SO, as simple as the Instax can get, it's still possible to use the wrong settings! AH! It's really my misunderstanding really. I've read the manual a long time ago and foolishly I thought the "L" meant landscape. Once I saw the results, I totally remembered that "L" meant make the image lighter not on landscape mode. I redid the portrait instaxes with the mountain symbol and was finally happy with the results and my camera settings.
During our road trip, we were so excited to stop at Big Sur coast but later realized that in all this excitement, we forgot to pack snacks and a lunch!! Restaurants were scarce and our appetite was huge. After a couple of hours, we finally saw a restaurant with a live band singing to Johnny Cash as we sat eating (veggie) burgers overlooking these beautiful landscapes.
After experiencing this road trip, it's funny to think that we were almost considering flying instead. I'm SO glad we drove because it gave us the bonding time that I very much appreciated. Props to Leena for driving the ENTIRE freaking time.