Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How Far is 3 Miles? Apparently it's Far at 10,400 Feet with a 4 Year Old.

Our family probably wouldn't be considered the "roughing it" type, and this despite the fact that Katie grew up camping and I was an Eagle Scout.  We drop the occassional snobbish joke of staying at a Courtyard is roughing it.  Truthfully, I'm not sure why we haven't done a lot of camping.  I think part of it is that we both work and are so busy that what little time we do have to get away, we like ease and comfort.  I think in the back of my mind I sort of wish I was more outdoorsy, I love walking into REI and seeing all the cool stuff.  I certainly did my fair share of camping and even some backpacking as a teenager.  I mean Katie and I even had a family wedding shower where all we wanted was camping equipment.  The items we received from that camping shower have been used a total of once.

So I was feeling sort of guilty about not exposing Gwen to the great outdoors.  She complained about never going camping and Katie was always quick to remind her that we often go to Grandpa's Cabin in Fish Lake, Utah.  "That's not camping, I mean somewhere where we build a fire and sleep in a tent."  It's funny how Gwen often doubts anything that Katie or I claim to have once done.  I've explained that I've camped, fished, backpacked, hunted, and she mocks.  She only sees me as a late 30 something whose only engagement in the outdoors is to swing golf clubs while riding a cart and eating a hotdog.  So I decided to kill two birds with one stone, first to prove to her that I'm not as big a wuss as she thinks and second to fulfill her request of sleeping in a tent.  However, as she and I discussed where and when to go, Mason caught wind and that was that...he was going. 

I spent the next 2 weeks trying to prepare for our one night camping trip, and buying all the essentials to pull this trip off (how nice of a hotel could we have stayed in for the $500 I spent on camping and fishing gear?).  I admit that it was slightly complicated by the fact that I insisted on backpacking 3 miles to a remote mountain lake at over 10,000 ft. above sea level.  It would have been easier to drive 10 minutes from our home to American Fork Canyon, pile out of the car, put up a tent, roll out some lawn chairs and eat pizza we picked up along the way.  But I wanted Gwen to have the authentic camping experience of hitting a trail and finding a remote camp spot with no one else in sight. 

We invited Katie's sister and her 2 teenage sons to join us.  I admit there were some sinister motives in the thought of having two healthy pack mules along.  We met at 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning and started our 3 hour drive to Spirit Lake in the High Uinta Mountains.  Katie learned from a co-worker that had recently been to Spirit Lake that it had a lodge, cabins that could be rented, a convenience store and restaurant and thought that sounded about perfect.  But Spirit Lake was simply the spot we parked to start our hike to Tamarack Lake.  I had camped around Tamarack 3 or 4 times as a teen ager and always had fond memories of my trips and therefore wanted the family to see it.  So we got out of the car, loaded on our borrowed packs (has anyone weighed a 5 man tent?) and started on the path. 

The hike back in was well marked but had countless large rocks in the trail.  This meant that either Katie or I had to hold Mason's 4 year old hand the entire hike rather than deal with the inevitable facial damage and stitches that would have occurred had he walked 10 feet on his own.  I was proud of him though, he kept moving those little legs and only broke down into absolute tears about 300 yards from our camp spot.  As the trail finally arrived at Tamarack Lake, 10,400 feet above sea level, I could see the defeat when I explained that the camp spot was on the far end of the lake, another 3/4 of a mile away.  We trudged on.  The challenge of the hike was made better by the beauty of the lake and surrounding lodgepole pines.  We also had enjoyed the neat experience of walking up on a cow and calf moose.  We finally found our overnight home tucked back in the far corner of the lake.  The camp spot wasn't quite how I remembered it, back when I used to camp in the spot, it appeared as though and overly ambitious scout troop had cleared out tent spots, built a makeshift table and fire pit.  The camp was still pretty nice, but in the 18 years since I'd been there a few trees had fallen in the middle of the camp.  I lately sheepishly admitted to Katie we probably could have stopped at some other spots about 1/2 mile back.

