Monday, July 5, 2010

Fourth of July BUST!!

On Saturday, we drove to the base of Yosemite Park. You can't come all this way to go to Yosemite without actually getting to the base of it. It was about a 30 mile drive. Back home, when something is 30 miles away you get there in about 30 mintues. Not here. No sir. It took us about 1 1/2 hours what with all the winding roads. What beauty around these parts!! Again, it was too amazing for words.
We hiked to the base of the small Yosemite Falls (I know I'm not naming everything correctly.) and basically just stood in awe and appreciation of what surrounded us.

I'm so glad to have been able to go there but it was WAY too crowded for my liking. Too much traffic and too many people.
We got back to our cabin around 2:30 and Bob, Logan, Emmy, and I took a hike to a swimming hole and waterfall. Nothing is close by out here. Everything requires a decent hike or drive. This was no exception! It was a 1 1/2 mile walk through some great woods to get to our destination. Again, no complaints since the scenery was so great! We finally made it to the falls, although I nearly turned back when it go very, very steep but I'm glad I conquered my fears and continued.
Once at the falls we just climbed around on the rocks, played in the cool water, and refilled our water bottles with some pure spring water. It was a lovely adventure.

We had dinner at the restuarant at the lodge and had our evening smores. That particular night the lodge was showing Ice Age on an outdoor screen so Bob and Emmy hung around for that. We've had such a nice trip.
Sunday we got packed up and headed back to SF for our Fourth of July celebration.
We arrived back at the hotel and hung around for a few hours. We headed back in to the city early to get good seating at the fireworks.
We decided not to drive thru that mess of traffic but to take the city's rapid transit system, called the BART. We paid the nearly $100 for round trip tickets for the 6 of us and got there 2 hours early for good seats. We had been told the fireworks would be going off on Treasure Island so from anywhere on the dock you would be able to see them. After waiting for 2 hours in the cold wind they started. They were setting them off on Pier 39 which was WAY down the dock from where we were. There were thousands and thousands of people there and there was no way we could get to Pier 39 in time so...we missed them.
We were severely disappointed to say the least. I know how much my kids and Bob and I were looking forward to this once in a lifetime experience and we were pretty upset.
So here it is, our last day in SF. We still have a few things on our list to knock out, with hopefully, no more disappointments.

Yesterday,

Friday, July 2, 2010

Thursday and Friday

We had to do a little re-thinking once we realized we were leaving SF on Thursday and not Friday. We still had a lot of things on our list to do and see there.
We checked out of the hotel and first drove to some neighborhoods we HAD to see. Bob had done a little research and located the row of houses they show on the opening of the 1980’s show Full House. It was so cool! The architecture of some of the homes in that area is amazing to me and I would have loved to have gotten to go into some of the homes there.
Our next stop was the intersection of Haight and Ashbury, the start of the Revolution. It was so much fun to find that intersection and to take Jenna’s picture beneath the street sign. We even saw some real-life hippies! J
During our first few days, we hadn’t gotten to check out the really, really steep streets in SF. But we did yesterday. Wow! It was like being on a roller coaster. There was a lot of screaming going on in our van when we descended. Of course, we had to go down Lombard Street, too, sight of the most crooked street in the world!!
Then it was time to leave SF and make our way to Yosemite. We expected it to be about a 3 hour trip but it ended up taking us about 4 ½ hours. We made a few stops along the way for lunch and supplies but it seemed we drove forever, up and down, round and round, on and on. Maybe I’m na├»ve but I didn’t expect how much of a climb it would be. We were driving along when I noticed a sign that told us to turn off our air conditioner for the next 8 miles. I had no idea what I was in for. Twisting and turning and climbing up the mountains. I had my eyes slammed shut and was holding on for dear life while everyone else was loving the scenery. I think I hate roads like this because of the many times I tried to climb up my parent’s drive way in the winter and didn’t make it all the way up. My memories of sliding down backwards hoping not to slide off in the deep ditch on the one side still haunt me. What a chicken!!
We are staying at the Evergreen Lodge just outside the gates of Yosemite. Its so peaceful and serene, except for the occasional bickering of my children. I know how difficult it is for all of us to be cooped up together in small spaces so I’m trying to put up with it.
Today we all slept in until about 8. It felt good to not have anywhere to be or anything to do. There is so much we could have on our agenda but we need to remember we are on vacation and have some down time too. As part of our money saving plan we brought along our own food for breakfast and some things for lunch. So now we are off and as I’m typing this we are in Yosemite Park itself, enroute to some crazy big trees. More later.
We’re back at our cabin at Evergreen. What a lovely day we had!! We drove to the area called Tuolumne something. We hiked probably about 2+ miles round trip to see some serious sequoia trees. I’ve always tried to imagine just how big they are but was not even close. How do you describe something so magnificent? Its hard to understand that well over 2500 years ago these creatures were just little saplings and that through God’s design they are such monsters now. It was amazing to see them firsthand.
Our travels today also took us to a few spots that pulled us off the road to take in the views. I feel like what my family saw today is indescribable. To say that it was a multi-level waterfall or to say we saw babbling brooks just doesn’t seem good enough.
They are simply that…indescribable. Even if I tried, there is no way to convey the beauty and how it amazed us. After what we saw today, I was humbled that God has provided for my family to be able to take such trips and to show these to our children. I thought that God could have just given us desert to live in everywhere or just flat grasslands but instead He allows us to see His handiwork and just be flabbergasted and awed at the beauty. I am thankful. What a Creator!!
So here’s another day at its end. At 7:30 we will go up to the main cabin for our nightly s’mores and plan our day tomorrow. It’s been a great day!!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

