Monday, July 27, 2015

What I did on my summer vacation

As we established with my Friday post, the Walker Four traveled the environs of Northern California coast for our big family trip this year. We picked California because Johanna was not up for Alaska, which was Choice Number One. That kid is a trooper, but wow, she'd really rather just stay home.

Me too, actually, but sometimes in this life you just have to go.

Day 1
Big driving day, as the goal was to get to Red Bluff. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we drove about 450 miles.

All in a day's work.

It's always interesting to cross the boarder from Oregon into California, because California apparently cares what you're bringing into the state. Johanna was sure they'd be checking for guns and bombs (poor kid watches too much news, I think), but all they really wanted to know is if we had any cherries, peaches or mangos.

The blueberries in the trunk were safe!

We did make one 20-minute stop in Weed, mainly because we needed a bathroom break and also because Abby thought it would be hilarious. Two of the three Big Foot statues we saw that day were in Weed. That tells you all you need to know.

Big Foot is very happy to see you!

And then, after hours, Red Bluff! We made quite the entrance when, getting into the elevator to take up to our room, either Johanna or I (and it could very well have been me) hit the emergency call button, and all of a sudden a mechanical voice is screaming that there's an elevator emergency at the so-and-so hotel on such-and-such street. And no matter how hard we tried to cancel said order, the voice WOULD NOT STOP. We finally just ran down the hall and pretended we had no idea what was going on.

But we did have to venture out again for Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. We were a big hit with the parishioners, who were hoping that "the young family," as they called us, were moving to town. Well, that was good for our self-esteem.

Sacred Heart in Red Bluff.

Not too much else to say about Red Bluff, except it was there and we survived.

Day 2
We drove a mere 290 miles to get to Carmel (or Carmel-By-the-Sea, as I kept seeing it referred to), and got to town in time for lunch in the Carmel Mission parking lot. Lunch over, we hit the gift shop, then the grounds, and somehow managed to glom onto a tour group going through. I'm glad we did because we learned all sorts of interesting history from the tour guide. And it's a beautiful spot. Definitely a worthwhile stop.

Inside the church. Old and gorgeous.

Side note: Eric got me a St. Anne medal for my birthday -- St. Anne is my patron saint and also my confirmation saint -- and the chain gave me a terrible rash after not even one day of wear. So the medal spent the rest of the trip in my bag. The good news is that, once home, I put the medal on another chain I already have and that took care of that problem. I just think it's funny that my girl Anne would give me a rash is all.

Mission accomplished (ha ha ha! Oh, words are awesome!), we headed to our hotel, which was what would have been called a "motor inn" back in the day. Our room was small, but it was super comfortable (best night's sleep of the trip) and really cute. Since it was located in downtown Carmel (which is a tourist town on crack, you guys), we walked to town and just sort of window shopped, then walked down to the beach.

And this was my kind of beach: Warm sand, warm wind. Cold water, but I didn't go into it, so no biggie. Well, amend that: I didn't go into it on purpose. And I made that particular mistake only once.

The girls, however, got pounded by the waves and were soaked by the time we headed back up the hill to the hotel. There was also a close call involving me, our pile of shoes, and the incoming tide. Let's just say that I saved three shoes out of the four that were really important, and the rest were eventually tracked down and placed much farther away from the water.

After we'd managed to change into dry clothes back at the hotel, we went out in search of dinner. Carmel is crazy expensive, and our dinner, which included 2 10-inch pizzas and a Caprese salad (three slices of tomato, three slices of mozzarella and three basil leaves) did not exactly fill us up for the $50 price tag. But we did get to sit on the patio of this place and laugh a lot and have fun together, so maybe that was worth the cost?

Delicious, just small.

Nah, we were starving afterwards. We actually went out in search of ice cream to fill the void. After more stomping around town -- which is really adorable, touristy or not -- we headed back to the hotel, let Johanna swim a bit, and went to bed.

So basically a perfect day.

Quote of the Day:
Me, after Johanna was loudly wishing she were home: Home is where your mom is.
Johanna: Uh-uh. Home is where your house is.

Day 3
We journeyed from Carmel to Marina, which my iPod claims is 13 miles in distance but we drove the 17 Mile (toll) Road, so something isn't adding up here for me. Yes, we paid $10 to go on 17 Mile and look at the insane mansions and also hit Pebble Beach, which is apparently A Big Deal. It really was a very pretty golf course and grounds. I'm just not a golfer so I don't care. But Eric seemed impressed.

We were so excited!

And 17-Mile was worth it, I guess, because it was a very scenic, ocean-hugging road. We saw some lovely sights.

Walker Four in front of the Most Photographed Tree in America
on the 17-Mile Road.

But the best part of the day was hitting Cannery Row in Monterey. For you English dorks out there (hi, friends!), that's the setting of John Steinbeck's Cannery Row (wonder where he got the name?), which is one of my all-time favorites. We had no idea what to expect here, but wow, it was awesome. There were a ton of touristy shops, of course, but there was also a nice plaza area complete with fountain (of Cannery Row characters!), lots of great views of the ocean -- and some sea lions to watch, too.

