Annual Summer Trip to Michigan

Despite Lucas’s apprehension about his 3rd year at SJC, the whole family made the trip to Michigan in August. My plan was to press re-play on my amazing week last year, but JP wasn’t available to be my golf partner-in-crime, so I had to recruit a new ride-or-die: Grace.

We always try to head east a few days early so the kids can get acclimated to the timezone change, which gives them some QT with Grandma and Grandpa at their place. The wide open spaces are never lost on them and we make the most of it. Aunt Jen was home, too, which made it even more fun.

Lucas could not like sandwiches less, but he persevered at Zingerman’s. We paid a visit to M Den, as we swap out their old Adidas gear for new Nike swag. We were also lucky to spend a little time with the Feleses and the Milano-Sessines, the latter of whom were coincidentally in town for a family visit.

On Sunday after dropping the kids at camp, Grace and I got on the road for the two-hour trip west to Arcadia Bluffs for our afternoon tee time. The nice thing about twilight golf there is that they play bagpipes while you look for your ball. We spent two nights there and enjoyed both the dining and accommodations. On Monday, Eddie, Ethan and Dr. Lee drove up from Ludington to make our foursome in the morning. Grace joined me in the afternoon for my second 18 of the day.

On Tuesday, Grace decided she had enough golf and flew to NYC for work from Traverse City. I drove her up there in the morning and turned right back around to head down to Ludington to play golf with Eddie, Emma and Ethan. We had dinner at the club with the entire family. I got on the road with the intention of driving back to West Bloomfield, but Ed called and talked me out of it. Once again, I was rooming with Ethan in the basement.

Wednesday, I did make it back home and hung out with my parents. On Thursday, I had breakfast with Jon and Greg in Ann Arbor. While waiting for my coffee, I made a call to Forest Dunes and found that there were afternoon tee times available, so I drove up there myself, played 18 and had dinner with Paula, David, Jeanah and Christine. I stayed there overnight and had the first tee time as a single on the new Loop course, which is supposedly the only reversible course in the US. I totally forgot it was walking only and what I envisioned as a two hour speed round turned into a three hour stroll looking for my ball. I was officially golfed-out.

The rest of my trip was my high school reunion, which was another highlight of the week. The beginning and middle were great, too. Can’t wait to do it all again next year.

Week in Tahoe with the Moons

We’ve had many Tahoe adventures with the Moons over the years. Now that their home is finally ready, we were honored to be the first guests to break in the house (figuratively and literally). I guess the real honor goes to Ed’s bachelor party, but there wasn’t a speck of glitter anywhere, so it’s like it never happened.

We arrived on Monday and had lunch at the family barn, which is just a short walk from their home. It wasn’t hard to keep busy for a week with so much to do. The kids got started on a fort, which kept them busy throughout the week. Olivia is really wanting a dog, so spending time with Thando was good practice.

On Tuesday, Elin, Mike and I took the kids to the ropes course, which was challenging and a lot of fun for everyone. It’s a little bit Truman Show to be able to either fish or go bowling only 100 yards apart, but those were our options in the afternoon. Elin took Nico and Lucas bowling while Alex, Olivia and I went fishing. We heard they’re getting smarter and they did prove hard to catch. I got lucky and snagged a 10-12″ trout. Eventually the others found us and both Nico and Olivia hooked a fish but both fell off before landing them.

On July 4th, Mike wanted to go on a hike/adventure he had heard about at Crystal Peak. Apparently, the Crystal Mine trail ends on a mountain of quartz, which is there for the taking (one bucket-full per car per day). We had no real idea where we were going and there was a dispute between Google Maps, Waze and the internet. We also ended up off-roading for miles and had read that the last part of the trail required 4-wheel drive and clearance. I think we looked a bit out of place with all of the 4-wheel dune buggies whizzing by, but we made it all the way up. The kids thought it was fun.

There was no real objective when looking at a huge pile of rocks, so we told them to start digging up a huge crystal embedded in the mountain. That kept them busy for an hour or so (not even close to dislodging it). Eventually they started to search for and collect clear crystals, which were also hard to come by. After a couple hours, we decided to head out and went out a different way, which we were hoping was a little easier on the car. It wasn’t. The rugged terrain lulled everyone to sleep for what turned out to be a 65-mile drive deep into Nevada and back to Tahoe.

Grace brought a lot of food, which included a colorful 4th of July BBQ featuring Fred Steaks. We finished early enough to head down to Tahoe City to catch the fireworks. Things didn’t get underway until well past 9:30pm when it got truly dark out. Of the 600+ photos I took on the trip, it’s possible that 300+ were of fireworks. I posted one, which still looks terrible. I think the iPhone has those nailed.

