A Quest For Fun // The Great American Road Trip

“This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. A quest for fun.”- Clark Griswold

Clark pretty much nailed it. Patrick Liger couldn’t have said it better himself when he loaded his family in to their Toyota Sienna mini van and embarked on a two week, 3,089 mile road trip through the pacific northwest.

Patrick is our awesome financial planning and analysis manager at Lazy Dog Headquarters, in other words, he is a major numbers whiz and Microsoft Excel master. He has been married to his wife Robyn for 11.5 years and they have three rad little boys. “Basically we are a travelling circus,” he laughs,  “Mason is 7 and older brother to our 4 year old identical twins, Dylan and Owen.” You can hear the pride in his voice when he talks about them.

Come to find out, road trips aren’t foreign for Patrick. He learned from the best, his dad Pat Sr. One time his parents Jini and Pat took him and his sisters on a trip to visit their Aunt Nita in Phoenix. Pat Sr. thought it would be a good idea to check out the Grand Canyon on the way. So they did.  And it was awesome.

Jini/Mum, Dado (Pat Sr.), Tracie, Michelle, and Patrick at the Grand Canyon 1972 

So when it came time to visit some family living up in Washington, Patrick didn’t hesitate to fill up the tank, pack up the van and hit the road. “I knew it was going to be crazy and exhausting but totally worth it,” he tells me, “because I know we will end up with some of the best memories!!”

And boy was he right.

I sat down with Patrick when he returned this week and got the full scoop on the Liger Family Road Trip. He admitted their Itinerary was aggressive. And it was. I couldn’t believe they covered so much ground.

Day 1-2:

They packed up and headed out on one of their longest days in the car- destination, Monterey Bay, CA. They stayed at a hotel near Cannery Row and spent the following day, which was Father’s Day, at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The area is named after a John Steinbeck novel, the actual location Steinbeck was writing about, Ocean View Avenue in Monterey, was later renamed "Cannery Row" in honor of his book.

The site used to be home to sardine canning factories but is now a major tourist attraction and a charming one at that. The Aquarium is at the end of Cannery Row. It has an annual attendance of more than two million visitors. I was a regular at the aquarium growing up (my parents lived in town) and it’s hands down the coolest Aquarium I’ve ever been to. 

Highlights include: The Jellyfish Exhibit, Deep Ocean Pool & Splash Zone where there is a hands on pool and you can touch wonders from the deep sea. [Entrance fee for adults is $40, child $25 and student/senior $35]

The jelly tank has a web cam too. So you can visit them any time you’d like.  Free of charge.

After a full day at the Aquarium, the Ligers head to Fairfield, CA.

Day 3:

Fairfield is home to the Jelly Belly Factory. Patrick had his heart set on the Jelly Belly Wine Pairing Experience. He had mentioned it multiple times in passing before he left. Turns out they have daily tastings from 11am-4pm at the Visitor Center (located at: 1 Jelly Belly Lane)—the experience includes wine selections and hand-made confections from the Jelly Belly Chocolate Shoppe. And it gets better, the tasting experience includes front of the line access to the Factory tour. (Scoreboard.) Click here for the current parings.

After the tour and a pit stop at the Jelly Belly store, they hit the road again and headed north towards the mighty Redwoods on the Avenue of the Giants. “We couldn't fit the van through the Redwood but the kids loved running through it.”

You can’t go through this area of Northern California with stopping to walk through one of the gigantic Redwood trees. You’ve seen that photo before, you know the one of someone’s car pulling out from the Redwood or someone standing in the tunnel cut out of the tree? Make sure you read this before you head through Humboldt county. There are three opportunities to drive through a giant redwoods- they are all right off of highway 101.

Day 4:

Next he says, “We drove to Portland, OR and had to visit the original Spaghetti Factory.  We LOVE the Spaghetti Factory.” Patrick grew up going to the one in Newport Beach so was excited to see the original location.

Day 5:

Patrick’s mom Jini insisted they go to Powell’s Book Store in the Pearl District (on the edge of downtown) and he was glad they went. Powell’s is a book lovers dream. It is 1.6 acres of books and the largest independent bookstore in the world.

Then the Liger clan hits up Voodoo Donuts before driving to Seattle, WA. Before I can ask him what he thought of the place, he cuts me off with, “Yes, they were awesome!!” If you get a chance to stop by one of these—order a Bacon Maple Bar, a Voodoo Doll (it’s raspberry jelly filled) and a Captain my Captain (covered in Captain Crunch cereal). The lines can be long, but it’s worth it. 

 

Day 6:

They are in Seattle and Patrick takes them to the Space Needle and on a tour of the downtown area. He shows me his phone, “Here’s our Space Needle portrait. Don't know if Owen was that excited about going up.”  I feel you Owen. The elevator takes 41 seconds to shoot 520 feet to the top, I can't blame the kid.

Day 7:

The next day, they toured Pike’s Place Market and other museums near the Space Needle. There is so much to see and eat here.  Bring your appetite and snack on fresh catch and food from local vendors.

