Vacation Story: CA Uber Alles!

We recently had the pleasure of doing our first two-family family vacation. Bean’s “Godparents”—for lack of a better description—Jen and Jeremy, along with their two adorable children G and A, traveled with us to California to check out the Redwoods. This was a brilliant idea that Jen herself birthed, and she and Jill did most (if not all!) of the legwork in making this happen, including finding wonderful accommodations, planning the details of the trip, and booking the tickets. As always we have pics to share with our tale, but we were asked not to include ones of their children (which is also why we only provided initials), so all the cuteness will be Bean’s and her moms’. If you see other children, it’ll be their backs or too far away to identify properly. 

We lucked out on both legs of the flight. We flew direct (no crazy worries about missing connections or anything here), and we booked the aisle and window seats in the hopes that if anyone did book the middle, they’d turn tail and run when they realized a toddler was involved. It worked out. Bean had her own, unpaid for seat in both directions. It allowed her to play one of her favorite flight-time games:

I don’t know what she’s singing.

We were pretty worried about a long flight with an active toddler, but in the end it went ok.  On the way there, she even got a little sleep.  Somehow I managed to hold her and get some sleep myself at the same time.

Stevie and Avery getting some shuteye

Stevie and Avery getting some shuteye

The first portion of our trip was spent hanging out in and around San Francisco. Ah, San Fran. I have a special place in my heart for that place. I swear I’m meant to live there again…Anyway, we didn’t actually stay in San Francisco. The Clark family’s dear friend Anne allowed us to camp out in her beautiful home in Piedmont. I won’t go into the politics of Piedmont and what it means, but it’s surrounded entirely by the city of Oakland and it’s a bit controversial. That article is totally softball, btw, but it’s the best I could find at the spur of the moment.

Traveling with a toddler, of course one of the first things we had to do was hit a playground.

It's not an illusion; mom and daughter are matching

It’s not an illusion; mom and daughter are matching

We didn’t do much our first day, although we did have a lovely dinner with most of the Pollack family who came up from San Jose to have dinner with us.

Our next stop was Golden Gate Park, where we met up with our vacation pals. We spent the entire day there!

log chair

Sitting on an awesome carved out log

G and Bean bonded over a shared obsession for sprinklers

G and Bean bonded over a shared obsession for sprinklers

Kids playing around bike racks in front of Tea Garden.

Kids playing around bike racks in front of Tea Garden.

She was pretty beat.

She was pretty beat.

The next day we visited the awesome Ferry Marketplace Farmer’s Market (where I had the best…sausage…ever!). Afterwards we tried to put Avery down for a nap (FAIL) and then visited with friends Lisa, CJ, and babies Clara and Isaiah.  Sadly we failed to take any pictures, but it was great to see them!

Our last morning in San Francisco we had brunch at the Bridenthals’, where Avery finally got to meet Jill’s Aunt Laura and Uncle Tad.  Avery discovered the wonders of smoked salmon and even held still long enough for a picture with Uncle David!

Avery and David

Avery and David

We then packed up and headed North to Crescent City, where we’d be exploring the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Along the way we stopped at Drive-Thru Tree where, you guessed it: we drove through a tree.

This van chickened out partway through. I think he'd've made it.

This van chickened out partway through. I think he’d’ve made it.

We searched out bullfrogs in the nearby  pond swamp, and played hide-and-seek in the woods. It took some coaxing to get Avery in there, but she eventually got very comfortable.

Checking out the frogs

Checking out the frogs

We arrived in Crescent City pretty late after a long day on the road. Jill was a trooper driving those scary, winding, dark roads. She said she was more worried about elk than she was about driving off the road. At one point we encountered California’s answer to highway detail: one-lane roads that operate off of a stoplight. Literally, you get to a point on the two-way road where one of the lanes closes, and there’s a stoplight. You’re meant to wait there, allowing for traffic coming from the opposite direction, only proceeding when the light turns green. We kept expecting to get mowed over by oncoming traffic.

We were staying in a vacation rental that was right on the water, so the next morning the first thing we all did was get up and head down to the beach. It was gray and overcast, and low tide to boot.

low tideJill took point at this juncture because, well…I don’t do living sea creatures. Or dead ones. She, on the other hand, is more than willing to pick up a live crab for the educational advancement of our offspring. Bean was probably a little more interested in throwing rocks into the water though, which became her “thing to do” at the beach for the rest of the trip.

tide pool

The size of this rock freaked me out a little.

