worked from the rental that time while Grandma swam in the river with the kids.Longest trip: Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. We stayed at Grandpa and Nana's for two weeks!Most unexpected good time: Boyd Cave in Bend, Oregon, in April. I was sick the entire time, but the cool air kept down the fever and we had all kinds of fun.Most active trip: Washougal trip #1. Swimming, climbing beacon rock, more swimming.Most inactive trip: Portland. After 11 trips, we made every excuse not to leave the Heathman.