"Cannery Row" on Cannery Row!

Plaza area.

Lunch was at "Sly McFlys," and I highly recommend it should you be in that area. Jo and I had fish and chips, Eric and Abby had clam chowder, and everyone was super happy (and full!) with their choices. It was packed but low-key and comfortable.

We left Monterey around 2 p.m. knowing our hotel wouldn't be ready yet -- check in this trip was generally 3 p.m. -- so we went to Monterey State Beach. While Eric and the girls frolicked in the sand, I took a nap in the car. I'm not even kidding. I was wiped out.

Another nice hotel (and by "nice hotel," we're talking mostly Best Westerns and Holiday Inn's, so nothing super fancy, but mostly I just care if they're clean. We love clean!), another dip in the pool for Johanna (um, except it was just a hot tub, but she made do), and some much needed relaxing until bedtime.

This was one of the highlight days, as I like to call them. Everything was wonderful.

Day 4
Another short driving day: Marina to Santa Clara. All that walking the day before meant we all slept in that morning -- even Eric (inconceivable!). The nice thing about not having tons of miles to drive in a day is that you can sleep late and still get to your destination at a decent hour.

Our first stop was in San Jose at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph. That part of San Jose was slightly sketchy, but the cathedral was gorgeous. We spent a lot of time there just because there was so much to see, between the stain glass windows and the murals and the statues et al. We popped into the gift shop but passed over the knick-knacks in favor of post cards.

My girls chillin' in the cathedral.

Next came a top priority on Abby's list: Santa Clara University. This is what she's been referring to as her dream school, and she was super excited to see it in person. Because it was freshman orientation, we were able to see dorm rooms (which were large and nice), visit the library, check out the mission there (this part of Cali is just lousy with churches and missions), and walk the gorgeous campus. My minimalistic ways took a backseat when I found a wicked awesome long-sleeved t-shirt at the bookshop. Ah, well.

Yay! Another pretty mission church!
In the middle of campus, which was awesome.

While Abby loved the campus, she said she couldn't see herself going there. And THAT is why you visit colleges beforehand, all my young internet friends.

Anyway, we'd heard the town of Santa Clara was sketch, but the part we saw was really pretty nice. We had dinner at Habit Burger -- uh, that was awesome, go there! -- and had plenty of pool time for Jo. At this point in the trip, my legs were screaming from all the walking. It was only slated to get worse...

Just another highlight day.

Day 5
Another big priority on Abby's list this trip was visiting San Francisco, which she just thought would be cool. San Fran is 55-ish miles from Santa Clara, so we had another good sleep in / late start kind of day, which I, for one, greatly appreciated. ;)

Palo Alto is on the way, so we decided to hit Stanford even though that is NOT a school on Abby's list. And I don't know, maybe it was because we'd just seen the darling Santa Clara University, but Stanford was kind of a letdown. It was huge and sprawling and it was hot and we were just not feeling it.

Not that THAT means it wasn't worthwhile to go. It was. I got to walk around Stanford! I've seen it with my own eyes! It's just that the school was larger than our town is all and we weren't entirely comfortable there.

One thing we did do was go up the Hoover Tower to the Observation Platform. Don't take pictures in the lobby, y'all, or you'll get in trouble. (Don't ask me how I know.) That sucker is 14 stories up ... so there were some nice views. Unfortunately, the height got to Abby, so I wasn't quite sure if we'd ever get her down, but we did, and we all survived, and that was that.

Three out of four Walkers thought this was the
best part.

One view from the tower.

In San Fran we stayed at the Columbus Motor Inn, which was kind of the wildcard motel of this entire stay, but it was fine. It was old, but it was comfortable and clean (Port Angeles, take note!), and we had a great view of the city from our second-story room. It was also close to the wharf, so after checking in, we headed to Pier 39 to do a little touristy business. The great thing about San Francisco is that EVERYONE there seems to be a tourist, so you don't feel awkward. I don't know, that made sense to me.

My girl Madonna is actually pretty short.

We had an amazing, amazing dinner at a place called Italian Homemade Company that was located near our motel (best meal of the trip, I kid you not. GO THERE) ... we saw some really alarming souvenirs at various shops ... Eric and the girls enjoyed an ice cream cone ... and then we came back, tired and happy, to watch a little cable TV in our room.

This was the best veggie lasagna I'd ever eaten.
Jo thought her fettuccine with marinara
wasn't too shabby, either.

I mean, what else would you do in San Francisco? ;)

Day 6
Full San Francisco day! I tell you what, traffic is crazy, so once we had parked the car at our motel, we weren't about to take it out again. We figured if we couldn't walk to a place, we didn't need to see it.

Our first stop of the day was to get me a coffee. DUH. Then we went to Chinatown. You guys, I am a delicate soul, and I was not really feeling Chinatown, although yes, it was kind of cool. All those people and all those weird smells just ... well, I had a panic attack, and I spent the entire time pretending I was NOT having a panic attack because I didn't want to ruin the experience for the rest of the family. I could appreciate the atmosphere and the fact that I was seeing something amazing ... just not while I was there.

