It was less than three weeks ago that we found out Chuck could get enough time off in early February for a family vacation. We began thinking about what we could do. When we discussed it, the kids unanimously agreed that their favourite vacation ever was the one where we rented a cabin for a week somewhere fairly interesting and different from home, but where the pace of life was still slow and rural. That was in the fall of 2006 when we spent a week in September on a gulf island north of Vancouver. We haven't really taken a proper vacation since. We did a 3-day canoe trip on our hometown lake the next year, and then the following year we squeezed a train trip and a couple of days of sight-seeing into a family wedding excursion. But a "get away and relax" vacation? It's been well over 3 years.
We bumped into some local friends at our favourite café the day after we found out about Chuck's time off. They had done a trip they had loved down the west coast of the US via train to the desert and I'd kept that kernel of an idea in my head. We picked their brains about it, listened to their rave reviews and advice. And came home and started working away with Google Earth, Firefox and Google.
Within a couple of days it all fell into place. We'll be taking the train from the US city five hours south of us, heading out to the coast on one overnighter and connecting with another overnighter in Portland. And get this -- we'll have sleepers both nights! On Amtrak the sleeping berths are actually affordable.
We'll arrive in LA, rent a minivan and head out to the high desert, staying at a swanky owner-direct vacation rental near Joshua Tree National Park for a week. We plan to do lots of rock-climbing, hike around, explore the desert and some canyons, hang out, play games, play music, visit some friends who live nearby and somewhere along the way see Avatar in 3D, a luxury not available in our area. Chuck and I spent some time in Joshua Tree before we had kids and loved it. It will be colder this time, but it will be awfully nice not to be in the thick of a Canadian winter, especially the disappointingly warm one we've been having so far which has left us with little snow but a lot of ice and dirt.
I'm planning on running a lot! I'll have the time, and I expect the weather will be perfect with daily highs about 15 C. Desert running ... I can't wait. I'm managing to squeeze in 15 miles a week lately with no recurrence of my hip pain, feeling stronger and running faster week by week.
Two-day train trips tend to be fun and exciting on the outgoing leg, but not so much on the return leg a week later, so we'll being doing the environmentally nasty thing and flying home, saving a lot of time and a fair bit of money.