Setting up camp was a breeze and Katie jumped in to help like an old pro.  It was just in the nick of time too because within about 20 minutes of getting everything set up, it started to rain and there was some thunder.  There are two things that really scare Mason; the dark and thunder.  I guess I didn't think through that he' be faced with both in a big way on this trip.  He decided he only wanted to be in the tent and I don't think Katie minded because they spent the next 3 hours in there napping while Gwen and I went off to try our hand at fishing.  Over that time I think I witnessed the full emotional range of a 10 year old girl.  I wasn't going to baby her and basically handed her a pole with bubble and fly attached, showed her how to cast and said "ok, there you go."  I think she had casts that hit rocks, casts where the bubble wrapped around the pole, casts where about 20 feet of line got tangled by her reel and I just told her to "figure it out" and "that's part of fishing."  I swear I must have some Chinese Tiger Mom gene in me.  Meanwhile she was mumbling how stupid this is and couldn't figure out why people even like fishing in the first place.  She finally got it figured out and had a hit.  I saw the determination set in and about 15 minutes she caught her first fish.  It was a beautiful 12" native brook trout that was bright and colorful (why did I leave the camera in my bag!).  So the mood went to elation and joy.  I was proud of her for sticking it out.

Later the kids got to enjoy a dinner of canned chili thrown in a campfire.  Gwen also wanted to cook her fish, and then ate one bite.  As we talked, Katie asked Gwen what she thought of her first camping trip.  She answered, "um...I'd rather be in Thailand, but this is pretty great too".  After some clean-up and more fishing we called it a night around 9:00.  I had forgotten how much I hated sleeping in a sleeping bag.  I also forgot how difficult it is to get comfortable sleeping on a tent floor.  But this time I had a few new experiences.  I didn't know how difficult it is to sleep next to a coughing 4 year old.  I had no idea that right when I finally drifted off into a deep sleep would be the exact moment that our 10 year old would get up and frantically engage everyone's assistance in getting out of the tent to go pee.  About 4:45 a.m. I gave up, got my shoes on and went out and started a fire.  I was lonely until about 5:30 when Katie's sister came out after trying to sleep in a soaked sleeping bag all night.  All that said, I'm actually happy I got out before the sun came up because I haven't seen stars like that in many, many years...they were amazing.

The next morning was all about eating breakfast, burning about 15 pounds of crap that we didn't need to pack back out with us and setting our course back to the car.  Although the packs were lighter, I think poor Mason's legs must have been exhausted.  He asked to be carried several times and for a short distance I gave in and carried him up this incline, 45 pounds of kid, 50 pounds of pack, uphill at over 10,000 feet elevation and I was starting to wonder if another hernia surgery was in my future.  We arrived back to our car about 10:30 a.m.  We were all exhausted and I was secretly glad Katie couldn't get off early Friday and thus only have one night in the mountains.  I'm sure we'll camp again soon, but it might be the kind where you pull up and empty the car and throw up a tent.  We might have to save backpacking until the kids are a little older. 

I don't know if it was everyone's favorite trip, Gwen would have rather been in Thailand and I know Katie would always rather be at a beach and Mason a pool, but it was still a new experience.  I'm not sure why but I have this thing that really wants to create as many memories as I can with our kids and I'm already getting a sense of how short our time together is before they leave us.  I hope Gwen will remember that fish she caught, I know I will.
Tamarack Lake at Sunset

Mason trying to hook a fish

Quite the fisherman

Gwen enjoying her first camping trip

Hike back out toward Spirit Lake

Evening time at Tamarack Lake

Katie and Mason hiking out

3 mile hike to 10,400 ft elevation Lake Tamarack

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Golf Course: Wasatch State Park

If you're a golfer and live in or are visiting Northern Utah, Wasatch State Park is a golf experience that needs to be enjoyed at least once a year.  I, along with a couple buddies, try to get a full day to play both 18-hole courses.  Today was that day this year-thanks for a great time Dave and Ryan.  I can't say it was even close to my best round of the year, but it was one of my best days of the year.

My reviews are based on playing from the blue tees.

