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California Trip the Second

About two months ago Paul Simon’s new album came out. It is spectacular. One night, a few days after I got it from Amazon, I was listening to it at home and apparently appeared bummed out that Paul would not be coming anywhere local on his tour. Having already seen him in concert twice, I was in fact bummed but resigned that I wasn’t going to see him this time and that was that.

My wife, bless her, had other plans.

I was putting Oliver to bed a couple of nights later and he was giving me extra trouble and I was a bit crankier than usual. Once he was finally asleep, I went back upstairs, where I was greeted with a backpack and the question was it packed well enough for Leslie’s friend, our neighbor, to take with her to the hospital once she had her baby, which was due rather soon. Perplexed (read: annoyed), and thinking she’s had two kids already, she can pack her own bag, I’m certain of it, I attempted to brush the matter aside, but Leslie insisted I check the bag anyway. What was inside was not fit for a hospital trip at all, but rather a note that said, “Pack what you need to visit [your sister] in this bag.” My wife and her cohorts apparently love me far more than I deserve, and had arranged for me to fly to San Francisco the next week, stay with my sister, and see Paul Simon in concert there.

Because I wouldn’t be me if it wasn’t said, “arranged” means that I still paid for it, I just didn’t type in the purchase information for the airline or concert tickets.

So, here is an account of my trip.

Monday, April 25

I slept too little the previous night, and was tired most of the day.  The family dropped me off at the airport, and there was much tears-shedding by the children, who professed that they could not, at the last moment, let me go.  After several failed attempts to calm them, I was forced to walk away from the crying to get to the plane.  My consolation was that I wouldn’t actually have to hear any other crying for two more days, huzzah!

It had just shy of ten years since I had been on an airplane, a few months before 9/11, and thus all the new-fangled security was new to me.  I printed my boarding pass at the check-in counter and was off on my way to stand in the security line.  I navigated it without too much trouble, as I can read signs and follow directions.  I was one of the last passengers to board the plane, and got the last remaining overhead bin space and a seat in the very back row.  A few people came on after me and since there was no bin space a bag or two was stuffed behind my seat.

The initial flight was to Las Vegas, and I finally got around to reading I Shall Wear Midnight, which I borrowed from Ben too long ago.  I started on the first flight, and passed it and the other flights reading, accompanied by my box of Junior Mints.  Upon landing in Las Vegas, I was amused to be greeted by slot machines immediately upon deboarding the plane.  Nevada was not about to let me forget that I was, in fact, in Nevada.

My connecting flight to San Francisco was delayed, so I wandered the airport a bit, debated whether to pay for overpriced airport food (spoiler: I didn’t), and read some more.  Eventually I got on the next plane and landed in San Francisco, where I was picked up by my recently-wed sister Cherish.

She took me first to the tanning salon she owns, giving me the grand tour that I did not get the last (cursed) time I was in the city, then back to her apartment, where we met her husband Joey and unloaded my things.  We hung around the apartment for a bit, chatting and deciding where to eat dinner before the concert.  I (reluctantly?) handed over the money for my ticket, Cherish having paid for them up front.  We ended up at a fancy Asian place with fancy Asian food, which was yummy, and fancy.  I had a lemonade that at first I feared might be alcoholic, but it was not the case.

After dinner Joey dropped us off at the Davies Symphony Hall, where the San Francisco Symphony plays and the ushers are tuxedoed and stuffy (at least in view of a concert).  We laughed as we observed several people being told not to drape their jackets on the rails in front of their seats, for example, in case, I don’t know, the paint job couldn’t take it?  I decided to hand over too much money for a concert t-shirt, and then we settled in to enjoy the show, which was very nearly fantastic.

(I say very nearly because the show was cut short a couple of songs due to what Paul described as having only about two-thirds of a voice that night.  He sounded great to me.)

The setlist was as follows:

  1. Crazy Love, Vol. II
  2. Dazzling Blue
  3. 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
  4. So Beautiful or So What
  5. Slip Sliding Away
  6. That Was Your Mother
  7. Hearts and Bones
  8. Mystery Train (a Little Junior’s Blue Flames cover)
  9. Wheels (a Chet Atkins cover)
  10. The Afterlife
  11. Rewrite
  12. Peace Like a River
  13. The Obvious Child
  14. The Only Living Boy in New York
  15. The Boy in the Bubble
  16. Father and Daughter
  17. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
  18. Gumboots
  19. The Sound of Silence
  20. Kodachrome
  21. Gone at Last
  22. Here Comes the Sun (a Beatles cover)
  23. Late in the Evening

It’s very hard to pick stand-out moments, because everything was made of awesome, but my personal favorites were Crazy Love, Vol. II; Hearts and Bones; Rewrite; Peace Like a River; The Obvious Child; The Only Living Boy in New York; Father and Daughter; Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes; and The Sound of Silence.

I had never heard Crazy Love live before, and it was a treat.  It’s long been one of the songs that I just like for some reason, and the subtle changes in the live performance compared to the album recording were great.  I love how Paul changes the way his songs are performed every now and again, e.g. the wildly varying live renditions of Kodachrome.

Hearts and Bones is among my top favorite Simon songs ever, and so I was very glad to hear it live.