You can grab some amazing chowder or crab cakes from the Athenian Inn located in the main arcade of the market. It’s where they filmed scenes for Sleepless in Seattle – you know the scene where Sam (Tom Hanks) gets some man-to-man advice on dating from his pal Jay (Rob Reiner)? 

His eyes light up when I ask him what they did next, “…after that we went to the EMP Museum which is easily the coolest museum I have ever been too.  The museum highlights the Seattle music scene like Nirvana and Hendrix, it has a Sci-Fi and Fantasy section, special Star Wars exhibit, Bugs Bunny & Looney Tunes, and so much more.  I could have spent days in there.”  

If you know Patrick, you know what a Star Wars fanatic the guy is. He has this framed picture in his office that proves it. I imagine he was in total heaven there.

Check out the two story guitar structure at the EMP. You can see Dylan rockin’ out to some tunes at the bottom. 


Day 8:

They pack up and stop by Archie McPhee’s Novelty Store (just go to their website and you will understand why they stopped here) before driving across the state to Spokane, WA. Spokane is 80 miles south of Canada and they had plans to stay with his brother-in-law.

This place is located on the Spokane River, west of the Rockies and random fact, it’s also known as being the birthplace of Father’s Day. Perfect timing, right?  

Day 9:

“Since it was 113 degrees in Washington, we had a rest day and went to the movies to see Inside Out,” he sighs, “… it was a good movie. I know it sounds crazy to drive 1600 miles to see a movie but the kid’s had to escape the heat.”  He wasn’t exaggerating about the heat wave either, later that day the dashboard hula dancer in the mini van melted off the dashboard. They left her in Spokane. R.I.P hula girl.

 

Day 10:

Rest day. Sort of.  I was beginning to think they were super humans at this point in his recap. I mean, this family is nonstop. It’s so impressive. The Griswolds have nothing on these guys. They did make a trip out to Riverfront Park that day. It’s this beautiful park in town and home of the giant radio flyer. An obvious must see.  Did I mention it’s also a slide?

Day 11:

A little over a week since they left home and the family heads to Coeur D’Alene, ID. They played on the lake and enjoyed each other’s company.

I mean Barbara Walters calls this place "a little slice of Heaven" and included it in her list of most fascinating places to visit. So I’m sold.  Barbara knows best. Apparently so does Patrick. 

Day 12:

“We started to make our way home and stopped in beautiful Bend, OR,” he tells me.  Beautiful indeed. And Bend is Home to Deschutes Brewery! Born in 1988, Deschutes is now the fifth-largest craft brewery in the world and is in good company. There are 24 craft breweries (and growing) in Central Oregon, so locally-sourced IPAs are easy to come by.  (Scoreboard!) And it gets better.  Bend is built on a freakin’ volcano. You heard me. Volcano. It’s one of only three US cities with an extinct volcano within city limits. So. Rad. 

Day 13:

The next day they continued driving south and stopped in Sacramento, CA because as Patrick puts it,  “We couldn’t pass through without a pit stop at the State Capitol.”

Day 14:  

3,089 miles and two weeks later, they make it home.

When I ask him what the high point of the trip was he tells me, “…it was spending 2 weeks with my kids, and laughing and going on adventures with them. We really connected with each other. 

My favorite part was being in Seattle. It was by far my favorite city and has so much great history. It didn’t hurt that it was 90 degrees and clear blue skies either.

Oh wait !!!! ….also the Duck Tour in Seattle was AWESOME !!!! It is one of those boat / car things that drive around the city and then it literally became a boat and we boated through Lake Union and toured the lake (Lake Union is where Tom Hanks' character lived in Sleepless in Seattle). “

I paused and stared at the image as he slid it across his desk. It reminded me of something. 

And then it hit me.

I love this picture the most because it reminds of one from Patrick’s childhood he had showed me. Check it out, a family trip to LA County Art Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits in 1974.

I inquire about any wild adventures or unexpected challenges they may have had. He tells me, “The only low point was the days that we drove over 400 miles which is about 10 hours straight in the car. I learned that at about the 350 mile mark, the kids start to melt down. Dylan usually starts and then all hell breaks loose. That is really the only tough part about traveling with 3 small kids. 

Oh and no matter how many times you tell them all to go the bathroom 20 minutes later … it's ‘Daddy!!!! I got to go pee!!!’ I have never been to so many rest stops in my life.”

Patrick’s advice for parents who are thinking about hitting the road this summer:

1) Check-in to hotels that come with breakfast in the morning. 

Getting the kids fed and comfortable first thing in the morning helps keep them content for the first few hours of the drive.

2) Bring plenty of snacks for the road

....so you do not have to keep stopping at every McDonalds the kids see.

3) Give yourself plenty of time for driving. 

You never know what traffic or pit stops you will be making along the way.  Plus there are so many cool things to check out along the journey it’s fun to get out and check out the roadside attractions.

4) Bring Grandma. 

I forgot to mention that my mom came with us too.  This was great when my wife and I wanted to go hit the hotel bar after a long day of driving and unwind and mom would watch the kids.

Words by R. Simms // Photos all taken on iPhone by Patrick Liger