Friday, April 20, 2012

The California Trail

We are back on the east coast adjusting to jet lag and having a stay-cation from our vacation.  The kids are exhausted but I know it is because of all the fun things they saw and did over the past week.  I lived dangerously and allowed the family to go nap-free (if you know me you know this is a big deal ...  huge..).  We logged 830 miles onto our rental swagger wagon and enjoyed seeing new places, hanging with good friends, and eating (a lot) of delicious food.

We started in San Francisco where we met up with John's brother Rich and his girlfriend Sarah.  Sarah is attending UC Berkeley getting her MBA so we stayed in their neck of the woods.  We had never seen Berkeley and enjoyed observing the mix of yuppies and hippies running around.  Even more confusing was the restaurant that boasted a combination of Indian-Pakistani-Mexican.  hmmmm...  Sarah and Rich insisted we go down to Telegraph Avenue, probably the most eclectic area of Berkeley so that we could get a feel for the town (or overpowering smell of incense).  In reality, it was a way to get ice cream sandwiches at C.R.E.A.M, which stands for Cookies Rule Everything Around Me.  My husband has the biggest sweet tooth on the planet so I think his conservative butt was instantly sold on super liberal Berkeley. 

On Thursday, went to Golden Gate Park and enjoyed the children's playground area. They have a historic concrete slide that was retained from the old playground built in the late 1800s.

Koret Children's Quarter, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

John and Kate at the top of the concrete slide

Friday brought a trip north to Muir Woods to see the redwood trees.  The kids enjoyed splashing in the puddles and zig zagging into every other visitor's pictures. 

Kate leading the way through Muir Woods (hands on hips like a true toddler)

Stop the presses!  A PUDDLE!  What redwoods?!

Kate loves to take pictures.  She probably took more than me!

After Muir Woods, Rich convinced us that we needed to drive "an extra 20 minutes" to see the amazing view at the top of Mount Tamalpais.  45 minutes of windy mountain driving later, we had a toddler covered in puke and...

A great view of San Francisco

Finding out you have a toddler susceptible to car sickness the day before you are planning to drive the Pacific Coast Highway from Monterey to Santa Barbara is awesome.  Note for all you road trippers:  rain coats can provide key protection from more than just rain.

Saturday morning we woke up bright and early and hit the road.  We stopped in Monterey, California to hang with the fishies.

Here squishy squishy squishy....

We learned that Connor had zero fear about climbing into a touch tank

So carrying all 30 pounds of him around was the safe solution...

After a few hours at the Monterey Aquarium, we had a great lunch and bid Rich and Sarah farewell.  We headed south on the Pacific Coast Highway determined to get to Santa Maria before bedtime.  John and I had driven the PCH before, but never the northern portion near Monterey.  It is true what they say - you must take this drive.  It is stunning.  It reminded me a little bit of the Road to Hana in Maui - just safer and with less Mustang Convertibles.

Toward the end of our drive we got to see the amazing elephant seals in Southern Big Sur.  There were thousands of them.  Enormous and grumpy, it seemed as if they were all fighting for the most comfortable section of the beach.  We watched them snore, shuffle around, fight, and roll over for about 20 minutes.  The sounds were amazing and it was really cool to see such a spectacle up close.  And not at the zoo.

On Sunday morning we jumped in the car and drove down through Santa Barbara and into Ventura County.  We had lunch at a neat airport cafe near Point Mugu Naval Air Station.  It was great to see some friends from Norfolk and Pax River.  I think the hostess nearly fainted when I said "table for 5 adults and 8 children, please", but the meal was awesome and I was so happy to be able to catch up with Leighanne and Betsy.  As we drove out of Point Mugu and further south, I gave my husband official "permission" to request west coast orders.  As an east coast girl, that is even bigger news than going nap free for the week.

We arrived in San Diego on Sunday night at dinner time.  Becky, my best friend from high school, and her husband got stuck in Georgia due to an airline glitch so we let ourselves into their adorable house and made ourselves comfortable (read: toys everywhere, sippy cups everywhere, and every uncovered outlet discovered in .0035 seconds flat).  Connor actually discovered that the switch to the garbage disposal was at his eye level before I put down my suitcase.  I wish I was exaggerating.

Monday morning we drove over the bridge onto Coronado Island and let the kids play.  In the afternoon, I visited my good friend April who just had a baby in March.  The Kates (both of our daughters are named Kate) put on pink dresses 2 minutes after arrived and had a blast running around the yard.

Racing up the slide in Coronado

"The Kates" playing

Meeting sweet baby Luke

That evening I got to have a wonderful dinner in Old Town with Becky (who made it from Georgia! yay!), Sarah, April, and Julie.  I had two margaritas and was happy to be off the hook for bedtime duty.

On Tuesday we headed to Sea World.  Julie and her two daughters Emily and Reesie and April and her kids Kate and Luke joined us in the spoon fed fun.  We got to see the Shamu Show and Connor was hooked.  His shrieks of joy could probably be heard across the park.

Shamu!  WOW!

Kate checking out the Beluga whale.  Connor wondering if I will ever put the camera away.

On Tuesday night we ate fish tacos from Rubio's (yum!) and relaxed with Becky and Adam after the kids went to bed.  On Wednesday morning we packed our 23012305 pounds of crap and headed back to the airport, returned our pimpin' mini van, and flew home to Norfolk.

We logged 830 miles of driving, saw 1 brother, 9 friends (19 if you count their kids), approximately 9,870 sea creatures, and gained at least 10 pounds on Mexican food and free hotel breakfasts.  We learned that it is possible to have a blast on vacation with a 2 year old and 1 year old.  Flying cross country is possible.  Driving a minivan isn't that bad.  And even if it was super hard, it is more than worth the effort to see friends and family in their hometowns (or at least the towns the Navy insists is home for now). 


Karen said...

The pictures are great and it looks like you had a fabulous time. We have only done the southern portion of the Pacific Highway and would love to have the opportunity to go north. Our rental car for that trip was a PT Cruiser, which may be the worst car on the planet.

Jeffrey said...

I can give Johnny a run for his money on the sweet tooth department

Jeffrey said...

Ohhh and being to west coast orders

60 toes said...

Sounds like a great trip, proud of you for taking it. I love all of the places you have written about, Monterey, Pt. Mugu, San Diego. I agree the drive south from Monterey through Big Sur is gorgeous.

I have been begging for those West Coast orders too. :)

Kimberly said...

I loved this blog post! Sounds like a blast!

Hi, I'm Jill!

Hi, I'm Jill!
Extrovert. Mom of two. Wife of a cute Naval Aviator. Lover of wine. When I'm not chasing my two kids around town you will find me writing, taking too many photos, and researching the ten future areas the Navy could potentially (but probably won't) PCS us. We are fish out of water, landlocked at 7,000 feet. For now.

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