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House of Mud & other attractions
pic josh--joe1
From left, my son, Josh, and his cousin, Joe, take a break from their long road trip from the Bay Area to Santa Monica with a worthwhile stopover at Santa Barbara’s East Beach. - photo by VINCE REMBULAT
In National Lampoon’s Vacation, the Griswolds took a pass on a chance to see the famous House of Mud.

In this 1983 classic comedy, the fictional family from Chicago saw their plans to California go awry from the onset.

The Griswolds’ vacation may have been riddled with disastrous moments but the idea of side trips is actually a pretty good one.

Now, whether it’s Disneyland, Magic Mountain, or even, say, Wally World, I’m sure many of us have memories of packing up the Family Truckster and hitting the road to some fun-filled destination.

For me, those trips were no nonsense.

Grownups in the front, kids in the back packed in like sardines in the old 1970s sedan. Make no mistake about it but the drive along Highway 99 or Interstate 5 was long and often boring. The only stops were saved for fueling up, grabbing lunch at McDonald’s in Bakersfield, and, perhaps, an emergency bathroom break.

These days, our vacation road trip plans included a page or two from Clark Griswold’s play book of add-on stops.

Take a recent trip to Santa Monica, for example.

From Stockton, I drove my mom and son, Josh, to my sister’s house in San Jose. From there, we piled into the Honda Odyssey minivan driven by my brother-in-law Steve.

He’s made this drive from the Bay Area to Southern California on numerous occasions, taking Highway 101. Stops along the way included the Central Coast (San Luis Obispo, Avila) and Santa Barbara after a quick hop, skip and jump onto Highway 154 through the town of Los Olivos and a glimpse of Lake Cachuma.

Later, we found ourselves stuck in the Los Angeles area rush hour traffic. Nevertheless, Steve guided us into Santa Monica, from 101 to Calabasas through State Route 27 / Topanga Canyon Road, to Malibu and along the Pacific Coast Highway.

The add-ons to this trip made getting to our destination half the fun.

I’m hoping to squeeze in another road trip this summer. I’d like to go back to Southern California with hopes of meeting up with some of my old friends.

My plans might include traveling south on I-5, turning west on to Highway 41 and to Highway 46, and into the unincorporated town of Cholame.

It’s there that James Dean met his untimely death. A memorial for the pop culture icon can be found several 100 yards away from his fatal car crash site.

Not exactly the famous House of Mud.

Still, I’m finding that road side attractions at best can break up those once boring road trips.