Rewrite, along with Dazzling Blue, are my two favorite songs off the new album, and I was very much looking forward to hearing especially the former.

Peace Like a River is another song that has long been one of my favorites (of course, realistically I could say that about many, many Simon songs), and the piano part toward the end was nice.

The Obvious Child is another one that I enjoy.  I include it in my list here because of the drums at the end.  The audience would start to clap at the end of each set of drumming, thinking the song was over, only to be greeted by more drumming.  Having heard a live version from The Concert in the Park a million or so times, I was prepared for this, and so knew it wasn’t over, and I giggled at the audience.  Because I giggle.

The Only Living Boy in New York is a strong contender for my absolute favorite Paul Simon song, and as it began to be played I felt a ridiculously big grin spread across my face.

Father and Daughter is a special song because it sums up how I feel about my own daughter (except for the part about a golden retriever).  I love to sing this one to my daughter and (I think) she loves when I do.

Diamonds is another song I really love, and it’s one that my kids are very familiar with, as it’s one I’ve sung to them often while rocking them to sleep as infants (they’ve got to start life out right, right?).  During the first verse Paul messed up the lyrics and then stopped the song.  He then proceeded to say, amusedly, how the spotlights flashing across the audience were making him laugh and he was having trouble concentrating on the song.  He asked that they be turned off and then said, “Okay, from the top,” and immediately the band perfectly restarted the opening.  It was one of those moments, you know?  It was also during this song that everyone on the floor decided to stand up and dance, converging on the stage as best they could.

The Sound of Silence was the first song of the first encore, and it was just Paul and his guitar, and simply beautiful to hear.  It seemed like he played each verse in a slightly different style, and of course gave the whole song a little change-up to make it unlike any version I had heard before.  To think that the song was written 47 years ago and is still so wonderful is amazing.

After the concert the we stepped into the hallways to hang out for all of three minutes before the snooty ushers scooted us out of the building.  Joey came to pick us up and we headed back to their apartment for some late-night snacking and Netflix viewing.  We ended up watching a Grown-Ups, which I had not seen based upon my general loss-of-interest for Adam Sandler films post-50 First Dates, but which I was assured was hilarious.  While not as hilarious as I was led to believe, it was also not terrible, and I did laugh, but was also sad to think that Chris Farley would have been in the Kevin James role had he still been alive today.

My sister kept mentioning that the Kinnect being constantly on creeped her out, which I thought was funny, because I’m a jerk.  After the movie it was bed time.

Tuesday, April 26

The next morning I was greeted by sounds of across-the-street construction at what was probably far-too-early an hour, but I was helped in small fashion by way of being one time zone behind, causing my body to rebel slightly less at being accosted by the sun at such an hour.  After a breakfast of weird organic yogurt, granola, and berries, Cherish and I got a latish start toward our destination of the day: Six Flags something-or-other.  First we drove a little farther to the Jelly Belly Factory for to acquire many bags of Belly Flops to take back home to the family.

After the JBF, we headed across the freeway to the mall, where there was a Chick-Fil-A, which serves the most delicious chicken nuggets in existence, so of course we had to eat them.  Chick-Fil-A is also the home of the most awesome ketchup packet/dipping containers known to man, so there’s that.

We enjoyed our satisfying lunch on the short drive back to the Six Flags SOO, where the walk from the parking spot to the front gate was quite longer than it looked.  The day was about as perfect as any I could have asked for–sunny, but not too hot, and very few people at the park, so the lines were very short.  The longest we waited in line for any ride was about five minutes, and that was in the line for the front seat.  (The one exception was for a ride whose line was strangely long, as the ride itself was fun, but not as good as any of the others.)  We spent the day riding roller coasters and other rides, with me screaming delightedly like a little girl.  We also watched part of the killer whale show, saw some dolphins and tigers, ate kettle corn and cotton candy (mmmm…. cotton candy).  One of the rides was too intense for Cherish to go on more than once, so of course I rode it a few more times, ultimately in the front seat, which is the only way to ride a roller coaster, really.

During the prep for that final ride, the operator asked over the microphone if we were excited.  I shouted back, “Yes!” and then he asked me my name.  I told him and he went off into this spiel about the prophecy of Steve riding the ride in the year of 2011 and it was very amusing and weird and then suddenly the ride started and we shot into the sky and fell back down again and it was blurry and crazy and awesome.

A few weeks before my trip, some of my family had gone out to visit Cherish and had procured season passes to the park, because buying some certain number ended up being the same price as a single day’s admission.  My dad let me use his pass, so I got in free, but I made up for it by spending moneys at the gift shops.  I also took pictures with the life-size Batman and Superman statues, as well as some with Daffy Duck and Marvin the Martian.

After the park closed, we walked the long walk back to the car, and then headed to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner.  Apparently we have one here in Utah, up in Salt Lake, but I had never been, and was excited at the prospect of yummy food and cheesecake.  I had delicious pork chops sided with rice and yummy, but entirely too much, spinach.  After dinner I had trouble selecting a cheesecake flavor, and finally settled on Mango Lime.  It was quite good.