Mountain Course:  The Mountain Course is probably the more popular of the 2 courses, and rightfully so.  The holes work their way up and down a gorgeous canyon with beautiful scenery that includes deer, views of the Midway Valley and the Wasatch Mountain Range.  If golfed at the very end of August or through September, the colors of the surrounding trees can be amazing.  The course is interesting because you can play a decent round and shoot a good score, or quickly get in trouble and blow up.  There are a few narrow fairways but several of them open up at about 250 yards.  The par 3s are challenging and from the blues, the shortest of which is an uphill shot about 165 yards and the longest par 3 is 215 yards, so none of the par 3s are a "gimmie".  A few of the par 4s add a degree of difficulty with a blind shot, elevated green, or sloped fairways that kick the ball to the rough.  The par 5s aren't overly challenging, but do require an accurate drive and the ability to hit many shots on a downhill lie.

Tip: Resist the temptation to hit 3wood on your second shot on par 5s.  The downhill lies can make it difficult to hit a solid shot and the Mountain Course does a good job of narrowing the fairways or adding bunkers at the usual landing spot of your second shot on par 5s, so accuracy is very important.

Hole #5 at Wasatch Mountain Course

Hole #9 at Wasatch Mountain Course

Hole #10 Tee Box on Wasatch Mountain Course

Hole #13 at Wasatch Mountain Course with Midway Valley Below

Lake Course:  I imagine this course wouldn't feel as unique in Eastern U.S.  It is tree lined, has several doglegs, and old-school back to front greens.  However, in Utah, it is quite unique where so many of our newer courses are more of a links style that saves on water.  I would think though, that even if you were from PA and played similar courses, you would still think this is a great course.  It is a valley course, so if your first round was on the Mountain Course, you'll appreciate some flat lies.  Even though the course is fairly straight forward, it is still quite challenging.  Many of the par 4s are well over 400 yards.  The par 3s are all longer than 180 yards and a couple of them are shots over water.  There are several dogleg holes, but for the average right handed golfer, they'll appreciate that most are left to right doglegs that favor a fade (an outright slice will usually get you in trouble).

Hole #1 at Lake Course Wasatch State Park

Dave is aiming at that building but hit into that bunker on the left

I can't emphasize enough how beautiful and well maintained these courses are, especially for state run municipal courses.  If you find yourself visiting Park City in the summer, take the short drive to Midway.  If you live along the Wasatch front and haven't played Wasatch State Park, get up there.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hotel Review: Marriott Courtyard Waikiki

It's not fair to write about the difference between Waikiki beach The North Shore or some of the outlying beaches of Oahu.  If you've never been to Hawaii, you might not realize that a lot of people actually live there and many of those people live in and around Honolulu.  If you have the idea of staying in a pristine quiet oasis with palm trees and secluded beaches, Waikiki may be a disappointment for you.  It is an urban, thriving city that just happens to be on the ocean with a beautiful beach.  Would I prefer to stay in Honolulu vs. something more remote?  No.  But, I can see the appeal if you are young, enjoy shopping, clubbin and dining and just need to sleep off a long night on a warm beach.  If that's your thing, you'll love Waikiki Beach.

So, considering my beach vacation bias is more geared toward a quiet resort than a highrise hotel, I'm going to try to stay objective and simply rate the Waikiki Beach Marriott Courtyard for what it is rather than what it is not. 

  • The Marriott Courtyard is in a very good location. 
  • It's just a couple blocks from Waikiki and is surrounded by shopping and dining.  One of our favorite restaurants, Tokkuri-Tei is just a few blocks away. 
  • They have valet service and we never had any difficulty parking our car. 
  • The loby has been recently renovated and is very clean. 
  • The staff is very friendly and helpful, which tends to be the case of any hotel we've stayed at in Hawaii.
  • Decent work out facility and game room for the kids.
  • The beds, as always at a Marriott, were quite nice.
  • Waikiki beach may not be a quiet secluded beach, but it is a great place to spend the afternoon with your family.
  • Noisy.  You can't avoid it.  The downside of being so centrally located is that there is traffic, both automobile and foot trafic, all night.  And then the "behind the scenes" people of the lodging industry-delivery trucks, garbage trucks, cleaning crews, employees, all start hitting it hard before the sun comes up.
  • The rooms have been redone, but not very well.  It just comes off as a quick spackle and paint job trying to Marriotize and old, tired room. 
  • The rooms were small.
Take this review with a grain of salt.  We had just come off staying at the Marriott Ko'Olina Timeshare in a 2 bedroom unit for a week when we checked into the The Courtyard by Marriott Waikiki Beach Hotel.  I'm sure most any hotel would have been a let down after our great stay at Ko'Olina.  In fact, maybe that's one good way to look at it.  When you've stayed in a gorgeous Hawaiian resort and you don't want to go home, book 2 nights in Waikiki at an older hotel, then you'll be ready.
Gwen and I at Waikiki Beach