SF

While I love to visit different places in the country/world, the actual act of traveling drives me nuts. We devoted 11 hours total to traveling on Monday. Lots and lots of sitting. Zero activity. Way too much eating. Don't like those days at all!
We had a direct flight from Milwaukee to SF but didn't arrive here until about midnight our time/10 pm CA time. We were all very hungry so after checking into the hotel we ordered some pizza. Needless to say, I didn't get to bed until almost 2 am (our time) which is only a few hours from the time I usually get OUT of bed. My body clock is a mess!
We spent our first morning in SF getting driven around the city on one of those double decker buses. We LOVED it! The nice thing was, we could get on and off as we wished so we had the opportunity to check out some spots.
It was a gorgeous day. Plenty of sunshine and a cool breeze that kept the body temperature in a great place.
The bus drove us through the business district, Nob Hill, Union Square, and Chinatown among others. It was interesting to see such wealth in the Nob Hill area where just a few blocks away in an area called The Tenderloin there were LONG lines to the soup kitchen. It was very sad.
A few stops, we got off the bus and entered a different world in Chinatown! Wow! A friend of ours who is from the bay area recommended we try a restaurant called Sam Wo's. We were able to find it among the many, many shops and restaurants. What an experience!!! We walked into the building and the doorway immediately took us through the kitchen. We were esorted upstairs by a little middle aged Chinese woman who had us sit at 2 seperate tables since there wasn't one to accomodate all 6 of us. This place was, how do I say this, a throwback to many generations ago. It was only about 10 feet across and had maybe 8 tables with short 4-legged stools. In my mind, there was no way this would have passed a health inspection.
So we get our menus and it is difficult to decide what to order since it has so many selections, some of which I'm not familiar with. Finally I decide to order Chow Fun Chicken. I figured how can I go wrong if something has "fun" in the name. It was basically chicken with rice noodles which looked alot like egg noodles. It was FABULOUS. We were all very happy with our meal and were stuffed to the gills when we left.
We continued to wander around Chinatown, visiting a fortune cookie "factory" where we had to pay $.50 for each picture we took of them. It looks as though making fortune cookies is a lot like making the krumkake we make every year. (Only Norwegians and those of Scandinavian decent may know what I am talking about.)