After dinner we headed back to Cherish’s place and, upon discovering she had never seen Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, I insisted with much insistence that we watch it immediately.  Its profound wonderousness was, thankfully, not lost on Cherish, and another convert was made.  Nathan Fillion and cheesecake is also a good combination.

Wednesday, April 27

My final morning of being away arrived, and I took several pictures of the city from the roof of the apartment building, which afforded spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the bay, and other parts of the city.  We went down to Pier 39 to see the sea lions, take more pictures, and walk through some touristy stuff.  Then we drove up nearer the Golden Gate Bridge to take some more pictures, and then ventured off to the Presidio Park to find the Star Wars statues that apparently litter the Lucasfilm campus.  We only found the Yoda fountain before it was time to head to the airport, and took some pictures of and with it.

Cherish dropped me at the airport where I boarded a plane which landed in Las Vegas, sat for a while, and then continued on to Salt Lake.  My family greeted me at the airport and then we headed to Carl’s Jr. for the kids, while Leslie and I got some Cafe Rio from across the parking lot.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a real trip without some sort of child-poop-thing, so of course Oliver filled his diaper rather fully with us somehow not having any wipes.  We found a nearby grocery store, bought a small pack of Huggies wipes (because yes, we are brand snobs, even in these situations) and then I had to run across the parking lot to an Arctic circle to find bathroom to wash my hands so I could eat my burrito.

Overall, I no longer despise the city of San Francisco, and would even visit there again, assuming that Paul Simon and Six Flags were involved.

California Trip

For the first time since we have had children, we left the state (the actual state we live in, not our mental one.  That has only regressed).

We drove to Lake Tahoe for my sister’s wedding, and then on to Sacramento, where my wife spent some growing-up time.  We spent a little over a week in Nevada and mostly California, and here is a day-by-day report.

Thursday, March 3

I took the van in for some recall maintenance, got talked in to extra maintenance, and handed over the credit card for the first of many times.  After work, I headed home and we managed to get everything together to be able to head out that evening so we could get at least part of the way driven while the kids were sleeping.  We had several stops to make: The Children’s Place to exchange some clothes, Chick-Fil-A for some yummy nuggets that are way better than McDonald’s similarly-priced fare (more on that later), the in-laws to borrow a hanging-garment-bag-thingy, and Walmart to pick up some last-minute things, e.g. swim diapers, Skittles, and Gummi Bears.

With those last details out of the way, we got on the freeway, and after about three minutes of travel, our two-year-old started gagging and it sounded like he was about to throw up.  He apparently swallowed whatever was about to come out, and we thought we were safe.  That feeling lasted about two seconds, until he actually did throw up all over himself, the car seat, the floor, my seat, etc.  In hindsight, we probably should have turned around right then, cleaned everything up at home, and left the next morning, since we were only about ten miles out at that point.  Instead, we got off at the next exit, stopped at a gas station, and attempted to get everything as cleaned up as we could.  We got him in some new clothes, cleaned up the mess as best we could, and set off again.  He fell asleep pretty quickly after that, as did the other two children, and off we were to Wendover, Nevada!

(Side note: DVD player in the car for kids == awesome, except when you have to listen to The Wizard of Oz a million times.  It’s good, but not that good.)

We stopped for gas at wherever last-chance-for-gas-before-Wendover is, and were a bit worried at first that after swiping our card at the pump, there was a network access error.  After another try or two, it worked, so we got our expensive gas.  We made it to our hotel (the cheapest, and with the best TV of the three we stayed in) with the help of Google Maps, and as we were getting the kids out, what should happen but our throw-upy one should wake up and say, “Dad, I threw up.”  Then the newness of being somewhere other than home set in and the kids wanted to be up all night while we just wanted to sleep.

Friday, March 4

With a late start (as was our wont during the entire trip, and let’s face it, in our regular lives), we checked out of the hotel and hit the interstate to head toward Lake Tahoe.  What should have been a six or seven hour drive ended up taking nine.  We stopped for lunch at McDonald’s in Elko, which is where we lost a ton of time–two hours or so, I reckon.  While Leslie was ordering the food with the older kids, I took the baby back to the play area to wait.  I picked him up and of course, he had pooped everywhere, and really, I mean everywhere.  I put him back down and tried to clean off his legs a little bit while I waited, when Old Lady McDonald’s, as I shall call her, walked up to me and said, “You can’t change him in here,” to which I replied, “I’m not changing him in here, but if you’d like me to let the poop run all over the floor I can do that.”  (I was apparently cranky, and admittedly probably thought more of that sentence than I said out loud.  That’s how I roll.)

When Leslie and the kids came back, she took the baby to the bathroom to try and get him cleaned up.  She returned with a clothingless-baby, and OLM told her, “He can’t be naked in here.”  Listen, he’s five months old, and we’ll get him some clothes when we get out to our car.  Relax.  Trying to clean up the car seat somewhat in the bathroom, OLM popped in and told Leslie, “You can’t do that in here.”  While I was in the bathroom later, trying more to clean the car seat cover and holding it under the air dryer for fifteen minutes, she waited for me outside, a sour expression on her face as I had apparently interrupted the mopping schedule.