Gwen trying to boogie board

Mason playing on Waikiki beach

Mason gets sand in every possible crack

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rudy's Favorite Barbeque in Austin

I'm treading lightly here.  I know people can get pretty passionate about their barbeque.  Couple that with the fact that Texans are passionate people and are extremely passionate about their BBQ, opinions on the best BBQ in Austin can get as heated as Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity arguing the Presidential Election. 

Everyone in Texas has their Q joint, and feels if you don't see it their way you're an idiot.  So I'm just going to start this out by saying, "Rudy's Country Store and Bar-B-Q is my favorite Q joint in Austin and if you don't see it my way you're an idiot."  So much for treading lightly. 

Our family loves Rudy's and has since we lived in Austin 10 years ago (if you're a new BBQ restaurant that has come to town in the last 8 years, we don't know about you and frankly have no need to).  We were introduced to Rudy's by our neighbors, both Texans by birth and with that "divine lineage" were heirs to the spiritual gift of BBQ expertise.  Bottom line, two transplants from Utah are going to trust two Texans that recommend a BBQ joint.

When you walk into Rudy's, you pass the side dishes.  Make sure you get some beans.  Make sure to get some potato salad.  Then you step to the counter to put in your meet order.  They have a plastic tray lined with butcher paper waiting for your selection.  Brisket-a must.  Jalepeno Sausage-a must.  Smoked Turkey-a must.  Ribs-a must.  You order by the pound, and watch them pile the meet up on your wax paper.  Finally they ask how much bread you want, usually about 1/2 a loaf is good for 4.  Then then take a handful of wonder bread and throw it on top.  Trust me, it will come in handy later.

Next you stop by the condiment bar and have your choice of onions and pickles.  Simple and to the point, but that's Rudy's.  That's where they also have their amazing sauce that patrons have shipped to them all over the world.  The sauce is vinegar based and has some kick to it.  If you're not from Texas and think you need something a little milder, you can ask for it.  But be prepared as the person you ask for the mild sauce will yell "we need some sissy sauce." 

Now what I like to do is create a concoction that I've been told is not pleasant to witness.  I make a BBQ sandwich that includes two slices of wonder bread, potato salad, beans, brisket, pickles, onions, and Rudy's sauce.  It strikes BBQ nirvana for me.  After eating this ridiculous sandwich, I take comfort in knowing Rudy's has a trough and paper towels to clean up with. 

There are few eating establishments that you carry in the back of your mind for years.  Rudy's is still a place I crave.  My wife and I literally talk about shelling out $1,000 in airline tickets to fly our family to Texas to go eat Rudy's.  It's just that good and you're an idiot if you think there's a better BBQ place in Austin.

Service: 8/10
Ambiance: 9/10
Food: 10/10

Link to Rudy's website: Rudy's
Rudy's Country Store & Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Occasionally Everyone Just Needs Some Grease-Italian Village

I don't think this restaurant is a hidden secret, I mean I remember going there when you were asked "Smoking or Non-Smoking?"  They had a lot of nerve to claim there was a non-smoking section.

"Foodies" might blast me for recommending this restaurant.  They would go there and say this place is not Italian food.  I'll admit, there may be some nostalgia behind why I love this place.  

Occasionally everyone just needs some grease.  A great way to satisfy that craving is "Italian Village" on 9th East and about 54th South in Murray.  Anyone who has eaten at IV (that is what a Murray High Spartan called Italian Village), knows about the pizza bender.  It is a delicious grease blast that just tastes so good.