Thursday, we wanted to go to the beach on Lake Tahoe. Thando was joining us, so it had to be dog-friendly, which ruled out our usual Sand Harbor. Mike determined that Chimney Beach was the place to go, but it has limited parking so we got a very early start and were one of the first people there. Elin and I were trying to guess the water temperature in both Celsius and Fahrenheit. Either way, it was super cold, but the kids and Elin braved it (well, Lucas was less brave). We stopped at the Lone Eagle restaurant in Incline Village for lunch, which was well deserved after the big hike back to the cars. Clara, Mike, Grace and I had one adults-only dinner out at Plumpjack Cafe at Squaw Valley.

Friday, we played putt-putt, which wasn’t the hit it through the windmill type, but rather real greens meandering through the neighborhood. There was a lot of slope to the greens, which resulted in some big scores. Some of the group stopped after 9 holes, but Elin, Nico, Lucas and I pressed on to finish 18. There was a great family festival going on, which kept the kids busy for a while. Mike, Grace and I left early to play real golf. The Martis Camp course is so beautiful and is in amazing condition (until we came along). Mike got some advice to stay out of the bunkers, which was sage. It didn’t help.

On Saturday, we had one last meal together and prepared to head home to the real world. The kids were excited to show us their fort, which was a legit lean-to. We were sad to leave after such a fun-filled week with our gracious hosts. Thank you, Moons, for another amazing vacation together.

Spring Break in Southern California

After traveling a bit this winter to ski, we decided to stay local for Spring Break. We didn’t have any firm plans and after a great trip to Tahoe a few weeks ago, skiing was put on the table. However, the weather was a bit unpredictable, so we stayed with the original plan, which was to go to Southern California.

What didn’t go as planned was our departure. Grace arranged to have lunch with her parents, which would have meant about a 7am departure. Given that we don’t pack until the day of, our actual departure was about 11:30am. We only made it about 1 mile before our first stop for lunch. After that, we drove straight with no stops to meet Grace’s parents for dinner instead in Koreatown at Chosun Galbee (always). We continued another hour to Laguna Niguel.

Part of our trip was coordinated with Julie and Albert, who were originally going to stay at Monarch Beach. After they changed plans, we just decided to stay at Grace’s parents’ house, which was empty. The next best thing to staying at Pelican Hill is having your friends stay there and crash their party – for two straight days.

On Monday after swimming over there, we celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary at Monarch Beach Resort, which was formerly the St. Regis when we got married there. The decor is a little more modern and the restaurants are new. Bourbon Steak replaced the previous Michael Mina restaurant. I had informed them of our celebration and they took very good care of us for the evening. We’ve been to the resort a few times over the years, but hopefully this is a visit the kids will remember.

On Tuesday, the Lees had a setup at Crystal Cove beach and invited us over. The kids played for a while with the Lees and their cousins before retreating to the full-servicesness of the pool at the resort. Thanks to Julie and Albert for hosting us during our OC visit.

Tuesday evening we called an audible with Beth and Ryan, who live very close to Grace’s parents’ house in Laguna Niguel. We met up at 230 Forest in downtown Laguna Beach. It was great to catch up with them and see Sloane and Alex, who have grown so much since our last visit.

Wednesday we migrated back to LA with a stop in Manhattan Beach, where we stuck to the routine of Rock N’ Fish, beach and the creamery. The only thing we forgot were the beach chairs, but we bought a much needed umbrella from the same guy who was selling fruit every other time we saw him. Grace wanted to check out Venice Beach on the way up, but by the time we got there it was so windy that we didn’t want to get out of the car.

We had dinner at Century City, which was our new new home for the next couple days. We went to Rock Sugar for dinner on Wednesday and Toscanova for lunch on Thursday. Thursday afternoon, we went to Ann and Jeremy’s who were joining us for dinner with Grace’s family and Dave to celebrate her mom’s and Dave’s birthdays at Del Frisco’s in Santa Monica.

After completing some IT projects at the Westwood house, we met up with Dave and Grace’s parents back at Republique on La Brea, where we ate last year. There was no Fonzie sighting this year, but the food was just as good. Following lunch, we hit the road for home. We did have to make one quick stop for gas, but it was otherwise a non-stop trip to home. The only thing that saved me was trying out adaptive cruise control for the first time. I admit that I didn’t trust it at first to slow down, but after some testing, I realized it was life-changing. I can live with semi-autonomous cars for now.

Annual Tahoe Trip with the Moons

This past weekend we made our first trip to Tahoe for the season thanks to a late winter snow storm. We coordinated with the Moons and looked into renting a house or condo, but with Thando joining the family, we needed something dog friendly. Luckily the hotel was happy to have him.