Later on, she was mopping the play area and asked a family sitting near us to move so she could mop under their table.  She also pushed aside customers filling their drink cups to clean up their spills as they happened.  I don’t know if that’s efficiency or sociopathy, or a strange combination of both.  Leslie overheard a man at the soda fountain ask how long she’d been working there, to which she proudly responded, “25 years.”  I suppose that says it all.

Back on the road, we passed through several thousand miles of desert, casinos, and ads for strip clubs.  Two notable exits stated “Beverly Hills,” which is funny because I didn’t see a single fancy car, helicopter pad, or hill; and “Deeth Starr Valley,” which name I assume stemmed from some sort of copyright issue with George Lucas.

We stopped again for gas in Winnemuca, and for a bathroom break in Sparks, where a homeless guy outside the Burger King hit on my wife.  It was creepy.  After driving through Reno and Carson city we finally arrived in Stateline and our destination hotel–the MontBleu Resort & Casino.  I was disappointed to learn that while our bathroom was quite nice, there was no mini-fridge and the TV was a sad remnant of times past.  Also, who thought those pillows were comfortable and approved a large-scale purchase?  But I digress.  There is, in the hotel, a prominently displayed lingerie store, with… disproportionately sized mannequins.  It was, I think, impossible to get from the hotel rooms to anywhere else in the hotel without passing this store.  I have a funny story about it for later (Sunday, maybe?).

We joined up with everyone else who had arrived at the local Applebee’s, where we purchased the first of several sit-down-place kids’ meals that our kids did not actually eat.  My food was good; I think I had a sirloin steak, but what I remember is the broccoli.  I love steamed broccoli, but I had never before had it peppered.  It was yummy.  After that it was back to the hotel for attempted sleeping.

Saturday, March 5

Saturday morning a bunch of the family went skiing/snowboarding, which we have no interest in (or at least I don’t, and I don’t fancy taking my small children), so I set out to find a grocery store and a laundromat to wash all our throw-upy and poopy clothes/blankets/car seat covers.  While out, my soon-to-be-wedded sister Cherish called and told me where the store was, and invited us over to her newly-purchased house to use her washing machine and dryer for all our clothing care needs (she stayed home from skiing due to some onset anti-biotic-requiring voice loss thing).  In exchange, I need only bring a large tub of some organic yogurt–a fair deal, considering the overpriced yogurt was still far less than many laundry quarters would have been.  So we all headed over to her house for quite a while, doing laundry, chatting, trying to get the kids to eat lunch, etc.

Later we went back to the hotel to take the kids swimming.  The pool was pretty nice, but a little chilly that day.  We had some family with us helping with the kids, so we were able to relax for a bit, right up until the moment where I was holding Having-Previously-Thrown-Up Boy and he puked all over me.  Twice.  I think it was from swallowing some pool water, which I think was both chlorinated and salted.  We headed back to the room for a bit to change, and then headed back over to my sister’s house for dinner, where many of her and her fiance’s friends were also.  There was soda for us and beer and wine for about everyone else.  We had to watch closely to make sure we didn’t end up with an accidentally drunk two-year-old, and and one point, he did actually reach for someone’s beer bottle before realizing it wasn’t his drink.  The food was good, our little girl had a friend to play with and keep her occupied, and our two-yearer fell asleep shortly before we left, stayed asleep in the car, and also all night at the hotel.  Huzzah!

Sunday, March 6

Sunday morning we awoke and hurried to get ready for church.  When we got on the elevator, some other people were about to join us, spied our church clothes, and said, “We’ll take the next one.”  This happened again on the elevator to the parking garage.  Apparently people dressed up on Sunday is an uncommon sight in Lake Tahoe, or possibly in casino hotels generally.

We made it to the church during the opening hymn and found a seat.  After a few minutes, I lifted the baby out of his seat, to be greeted by another overflowing poopy diaper.  I took him to the bathroom for a clean-up and returned to the meeting.  A little while later it happened again, so off to the bathroom again I went.  The meeting itself was very nice; it was Fast Sunday, and the testimonies were focused on the temple trip the ward had taken to Reno the day before.  For several of the members it was their first temple visit, and they all valued it greatly.  You could tell the ward was very tightly knit together.  Afterward Sacrament meeting my sister Rachel took Aeris to primary, and Leslie and I took the two boys to nursery, which we shared with one other child, and where for the third time I was treated to an overly poopy diaper.  What does this kid eat, anyway?  (Root beer and eggs overeasy, I suspect.)

After church we headed back to the hotel, with more strange looks from people at the elevators.  As we passed the lingerie store, suddenly Aeris noticed it (for the first time, it seems) and exclaimed, “Look, it’s the fancy lady store!”  This was followed by cries of “That one is so shiny,” and “Ooh, look how sparkly,” and the like.  Finally she queried, “Mom would look so good in that one, Daddy.  Can we get it for her?”  This incident, while initially embarassing, was of course subsequently related to everyone we knew.

We headed out to meet my sister, mom, and step-father for lunch at a local pizza place, Blue Dog Pizza.  It had a picture of a dog and blue paw prints on the windows, so our older boy dubbed it “Blue’s Clues Pizza.”  The pizza was good, but not Two Jacks good–and, as with all things in a resort town, far more expensive than it had any right to be.