I grew up in Murray and IV was the gathering place after many high school football and basketball games.  My friends and I have spent many late Friday nights at IV, and usually had to wait for a table even after 9:30 at night.  They were open late, the food was good and the price was cheap.  It was dark and pretty smoky.  Over 20 years later it still looks the same, although they've done a recent carpet replacement and paint job.  My 10 year old daughter made an astute observation as we pulled into the parking lot tonight when she said "this doesn't even really look like a restaurant and it's in kind of a weird place.  If they're this busy, it must be good."

If you go, order a pizza bender.  It's a classic and certainly the most ordered item on the menu.  You can be a poser and call it a "bender" but you almost have to earn that right by knowing a few of the servers who have all worked there for years.  It's basically a calzone, but the crust is quite thin, covered in a dusting of flour and chuck full of cheese and your choice of 3 topics.  I go with ham, pepperoni and mushroom.  The marinara dipping sauce is fantastic and even a grown man is quite full after eating one.  You will use your napkin eating this glutinous treat.  They cost about $6. 

All orders come with delicious garlic bread and if you order a salad, the lettuce will be crispy and the Italian dressing is quite good.  

Don't go to Italian Village to eat something light.  Don't go there looking for high brow Italian food.  Don't go there if you even want to feel good about yourself afterward.  But if you just need something good that might also be greasy, Italian Village is a can't miss.

Service: 8/10
Ambiance: 6/10
Food: 8/10 

Italian Village on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

San Francisco Trip Part II

Wednesday-Day 4:  The day started so promising.  I'm a huge SF Giants fan and haven't been to a home Giants game since our honeymoon when they played at Candlestick.  This was my first time at AT&T Park, and I was pumped.

Katie had purchased tickets online Monday night for the Wednesday day game, at least that was plan.  The Giants don't have trouble selling out their stadium...translation, there aren't really cheap seats to be found at AT&T Park.  Katie had purchased 4 upper deck tickets down the left field line for $130.  That included the $7 per ticket "convenience fee" you pay per ticket to buy them online.  After parking a 15 minute walk from the BART station, riding bart for 45 minutes to get downtown, changing trains for another 20 minutes to AT&T, the anticipation had only built.  Our family walked ambled up to security, had our backpack rifled through and stepped up to the ticket taker.  He scanned our tickets and a red light on his scanner appeared with the words, "not valid."  Huh?  What?  C'mon.  He looks at our tickets and said "folks, these tickets were to last night's game."  So Gwen once nicknamed me "Rip-off Chicken."  By that, she meant I hate spending money, and I really hate wasting it.  Well, what do we do now?

What we do?  I go to the and buy the cheapest available tickets for 4 seats next to each other, upper deck behind home plate for $180.  Now the good news, we didn't have to pay a convenience fee.  Katie said things like "I'll never buy anything again, I always only make mistakes."  I'm sure she didn't mean it, and am quite certain she's actually made several purchases since then.  So we walk into the park, a little over $300 poorer, but so excited to really be there.

The game was great.  The park was even better than I anticipated.  Gwen and Mason found the slides out in center field and that kept them busy.  I dropped about $50 on a drinks and hot dogs and by this point, that felt like a deal.  The Giants lost, Lincecum played horribly, but I'd do it over again.  One thing we've learned about traveling through the years, don't skimp on experiences just to save a few dollars.  That lesson was learned when we once decided not to spend the $20 to go to the top of the Patronas Towers.  Now, who knows if we'll ever have the chance again.  So my family made sure I had my special day.  We then went back to the hotel and gave the kids exactly what they wanted, we went swimming.

Thursday-Day 6:  No plans at all today.  To an adult, that sounds perfect.  To adults with kids that is big trouble.  Katie came back from her morning run and said, "what should we do today?"  The kids were looking at us with that look of "if you don't have something fun planned, you're dead to us."  So on a whim I looked up and saw that Yosemite National Park is only 122 miles from our hotel, little did we know that it took about 3 1/2 hours to drive those 122 miles.  Still, when would we have the chance to go to Yosemite again, and I'd always wanted to see it.

Off we went, on a long drive.  As we finally arrived in Yosemite, it really lived up to the expectations.  The Yosemite Valley has a spiritual feel to it, something that can sometimes be experienced in nature.  What a beautiful, amazing spot.  I'm not great at painting a picture with words, but can only say that everyone should try to make an effort to experience this amazing location.  We didn't do too much in the park, a short hike to Bridal Veil Falls, and some time playing in the river, but the kids still thought the 7 hours of driving was well worth it.

