Dear Montecito: Jack Moller

By Stella Haffner   |   March 4, 2021

I’m excited to share today’s story with you for a couple of reasons. First, the author of this letter is Jack Moller, a kid with whom I’ve not only shared the same high school but also at the same preschool, elementary school, and middle school. Second, I can appreciate the fact that most of us are not going on many adventures right now. If my Netflix “recently watched” list is anything to go by, this pandemic has stirred our need for escapism and our desire to engage with stories a little more interesting than our own. With that, I’d like to introduce you to Jack and Ollie’s Excellent Adventure. 

Dear Montecito,

A scene from Jack Moller’s month-long road trip

Hey! I’m Jack. And I went on a road trip last year.

I was talking with my dad, who’s almost 80. He was remembering when he and his brother went on a road trip back in the day. They drove around in an old school VW bus, touring all over and through the Middle East, Palestine, Israel, etc. This was pre-Desert Storm. Anyway, I’m talking to my dad, and he’s telling me all this, and I basically say:

“Look. I’m tired of online school. I’m not learning anything.”

My dad knows this. He proposes that I rent a van and check out some places I’ve never seen before. And I thought it was a pretty cool idea, so my friend Oliver and I made a plan to leave on September 25.

We started in Santa Barbara, stopping in Sequoia National Park, then Las Vegas. We stayed in Utah for a week-and-a-half next to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We visited Yellowstone, then went to Colorado to go fly fishing and see some friends. Honestly, Colorado was so neat, just the banks of the rivers and the Rocky Mountains. We would definitely go back there. Next, we headed to Texas. I had never been to the South so the culture shock was real. And the landscape was all flat down there. It was real interesting.

We spent the last three weeks just touring the South. We had been visiting some friends in Dallas, but from there we drove to Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida. We saw some stuff while living in that very small 1995 Eurovan. I guess it sounds weird, but I really like Mississippi. It was the amount of trees and the way the roads wind through the forest. Everyone was just so nice. I know that lots of people are going to think it’s strange that I liked Mississippi so much, but truly the hospitality there was unmatched. At least three people invited us to stay at their houses. If you’ve ever been there, you understand. They’re just the kindest people. People aren’t kidding when they call it Southern Hospitality. 

Not that the whole trip was easy going. We couldn’t find great places to stay every night, so sometimes we’d park under a bridge or something. Someplace the cops couldn’t hassle us. But boondocking after a month definitely drains you mentally. You miss being comfortable. You miss all those luxuries that you’re used to at home. Road-tripping is okay for a month or so, but after that you’ve had enough because you know what you’re missing. Let’s just say I’m never going to take air-conditioning or hot showers for granted again. Not just because I didn’t have them while we were in the van, but because we saw a lot of the country, and I know there are many people who don’t even have a house.  

The whole thing was really eye-opening. At the time, Oliver and I were still teenagers. We’re just 20 now, and it’s like we’re both still figuring stuff out. But this trip really gave me perspective. We live in such a bubble here in Montecito that we don’t really see what life is like in the rest of the country. Not everything is hunky dory. So that was the biggest benefit, I think. It was cool to get a new perspective.

If I were to make another trip in the future, I’d definitely go to the Pacific Northwest. We couldn’t go this time because of the Oregon fires, but I’ve been there before and know that I want the opportunity to drive around. Other than that, I’d say we probably should’ve planned a bit more. We did the best we could with the pandemic and all, but planning would’ve made things a bit easier. 

If I were recommending this to other people, I would definitely say that you should probably wait until the pandemic is over. You want to be able to meet people and to actually spend time with others on the road. The other thing is, you need a good playlist. I recommend:

1. “Take It Easy” by the Eagles
2. “The Piña Colada Song” by Rupert Holmes
3. “Night Moves” by Bob Seger
4. “Southern Nights” by Glen Campbell
5. “Going up the Country” by Canned Heat



P.S. Parents of Montecito children, if you have recommendations on people to feature in “Dear Montecito” please contact me,


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