Thursday, June 30, 2011

There and Back

I posted about our drive down to the Bay Area and how fabulous that was. Then we got there and I was too busy to blog. I’ll try to catch up here.

We arrived in Martinez around 1 pm on Friday. Sarah got to meet Nancy and Dave which was nice. They’re all such good friends of mine. The kids played a bit and then I had to take the Klines to the BART. They still had a couple hours to go to meet with their family. I was sad to see them go. We had so much fun together.

When I got back to the house the kids were in the pool….of course. Nancy and I plotted out some food for the week and we hung out. We hung out for almost 2 days. Saturday was a total sloth fest. I put on my swim suit and hung out all day in it. What I did not know is that the back was wearing out and you could see my posterior. Sorry for that Dave. We played Words with Friends a lot! It was great, I never get to do that.

By Sunday afternoon I figured they could use a break. Their kids are grown and they lead a pretty quiet life when we’re not there. I Yelped….love that….and found a Jump Sky High and a movie that we could go to. We did both. Happy Father’s Day Dave. We were gone for about 5 hours.

On Monday we went into The City. Anyone who has lived in San Francisco knows it is THE CITY. We drove in since we were going to be where parking was free or cheap. Our first stop was The California Academy of Science. We spent all day there. There was a lizard and snake exhibit going on. One of the coolest things we saw there was the animatronic snake from the movie Anaconda. It was amazing. We did the snakes and lizards, lunch, Rainforest, aquariums, living roof, penguins, Africa and finally the planetarium. That was a very cool show about the creation of the earth. What a great way to start our city adventures.

That evening we went to Chinatown. It’s the kid’s favorite place in the city. We did a little shopping, had dinner at the place we always have dinner (great location, bad food) and then played in the little park. Such fun and great people watching. And to top it off the parking was free. Go figure. We stayed out until 10:30.

The next day we went to the Exploratorium. It, as always, was GREAT! We love that place and spent the better part of the day there. The one improvement we made to our day was packing food. We spent over $100 on two mediocre meals the day before.

When we all couldn’t stand to be hungry any more we left and went to the Golden Gate Park for a picnic. We dined in front of the Conservatory of Flowers. It was a perfect day. We went to purchase tickets to the conservatory but….THEY CLOSED. Damn, the first thing to go south. We decided to go on a little hike / adventure. Each one of the kids took a turn leading the way. They really thought we were on an adventure. We did come across 2 “camps” and one group of people smoking pot in the woods. Gotta love it.

For dinner we went to Yet Wah, a favorite place from when I was a kid. And it was just as great as I remember. The kids agreed. The food was good, abundant and half the price of the place in Chinatown. Again we were out until about 10.

On Wednesday, day 3 in The City, we went to Alcatraz. We rode the BART in because parking down at the waterfront is about $10 per hour. We packed a lunch and headed out. They’ve changed things a lot since the last time I was there in the 70’s. The kids loved it and learned a lot. It’s been cleaned up a lot so it’s not quite as creepy as I remembered it. The self guided tour is quite good. It was strange to pause the recording because it was so quiet. Everyone was listening and moving slowly. We made the last boat out. This was unfortunate because we were going to try and be home for dinner….ah, that wasn’t going to happen. The web site says allow an hour and a half, we took a total of 3 and a half hours and that was pushing it.

We made it home by about 8:30. Dang it. It was frustrating for all of us. We had dinner and the kids went to bed. Nancy and I talked a bit. She was missing us. If we were going to be visiting, we should visit. I was trying to keep the kids out of their hair but apparently they didn’t mind the kids. As a matter of fact, Nancy was missing us. Fair enough, we would plant ourselves for the next couple days.

Thursday was spent in the pool. Nancy and I hung out. Again, it was really relaxing. We planned for the next day. Sarah and her daughter would be joining us for a little cocktail party and the night. Nancy has a neighbor that I love. His name is Tim and he’s been married for 40 years, has 3 grown daughters and is gay. Apparently he doesn’t know that. If he’s not gay then he needs to take a serious look at the way he projects himself. He is so funny and has lots of great stories. He and his wife, who I would not want to meet in a dark ally, came over for drinks and snacks. We swam and laughed a lot. Sarah immediately picked up on the fact that Tim is gay. The next day she kept singing, “I just gotta be ME!!!” on our ride home. The evening was a success. We stayed up late talking. It was nice for Nancy and Sarah to get to know each other a bit. They’re both such good friends of mine and they both grew up in Connecticut. Hummm.

