The early morning fog softly floated along the hillsides as the warm summer sunrise crashed into the shore. Mom, grandma and grandpa had gotten up early to escape our odd 70s-inspired hotel room. Being the lover of sleep that I am – I rolled out of bed and threw my hair in a bun as they loaded the last of their bags into the truck. “Right behind you,” I had said while swiping deodorant and checking my computer pack for all the charging cables.
Our four tiny styrofoam cups had stolen the last of the available coffee from the gas station’s canister, so I was drowsily scouting coffee stops from the back seat when I saw it.
“Pull over here,” I calmly mentioned to mom.
“Or here,” I nudged more as she kept cruising.
In an anxious uncertainty, she swerved the oversized Ford into a rest area on the opposite side of the road. The viewpoint overlooked a stunning beach littered with driftwood and completely uninterrupted by footprints or people.
The early morning light revealed rich beautiful blues in the sky and sea while bright green plants sprouted from every angle. Giant dark rocks ripped apart the waves as they creeped closer into shore. And, just down from us, I spotted the beach entrance.
“Let’s go down there.”
Mom obliged and pulled the truck into another lot just a few yards down the road. She angled her parking so we could get photos from the windows, but I was already slipping off my shoes and socks.
“No, I mean let’s go down there,” I repeated. She hesitated, then asked how.
My mom is a truly incredible human. She’s amazingly strong, smart and selfless. Practical. Considerate. Helpful. She’ll go out of her way to do over-the-top things for people she loves. Like, going on this trip.
Traveling across the country in a truck put her out of her element to be sure. As many amazing traits as I inherited from her – my passion for adventure was not one of them.
I do remember traveling with her as a kid. Specifically, I remember a road trip to Pike’s Peak in which she panicked about my dad’s driving up and down the mountain. That was, apparently, still true at least 20 years later. Then, there were the times in Vegas when she and my brother refused to do the indoor skydiving and rooftop roller coasters I was dying to go on. The flight that took us on that Vegas trip was entertaining, too. She white-knuckled the seat arms through take off and landing. Throw in a little turbulence through the Rockies and that trip was nearly over before it started as far as she was concerned.
I love her love for home. I understand it completely – but I (probably unfairly) also love challenging it. I want, so badly, for my mom to experience the world in the ways I have. I want to show her everything. Introduce her to everything. Try everything. In my twisted little mind, that’s the most amazing gift I can share with someone who has given so much of her life for me. Show her how to live in the way that brings me so much joy.
Needless-to-say, though, talking her into driving across the country for nearly two weeks was another sacrifice on her part. She didn’t love Pike’s Peak, again. Cruising through the mountains was stressful. Weaving through the national parks was almost as bad. The entire state of California had her on edge. Turns out, she’s terrified of earthquakes. By the time we made it to Oregon, I was bound and determined to find something…anything…in the world for her to fall in love with.
“The sand is going to cling to your feet, so just take off your shoes completely,” I told her. “We’ll wash them at the faucet over there when we get back.”
I dug my travel towel out of my backpack and we rolled up our pant legs to our shins. She was impressed that I had packed a towel even though she still couldn’t understand why.
“The tall grass might be a little rough. We’ll just walk slow.”
I led her through the grass and onto the sand. It was cool and rocky. A man and his dog wandered away while we giggled our way toward the water with cameras in tow.
I stepped into the water and jumped away as it rose too quick and bit with a degree of cold I hadn’t quite prepped for. Shivering, I chased the waves back into the sea.
“Come on! You have to put your feet in,” I told her. “You didn’t drive across the country to not put your feet in the Pacific.”
“Oh, I’ve done it before,” she replied – shrugging me off.
“In the Atlantic,” I snarked. “This one is different.”
She literally fought me the whole way. She was loving the view. She was snapping photos – first with her phone, then grandma’s iPad, then my fancy camera. Finally, she caved to my request.
There we were – soaking up a quiet dawn on Historic Highway 101. Me and my mom were adventuring into the Pacific Ocean – together. The water rushed over our feet and we pranced through the wet sand. Even grandpa had hopped out of the truck and started a slow trek through the grass to get a bit closer.
I scooped some of the black sand into an empty Dramamine container. Then snagged a handful of white pebbles to carry to the truck. Our excursion had lasted maybe 15 minutes – but it was plenty of time to find our second wind moving into the end of our trip.
As I caught up to her to lead the way back through the grass, she said “I think that was my favorite part.”
Even today, I still know it was.