After lunch, it was coming up on time for the wedding, so we headed back to the hotel to change (and probably for more “fancy lady store” comments).  We drove down to the wedding chapel, where the parking lot was so small that it wouldn’t even hold all the not-very-many-guests’ cars, so I dropped off the family  and parked across the street.

The wedding chapel itself had a window overlooking Lake Tahoe–which was not particularly beautiful in the onset evening, but when I saw it the next day in the daylight, wow!–and the ceremony was nice.  Having previously attended only LDS weddings, it was different than anything I had theretofore witnessed–somewhere in between my wedding and what you see in the movies, I guess.  After the wedding we struggled to decipher the elevator buttons labeled “SL”, “BL,” and the like to find our way below ground to the reception/dining hall.  A kindly employee helped us out, but I took the stairs each time after that, like when I went to move the car so I wouldn’t risk get towed for parking in a Bank of America lot (but my mortgage is through BoA, so in theory I am a customer for the next 30 years and should be able to park there any time, right?).

Dinner was nice, the toasts were nice, etc.  My mom tried to get me to do hers for her, but I told her it wasn’t a good idea.  (It wasn’t.)  Our table got sparkling cider and Sierra Mist in our wine glasses; the other three or four tables had actual wine, possibly spiked with vodka.  At some point it was time for the groom to remove the garter belt from the bride, something I, as an older brother, had no interest in seeing, nor did I think my two-year-old boy needed to see it, so I dragged him out into the hall for a few minutes, where his screams of outrage were probably heard back here in Utah.

Somehow I was convinced to dance with each of my sisters and mother while others filmed the act.  It’s probably on Facebook somewhere, though I don’t know how to check.

As the evening wore on the kids began to wear out, except for Aeris, who is of course never tired, and complained loudly at the fact that it was time to leave.  We said good night to the happy couple and went back to the hotel.  We got the kids ready for bed and tucked them in, then my lovely wife insisted that I go down to the pool for a spell to relax while she minded the young ones.  Assuming the previous day’s vomit had cleared the filtration system, I proceeeded.

The pool was warmer than the day before, which was welcome, and I spent a few minutes there before venturing to the hot tub.  I sat in silence for several minutes, enjoying the hot water (I love me some hot water). until an older man approached, cup of beer in hand.  I closed my eyes again for a minute and when I opened them, his cup was empty and he was settling in to the hot tub.  After a few moments, he turned to me and said, “This is nice… I’ve never been in a Jacuzzi like this before.  It’s shaped like a horseshoe!”  Then he got out, ran to the pool, and did a cannonball.  Between this and the couple attempting to grope each other without anyone noticing, I decided it was time to leave, so it was back to the room and to sleep.

Monday, March 7

We had tentatively planned to take the kids to a play area at a local ski resort that my sister told us about, but there were several deterring factors:

  • It was really cold.
  • I don’t even like snow.
  • The resort’s web site seemed to indicate that the play area was only open on the weekends, which probably wasn’t true, but I didn’t bother to verify, because
  • It was really cold.

What we did do is have late breakfast at a local diner that was supposedly really yummy, but my food was not good.  Also, yeah, you expect to pay a few dollars for a glass of juice at a restaurant, but can said glass of juice be larger than slightly-larger-than-a-shot-glass, please?

After early lunch we headed back to the hotel to (again) clean up the overly poopy baby, and then took the kids bowling for the first time.  We missed the little street that the bowling alley was on and drove a bit too far.  When I figured we had missed it I pulled on to another side street to turn around and saw a Ross store.  I wanted to go in and check out the cheap DVDs, but I thought, “Nah, I’ll hit it up before we leave,” which I didn’t, nor did I stop at any of the other several Ross stores we passed during our journey.  I was secretly hoping to find a leftover Fellowship of the Ring DVD gift set with the cool bookends, like the Two Towers and Return of the King sets I found at the local Ross.  Now we’ll never know.

So we turned around and found the bowling alley, and the kids had a great time.  Oliver couldn’t quite get the ball all the way down the lane by himself, so we attempted to help him as best as we could trick him into accepting help.  The first time I tried, I pushed the ball along with him and he rounded on me, finger pointing and waving, saying, “It’s not your turn!  It’s my turn!  Go sit down and wait!”  I am told there is a video of this, possibly on the Facebook.  It was good to see him embracing the concept of taking turns, and really hard not to laugh at him chewing me out.  Early on, I got two strikes in a row, but my luck did not hold and I ended up finishing second, behind my dad.

After bowling we took the kids to an arcade in a hotel neighboring ours, accompanied by my mom, step-dad, and sister.  The kids had a grand old time with ski-ball and other things, and I managed to play a few games of DDR with my mom and sister.  I am told there are also videos of this, also possibly on the Facebook.  Also, there was changing of an overloaded diaper somewhere in there.

At the entrance we took to that particular hotel was a Cinnabon, a place I had not been in years, the only one I knew of around here having closed long ago.  Leslie and I wanted to go, but it was nearing dinner time and we were all meeting together before everyone left the next morning, so it had to be put on hold.

After a big discussion of where to actually have dinner, it was settled on the restaurant in our hotel, which was probably expensive, and which I didn’t pay for, hooray!  I had the chicken pot pie, which was pretty tasty, except for the “crusty top,” which was just a croissant that I probably could have found at Walmart.  A few of the meals arrived spectacularly late, to the chagrin of those who ordered them.  (They were not me, so I didn’t pay particular attention.  I’m faulted like that.)

