With another family, my family of four flew to California, and then rented two cars for 14 days to tour the West. Entering Nevada, the trunk lid on our car broke, but it didn’t prevent the trip from being one of the best we’ve ever taken. Since we couldn’t park the car anywhere full of luggage, we exchanged it at the rental agency for a minivan.
What a great way to drive with kids! The boys (15 and 16) and the girls (11 and 12) would take turns riding with each other in the car or the minivan, but after we settled into a hotel each night, all eight of us would pile into our van and go sightseeing. Stuff was thrown everywhere, but we had a blast!
Our trip took us from San Diego to Lake Tahoe, then to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks in Utah. Solvang, California is a cute town with lots of Danish heritage and architecture, where we rented six-person bicycles for sightseeing.
One of the highlights of the trip was a real surprise. At a tiny souvenir shop in Las Vegas, I asked the clerk to recommend a good stop for the kids. She suggested Virginia City, Nevada, site of the famous Comstock Lode, where $300 million in gold and silver were extracted from the land during the Gold Rush days of the mid 19th century. Now a terrific tourist attraction, Virginia City is not on any of the maps, but it’s well worth a stop.
The city features an old mine, shored up with wood beams in the classic style; cold, dark and damp inside. There was a tram making a guided tour of the town — they told us William Randolph Hearst and Mark Twain had both found fortune there. Also, a steam engine train ride runs off into the hills outside of town, eventually making a U-turn. Along the main street, lined with old brick brownstone buildings, an authentic saloon (now a museum) has a card table inside where several people were killed back in wild times; you can still see the blood stains. There is a place to pan for gold where the staff washed off whatever the kids found and gave everyone a piece of gold.
Unfortunately, they nickel and dime you by charging for the gold, the steam train, and every historic tour in town, but it was worth it. The kids will never forget that era of American history, and the day we spent there.
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