If someone asked you to go on a road trip, but you didn’t know the destination beforehand, would you do it? That’s the conundrum my Type A personality was faced with when I got an enticing email from Ford Motor Company. They were working with Pack Up + Go, a travel agency called that specializes in “surprise” trips. As someone who reads every detail about a hotel before even booking a room, I was hesitant. I called my husband, Tim, and asked if he’d be interested. He’s as spontaneous as they come, and so we set aside a weekend for the journey.
A few weeks before we were to depart, I filled out an online questionnaire for Pack Up + Go, detailing everything from our lodging preferences to the types of restaurants we enjoy while on vacation. They’d be reviewing our answers and picking the destination, while Ford would be providing the car we’d drive to get there. Soon after, an envelope arrived with strict instructions not to open until an hour before our departure. (Talk about tempting!!)
Fast forward to the day of the trip, when I heard a low rumble outside of our home in Los Angeles. At first, I didn’t think that the vibrant orange Mustang idling in my driveway was the car we’d be taking. To be specific, it was a brand new 2018 Ford Mustang GT and the color wasn’t just orange, but Orange Fury — a vehicle way more fun than we’re used to! We ripped opened the envelope, expecting to see a city near L.A. that we’d recently visited — Palm Springs, Ojai, or maybe Santa Barbara? “You’re going to… Monterey!” The envelope not only contained directions to our hotel in Monterey, but suggested stops along the way — Hearst Castle, San Luis Obisbo, and Big Sur to name a few. We quickly put together a plan and hit the road. Side note — the trunk in the Mustang was shockingly big. I truly overpacked (the perils of not knowing where you’re going!) but all of our luggage fit with ease.
I’ll admit, it’s rare that we’d enjoy a road trip without feeling the anxiety to arrive at the destination as quickly as possible. I’m not alone in this. In fact, the Ford Travel Trends Report from May 2018 states that 60% of Americans indicated a need to be productive during a road trip. But the report continues, explaining that #1 reason Americans prefer road trips to other forms of travel is the ability to explore along the way, followed by the comfort of their own cars. It took about an hour before my brain slowed down and I stopped worrying about traffic. We were in this for the journey, and so we turned up the music — Motorhead seemed appropriate for the car — and settled in for the adventure ahead.
It’s important to mention that the day we left Los Angeles, it was over 115 degrees, and I have never been so grateful for climate controlled seats. Once we made it out of familiar territory, I plugged in the first stop on my iPhone, and was pleased to see the car had Apple Car Play. The map was visible on the car’s dashboard and we were able to enjoy the drive instead of worrying about directions. We cruised north up the coast, switching between views of the Pacific and sweeping farmland. We passed vineyards and Christmas tree farms, and as the sun lowered, the fields turned that perfect shade of gold while the waves glittered in the distance. Soon, we hit our first stop, The Madonna Inn. Located just off the road in San Luis Obisbo, the over-the-top motor inn had been a place we’d always wanted to see. We enjoyed dinner in the plush pink dining room while couples danced to live music. We snapped photos and contemplated dessert before getting back on the road to Monterey.
Late that night we arrived at our hotel, the InterContinental Clement Monterey, and were grateful to get some rest for a busy weekend ahead. The next morning, we reviewed the suggested itinerary we’d been given, opting to dine at the hotel’s waterfront restaurant before walking a few blocks to the world famous aquarium — a must see! We learned a lot about sea otters, which would come in handy when we ventured out in a sea kayak the next day and saw them swimming about 55 feet away. The entire weekend was spontaneous, from food — I found craft beers and mini corn dogs! — to activities. We would occasionally reference the recommendations we’d been given, but we mostly enjoyed the bliss of not having a plan.
As the trip came to an end, we were faced with a dilemma. Follow our normal M.O. and hightail it home, or avoid the #SundayScaries and keep the fun going a little bit longer? I was bummed we missed Big Sur on the way up, so we detoured to Bixby Bridge and pretended we were in the intro to Big Little Lies. We pulled over and admired the rugged coastline, grateful for a moment of calm before the reality of Monday hit the next morning. In that moment, I knew it was time to say goodbye to my obsessive planning and my hurry-up-and-go mentality. There’s so much beauty to discover beyond our routines, and you just have to get in the car and go.
Many thanks to Ford and Pack Up + Go. Our travel and lodging was provided but this post is otherwise not sponsored.