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The Sauceda-Armstrong family gathers for a photo in Utah’s Arches National Park. From left: Maria Sauceda carrying 18-day-old Lincoln; Avery, 12; Leonard, 13; Lily, 11; Quinn, 9; Ella, 16; and Jacob Armstrong. Courtesy photo
ColumnsHit the Road

Hit the Road: Baby’s first trip is an adventure

Eight people. Nine days. A rented RV that sleeps 10. Three blowouts. Four national parks. Nearly 2,400 miles.

That’s one way to sum up the family vacation that took the blended families of Maria Sauceda and Jacob Armstrong through Arizona, Utah and Wyoming in early August.

Oh yes, there’s one other number: 16 days.

That’s how long after Maria gave birth that she, Jacob, baby Lincoln, and their other five children, ages 9 to 16, piled into a 35-foot RV and headed out on a road trip that took them to Grand Canyon, Arches, Yellowstone and Dinosaur national parks and monument. 

One must ask: What were they thinking?

“We take a trip every summer,” explained Maria, who splits her work and family time between Vista and Temecula. “Last year, it was Bryce Canyon. The year before that, Las Vegas. We originally thought we’d rent a houseboat this year, but as we came closer to booking, we decided an RV road trip would be best. We’d be in our own environment and not around a lot of people. We felt it was safest because of COVID and the new baby.”

About that new baby…

“(When planning the trip), I thought I was going to be three-and-a-half weeks postpartum,” she added. “I was supposed to give birth July 6, but Lincoln was born July 14.  We left on July 30.”

Full disclosure: Maria is a friend, and while I’ve always known her to be high-energy and a master organizer, I still found her family vacation story, especially in this time of coronavirus, to be ambitious. There were hurdles, for sure.

First challenge: Have the baby, then schedule a vacation in the time left before the start of school.

Second challenge: Have a plan. Once the dates were locked in, Maria and Jacob had to create an itinerary and plan on-the-road meals for eight.

“Jacob has a degree in city planning, so planning a trip is a natural for him,” Maria said. “He looked at the national parks he wanted us to explore and chose RV parks (pools were a must) close to those. He also chose the parks because his dad passed away and the parks were the ones he took Jacob and his brother and sister to see. We also stopped in Kaysville (Utah) where Jacob grew up.”

As for meals, “I had a menu for the entire trip.”

And they stuck to it except for one unplanned restaurant stop, necessitated by one of several “hiccups” that occurred even before they left the driveway.

“We didn’t realize how long it would take to pack the RV,” Maria admitted, and that put them two hours behind schedule. Day One also brought their first tire blowout, at 9 p.m. near Williams, Arizona, and soon after, the second blowout.

Long story short: It took an act of Congress and some begging to get someone to transport the family of eight to a nearby motel, and to find someone willing to tow the RV the next morning. A third blowout came on Day Seven near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and many calls later, a mobile mechanic arrived and put on a new tire.

The last hiccup was a broken water pipe that came on the last day of their trip, so they decided to stay in a motel.

Still, Maria said, “in the end, I think (traveling by RV) is a great trip to do with family. With a newborn, too. You are in your own area and control who you are around.  All the parks we went to the kids will remember. They are all at good ages for hiking and seeing the differences in the parks.”

Next year? Maria and Jacob are going to revisit that houseboat idea. 

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