Saturday morning we all got up got packed and said our good byes by 9:30. I could have stayed another week! The weather was perfect the whole time. I needed sun so badly. I didn’t realize how badly until about day 4 when I started to feel like myself again. And we were off. About an hour into our drive Nancy called. She told me that the kids had packed Dave’s computer bag….CRAP! We stopped in Redding and shipped it back FedEx. There’s $72 I’ll never get back but what are you gunna do? I needed to make sure it got there fast.

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. It took 12 hours with one FedEx stop, 8 potty breaks and an hour to run around at lunch. The kids were fabulous again. They did a few hours of books on tape and finally movies.

All in all is was a very successful trip. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Monday, June 20, 2011

California Dreamin'

Schooooollll zzzzout for the summah.... schoooollll zzzzout for evah. School got out on Tuesday, June 14th. We had a pretty good year but I can tell you this. We're going to have a fun summer.

First on the docket is SAN FRANCISCO. The past two years the kids and I have been in San Francisco in late August. This year my pal Sarah asked if we would want to drive down together in June. That sounded like fun. We planned this starting in like....February. We moved it a little forward, a little back and settled on June 16th. That gave us a full day to enjoy summer at home. Yep, that was enough. The weather sucked and it didn't in California.

We packed up on Wednesday night and told the Klines we'd pick them up at 9. I packed as if we were going to the Amazon. Because as anyone knows there are no clothing stores in the Bay Area or places to get snacks between Portland and San Francisco. This on top of the fact that I KNOW Sarah will pack tons of snacks too. But still I pack, pack, pack.

The kids and I are in the car by 8:45 and have everything ready to go with the Kline’s luggage loaded by 9:15. That’s pretty good in my book. With everything and everyone loaded we looked like the Clampetts. We were a total of 7 people, about 14 bags, coolers and back packs. Sarah said, “We may look like the Clampetts but we have better snacks!” Lord knows that’s right.

Our goal was to have the kids listen to books on tape instead of watching movies. They turn into total loons when they have watched TV all day. That, and with 5 kids it would be hard to satisfy all their wants as far as video entertainment.

The kids listened to Geronimo Stilton for a total of almost 7 hours. Seriously…. We fed them snacks, stopped when someone had to go to the bathroom and stopped at a play land place for a snack but other than that those kids were packed into the car for more than 8 hours. I miss calculated how far one of the play places was and we had to go forever!!!! And there wasn’t ONE complaint. Not one. After we hadn’t had a real meal in 5+ hours someone asked, “Are we gunna eat soon?” but that was it.

When we arrived in Redding California we needed a place to stay. We Yelped and figured Motel 6 would be good enough. When we pulled into the parking lot I took a wrong turn and ended up in the Red Lion Parking lot. While I was there I figured I could take a look. The rate was very reasonable and it included a full breakfast. SOLD!!!! The kids were really excited. A real hotel!

Everyone helped to unload and then it was into bathing suits. We were off to the pool and Sarah had a little surprise….SCOTCH!!!. Yippie! The kids all played in the pool, we chatted, made a plan for dinner and talked about the trip so far. Sarah said that she didn’t think that the kids would last with the books but that she was sold on the idea. She was pretty happy about how they were all behaving. After almost 2 hours in the pool it was dinner time.

We ordered take out from the Applebee’s across the street. When we brought it back the kids were finally plunked down in front of a movie with their dinner. After 10 minutes they finished their food and were bored with the movie so they came out on the lawn behind our room and ran around with flashlights. Lord knows what they were looking for but they sure had a great time doing it. Sarah and I sat out having another scotch and were so proud of our smalls. They were all being so fabulous, friendly with each other and just generally great. It was amazing.

We finally put them in bed around 11:30. Breakfast was then next time we got together. It was pretty good and everyone was happy with their food. We packed up and hit the road again by about 9:30. Again, more books on tape and happy smalls. Ahh, I love these little travelers.

We only had one potty break and everyone got out and ran around. So great. We arrived at my friend Nancy’s house around lunch time. All the kids got out, helped unload and then ran around for about a half hour. Sarah and Nancy got to talk a bit and get to know each other a little. Then I had to take Sarah and her kids to the BART for the next leg of their trip. They were off to the South of the city.

That was our trip down…. So far so good and we have amazing little travelers. I couldn’t be prouder of all 5 of our kids.