A Traveling Dad’s Thoughts on Shells and Shade

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I must have been born with rubber in my veins because the road – both dirt and paved – seems to call to me. It’s a form of freedom enjoyed here in America that, sometimes, we take for granted. The ability and pleasure to move about as we see fit and at-will is a glorious one.

We are barely outside the statistical norm for California families as we have three cars. After Chelsea and I got married, our first major purchase happened on the day I was hired for my first job out of college. A nice little 2011 Hyundai Elantra was acquired to get me to-and-from the workplace. The papers said it was blue, and under the dealer lights it looked the part, but every now and then I’m on the receiving end of a joke about how I drive a purple car. Either way, as the family grew, we decided not to part with our landmark purchase. It’s fuel efficient and makes a great low-volume commuter.

Truck at gas station

The second purchase was a truck. For me, it was a must-have since we live in the country. This was eventually followed by our Chrysler Town and Country van, as Chelsea seemed to be in no rush to stop having babies. In the midst of all of this, she and I have been known to put down a few miles.

Boy playing in water

Actually, we spend a great deal of our family time driving to awesome locations to give the boys a greater understanding of the world they live in. The value of the road is understated and underestimated, as you see so much more of the little intricacies that make each area and environment great. It’s how I learned that the desert has so many flowers!

Shell gas station

As our annual mileage has increased and our fuel types diversified, we’ve become pretty severe brand loyalists with our fuel selection. We’ve learned – from lessons passed down and lessons learned – that quality fuel and economy matter. Back home, Shell is where I get my three cars washed. Chelsea’s the coupon-y type, and she admonished me once while I was pumping. “Did you just try to put gas in without entering your rewards info?” Apparently, I could simply swipe a card or enter a number and magically be paying less for our fuel.

Gas savings app

While I’m admittedly not the most thoughtful about saving money, I do enjoy paying less. Pretty much all the time in the world of shelling out my cash, less is more! Chelsea explained that she registered our credit card with some sort of rewards app we could save money.

Baby under a canopy

Now that I was fully topped off, I took the boys to one of our local vehicle-friendly beaches here in San Diego and towed along our adventure trailer. Honestly, I’d been getting a little down on myself about the amount of time I’ve been able to spend with them and the fact that we hadn’t taken advantage of all that southern California has to offer this season. It even struck me that Bam had never been to a beach! With Some Boy now out of his first year of school for the summer, the heat is on for me to make the most of free time with them. That was something I never had to do before.

Truck on the beach

I pulled off the pavement and onto the sand. I took a moment to vector out the best alignment for the trailer and shade and executed ‘operation park the truck.’ The kids were bouncing around like dogs waiting to be let out on a leash-free park, but I got them settled down and we were all super happy to finally hang out in the sun. A quick change from street clothes into waders and rash guards with a touch of sun block, and we were at it!

Toddler on the beach

All in all there were a number of valuable lessons learned today. First, being able to take shade with you is a plus – especially with a baby! Second, you can dig hard and long in sand but if waves are coming, it’s going to wash away. So choose your trench-digging spot carefully. That brings me to my third lesson: select your fuel station wisely, because it can pay off! Instant Gold Status makes quick trips like this more valuable since I can now worry less about saving at the pump. Now I’ll focus more attention on keeping happily-tracked sand out of my truck and storing a treasure trove of discovered sea shells.

Kids on the beach

Has your spouse ever shared any helpful savings pointers with you?


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