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Think of 10 people you know. This year, eight of them will take a road trip, that staple of the American vacation.

That’s what research from the Auto Club of Southern California tells us. And that’s what those columns of cars on Interstates 10 or 15 or 405 or 5 tell us. The call of the car remains powerful, promising relaxation, family fun and unusual sights, the stuff of a rich stew of memories.

But where to go and what to do? For the next three days, we'll outline routes you might take, destinations that promise a change of scenery and advice on how to wrangle some of the devil in the details, including preparing your dogor cat — for the journey, keeping your house safe while you’re away and keeping your children amused, and finding the pure pleasure of the candies of your childhood, which melt in our mouth, not in your car. You’ll find a list of national parks in the West, the best events of summer, where to rent a car and how to get info from state tourism offices.

As you prepare for your trip, remember that at the end of the road, home is waiting to welcome you back. Could there be a sweeter ending?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Wednesday: Sometimes, it’s the place that enchants; sometimes it’s the people. In the quirky Mojave, it’s both.
  • Thursday: Mark Twain was the consummate road tripper. America’s favorite story teller travels in Nevada and California, opening our eyes, with humor, to uniquely Western history.
  • Friday: Your have to have a plan to drive Route 66. Or do you? We follow America’s Mother Road to see where an uncharted course can leads us as it snakes through the Southwest.
Quick Trips

Solana Beach just might be the friendliest beach city in Southern California

 (Marc Stirdivant)
(Marc Stirdivant)

Solana Beach has quietly become one of the more popular towns along the Southern California coast. It's not as flashy as Encinitas or Del Mar, its neighbors to the north and south. But the beaches are relatively uncrowded, the food is terrific and the people are relentlessly friendly.

Solana Beach has only three hotels -- two of which are a Courtyard by Marriott and a Holiday Inn Express. The most interesting choice, the Winners Circle Resort, was booked when we tried to make a reservation, so we chose the Marriott. The room was spacious and clean; the only thing missing was charm.

A good thing about the hotel, however, is its proximity to the beach. If you go out the back door, turn left and then right on Del Mar Shores Terrace, you'll find a path that will lead you down about 160 stairs to a beach as beautiful as any along the Southern California coast.

The tiny Hideaway Cafe, covered in vines, sits a block off Highway 101 near the beach. The cafe, open only for breakfast and lunch, is the kind of place where the waitresses call customers by name and ask about their kids. The egg dishes are excellent, but the real treat is the California French toast made with Hawaiian bread in orange batter.

Claire's on Cedros is known for its outstanding breakfasts and lunches. But several years ago it opened on Friday and Saturday nights, and now its dinners are equally famous. My wife ordered the chile-rubbed chicken, spicy cornbread dressing and stir-fried summer vegetables. I chose the grilled chimichurri steak with warm potato salad, sweet peppers and grilled scallions. The outdoor patio is beautiful and quiet, an ideal place for dinner and that restaurant rarity, conversation.

In the 1950s Cedros Avenue was a collection of dusty industrial buildings on the wrong side of the tracks. Today, however, the area has been converted into the Cedros Avenue Design District, one of the hippest collections of furniture stores, art galleries, gift boutiques and apparel shops in San Diego County. The David Alan Collection is an extraordinary combination of distinctive furniture and accessories, jewelry and primitive folk art.

Miles one way from downtown L.A.: 99

This story was originally published on Aug. 25, 2016.

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