Friday-Day 7:  Honestly, this was kind of a low-key day.  We were in the process of winding down.  We went to the park to play at the playground.  We went to lunch in Pleasanton.  We sat at the pool.  We went to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant.  Mason got to eat with chopsticks.  Gwen admitted she liked Pho.  Got a good night sleep.

Saturday-Day 8:  Drove home.  Read Day 1.  Nevada...blah.
How do you spell the sound of angels singing?  AT&T Park

One out of three looking at the camera isn't too bad

Arriving in Yosemite

Gwen at Bridal Veil Fall

Gwen and Mason catching tadpoles

"Dad, take the picture already!"  

Gwen and Katie in Yosemite Valley

Amazing Yosemite Valley

I don't think we're going to squeeze Mason in a pack and play for much longer

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

San Francisco Trip

Sunday –Day 2:  Now that we’re in the Bay Area, it’s finally time to relax.  And by relax, I mean try to fill every waking minute so that there isn’t a 10 second delay in action so our 10 year old can let us know that she’s bored.

We went to the town of Pleasanton.  It’s a really great little downtown area for lunch or dinner.  Then we drove.  The idea was to go through downtown, across the Golden Gate Bridge, to the Muir Forrest and then back home.  Surprisingly in a metro area of 7,000,000 people, 5,000,000 of them had the same idea.  It took a good hour to get across the Bay Bridge.  From there we followed the serpentine route to the Golden Gate Bridge and were excited to learn you don’t pay to cross the bridge when leaving the city.  When we got to the parking lot of the Muir Forrest, and then to the overflow parking lot, and then to the overflow to the overflow parking lot and still hadn’t found a place to park, we just drove on, all the while telling our kids how amazing these giant sequoia trees are and to just take our word for it.

After driving through Grass Valley and then back over the bay, past Orinda, Walnut Creek, Danville and finally back to our hotel in San Ramon, we logged some serious car time.  It all looked so small on the Google Maps.

Monday-Day 3:  We fulfilled all of Mason’s wildest dreams.  We took BART into San Francisco.  Anything on a train to a 4 year old, that thinks all forms of public transportation is how the better half live, is pure nirvana.  It takes about 45 minutes from Dublin station to Embarcadero Station.  Once we were there we thought we’d explore the city.  Trouble is, we didn’t remember a stroller.  This is where the other part of fulfilling Mason’s dreams comes into play, Katie and I ended up carrying him for a good 2 miles between our walk to Fisherman’s Wharf and back to Embarcadero Station.  It’s times like these we’re not so proud of his 90% height and 90% weight.  He is a lug, but got whisked around royalty on our backs, taking in all the sights and sounds of the city.  When did it become $6 per person to take a one way trolley ride.  Our reward for all this effort?  “I want to go back to the hotel and play at the playground.”

Tuesday-Day 4:  A selfish desire on my part was to see Pebble Beach.  We drove down to the Monterrey Peninsula and took the famous “17 Mile Drive”.  Monterrey is about 2 hours from our hotel, but the kids were great.  We brought along some swim suits in case they wanted to enjoy the beach.  The beach was scenic and beautiful, really amazing.  The water was multiple shades of green and blue, the sand was a gorgeous white.  That said, it didn’t feel like summer.  The kids couldn’t resist putting their feet in the ocean, but we barely avoided amputation.  The air temperature was in the 50s and water temperature even colder. 

We pressed on to drive the “17 Mile Drive” and I soaked in Spyglass and Pebble Beach.  It’s always been a dream to come out and play both courses, but I must admit, after experiencing the wind and cold, I think I’m a little less interested.  All the same, it’s one of those bucket list items for me.

Next we were off to Santa Cruz up Highway 1.  Along the way we stopped at a fruit stand in Watsonville and ate literally the best strawberries I’ve ever had.  Santa Cruz was great for the kids.  It was cold, but after 5:00 all the rides at the amusement park are $1.  We bought $30 of tickets and didn’t even spend them all-when our faces were frosty after riding the Pirate Ship ride about 7:00 at night, we decided we’d had enough.  However, Gwen and I did ride the roller coaster and I was proud of her for sitting at the very front.  On the way out of the park, I experienced pure gluttony and tried a deep fried Twinkie.  Delicious, but the guilt was too much. 

