California Rattling

We’re driving away from Napa Valley on I-50E heading toward Lake Tahoe on yet another tree-lined mountain road snaking back and forth and up and down, making me queasy as I type. This more or less officially marks the end of the halfway point on our trip, where we now begin heading back east toward home. And we still have twenty days and four thousand miles to go. Still, California continues on and on. We’ll be sad to leave it.

Let’s catch up:


So, we made it to the great state of…


…where, in Alta Loma, about an hour outside of Los Angeles, we stayed with our friend Junior (real name=Janine but for some reason that I can’t recall, Karen has called her this nickname forever) and her two kids, Kimberly and Grady. And guess who was there to meet us? Remember our friend Petey from our stop in Bryan, TX? Well, he and Karen and Junior used to be roommates back in the day, and Petey had some extra vacation time coming so he flew out to meet us! Isn’t that cool? 🙂


On Tuesday and Wednesday we took the kids to Disneyland.

The first thing we did in Disney, of course, was look for a cup of good coffee. We went into a place on Main Street and the lady assured us that she had the very best coffee in Disneyland. So expectations were high. Unfortunately, they weren’t met. I’m not going to say that it was the worst coffee ever had. But that’s because I don’t want to say bad stuff about the Magic Kindom. So I won’t. The Disney lady was very nice, though.

They had this Jedi Training Camp thing where little kids get to put on Star Wars hoods and a Jedi instructor teaches them about the force and about how to use a light saber. (I’m not sure what Star Wars has to do with Disney, but there you are.) And then in the middle of the instruction, there was suddenly a disturbance in the force and who swaggers out but Darth Vader. Pretty cool, huh? But it gets better…then Evan got to have a light saber duel with Darth! How cool is that? He tried to persuade my son to turn to evil (he kept saying stuff like, “If only you knew the power of the dark side…”)—and Evan confided to me later in a totally serious voice, “You know dad, I seriously considered it.” But I’m proud to say that not only did Evan remain good, but he totally kicked Lord Vader’s butt. Check out this amazing photo. I’m not sure who’s more psyched about it, Evan or me:


Also in the L.A. area we met up with our friends Kathy Reed and Eric Hughson, and their kids Johnny and Livia. They just moved to the area, but even though they hadn’t completely unpacked they still invited us, Junior, Junior’s friend Lee, and all the kids over for a barbecue. It was great to see them. Thanks, guys!


We stopped in at Vroman’s Bookstore, a big independent in Pasedena. It’s another one of those great stores where you want to grab a book and sit down and read all day. Here I am with Kris Vreeland, Robyn Kamimura, and Katie Fraley. They were terrific—and Vroman’s is awesome!

Now, here’s another one of those weird and lovely things that happen in life. Remember the Battelo family who we met in the hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico? Well, when we got to Vroman’s they surprised us by being there, waiting! Turns out they live in the L.A. area and Heidi, Nick and Sam drove more than an hour to come see us—isn’t that nice? What a great surprise!


We left the L.A. area and headed north. Santa Barbara is beautiful, and gave the kids their first experience with the Pacific Ocean. We walked up and down the beach. There, we met up with Teresa Tucker-Davies, the Producer of the movie HOLES, among other films. We picnicked with her by the beach and found this huge rock that looks like a giant shell.

Here are a few more photos from amazing Santa Barbara:

Then northward. Route 1 is sometimes called the Dramamine Highway because of its constant sharp turns back and forth and back and forth as it winds its way up the dramatic California coastline. I have to admit, I got the queasies. Along the way there’s a little town called Lucia, which is Lucy’s real name so we had to take this picture of Lucy under her sign. 🙂


We mooched off my cousin Phil and his wife Barbara for two nights. Barbara is an amazing and artist and their house is filled with her beautiful paintings. She and Phil were a lot of fun and very kind and showed us around San Francisco. Here we are in Bubba Gump’s on Fisherman’s Warf with my cousin Evan (Phil and Barbara’s son) and his friend Kevin.


Not far from Fisherman’s Warf is Book Passage, a lovely bookstore in the Ferry Building. (They also have a larger location in Corte Madera, CA, in Marin County. Here I am with Ron Jin and Eamon Doyle. This was a particularly nice store—and they were very sweet to my family and me. As I left, Ron presented me with a beautiful box of personalized stationary that said ‘Mark Peter Hughes.’ That’s never happened to me before at a bookstore. Thanks guys! 🙂


In San Francisco our minivan, Penelope, started to make some strange rattling noises. It only happens when were stopped, with the brake on. If I put it in park, it goes away. Still, it’s rather disconcerting. Hmmm…


We spent an afternoon with our friend Marianne Shine and her three boys, Riley, Cooper, and Sawyer—another family of artists—who live in Mill Valley and Bolinas, in Marin County. They took the afternoon to show us around. It was great to see you, Shines!

They took us to see the ancient redwood trees in Muir Woods. This is yet another moment of our trip where I can’t adequately convey how I felt from being in a very special place. It was an incredible feeling to be among such ancient living things.


In beautiful Mill Valley in Marin County just north of San Francisco is a cool little bookstore called The Depot Bookstore and Café. It’s a place where authors often do readings, and mountain bikers meet for refreshments after long rides. Here I am with booksellers Debra Hammond and Kevin Brooks.

There we met with Pam and Larry, their daughter Zoe, and their dog Dipsy—friends of friends, and now our new friends—who are lucky enough to live in this gorgeous part of the world. Great you meet you!


In Richmond Heights, CA (just east of Berkeley), we stayed two nights with our friends Darlene Drapkin, Ken Lindgren and Rosa, Darlene’s mother. Darlene and Ken have a large white cockatoo named Leonard Birdstein, and it loves to swing across the living room hanging from a rope and shrieking “Hola! Hola!” It did it over and over again, and the kids shrieked with laughter every time. 🙂

Unfortunately, the next day Evan wasn’t feeling well and ended up staying at home in bed. 🙁

Ken was very kind to stay with him and take care of him while Darlene took us into Chinatown.

That second night, we put the kids down to sleep and then broke out Ken’s karaoke machine. It was a night of golden tones and golden oldies. It was kind of like American Idol, except without Paula Abdul or talent. 🙂 I’m amazed the neighbors didn’t complain.

Evan was feeling a bit better in the morning as we headed out of the San Francisco area toward Tahoe. Here we are in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, and doing a very brief wine tasting in Napa Valley.

Next stop, Lake Tahoe!

LEMONADE MOUTH (Delacorte Press, 2007)
I AM THE WALLPAPER (Delacorte Press, 2005)



  1. What’s next!!!

    You guys are having way too much fun! How are you ever going to top this summer??? maybe stay travelling…forever!!! What an adventure.
    Hope your groovy boy is feeling better. ( I can still see him dancing in Nashua!)
    Take care – I love reading your posts.

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