Another interesting sight we saw yesterday was the Westin Hotel where Gerald Ford's assisnation attempt occurred.
We rode the bus back to the bay and walked back to where we had parked the rental. On the way there, Jenna bought some groovy hippie threads. We continued walking to Ghiardelli Square which is up a very steep hill. By this time we had been in the city for 6 hours and our energy had completely left us.
We walked into the ice cream shop and a young woman was standing there with a big container of their famous chocolate. We munched on that while we waited for our ice cream. Its amazing what a little sugar can do for an energy boost!
By this time, we were all ready to return to the hotel and relax. The kids swam in the pool and some of us just laid around.
Today we got everyone up a little early as we had to be to Pier 31 by 9 am to catch a ferry to Alcatraz. We sent about 2 1/2 hours there wandering around the grounds. This is the 3rd time I had been there but I learn something every time I go. So many of the buildings are just shells now, having withstood the salt water and the other elements that have been beating on it for over 130 years.
We all took a tour with headphones to narrate. The recording was done by actual inmates and correctional officers that worked there before it closed in 1963. Working in corrections, its interesting to see the different philosophies that existed then versus now regarding how to deal with criminal behavior.
We returned to the city around 1:30 and went to Bubba Gumps on Pier 39. It was "Okay" foodwise but very expensive.
By this time, all of us were a little too tired for any more adventure so we returned to the hotel for swimming or napping. (Guess which one I chose?)
Sitting here in the business area of the hotel Bob and I just realized there are only 30 days in June so we are leaving here tomorrow and no Friday for our trip to Yosemite! We've got some packing to do!! More later......

Monday, June 28, 2010

Here we go again

Once again we are packing our bags and heading out on a trip. This time we are bringing the whole family.
The summer before our kid's senior year, we let them choose where we will vacation. Jenna, our girl who was born about 30 years too late, chose San Francisco. At first we nixed the idea, thinking what would this family of 6 do in SF for a week. But then we thought, "Why do we offer to take her wherever she wants to go and when she tells us, we say, "No. What's your second choice."
We leave in about 5 hours for a 4 hour drive to the airport. We will spend the 1st 3 days in SF and then drive to Yosemite for a few days.
Looking forward to some family time but still not done packing.
I WILL blog about this trip. I kind of stopped mid trip on the last one. Partly because a huge storm passed through Florida and knocked out our internet connection for the last few days we were there.
The adventure awaits!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sanibel Day Two

We finished up day one with dinner at a restaurant called The Timbers. It has 2 restaurants actually; one more of a sports bar and the other a little fanicer. We opted for the sports bar. Bob had a crunchy shrimp basket, complete with cole slaw and fries. I chose the Pacifica Basa, which is a type of Vietnamese fish (?). The server said it had a very mild flavor. I would say it had no flavor. Very, very bland. Even with a squeeze or 2 of lemon, salt, pepper, butter, I just couldn't taste it. This was no fault of the cook, just how the fish is. It came with veggies and rice (which looked uncannily like the rice-a-roni I prepare at home). I left a little disappointed. I was filled up but my taste buds weren't satisified, you know what I mean? A little frustrating but "oh well".
We were real naughty on that day and decided to have ice cream for the 2nd time (!). This time, we choice a place called Sanibel Scoop. If you can figure out where to park (3 driveways away) and if you can figure out how to get into the building (walk ALL the way around back), you will be greatly pleased. All their ice cream is homemade and they offer about a dozen selections with toppings to mix in, if you chose. I had the brownie batter ice cream with heath bar topping and Bob chose the cake batter with cookie dough mixed in. It was delicious! Very rich, very creamy. Just what I needed after such a bland dinner. The service was great; very friendly high school-age kids. Just lovely. As you can imagine the price was very high. One scoop (which, we were told, is really more like 2 scoops) was $3.25. I just keep saying my mantra, "We're on vacation. We're on vacation."

We returned to our hotel to get a good seat for the sunset. I'm joking here. There is plenty of room to see this magnificence, but boy, everyone comes out for it. We just had our beach towel, planted out butts on it and sat back. It was beautiful. So peaceful. Its funny how quickly the sun goes down. We got some great pictures.