We took Highway 17, The Santa Cruz Highway, over the mountains.  It was so pretty.  The scenery was a perfect way to cap off a very nice day.  Everyone came back to the room completely satisfied with our day and the kids were both sound asleep in the back as we pulled into the San Ramon Courtyard.
Mason was so happy to "beat" the cars our train passed

Ever try carrying a 45 pound kid around SF?

Trying to warm Gwen up 

Mason playing in the sand

Gwen convincing Mason to get in the water

Now he's tempted

And there he goes, just couldn't resist

Awesome fresh California fruit stand in Watsonville

Front row on the roller coaster

Santa Cruz Beach

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


The Chandler family ventured off to San Francisco, the city of love and tolerance, for a week long adventure.  There were a few ups and downs.  We drove entirely too much, but also saw some pretty amazing things.
Saturday-Day 1: I had prepped the entire family that it was imperative that we were on the road by 7:00 am.  They heeded this admonishment so well that we were on the road at 8:00.  We spent the next 12 hours of our lives soaking in the beauty that is Nevada as experienced along I-80.  Not a lot to see.  Although I must give props to the people that took the time to get out of their cars, collect rocks and place them in patterns or initials along the dessert.  I’m sure their posterity will forever view the initials of their forefathers found outside Fernley, Nevada as hallowed ground. 
Not a lot to see in Nevada.  I did check off a goal of mine that goes back as long as I can remember, I saw Winnemucca.  It’s just one of those names that when you first hear it you think, “I gotta see that place.”  Also, we found out that there is a place called “Beverly Hills, Nevada.”  It’s not too far from Wells, Nevada (I realize that doesn’t help anyone), and consists as best as I could tell of about 2 trailers, 6 trees, some fencing and a couple outlying buildings.  It looked like the Beverly Hillbillies decided to hell with California, but they were going to take the hometown name with them. 

The scenery improved right at the California border.  Some surveyor many generations ago walked along the spine of the Sierra Nevada and when he found the spot where he could look to right and see beauty and look to his left and see desolation, he drew the state line.  Coming over the Sierra Nevada Mountains was quite beautiful, and to compensate for this beauty the gas prices rose 15 cents a gallon.  I was glad my wife took over the steering wheel before we got to the mountains because I was able to enjoy all the amazing vistas while she drove through the luge that was the road construction.  “Due to road construction, speed limit is 50 mph and no passing for the next 8 miles.”  To Californians this sign must have read “due to road construction, speed limit is 90 mph and feel free to pass for next 8 miles.”  I still can’t figure out how their school systems rank higher than ours every year.  Honestly, there was a suburban that squeezed by us with about 2” to spare going at least 85.

Dropping down into Sacramento and the Central Valley was nice.  I can see the draw to the area.  There was so much farming and green fields.  Once we made it there, we felt were in the home stretch.  We stopped, finally allowing the kids a meal and enjoyed some nice Mexican food.  From there it was 2 more hours to our hotel in San Ramon. 

San Ramon looked like the Garden of Eden…with freeway noise.  It is a beautifully master planned city with walking trails, well landscaped medians and sidewalk areas, and a park around every corner.  We pulled into the Marriott Courtyard, checked in and then evaluated the state of our kids.  Mason’s looked like that dog in front of a house with a chain link fence that has pulled his chain taut for 12 straight hours and is ready to chase the first car that passes for 10 miles the second he is unleashed.  Not sure why 12 hours in a car seat would do that to a 4 year old?  Gwen was all jacked up on travel adrenaline and at 8:00 at night thought we should take the next train into downtown San Francisco.  Anyway, we went for a walk and were so grateful to find an amazing little park just around the corner from our hotel.  We let Mason and Gwen run off that energy and let some of the travel adrenaline wear off a bit so we could go back to the room, get some sleep and prepare to start enjoying the next 6 days of the Chandler summer vacation…
Mason happy to have arrived and released from his car seat

Gwen a little more subdued

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...