The size of this rock freaked me out a little.

We came back that afternoon to a beach of a decidedly different vibe.

hoodie bean 2 hoodie bean pretty girl

Our next stop was the Redwoods. We started out the next morning looking for a specific spot, Stout Grove. Unbeknownst to us you could approach this trail from two directions. The one we chose would have been fine except that the road that led to it was closed for some reason, so what was supposed to be a shorter hike (~1 mile) turned out to be 4 miles each way. Needless to say, we didn’t all make it. Heck, the Caldwell-Clark clan made it less than 2 miles in because one of us *cough Stevie cough* got freaked out about bears and cougars and such and thought she heard a bear growling (later to learn that it was two trees rubbing together).  What can I say? I’m a city girl. Bean was still more interested in throwing rocks anyway.

rock cowgirl

So we left and went back to the house. I was full of shame at my cowardice and became determined to try again. We gave another go at Stout Grove later that afternoon (after lunch and another aborted nap), coming in from the other side which, while also unexpectedly closed for some part of it, was a much prettier route and felt overall a little safer. I still carried a large stick, but I felt better about my chances of having to use it.  In the end, it was worth it:  the trees were magnificent.

long tree bean on a tree bean in a tree

We then stopped off at a nearby stream to ice our toes. Yeah, the water was frigid.  That didn’t stop Avery from asking to go swimming, though.

stream dipping toes

We also got to check out another local attraction, Ocean World. It looks horribly cheesy, but it was actually awesome. There were multiple touch tanks with starfish, anemones, and sharks, and there was a pretty impressive sea lion and seal show that delighted Avery. At the end we also landed this amazing shot in front of the mural outside:

Surf's up, yo!

Surf’s up, yo!

The next day we spent another glorious afternoon at a different beach. Avery, not being of the water, opted to chill in the sand making “food” (yogurt among her choices), and allow us peons (Jill) to fetch water for her in buckets.

stroll eating fake food dirty face crop circle beach 3 beach 2 beach 1

On our way out of Crescent City, back to San Francisco, we stopped off at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove which, while not quite as picturesque as the ones we saw in Stout Grove, was still impressive. This grove seemed to specifically feature large trees that doubled as caves because at every marked spot there was a neat hollowed tree trunk to explore.

big-ass tree

At this point Bean was a little over the whole forest exploration thing though so we didn’t play around in them for long before it became a march to the finish. She did fairly well with the whole thing, but she really fought us on being strapped into the Ergo, which would have made hiking a little easier. Have you ever tried to take an almost-two year-old into the woods and get them to walk at a decent pace? Nigh impossible. At one point she actually sat down with two sticks and proceeded to beat them together, making music, instead of continuing the walk. Of course when we tried to put her on our backs she was all, “No back, no back!” She didn’t mind being carried in ones arms though. Persnickety baby.

We finished up our trip with a return to San Francisco that involved one of the longest car rides known to man. I mean, Jill and I used to drive between Georgia and Ohio/Indiana, and this was brutal. We got a little overzealous and tried to do too much. We decided to turn off of the fairly twisty turny Route 101 for an even more circuitous state highway in order to stop at a winery.  Unfortunately, about 15 minutes from our destination Bean got carsick and “burped” everywhere (this was how she described it to us the next morning). We got to the winery with about 15 minutes until close, but fortunately people are really nice in Northern California and stayed open for another hour so we could all taste some wine and enjoy their gorgeous views.  Then we continued on to Fort Bragg for dinner, enjoying ourselves despite a small keys-locked-in-car mishap.  Still with more than 3 hours to San Francisco, we pulled in to Piedmont super late for folks with a flight to catch the next morning, and the woods that lined the roads for most of the trip were dark and deep indeed. We made it safe and sound though, and made our flight with ample time. And then we suffered through jet lag for days, and Bean is still not hitting the sack the way she used to. But that’s a story for another time.

Sleeping in California--we enjoy it when it happens!

Sleeping in California–we enjoy it when it happens!

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