Day 2
Wowie!! What a difference from Day 1. Very, very windy! We got on the beach before 7 am to practice our Sanibel Stope and find us some cool shells. There were quite a few people out there already at that time. We walked for a few miles. Even with the wind it was such a wonderful way to start our day. There is something about the sound of the waves; the rhythmic dance they do. Kind of captivating.
We rode our bikes into town again and did a little shopping. We are looking for a giant conch shell. We recently added on a bathroom and thought it would be not only a nice souvenier but add a nice touch to the decor. We will probably go back to She Sell Seashells by the Seashore to make that purchase.
We stopped by the local grocery store to buy some sandwich meat and buns etc so we can make our own lunches at the hotel. Makes me feel a little less guilty at dinner time when we drop some serious $$.
After lunch we relaxed on the still-windy beach. We drove into town after a few hours of that and got ourselves a real cup of coffe at the Sanibel Bean. We actually topped off our cups before we left so we could have some good stuff to drink this morning. The water in our hotel room is, well, stinky, and it makes a stinky cup of coffee. I am a coffee snob, you know, so that will not do for me. I want to warm it up now as it is around 6 am but Bob is still sleeping and I really don't want to wake him up. I may have to risk it.
So, where was I?
We had planned for last night to be our anniversary celebration so we found a NICE restaurant to have dinner at. After getting some advice from the locals and the regular visitors, we chose The Thistle Lodge. It is a restaurant on the grounds of a nearby resort. It was VERY nice. During our dinner there were 3 weddings going on at the beach. We were voyuers.
Bob chose the Char-Grilled New York Steak Oscar (what is Oscar?) and I had the Hickory Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi Filet. They each came with some very unusual but VERY delicious sides. I wish I could explain how good this food was. Oh my goodness, I wish I was still eating it. For dessert, Bob had the Creme Brulee and I had a Chocolate Molten Lava Cake. Combined with fabulous coffee, these desserts were the perfect end to a perfect meal. Does all this sound expensive? Oh yes. It was. We dropped $100 on this meal. We resolved beforehand not to worry about the price. We will never again celebrate our 20th anniversary so we decided not to care about what it cost but to just go all out. I am completely guilt free.
We hustled back to our hotel to watch another sunset. As we settled down on our beach towel, Bob picked up another shell like the ones we had been looking for. He handed it to me and inside he had hidden this beautiful emerald and diamond ring that he had had made for me. I can't wait to show you. Its gorgeous. Apparently, the emerald is the stone for the 20th anniveresary. (Who knew?) What a wonderful ending to a wonderful evening/anniversary.
W

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sanibel Day One

We made it to Sanibel Island. Its good to be here. I love to travel and visit different places but I am NOT one who likes the actual travel part, the getting to the airport 2 hours before your flight, sitting for another 1 1/2 hours in an airplane, waiting another hour between flights and sitting another 3 hours to get to your final destination. Seems unproductive to me, not a good use of my time. The only thing I managed to accomplish yesterday was to consume a large amount of calories and burn off about 0. Oh well, we are here now. We got in about 4:45 and arrived at our hotel around 6 pm. We found a little pizza place called Island Pizza. It was pretty good actually. Its funny to read consumer reviews. One says, "Horrible. Go somewhere else." and the next one says, "Best pizza I ever had."
We wandered around the main strip a little while and took our first walk on the beach.
This morning we woke up around 7 am and took about a 2 mile walk on the beach. It was so lovely and peaceful. We quickly noticed what we had been told; there are lots and lots of shells on the beach here. We quickly became experts at the Sanibel Stope which is a term locals give to visitors when they bend over to pick up the beautiful shells.
We also noticed flocks of pelicans and also saw a school of dolphins in the distance.
After our walk and after breakfast we borrowed a couple of the hotel's bikes and hit the trails. I was really looking forward to this part of the trip and it didn't disappoint. We rode for about an hour and a half and made a pit stop at the Sanibel Bean. The espresso chip ice cream was fab. We rode back to the hotel and spent several hours on the beach. Tonight we will drive to Captiva and find another restaurant to experience.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Trip time

Its here. The day we leave for the trip. We will drive to Moline tonight and fly out tomorrow morning. I haven't quite reached my goal but came close. As of this morning, I am down 11 pounds. I have been sitting at 10-10 1/2 for about 3 weeks which is frustrating but at least I've not been gaining. I need to kick it in gear when I get home and get back to good eating habits. I will also need to start training for RAGBRAI so that should help. I will try to blog each morning so Brenda has something to read while she drinks her coffee.