We stopped at Il Fornaio in Roseville on Friday night and didn’t get into the hotel until about 10:30pm. Saturday morning we got a relatively early start (given we were on the mountain already). It snowed all day and most of the night, dumping about 9 inches on top of a recent storm that brought over five feet of much needed snow.

Their friends Elisa and Don were also at the resort, so we had dinner together on Saturday night. Each of us got a turn with the baby, Olivia being the most successful. On Sunday, we got out early again and skied hard for a few hours on the most and best snow of the season. The powder in the glades was the best. Lucas and Olivia made so much progress this season, which was proven on the same mogul run we did a couple seasons ago. Grace is also doing great on her form.

We thought this might be our last trip of the season, but now skiing is on the table for spring break. Who knows what will happen with the snow and weather between now and then. In any case, it was a great trip with the Moons  with some of the most memorable runs of the year.

Colorado Ski Trip with WB Guys

This past weekend Steve, Scott, Herb and I met again in Beaver Creek for our annual ski trip. We had a great time last year in Colorado, so we decided to head back again. We were missing some of our regulars, but four was still a great number on the slopes.

Friday was Steve’s birthday and although we didn’t convene until Saturday, his request was to watch the Michigan Basketball game. This year, we had a large suite at the Westin (where we usually stay). Rather than go out, we just watched the game in the room and ordered room service. It was a stressful game right up until Poole’s buzzer beater. We went nuts.

On Sunday, we skied at Beaver Creek. The conditions were a little firm, but the snow was infinitely better than it was back in December. We had dinner at Splendido, which I had been wanting to try for a while.

It snowed a lot starting Sunday afternoon and throughout the evening. Although it snowed 7″ in Beaver Creek, we opted to go to Vail, which received 5″ of fresh snow. We covered a lot of ground and had a great day on the mountain as it continued to snow. Sunday night, we had dinner at Grouse Mountain Grill, where we celebrated Nick’s birthday last year.

On Monday, we skied again at Beaver Creek, which receive another couple of inches overnight. We did some laps on Larkspur in the morning, which we hadn’t tried yet. The snow was amazing. Before lunch, Steve, Herb and I went up Grouse Mountain and skied Royal Elk Glade (at Eddie’s suggestion). It was the best run of the week – lots of run and everyone made it down safely. We met Scott for lunch before heading up again for one last run down Royal Elk Glade again.

Herb was staying an extra night, so Steve, Scott and I left around 3pm to get back to Denver for our flights. Another great trip is in the books. We’re already talking about next year and hope more of the team will join us.

Ski Week in Whistler and Vancouver

We’ve been dealing with drought off and on the past several years and have thus chosen to travel for the kids’ ski week vs. going to Tahoe (although last year was epic). After the debacle in Beaver Creek before the holidays, I kept a close eye on the snow report across the various ski resorts. It seemed that Whistler was the only resort having a “normal” winter in terms of snow fall.

After we made our plans, it seemed like Utah and Colorado caught up a bit, but we were still happy to be able to try a new mountain. We actually had traveled to Vancouver before for our Alaskan cruise with the Parks several years ago. Lucas was only 2, so he wouldn’t have remembered anything and even Olivia probably didn’t recall much.

Our flight to Vancouver was delayed a few hours, so we decided to eat in the city before heading up to Whistler. I made plans for us to go to an early dinner at Market by Jean-Georges. We ended up having a later dinner there instead. Lucas declared it one of his best meals ever. Although it was too dark to see the stunning drive Whistler, the roads were at least empty, which made it go by fast.

We skied Monday to Thursday together. We’re not really a first chair kind of family and somehow each day we got on the gondola later and later. On our last run on Tuesday, we went into the terrain park and I realized the day before we had gone through the “M” of S, M and L and lived to tell about it. I didn’t think too much of it the second time except I did scrub some speed off the first big jump and landed it fine right in front of Olivia. Feeling confident, I went for the second big jump and somehow did NOT make the landing.

In a split-second, I hit the top of the jump hard, double-ejected and face planted after falling forward about 135 degrees down the ramp. It would have been bad enough, but I was wearing my camera around my neck and basically body-slammed it into my ribcage. I could not breath, and when Olivia came down, she could not stop laughing. I was so wrecked. After I verified that I was still alive, Lucas came down and was trying to push my skis down to me when someone came and gave us an assist. He asked if I was okay because he saw the whole thing. I really wish there was video of it because it was so epic. I haven’t crashed like that in … well, ever.

On Wednesday, we met up with my POPSUGAR buddy, Chris. We got in one run together at the end of the day. Even though I said I retired from the terrain park, the kids made me go in there again to face my fears. I stuck to the “S” route and made it down safely. It wasn’t until Thursday that I really started to feel injured. I went to the top of Blackcomb by myself for the last run of the day and limped down the mountain as I had trouble breathing on my right side.