After dinner we said a last goodbye to my newly-wedded sister and headed back up to the hotel room to try and get the boys to sleep so we could go swimming again.  We got them somewhat settled down and I took Aeris down to the pool and met my dad, brother, sister, and step-dad there for a bit of a late swim before closing.  I convinced Aeris to get into the hot tob, and though skeptical at first, she really liked it after a bit.  She seems very sensitive to hot water, not really liking even very hot baths or showers, so this was a bit surprising to me.  The pool closed up and we headed back to the room for our last night of sleep in the vicinity of Lake Tahoe.

Tuesday, March 8

After taking a lot of trips back and forth to the parking garage to load all our things in the van, we were on our way out of town, except that it took us an extra hour or so after leaving the hotel to actually start leaving town, because that’s how we roll.  We were supposed to meet my mom and step-dad at Cinnabon, but as we ran late they only had time to come out to the van as we pulled in and say goodbye to the kids.  The kids themselves did not want cinnamon rolls for some reason, so only Leslie and I got them.  They were delicious, though more so at the beginning than several hours later when I was able to finish mine.  We stopped at Burger King for the kids, and Jamba Juice for us.  As I was walking from the car to Burger King I passed a souvenir shop with special Uno cards in the window, which I then overpaid for.  I got Oliver an Iron Man 2 set and Aeris a Wizard of Oz set, since she seemed to be really into Oz at the time, watching it six or seven times over the course of the trip.  Hopefully Sam will not be forever scarred at his exclusion from the Uno card buying.

We made a last stop for gas and then were on our way.  We followed the road to connect back to highway 50 (or maybe the main road through Lake Tahoe is 50 and we were already on it?) and after a few miles we passed a checkpoint that had lanes for California visitors and one for “Lake Tahoe Locals and Returnees.”  I took the latter, and when Leslie told me we weren’t in that category, I said sure we were; we were just returning home via the scenic route.

The drive to Sacramento took a couple of hours, and we found our next hotel easily enough.  After checking in I went to check out the pool situation during one of the trips to the van for luggage, and to the children’s dismay, it was an outdoor pool, with the weather not quite being warm enough for swimming.  There was much weeping and wailing and cries of finding a new hotel with an indoor pool.  The hot tub was indoors, however, and we made use of it that night, but during the other two nights of our visit we got back to the hotel after the pool and hot tub closed anyway, so eh.  Also, this hotel had at least a mini-fridge, so that’s something.

After settling in somewhat and lying around for a bit, we headed out to visit some old friends of Leslie’s.  We timed it just right so we hit the freeway at rush hour, but luckily most of the traffic was headed out of the city, where we were headed in, so we weren’t delayed too much.  We found the house without too much trouble (though I didn’t know it was in a gated community and so drove past one or two before realizing we had gone too far.  We had dinner with her friends (yummy lasagna and bread, mmm…) and visited for a few hours (and changed a few diapers).  Oliver was thoroughly entranced with a Toy Story memory game on the iPad, and Aeris had lots of fun playing with blocks, spelling words and making up games.  When it got late enough, we headed back to the hotel for bed.

Wednesday, March 9

In the morning we looked for a grocery store to pick up some snacks for the day so we would hopefully not have to eat out quite as much (right).  It turns out there was a Walmart just a few streets over from the hotel so we stopped there to pick up such essentials as trail mix, ice, apple juice, and fruit, because I like grapes.  I bought the kids some individual bottles of chocolate milk and apple juice.  After returning to the van I noticed that one of the juice bottles had some rotted apple in the bottom, and well, yuck.  So we exchanged that for a new bottle and on our way we were.

Our first stop was Fairy Tale Town, which is a cute little park with play areas themed after different fairy tales, as the name suggests.  There was a giant shoe slide for the Old Woman Who Live in the Shoe, for example, and a Sherwood Forest play area.  I also remember Alice in Wonderland, Jack and the Beanstalk, Winnie the Pooh, the Knights of the Round Table, etc.  Leslie apparently had a birthday party there when she was younger.  The best part was that it was quite cheap; just $4 a non-baby-aged person.  Also, I met a French woman and spoke to her briefly.  We spent a couple of hours there and next headed to Old Sacramento.

Old Sacramento is, I think, (part of?) the original Sacramento settlement.  There are many small museums, e.g. a train one, a Wells Fargo one, etc.  We first stopped in a replica of an old one-room schoolhouse and learned a bit about what school was like all those years ago (short answer: sounds like not much fun at all).  There were lists of rules the teachers and students had to follow posted that were revised every so often.  They struck me as quite funny, like the forbidding of teachers to marry.  I don’t remember many of them; I shall have to remember to look them up sometime, and then remember to remember that, and so on.

