Voices from the Road

A 1.5-month road trip with a baby and two dogs in tow

I love a good road trip. We don’t do boring in our family. We make things challenging. I recently left our home in northern New Mexico with two dogs, my boyfriend, and our 5-month-old baby boy and traveled across the country. I’ve never traveled with a baby, Forest is our first child, so naturally, I was doomed to bring way too much stuff. I ended up selling our roof storage box and buying a bigger one in the middle of the trip. I was constantly repacking things, and if I could do it all over again I’d bring 25 percent of what I packed. But that’s what road trips are. They are lessons as much as they are memories. 

The whole Idea was to visit family for the holidays. My partner’s family in Springfield, Missouri, was first on the list. Driving there was hell. I’ll be honest, I dislike flat areas with no land features in eyesight. I’m a mountain girl, so I like having something tall to look at. Driving across Oklahoma was downright scary, with blizzard-like conditions when we got to the flat land. It’s almost as if I asked for it to not be boring. The snow and wind made it so hard to see I was anxious for an entire day. When we finally got to Springfield, I could have kissed the ground. The highlight of Missouri was of course seeing my partner’s grandparents, who we missed dearly, and also lurking around one of the country’s largest Bass Pro Shops. We love a good outdoor store. 

The next destination was to see my family in Portland, Oregon. We stopped to stay with friends on a really cool farm property in Lincoln, Nebraska, and with another friend in Thayne, Wyoming. We bought fresh raw milk in Thayne and drove through yet another blizzard. You really appreciate the flatness when you have to drive through snow. Our baby boy slept a lot while we drove, which meant frequent wakings at night, but it was worth it. It’s fun to have the dogs and baby in tow because it forces you to stop more often. The baby needs to nurse and the dogs need to pee. I always prefer to drive down some public dirt road and pull off to let the dogs out. Rest stops are too busy and I hate putting our pups on leashes. We live rurally so it feels more comfortable to just pee next to the rig on public land and to let the dogs rip around without the worry of traffic. 

We eventually got to Portland, Oregon, and checked into our Airbnb. We would have stayed with my mom, but she’s a cat person. The holidays were different and, to be honest, everything is different. It’s COVID life now, y’all! Being on the road during COVID is weird and you have to be on your toes. Some places have more rules than others and you have to read the room. Also this was pre-election, so there was that added tension. 

We spent 10 days in Portland and it opened my eyes to what city folk are going through regarding the pandemic. Our world at home didn’t change much once COVID hit. We live on four acres near a national forest and have ample space and don’t socialize much. I really felt the heaviness of the pandemic in Portland. The shuttered businesses, not to mention the leftover scars from protests and civil unrest. I’d be lying if it didn’t make me want to run to the mountains as soon as I got there. All that aside, it was great to see select friends and family. 

Our final stop was a small town in Northern California called Hayfork. We used to live in a small cottage near town and still have family there. It was fun to take Forest and the dogs to all of our favorite places. The small mountain town was a breath of fresh air. We were only supposed to stay for a week or two but our trip stalled in Hayfork for almost a month. We ended up staying in our friend’s hand built cabin without running water or electricity. (Remember when I said we like a challenge?) We would just cruise to a friend’s place when we needed coffee and breakfast, and we ate dinner with family every night. It was nice and so darn quiet it reminded me of home. 

Northern California is so different from Central or Southern California, it could be its own state. It’s gorgeous and I’m still in love with the mountains, lakes, rivers, and coastal areas of NorCal. I ended up leaving on my own with the baby and one dog, eager to get home and back to my schedule. By the time I left we had acquired both a new truck for my partner and a horse. 

What was supposed to be a two-week trip ended up a month-and-a-half adventure. The worst was driving through blizzards, COVID city life reality checks, and ticks galore in NorCal. The best part was seeing family, friends, and showing Forest around our old stomping grounds—and did I mention we got a horse? It took me four days and nights to get home with the dog and baby, but I’m a seasoned roadtripper and I like a good challenge, so it was a cakewalk journey back. No blizzards, thankfully. I’m glad we got out to see our loved ones, pandemic and all. It wasn’t a perfect trip, but it was definitely an adventure.

Jessica’s trip

Meet the Roadtripper

Jessica Ilalaole