California Trip (Los Angeles, Visalia, Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park)

Can’t believe it’s been a year since our last cross-country trek, which also happens to be the last time I posted… enough time that it is tempting to hang it up, but I’ve really been feeling recently how easy it is to lose all of the details of parenthood and travels that seem so unforgettable at the time. Pushing through.

Hilariously, I just read the post I wrote last summer for our Colorado Trip, and it reads much like this one will. Taking a kid on trips can be hard, but its worth it and here is a list of what all we did! The difference between a 2.5 year old and a 1.5 year old is the 2.5 understands that they are being difficult and can sometimes be reasoned with. It wasn’t by any means a relaxing vacation, but it was exactly what we were looking for!

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I will forever most remember the Sequoia trees. More spectacular than their size (which you actually get used to relatively quickly when they are everywhere), was their age. Sherman was the oldest at 2,200, but the rest of the big ones are at least a millennium old. That is an amazingly long time to be alive. They showed it too. Sequoia’s are naturally not exactly symmetrical and their branches can look a bit off kilter. But in edition to that these incredibly old living creatures, while being enormous and amazing and beautiful were by no means perfectly sculpted. With life comes trial, and these trees had been through it. Burns, knobs, scars, kinks were living and visible proof of a long life lived, and still they persist… I am so deeply worried we will ruin them though, and sooner than any of us realize. We have a unique responsibility as humans to protect these trees and our environment and we are failing.

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Amidst the beauty, it was impossible to escape the fact that we were in an area that was clearly suffering hard from the impacts of climate change. Fires rage across the state (and prevented us from visiting our planned destination of Yosemite) and despite being hundreds of miles from where we were, the smoke from the fires clouded our view of the surrounding mountains and countryside during our visit. The irony and deep sadness to see signs to re-elect climate change denier (not to mention known liar and Trumpeter) Devin Nunes, who represents the district of Visalia,hit me hard. Real hard. It might be too late to stop entirely, but we need to adapt and stop the bleed. This isn’t about politics. The environment should not be a political issue. Wake up people!! If you want to still vote Republican with any kind of clear conscience and soul make your leaders acknowledge and act!! Or, maybe its time to stop voting for them.

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Here are some of my other favorite, most notable memories from the trip, mostly in chronological order

  • Delta has the best in-flight entertainment setup. Everyone gets a personal TV with tons of new movies & TV for free. Will always try to fly with them in the future.
  • Being told by the woman sitting in front of us on the flight (as we were exiting the plane) that “just for future reference” we should have apologized to her because Harvey was bothering her during the flight. And no, she said nothing nor gave us any indication that she was inconvenienced and Sarah and I both thought he did great!
  • Watching tar bubble up at the La Brea Tar pits
  • All of the “Hepicopters” in LA
  • Playing at the York Park playground in Highland Park with some very hipster parents & children
  • Galco’s which had the worlds best selection of non-alcoholic carbonated beverages
  • Being dumb tourists and leaving our backpack at the public beach entry by the Santa Monica Pier. Realizing 10 minutes later and returning to the bag, now devoid of my phone, wallet (though they kindly left my ID and membership cards), Harvey’s snacks, headphones & tablet, and Nikon Camera. The kind folks at the Sprint store who were happy to upgrade me to an iPhoneX as a result.
  • Eating out for delicious meals is always a treat – some of our favorites La Fuente (Highland Park), Grand Central Market (Shrimp Fried Rice was amazing!), Gloria’s Cafe in Palms (apparently we just missed Guy Fieri), Pita Kabob (Visalia), Sequoia Brewing Company (Visalia), Burger Lounge (Culver City)
  • Getting to spend time with dear friends Amanda & Brian and James & Shanna!
  • Beautiful views of all of LA via the Hollywood sign hike at Griffith Observatory
  • Bringing the only baby into a brewery that had probably 200 people at 5 o’clock on a Saturday
  • Driving through Skid Row and being very glad we decided not to walk
  • Driving 45 minutes straight up the mountain into Sequoia National Park and getting so nervous that we would run out of gas, turning around and going all the way back to the closest town (Three Sisters) to fill up before returning.
  • Harvey’s cuddle, whisper and awe in Crystal Cave
  • Going on “abventures” as a family to Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park
  • Copious methods we used to get Harvey to behave – promising a “special treat” at the end of the day (always Popsicle), saying the Horse would bite him, toy cards, fake crying (as in Sarah and Nick would cry to get Harvey to behave).
  • The perfect Airbnb on a farm in Visalia.

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Until next time!