Anxiety sucks.

Chinatown! It was actually pretty amazing, now that I'm
thinking about it from the safety of my house.

After Chinatown we just basically walked randomly around the downtown area. We tried to have lunch in a couple of delis, but they didn't take credit cards (cash only is apparently still a thing), so we ended up back at Italian Homemade for lunch. No complaints since that place is awesome. We also visited three churches in about a three block radius. All were cathedral-sized. I can't even imagine.

Next, Jo and I went back to the hotel to rest while Eric and Abby walked to Lombard Street to check it out from street level.

I really should have gotten into shape BEFORE our trip, because all that walking, though quickly putting me into a decent physical condition, was not exactly pleasant. ;)

After my nap (ahem), we headed back to the wharf. Cold and windy but kind of fun. My panic had subsided by then, plus it didn't seem as crowded, so I was mentally in a better place.

Making new friends.

It probably also helped that there was chocolate involved.

For dinner, we wanted to go to In and Out Burger on the wharf to see what the fuss is all about. Long, long lines, and it's a miracle we got a table, but we succeeded and we partook of our burgers and fries. And you know, it was good, but Habit Burger was way better. I'm not really sure why everyone goes gaga over this place (sorry, Jared), but hey, another experience!

We were in... and then we were out.

After dinner, though, things got AWESOME. There was this kid (Abby swears it was a man) all dressed in silver. Silver from head to toe. (Honestly, can that be healthy, to have all that silver paint on your skin?) He was lip-sync-rapping to a very inappropriate song and pretending he was a robot. Eric was all, we are giving that guy a dollar, but Jo is going to be the one to do it. Johanna made Abby go with her, and after successfully placing the dollar in his cup, the guy holds out a silver hand for Johanna to take.

Johanna is looking at his hand like she's not exactly sure what the point of all this is, but tentatively stuck her hand out to shake his. He takes it, does this little wave-arm move with both of their arms, and then whispers, "Thanks, beautiful. I really appreciate it."

THEN he pulls out a piece of gum from his pocket and hands it to her, and finally lets her go. She's very red and very relieved, and also probably abused because the rest of us have collapsed from laughing at her expense, the poor thing.

(And no. No, I did not let her eat the gum.)

We'd kind of tapped out by that time, so we just headed back to the hotel. Watched some Fixer Upper. Went to bed.

P.S. No, we didn't go to Alcatraz. One, because you have to go by boat to get there and I don't do well with choppy motion. And two, not that I believe in that sort of thing, but that place is totally haunted. We weren't feeling it. We saw it from afar and that was good enough.

View from our hotel at night.

Day 7
We had been spoiled by our light driving days, but today it was time to pay the piper. We drove from San Francisco to Ashland, Ore., which took us a bit over 6 hours. I took two naps. It was awesome.

Before heading out of town, we drove down Lombard Street (because it's practically required) and then went across the Golden Gate Bridge. We stopped at a pull out for pictures and general reminiscing about our time in the city. San Francisco is an interesting place. I may not want to live there, but it was definitely an experience.

The bridge and the bay.
Thanks for a fun time, San Fran!

 Quick observation: While we saw some small markets in Chinatown, we did not see one grocery store. Where do people buy their food?

So yadda yadda yadda, we pull into Ashland and the girls are tired. They do not want to go out and experience this cute little town. So Eric and I went on a date! We had french fries (and beer for Eric and root beer for me, which did not turn out to be natural, oops) on the patio of a little brewery, then took a walk through Lithia Park, which was gorgeous. One weird thing, though, was the number of seemingly homeless people there -- kids, really. Way more than we saw in San Francisco. I was not expecting that.

Ducks at Lithia Park.

Eventually we convinced the girls to leave the hotel in search of dinner, and they were very glad they did: We went to Caldera Brewery, and that place was spectacular. It was packed, and not everyone was even drinking beer, so we took that as a good sign for their food. Jo got a small cheese pizza, Eric and Abby got sandwiches, and I got a salad -- and we were all stuffed and content and happy when it was over. The food was amazing, super fun atmosphere, and a great staff -- go there, you guys!

Fun stop!

I'd promised Jo we would go swimming once we got back, so that's where we went. Then we headed back to the room for our last night of cable TV (ah, the small things of this world -- we don't have cable at home ... on purpose).

Day 8
From Ashland, it was another six hours to home -- and wow, were we ever glad to be home! Skilly was also happy to see us because he's an idiot and instead of coming out from under the bed when relatives came to feed him -- and let him outside -- he just stayed hidden. So he'd been without company and without outside time for most of our trip.

Anyway, it's always great to come home again. Maybe that's the homebody in me talking. We had such a fun trip -- we saw so many wonderful, new and different sights. And honestly, I liked our California Adventure much more than our Washington Adventure (don't tell Abby, though, as she doesn't agree with me).

So yay California!

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