After the schoolhouse we began to walk around some more and were handed a coupon for some free samples from the candy store across the street.  Of course this meant that the kids wanted candy candy candy and that immediately.  We managed to get them to agree to a visit after lunch.  For said lunch, Aeris wanted to eat at Subway as soon as she spotted the sign a block down, but somehow we convinced her to eat somewhere we didn’t have a million of at home.  (Plus, Subway.  I avoid Subway if at all possible.)  After asking what we presumed was a local (“Do you want a family-friendly environment,” he asked, apparently not noticing our quite loud small children), we ended up at a restaurant called Fat City, which turned out to have food that was quite good, and they even had a 2/$25 special that featured entrees that both Leslie and I liked, which seems rare.  Our $25 got us an appetizer to share, and an entree and dessert each.  (Plus there was extra for the kids’ food, which they didn’t eat much of, of course.)  Our appetizer was fried green beans (yum!), my entree was some sort of lime steak (yummer), while Leslie got some shrimp thing, I think, and our dessert was cheesecake (yummest).

After lunch we stopped at a souvenir shop and bought overpriced T-shirts for the kids, and then it was off to the candy shop.  We spent way to much on candy, and way too even more much on postcards that Aeris wanted to send to about every person she knows.  We did score a bag of banana-only-flavored Runts, which makes the visit a success overall in my book.  Also, they had an entire wall devoted to Pez dispensers, and a large number of taffy barrels, which we were free to sample.

It was nearly time to go and meet some more of Leslie’s friends, so off we went.  We first stopped at the house that she grew up in and she waxed reminiscent for a bit.  We then headed to her friend’s house, where we chatted for a while until her husband came home, while our kids played with theirs.  We then headed to the local IHOP for dinner, where we also met the friend’s parents, who Leslie was also friends with.  They kindly treated us to our meal–which I marvel at how much we spent on food even after all that other people bought for us–and we had a generally pleasant evening of chatter before heading back to the hotel again.

Thurdsay, March 10

The penultimate day of our trip arrived and we began it with cereal from the previous day’s Walmart trip, and then headed again to Walmart for some laundry packs so more baby-soiled things could soak in the hotel bathtub while we were out for the day.

Our first stop was the Jelly Belly Factory, because who can pass up jelly beans, really?  We took a tour of the factory to learn all about how the jelly beans were made, which was pretty cool.  The kids didn’t show quite as much interest, as they were busy arguing over whose turn it was to be held by me.  After the tour we went to the gift shop and bought a lot of jelly beans and a few other things the kids picked out–some cocoa cups, bubble blowing things, and other generally overpriced merchandise.  We thought about eating in the eatery there–jelly bean-shaped pizza–but decided it was too expensive, so we headed out.

We stopped a few miles down the freeway at a Jack-in-the-Box.  I had never eaten there and it sounded decent enough.  Oliver was asleep in the car and I wanted to keep him asleep for a while and keep driving, so I decided to just go in and order some food to go so we could eat on the road.  Of course the kids’ chicken fingers were “too spicy” and chocolate milk got spilled all over the van floor.  That’ll teach me.  My burger and fries were good, though.

We continued heading toward the coast, planning to stop at the beach so the kids could see the ocean, and then in to San Francisco to visit and dine with my newly-wedded sister, who had returned from Lake Tahoe.  We headed to Stinson Beach on the advice of both my sister and Leslie’s friends from the night before.  Quite sillily, I neglected to stop for gas and the drive from the freeway itself to the beach was longer than I had expected, with nary a close gas station in sight.  After traveling several miles down the windy road to the beach (with spotty cell service that prevented me from easily finding a gas station), I consulted with Leslie and we figured we had enough gas to go the last couple of miles to the beach and then get back to a gas station based on the distances Google Maps gave me.

By the time we made it to the beach, it was starting to get dark, and the tide was coming in, and it was cold, so we didn’t stay too long, but the kids had fun seeing the water and throwing sand at each other.  Especially the sand part, to my chagrin.  I am a grumpy old man.

Apparently the waters near this particular beach are great white shark breeding grounds, so there are signs posted about taking care not to get eaten by (or possibly bred with) a shark.

It was time to find a gas station, and so I followed the directions Google gave me, which proved to be (probably) outdated and quite wrong.  We wound up on a very narrow dead-end street in the middle of a residential neighborhood, with the Maps telling me the gas station was 200 feet away.  I was getting pretty grumpy by this time (and quite worried about running out of gas).  Also, the baby was crying loudly because he was hungry and very tired of being stuck in the car for such a long time.  After about a 73-point turn to turn around, and still hoping that the gas station was hidden on the road somewhere, just from the other direction, I ventured forth.  The gas station was still nowhere to be found, so I got out and started knocking on house doors until someone answered.  Luckily this only took two attempts; unluckily, the man who answered said, “Well, I’m from Michigan, so I’m not entirely sure that I’ll point you in the right direction, but…” and then gave me general directions, but without street names, which was less than ideal.

We did end up at the gas station before the car died, though, so that was good.  It was one that required pre-payment inside, which was fine, but which also did not accept credit cards, which was less fine.  They did accept debit cards, however, with an additional processing fee.  Bah.