 

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Colorado, August 5th – 14th (Denver, Estes Park, Boulder)

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So back in March, we booked a summer getaway to Colorado, thinking it would be a fun, relaxing trip to go somewhere new for us both, and take advantage of Harvey still being free to fly. At that time Harvey was just shy of a year old and just starting to walk. We didn’t have a clue what we were getting ourselves into. As the spring and summer passed and Harvey fully morphed from a sweet well-behaved cuddly baby into a biting, running, throwing, hitting, screaming, demanding wombat, I was certainly feeling some apprehension towards the impending trip. We can’t get Harvey to stay put in one room of our house for more than 5 minutes, how will we get him to sit on our of our laps for a 3 hour flight? He’s so drilled into his 5:30 EST wake up time, does that mean he’ll wake up at 3:30AM every morning we are there? Are there enough veggie straws in the whole state of Colorado to pacify Harv for 9 days? What if he starts having a fit when we are out to eat? What if he gets another ear infection while we are out there? Will we even have a fun time?

The answers would turn out to be: 1) through snacks, Moana, but mostly brute force and ignoring the squealing and jeering eyes of fellow passengers 2) more like 4:30AM 3) plenty of veggies straws, but more importantly plenty of open spaces to roam 4) that’s when you have to tag-team it – one in, one out 5) fortunately, he didn’t 6) Yes, we had an absolute blast, and made memories Sarah and I will never forget, and took lots of pictures to show Harvey one day.

Don’t get me wrong, when we both work full-time, being with each other, let alone Harvey for 9 days, uninterrupted was definitely a change from our typical routine – and there were some rather stressful moments. On a few occasions we would have loved to drop him off at childcare, so we could have fully enjoyed a meal, beer or a conversation without the constant distraction that is having a one-something year-old. But, we found time to do things we love, found fun things for Harvey, and overall felt so extremely thankful for each other and our life. We were able to notice things with Harvey and witness his growth in ways I don’t think we would have without the dedicated family time. While I had planned to fully day-by-day document all we did, it didn’t happen. I tried for the first day or so, but it just became overwhelming and not what I wanted to do at the end of a jam-packed day of vacation. So, instead, I’ll simply leave a list of some of the highlights/most-memorable moments and pictures from the trip.

  • Visiting dear friends we don’t get to see enough – Matt & Liza, Whitney & Nate, Amanda & Jonathan
  • Lots of gorgeous hiking
    • Bear Lake, Dream Lake, & Emerald Lake at Rocky Mountain State Park
      • One of my favorite hikes of all time, even on an overcast day.
    • East Inlet Trail/Adam’s Falls at Rocky Mountain State Park near Grande Lake
      • A beautiful trail, made all the more scenic  by the family of Elk having a drink
    • Mount Sanitas Trail in Boulder
      • A spectacular view of the city, but I was always remember it for how hot and exhausted I was carrying Harvey straight up the side of the mountain, coupled with the smell of Elwood’s poop in Matt’s backpack.
    • Flatirons Vista Trail in Eldorado Springs – easy trail right next to where we were staying with great views of enormous wind mills at the National Wind Technology Center.
    • Ceran St. Vrain Trail – A nice trail along on a beautiful river, down the street from Whitney & Nate’s new house
    • Lily Lake – Nice like 3/4 loop on a gorgeous lake

 

  • Driving along Trail Ridge Road – A road along the side of a mountain, with very few guardrails, and an endless drop over the edge. Most terrifying, yet exhilarating driving experience of my life.
  • Delicious Food & Beer
    • Vine Street Pub & Brewery – Yummy, kid-friendly place in Denver. Leave the card at home – cash or check only, or they’ll send you a bill in the mail
    • Rock Cut Brewery – Awesome Estes Park Brewery – Interference IPA was a winner.
    • New Belgium Brewery –  I think we preferred Asheville’s, but loved that we were only people on the tour that had been to both! Our guide was jealous.
    • The Mountain Café – Fort Collins brunch spot. Not much to look at, but the best breakfast burrito of my life.
    • Odell Brewery – Great brewery in Fort Collins, lots of run around space for Harvey, who made a friend that shared his exact same birth date.
    • Estes Park Brewery – Loved this place. Been making beer for over 20 years and they keep it simple, not a lot of fancy stuff – more for locals than tourists. Best pizza I’ve had in some time.
    • Avery Brewing Company – One of Boulder’s most famous breweries. We got there nice and early to beat the rush and were totally blown away by both the food and beer.
    • Centro/Bar Taco – A couple of delicious Mexican spots across from one another in Boulder. Harvey made it through about half of dinner at Centro and exactly zero at Bar Taco.
    • Wild Wood Brewery – We noticed lots of breweries in industrial parks all around Colorado. This was one of them, in Boulder, and a great spot with a sweet garage door open just enough for Harvey to crawl under. Favorite was the S’mores Stout.
    • Hapa Sushi – Simply delicious sushi spot in Boulder.
    • Upslope Brewery – Loved their beer both in a can and on draft! Their Pale Ale was a favorite,
    • Beau Jo’s Evergreen – Stumbled upon this pizza lunch buffet place on our way out of town. Great find!

