From the dense woods of Yosemite to the concrete jungle of Los Angeles, the adventure-ready 2019 Honda Passport was a fitting birthday chariot.
A birthday, a wedding anniversary, or a job promotion—all great reasons to celebrate—but among these celebratory occasions there are milestones found along this journey called life. One of those milestones is the ever magical Sweet Sixteen.
Once upon a time, people thought that turning 16 marked the “coming of age” for young ladies, but since the mid-2000s, folks mainly associate the milestone with MTV’s My Sweet 16, a TV show that exponentially increased young girls’ expectations and parents’ party budgets alike. An average Sweet 16 typically involves a big party, a DJ, possibly a limo ride, and most definitely a nice-er present. Back in my day, for example, my sister asked to have a phone line installed in her bedroom, but nowadays kids want a $1,000 iPhone and a pair of ostentatiously ugly, $600 Gucci tennis shoes.
Instead of going that route, we treated our 16-year-old to a trip to California. And not just any trip, but an action-packed four days complete with beautiful sights, awesome experiences, and delicious food. Not having a clue about what her parents had been plotting for weeks, she boarded the car one morning ready to go to school, but instead of heading to the dreaded drop-off line we drove straight to the airport—and that’s when her Sweet Sixteen officially began.
NorCal to SoCal
We could tell it was all beginning to sink in, as she looked out the airplane window and witnessed topography wildly different than we have at home. While she’s traveled to many states and various countries before, this was her first time visiting California. And before we knew it, we had arrived at AutoCamp Yosemite, where we would spend the next two nights exploring the area at the wheel of the 2019 Honda Passport before heading down to Southern California.
AutoCamp is unlike any place we’ve ever stayed before. It’d be unfair to call it a hotel or a campground. Either term doesn’t really fit the bill. What it is, is a campground-style property where guests stay in large Airstream trailers instead of tents or traditional hotel rooms. But unlike actual Airstream campers, which we grew to know quite well this summer during a trip to Mount Rushmore, these have been gutted and remodeled to look like modern tiny-homes instead of rolling hotel rooms.
She looked blown-away—a rare look in her face gave it away as we roasted marshmallows by the fire. It was clear that she hadn’t seen this coming at all, heck, she actually thought she was going to school earlier that morning.
A new day was upon us, and thanks to a three-hour time difference we were up a solid two hours before the sun’s rays illuminated the jaw-dropping vistas around us. We embarked on a curvy and picturesque drive to Yosemite National Park at the wheel of the Passport.
Despite having been on the market for most, if not all of 2019, this was our first time getting behind the wheel of the all-new Honda Passport. This meant we’d get to explore the crossover’s features and character while on a real-life adventure instead of our daily routine back at home.
It’s easy to think of the Passport as a baby Honda Pilot, or maybe a bigger CR-V, but it’s much more than that, really. The Passport sits nearly one inch higher than the Pilot, giving it a more adventure-ready look and better off-road performance. The Passport also has better approach and departure angles up front and out back, meaning that should you venture off the beaten path, you’ll be less likely to cause damage while crawling over obstacles.
We would eventually drive our test car south to Los Angeles, so comfort, cargo capacity, and tech offerings were also important to us. The five-seat Passport offers 41.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up, and 77.9 cubic feet with them down. This provided ample room for our rolling suitcases and backpacks, and thanks to rapidly-changing weather conditions the backseat and trunk served as changing room more than twice.
Apple Carplay and Android Auto are standard features in the Passport, which made it a breeze to get from AutoCamp to Yosemite and just about everywhere else. Tip: Always make sure to download Google Maps so you can still get around even when there’s no cell signal. More importantly, the 10-speaker premium sound system in the Elite trim made our music-loving teen happy, and so did the return of a physical volume knob to Honda infotainment systems.
Yosemite National Park
Have you ever seen something so beautiful that it makes you cry? It sounds weird, but that’s what Yosemite’s El Capitan and its many waterfalls did to us. To say that the park is a treasure to humanity and it should be treated as such is an understatement.
We spent many, many hours driving through the park, oftentimes putting the all-wheel-drive b system to the test due to muddy or icy roads at high altitudes. Admittedly, driving up 7,214 feet to Glacier Point to witness most of Yosemite’s glory was great and it gave us a chance to flex the V6’s 280 horsepower, but cruising around Yosemite Valley seeing the many waterfalls, Redwood trees, and Cathedral Beach was equally spectacular.
After a 16-hour day packed with more experiences than our brain could actually process, it was time to hop back in the Passport and head back to camp to prepare for our journey south.
In the Midwest, a five-hour road trip is considered nothing but a Sunday drive, but in California, there’s no such thing as just a “quick drive.”
The first two hours of our drive were basically back-road twisty roads, and once we finally got on the highway, a combination of traffic, construction—and quite honestly—people who have no idea what the left lane is actually for, made our five-hour drive feel more like eight.
If you’ve been to Los Angeles, then you know what’s up: a lot of glam for the ‘Gram accompanied by lots of traffic and delicious food. Of course, there’s also very nice, laidback people and gorgeous beaches. We did all of that, taking the time to hit up the Santa Monica pier, the Griffith Observatory, Rodeo Drive, Venice Beach, Hollywood, and even had a delicious birthday dinner in Beverly Hills. Like most teenagers would, however, our movie-junky wanted to spot a “celebrity,” so we forked out some bucks for the TMZ Celebrity Tour, which as much fun as it was, we spotted zero celebrities but managed to see plenty of boring and irrelevant restaurants, night clubs, and “hot spots” where celebrities allegedly hang out.
After day two in LA, our budget had been depleted, the Passport’s fuel tank emptied, and our tolerance to trafficexhausted.
Experiences vs. Possessions
We’re happy to confirm that we made the right decision, and that gifting her a trip filled with lifelong memories was a much better idea than spending the same amount of money or effort on something that comes in a box or is spent wining and dining her many friends. Not saying there’s something wrong with traditional parties or presents, of course—and it’s fair to say that every kid is different.
As we flew back home, we looked at photos of the dozens of mini-adventures we embarked on throughout our trip: Picnic near El Capitan, scenic bike rides, whale-spotting in Malibu, people-watching at the beach, and even being harassed by a Spider-Man wannabe outside of the Dolby Theater. Suddenly, she said that this Sweet Sixteen trip had been better than any gift or party we could’ve given her. Vindication, at last! It may not sound like much, but if you’re the parent of a teenage daughter, then you know what a huge victory that was for us.
Because in the end, it’s memories—and not stuff—that last a lifetime.