After getting our $40 worth of gas, we headed into San Franscisco by way of the Golden Gate Bridge and its into-the-city toll.  I was really disappointed by the fact that the bridge itself was not lit up at night.  Also a big bummer was the fact that there really is no parking in the city at night.  My theory is that if a spot is a available, it is already taken.  My sister says that all’s fair in love, war, and parking.  We drove around for 45 minutes or so and finally stopped in a pharmacy parking lot, where I called my sister and said, basically, “I hate your city, and we are leaving.”  I was cranky, the kids were cranky, and we were all hungry.  I asked for directions out of the city and by some miracle we had stopped on the exact street that, taken one way, led back to the Golden Gate Bridge, and the other, to the Bay Bridge.  We opted for the Bay Bridge, which was a much cooler drive (at least at night).  We drove past Oakland for what seemed like forever until we arrived at another toll spot, this time to get out of the city.  I figure it must be a good way for Oakland to raise revenue (is that joke funny?  I don’t know).

We stopped in Vallejo at the Olive Garden, whereupon Aeris complained loudly that she wanted McDonald’s.  There was a McDonald’s in the same general parking vicinity, so I told her that if she would come into the Olive Garden and eat something, I would buy her some chicken nuggets afterward.  We paid entirely too much for the food, but it was good, and that is not something to sneeze at.  Also, we were the last customers in the restaurant, not having paid attention to the closing time and staying too long after.  Oh, well.

As promised, we headed to McDonald’s next and got a six pack of McNuggets… for $3!  Seriously, $3?  For McDonald’s nuggets?!  Ugh.  If I am going to pay that much for nuggets, it’s going to be at Chick-Fil-A, where the nuggets are infinitely better, can be covered in readily-supplied honey, and which has the coolest ketchup packets ever.  Seriously, those ketchup packets are awesome.

Nevertheless, we got the nuggets, averted the crisis, and headed back to the hotel for our last night away from home.

Friday, March 11

In the morning, we packed up our things and I began to load up the van.  During one of my trips, my hotel keycard suddenly stopped working.  I feared that I had missed the checkout time and it had been automatically disabled, or something, so I walked around the building to the front desk.  I had not, in fact, missed the checkout time; the card had just stopped working for whatever reason, and they reactivated it.  I was also not asked for any sort of ID, so I suppose if I could somehow get ahold of a keycard from that hotel, I could tell them I was in any room I wanted and thieve to my heart’s content.  (My heart is content without thievery.)

And then began the long, long drive home.  Like fourteen hours long.  It was really long.  We initially headed west to get back on to I-80 to head east and homeward.  Shortly after getting on to I-80 we realized that we had wanted to see the Sacramento temple, so we exited the freeway and pulled over to find out its location.  As luck would not have it, the temple was located back in the city we had been staying in.  We really didn’t want to double back, so we decided to stop and see the one in Reno instead.  We drove for a few hours until it was time to stop for gas.

The first gas station I stopped at didn’t feel right to me, so I got back on the freeway and took the next exit.  After some initial confusion as to which where the regular pumps and which the diesel, I started to fill the gas tank.  At this point a man approached me and asked if he could ride with us to Reno.  I told him all the seats were full, which they were, but the unspoken thought was, “There is no way I am letting you in my car with my family.”  As we were getting ready to leave we heard a rather loud car horn that blared incessantly.  A woman was approaching in a car whose horn was apparently on whenever the car was.  It was sort of funny, and sort of sad, and sort of at least that’s not us.

A little while later we made it to Reno and found the temple.  We admired its beauty for a few minutes and then headed to–sigh–McDonald’s for lunch.  It was one of the scarier-feeling McDos that I have been in, but at least they had Justice League toys in the Happy Meals.

We drove some more, stopped in Winnemuca again for gas, and in Elko for more gas and dinner.  We decided on a diner at random–The Coffee Mug, I think–and were pleasantly surprised by the yumminess and price of the food, so win for The Coffee Mug, I suppose.  We had initially planned to stay somewhere in Nevada for the night, but decided to press on home.  We stopped one more time in Wendover, again at McDo, but only for a root beer for Leslie this time, who drove the remainder of the way home.

We got some some time between 2 and 3 am, and of course the kids wanted to be up then.  We somehow managed to wrangle them to bed and then fell asleep ourselves.

And there we have it.  I can’t absolutely can believe that it took me almost two months to write all this up.  Overall it was a good trip and I expect that, like my wife with pregnancy, I will eventually forget all the hard parts and want to vacation again sometime in the future.

Samwise the Brave

Young Sam has now joined our family, after much toil, read pregnancy.

Lists Update

I have resumed my blog to, of all things, list the lists I have recently updated.  Hooray!  Without further ado:

Also my About Me page is updated.  Huzzah!

I also plan on resuming blogging more actively, like, for reals this time.  Upcoming topics about which I want to topickize include:

  • My new minivan!
  • Linux!
  • My side-hacking conquests!
  • Movies!
  • Poetism commentaries!  Lots of them!
  • Other stuff!

Stay tuned!

P.S. I did take Casino Royale back.  Then I found a better price on Amazon, and bought it again.  I have no shame.

Poetism the New

Okay, that’s a wacky post title.  I’ve just posted a brand-spanking-new poetism to the site.  You can find it here.

It’s actually not new.  I wrote it a couple of years ago and found it in my notebook today.  I cleaned it up a tiny bit (though I wouldn’t call it pristine as is) and posted it here.  Commentary is forthcoming, though at the rate I progress on these it might be a while.