 

  • Mary’s Lodge – Our home in Estes Park
    • Gorgeous view of Prospect Mountain
    • Our free upgrade to suite with a 2nd 

  • Holzwarth Historical Site – An early 20th century dude-ranch.
  • Alluvial Fan – Awesome rock formation along a stream in RMNP. We kept trying to give Harvey the chance to run around, but all he wanted to do was jump in the stream which was probably 40 degrees.

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  • Moana – I can’t believe it costs $20 to download a movie, when DVDs are about half that price, but it is true. Still, so worth the money. Whether it was on the plane or while we were out to eat, Moana had the ability to pacify a restless Harvey unlike anything else.
  • The Great British Baking Show – Perfectly relaxing, predictable reality TV, where everyone is super nice and very British. Great way to spend an hour before bed each night on vacation.

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  • Harvey talking – During the trip he started to speak in short sentences, sounding like the Swedish chef. “These blueberries” sounds like “deesch bwuberriesh”. “It’s a doggie” sounds like “Isha dogesh”. “Sit” sounds like… well, hopefully he was just saying “sit”… Also learned the meaning of “hot” and whispered “walk” into my ear as we hiked through RMNP. The best though, him yelling repeatedly “I LOVE YOU!” the loudest he could as we drove around.

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  • Swimming & going down the slide at the El Dorado Springs Swimming Pool – opened since 1905, and fed by a constant flow from an artesian spring with a beautiful mountain back drop.IMG_6835
  • Driving through residential Boulder while Harvey napped in the backed. The houses were completely unique and gorgeous and also unbelievably expensive.
  • Constantly being surrounded by natural beauty – Especially in Boulder, where you can’t believe the natural beauty around you in the middle of a city. It is so open feeling, with a breathtaking mountainous backdrop. I could see how people get very used to that view.IMG_6891 (2).JPG

Until next time Colorado!

Nick’s “Babymoon” Post

Well, if you haven’t noticed, I haven’t exactly written as many posts as Sarah. There are lots of reasons for this. First off, I like to write about hiking and beer – two things we haven’t been doing as much (or at all) recently. Secondly, I am not as gifted a writer, nor as succinct a writer, as Sarah. It simply takes me longer to produce a lessor product, so it’s no wonder that I’ve been writing less. I’ve been getting a bit of grief from my beautiful bride about my lack of blog proclivity as of late, so when she asked me this past weekend if I would write about our trip, I said sure! And as I read her last post, I saw that she hadn’t forgotten about my agreement. So on this sleety Friday morning, here it goes.

I had heard the term “babymoon” before, and figured it was something Sarah would be all over. To my surprise, we were months into the pregnancy, and Sarah hadn’t made much of a peep about it. I thought I was in the clear! In early December though, the kitchen paint not even dry, she brought it up. She wanted to go on a babymoon! To my delight, her ideas were modest, just a weekend trip – something close and historical. We quickly settled on Charlottesville. It was a place we’d both only been to very briefly and separately. With Monticello close by (I’d never been, Sarah  went when she was around 8), it seemed like a fun city to explore together, with plenty to keep us busy for a weekend!

While never explicitly spoken, it was clear at the onset of the trip we had three shared goals for the weekend. Below, I’ll share those goals and how we accomplished them!

  1. See some history.

Not only did we get to see a lot of U.S. history, but also some history from Sarah’s family as well. Our first historical stop was in Lexington, VA, the home of Washington & Lee University, as well as the Virginia Military Institute, where Sarah’s dad and uncle both attended school. I’d seen pictures, but couldn’t appreciate the beauty and grandeur of the place until seeing it first hand. Also, I was amazed to see Stonewall Jackson’s horse, Little Sorrel, stuffed and on display, looking as though he just trotted off the Civil War battlefield.

Upon arrival to Charlottesville, we checked into our home for two nights, at the South Street Inn, a downtown Bed & Breakfast, first built as a personal residence in 1856. Over the years the house has served several other purposes as well, including a school, a boarding house, and a brothel. Our room came with a large Jacuzzi tub (guessing this wasn’t original), which made up for the narrow staircases and thin walls.

