Road Trip to Mammoth Lakes

Alternate Title: How We Decided to Move to Mammoth

Our road trip started with lunch at In-N-Out and clear, sunny skies. Everyone was finally healthy, happy, and ready for the ride.

All four of us. Lyra just threw a hoodie on her head while she napped.

All four of us. Lyra just threw a hoodie on her head while she napped.

The road to Mammoth is about eight hours long when you have little kids and frequent stops for the bathroom and leg stretching. The girls did an amazing job keeping themselves entertained and spent a lot of time talking to and playing make believe with each other.

Eric and I used to love road trips. We'd often drive to Taos and back and our babymoon before Cora was born was a road trip through Arizona.

Road trip to Taos, 2007.

Road trip to Taos, 2007.

Taos Pueblo, 2009.

Taos Pueblo, 2009.

Saguaro National Forest, 2010.

Saguaro National Forest, 2010.

New Mexico Road Trip, 2012.

New Mexico Road Trip, 2012.

It was rad to be back in the car with him and this time sharing the adventure with the girls.

We got in late that night. It was COLD. I was surprised how cold it was for June, but I shouldn't have been. The mountain still had snow on it and Mammoth is located in the Eastern Sierras. Of course it was cold!

The next morning Eric got up before all of us and drove to the one and only grocery store in town to get stuff for breakfast and lunch. It was delightful to wake up to coffee and breakfast ready to go. Husband points earned: +35

Next up, hitting the slopes at the Lodge. This was going to be Lyra's first experience snowboarding. She had been waiting for quite literally her entire [young] life to join Eric and C on this adventure!

Her purposeful stride is everything.

That night we were all tired. We hit up the store and bought stuff to make dinner at the rental and headed back for a quiet night together. 

Eric made dinner. I changed into pjs and drank wine. Translation = the evening was perfect.

Hell yes, those are Marvel thermals.

Hell yes, those are Marvel thermals.

What happens when you have your 3 year old take a family photo.

The girls were giddy when we played Go Fish and had hot chocolate. 

The next morning we were up early for Lyra's second day of snowboarding.

After a morning on the slopes we went home for a comfort-food-filled lunch and then headed out to explore the town.

It was truly this afternoon where the idea arose to move to Mammoth. We mozied around 'the village,' which is what they call the center of the town. Then we explored the Volcom Brother's skate and play park. From there, we walked past the elementary, junior, and high schools and went to the grocery store to grab some snacks for an outdoor picnic. The public library is across the street from the schools and next to the grocery store so we sat down on a bench outside the library to re-fuel.

While Eric and the girls snacked I decided to duck into the library to use the restroom. When I approached the front entrance there were three strollers casually parked out front. They weren't locked up. They all had diaper bags in them. I was stunned. Strollers (and handbags) would disappear in a second in San Diego if left unattended. Even locked up, they get stolen. Here we had three parents who felt comfortable enough to just park their strollers outside and not even worry about it. Impressive.

The Mammoth Lakes Library was built in 2007 and has an excellent layout. Wisely, the children's area is tucked behind the central staircase and fully away from the main library and study areas. This allows kids to be kids instead of constantly being hushed. It also had an adjoining play room and classroom/kitchen area. Upstairs the library had a teen room, two public meeting rooms, a Maker's Space, and of course, tons of public computers. I also liked that the library is a joint-use location with the local Cerro Coso Community College.

After my bathroom break and local library tour I went back and joined my family. I gazed around dreamily and sighed to Eric, "wouldn't it be nice if we could live here?"

"Yeah. I've thought about it before but you've never been here so I didn't know if you'd like it."

"I love it. This place reminds of the town I grew up in. Everything is so close, both the city parts and the immediate access to all this gorgeous nature. And did you see how many kids were tearing around town on bicycles without adults trailing behind them? Just biking around freely? That's how I grew up."

"Yeah, I saw the kids. I grew up like that too. Are you serious? Would you really consider living here?"

"I am. Totally, but the problem is your job. Will they let you work remotely?"

"I don't know. But I'll ask. If you are serious, I'll ask."

"I'm serious. I'm eff'ing serious. But what about the condo? What would we do? I mean, assuming work says yes, would we buy the condo AND a house? Or just move into the condo instead of renting it out?"

"I have no idea. What else should we think about if we want to do this?"

By then the kids were restless and both mine and Eric's spidey-senses were tingling. I could almost feel change in the air already; it was the alluring voice of something new mingled with the seductive call of the Eastern Sierra, all so close to our very fingertips.

We had this conversation in front of the girls. We were sitting across from them on a public bench, but they were lost in their little kid world of imagination and cheese and crackers. They heard none of it. 

Into the library we wandered as a family.

Every picture I snapped from there on out had a different context. It was a photo of a town that I could possibly call home.

We headed to John's Pizza that night and our conversation was completely engulfed in possibilities. What were the schools like? The community? How much snow did they get? Would we even like it here?

The wine and beer flowed and I felt intensely happy about the world that was forming before us. For the first time in a long time, we had an option on the table that we both liked. We had floated a million ideas in the years after losing Rebel Heart and not one had appropriately felt right for us both for the current period of life we were in.

Things we had thought about: sailboat? YES. But we wanted to get a catamaran and not be linked to a desk job while we owned one. The time wasn't right. The cat would have to wait. We thought about building our own home somewhere: earthbag home, tiny home, or a strawbale home? Problems with those: living in a place that was zoned for them. Where would we live while we built it? And of course, jobs. Living in an RV was out. We'd be stuck in RV parks and/or always driving, plus the cost of fuel, also, jobs. I longed to live internationally but the idea of finding a job abroad for Eric (who is our main bread winner) didn't seem feasible.

All of the ideas always came back to these three biggest issues:

  1. One of us didn't like/wasn't ready for the idea the other presented.

  2. Having still very young kids presented challenges to many plans.

  3. Work. We still needed to be able to work. We're not independently wealthy and never have been. We needed to be able to have a steady income from gainful employment.

At last, we had an idea that met 2 of the 3 of major issues. Number one was met with a resounding, mutual, YES. Number 2 - having kids in a town like Mammoth was incredibly appealing. It would give us a lot of the freedoms that sailing with small children had afforded us: more time with our kids in nature, and a community that was far more accepting of children's autonomy (versus the helicopter parenting of many modern urbanites).

The only issue was number three. Would we able to work remotely?

That night, after the girls had played with the landline phone for a bit (I think that phone might have been the highlight of their trip), Eric and I laid in bed listening to the coolest radio station, Alt 92.5, Eastern Sierra's New Alternative. Pro tip: you can listen to their station on streaming. You can thank me later.

The place we were renting didn't have internet in the unit so we sat nestled in bed, each on our smart phones, or periodically thumbing through the local yellow pages attempting to answer questions we had about what a possible move like this would entail. I fell asleep buzzed, serenaded by good music, and tucked along Eric's side.

More about how it all happened soon.