By Meredith Bagnulo

This summer, my husband and I decided to visit his parents in Lincoln, California (near Sacramento). But instead of flying, we thought a road trip with our kids, ages 6 and 8, would be a most excellent adventure!

We’ve only done one long family road trip before when our kids were much younger. I was nervous, but thanks to a few electronic devices, we managed to keep the kids occupied for quite some time.

Lincoln is approximately 1200 miles from Denver, so we decided to break the trip up over two days. We spent the first night in Salt Lake City which is about half way, but earlier that day we stopped at Arches National Park in Utah. The park is only 30 miles off the highway and was well worth the detour. There are over 2000 natural sandstone arches and lots of different shapes to discover in the rock formations. I could have done without the bumpy, four-wheel drive route out of the park, but this was one of the highlights of the trip for my husband and kids.

The next morning we set out for the remainder of our drive and arrived in Lincoln to 100 degree temperatures. The first few days we spent time with family and celebrated 4th of July at the park in downtown Lincoln with a great fireworks show.

Then, we set off for Sutter Creek – The Jewel of the Gold Country. A quite little town set off from the rolling hills, we spent some time shopping, tasting cheese in the cheese shop and cooling off with some ice cream. We decided to check out the Sutter Gold Mine Tour where we spent an hour underground learning about the dangers of being a gold miner and the miniscule pay they received for brining such valuable treasure to the surface. Being underground for an hour was a nice escape from the heat by the way. While we were there, we learned that since price of gold has risen so much, the gold mine is going to reopen for mining in August. Those folks are hoping to strike it rich!

The highlight of the trip for me was our excursion to Napa Valley. The last time I was in Napa Valley was about 10 years ago when I didn’t have as much disposable income and lacked any knowledge about wines. So, our goal was to go to as many free tastings as possible and we managed to get pretty tipsy.

This time around, I appreciated the value in paying for tastings and had learned a thing or two about wine. Our first stop was Stag’s Leap  where we sampled some of their most exclusive reserves. We also visited Silver Oak   upon the recommendation of our neighbors and stopped for lunch at V. Sattui, which has an amazing cheese bar and perfect lunch fare that can be paired with their wines. We selected a nice zinfandel that was light and fruity and very refreshing. We ended the day with a visit to Grgich Hills, one of our favorite wineries from our last visit to Napa. They didn’t disappoint. It is still our favorite and we walked away with a case of wine and as members of the Grgich Hills wine club.  

We spent our last day touring the small town of Auburn and ate lunch at the local brewery — the Auburn Alehouse, good stuff!

Alas, it was time to pack up the bags and set the alarm early for our long drive back home. Our plan was to stay in Salt Lake City again but as we got closer, we thought we’d try to drive a little further and were pleasantly surprised to learn that Park City was the next big city located right off the highway. This was an unexpected treat. We stayed right across from the Olympic Village which is beautiful this time of year. Definitely a place I’d like to go back to when I have more time.

We made it home the following day and I was pleasantly surprised at how well we all traveled together as a family. Overall, it was a good experience and along the way we saw some beautiful scenery.

So, now that we survived our first big family road trip, where are we headed next? Driving from Denver to Santa Feto the Grand Canyon — I’m digging this traveling by car!