The highlight of the trip was Monticello. Its free to go on the grounds, but the $25 for a tour inside the house was well worth it. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I couldn’t believe how much of the 200 year old house was original – functioning clocks, window glass, furniture, floors, books, various tools & gadgets, silhouettes and even elk antlers acquired from Lewis & Clarks’ famous journey. It was an amazing look into life at the dawn of our nation from a man who was so “ahead of his time” in some ways, while still a prisoner (not to mention an imprison-er) of societal norms of the day. I was amazed at how intact Sarah’s recollection of the place was from her visit 20 years prior, but given Sarah’s affinity for history her whole life, and the wonder of the place itself, it didn’t really come as a surprise.

On our way back home we stopped at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. This is one of those historical sites that requires a lot of imagination, as many of the buildings weren’t original. It was neat in that several miles surrounding the actual site of the surrender has been saved as park land, and thus undeveloped. Driving through the open fields while approaching the actual park helps the imagination go back in time and picture life as the civil war was ending. Our stay was brief, as it was freezing, but we were glad to cross this place off the list!

2. Eat some tasty food (and for me to drink some good beer).

An hour into the trip we stopped for breakfast in Danville, VA at a diner called Heart Line. The “Hillary Lied and Four People Died” and “Keep Working: Millions On Welfare Depend On You” bumper stickers in the parking lot, as well as the sea of camo hats and NRA sweatshirts caused us some slight apprehension at the start, but the delicious food and friendly staff quickly put us at ease. I also think it helped that Sarah dialed up her Southern accent meter to 10.

We also enjoyed some great food around Charlottesville. We enjoyed some delicious won-ton nachos and wings at South Street Brewery during the first half of the Panthers game, and a burger and salad at the highly acclaimed Citizen Burger Bar during the second half. Upon leaving the brewery at the end of the first half, I told our server there wasn’t even much point in watching the rest of the game. WRONG! As tasty as Citizen Burger Bar was, I don’t think we’ll forget our feelings of embarrassment and fear we felt as everyone else in the bar (seemingly) cheered on the ultimately failed, but respectable 2nd half comeback by the Seahawks.

On the way home we stopped at a cafe in South Boston, VA called Southern Plenty. We loved the food, though quite a different atmosphere from our experience a couple days prior at Heart Line. Part grocery store, part cafe, part craft beer store, and filled with collar-shirted retirees, it was clear the target demographic of this place was a bit wealthier than the close-by diner we had stopped at a couple of days prior . Still, being in the rural south, wouldn’t have been surprised to see another anti-Hillary sticker. Maybe something with a little more class, like “Huck Fillary”.

We visited three Charlottesville breweries during our trip – the aforementioned South Street Brewery, as well as Blue Mountain Brewery and Champion Brewery. I must say I wasn’t blown away by any by any of the beer, but it was all decent. (SIDE NOTE: I’ve admittedly been having a hard time finding beer I like ever since having a beer called “Tropicalia” by Creature Comforts while in Atlanta over New Years. It was so good I think it ruined me, and of course I can’t find it for sale anywhere in NC.) Each spot had it charms too. Blue Mountain was a bit out of town with gorgeous scenery and outdoor seating. The place was also a restaurant and was huge, clearly a favorite spot among locals and vacationers alike. Champion Brewery was a quaint little bar spot downtown, and South Street was worth it for the food alone. Probably my favorite new beer I tried during the trip was from a local brewery, Three Notch’d, called “Killer Angel”, a double IPA. My favorite old beer was a 22 ounce Grapefruit Sculpin for only $8.

3. Have some quality time together.

The truth of the matter is that this was a given. We cherish our time together, no matter what we are doing, so it always feels like quality time. Now would be an appropriate time to say “barfola”, as my sister Ellie likes to say, but we don’t care. Our relationship has been through some very trying times over the years, which makes the happiness and contentment we found in ourselves and each other recently (Sarah has alluded to this in prior posts) all the easier to cherish.

In addition to cheering on a Panther victory, seeing some historical sites and eating out together, we also managed to start and finish season 1 of the show “Broad City” and see the movie “The Revenant” at one of those leather-seated swanky theaters. Despite our vacation status, we still got up at 6AM -and breakfast wasn’t until 7:30 – hence all the time to enjoy “Broad City”. Though I was initially skeptical, we both really enjoyed “The Revenant”. I don’t know if I can say the same for the gentlemen sitting next to Sarah, who’s uncomfortable shifting during the movie would seem to suggest he was confusing my hand under Sarah’s pants in order to feel nugget wiggling around, for something a little more raunchy.

The weekend came and went in a blur, but it was nice to do something a little different from our normal weekend routine, and make new memories together. We can’t wait to go back to Monticello someday, nugget in tow, and tell her/him that they actually came to this exact place with mommy and daddy once before.