On Friday, I did pretty much get on the first gondola and went straight up and over to Blackcomb (“Do you guys want to go with me? No? Okay, see you later”). I got lucky as when I arrived at the Peak-to-Peak gondola, the glass-bottom car had just arrived. It was cool and terrifying at the same time. Unfortunately, the lift to the top was closed due to the weather, so I did a few laps until it finally opened. I took one last run from the top of 7th Heaven before we packed up and headed out.

We had planned to spend one night in Vancouver to check it out. We had a great dinner at Lupo near our hotel. On Saturday, Grace bought us tickets for some attraction at the same port where we got on the Disney cruise ship. It was “Fly Over Canada,” which was basically a light version of that Disney Avatar ride that wrecked me over Thanksgiving. I was destroyed, so Liv and I went back to the hotel while Lucas and Grace went to the park and Science Center.

We ate our last two meals in the hotel at Honey Salt, which was excellent. There’s one in Vegas, so we’ll have to check it out there. We had a late flight home, which was delayed a bit. After someone took one of our our ski bags by accident, we didn’t get home until about 1am. Everyone was very happy to be home, mostly to see Luna!

We’re definitely going to keep Whistler in the rotation for ski week if climate change continues to conspire against us in Tahoe.

Skiing in Beaver Creek and Vail before Christmas

The kids had the week off before Christmas so we decided to ski again before the holidays. We had settled on Beaver Creek, but didn’t make our plans until the last minute. I was showing the kids the World Cup, which was held in Beaver Creek at the end of November and it seemed fine. It wasn’t until after we made our arrangements and checked the weather that I found out there was hardly any snow and very little open. Uh oh.

We were locked in, so we just decided to make the best of it. Like last year, we were on our way to our holiday destination (Michigan this year), so we had 8 bags of luggage on the way there, as Elin was joining us for the week. Thankfully it all fit in the car. We have bad luck on I-70 as the road was closed at the Eisenhower Tunnel and we were forced to take the Loveland Pass, which caused a little delay.

On the way there I saw that our old friends, Betty and Andrew were already in Beaver Creek so we hoped to meet up. When we arrived at the mountain the next morning, they were the first people we saw. We met up with them again at lunch as they were leaving the next day.

The kids didn’t get to show Elin all their favorite runs because none of them were open. Despite that, there was still plenty of terrain to ride and we spent the whole week working on our turns (and hockey stop for Lucas). For months I was getting Lucas mentally ready to ski parallel this year. Up until this year, he skied a very wide stance, which made skiing parallel virtually impossible. We started with hockey stops (on both sides) and lots of sliding. I realized that both Olivia and Lucas could turn and stop pretty well when going right, but going left, not so much. From then on, they were only allowed to stop left (though there wasn’t full compliance).

We stayed at the Westin in Beaver Creek again and got a little more space for the five of us. We finally made it to Grouse Mountain Grill as a family, which I enjoyed for Nick’s birthday during the last season. On our third day, we skied a half day and headed over to Vail to watch Star Wars. Afterwards, Arthur invited us over for dinner. It was great to spend time with his mom and his sister’s family, who we see often in Vail.

We skied Vail on Thursday. The coverage was surprisingly thinner than Beaver Creek and it was a day of unsuccessfully avoiding rocks. Arthur made it out in the afternoon for a few runs together. We had more meals at some familiar places as well as tried some new restaurants in Vail during the week.

By week’s end, it snowed a few more inches and actually got quite cold. The last afternoon on Saturday were the windiest conditions in which I’ve skied (seemingly hurricane force). But, it was only my second chance during the week to let my new skis run as Grace and the kids called it a day early.

Even though the snow wasn’t the best (i.e., the worst), we still had a great time and both kids made great progress on their form and speed. I’d call it a success. Can’t wait to get back on the mountain under better conditions.

Thanksgiving 2017 in Orlando with the Parks

We spent only our second destination Thanksgiving in Orlando, FL last week. Coincidentally, the first was with the Rhees in Miami Beach, FL five years ago. Our family and Elin went down a little early to spend a few days at Universal Studios. We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel, which was very close to the park.

The kids were most excited about Harry Potter, even though we already enjoyed the lite version in Hollywood over Spring Break. Orlando’s Diagon Alley did not disappoint. The weather was amazing the day we went. Our family lost steam around dinner time. We had dinner at Citywalk before heading back to the hotel. Elin, however, wanted to hit every ride and got most of them in by riding until closing time.

The next day, it was raining, but we still went to the pool anyway. It would have helped a bit if it was warmer, but the kids didn’t seem to mind too much. After swimming, we made a game time call to see Wonder. Afterwards, we had dinner across the street at The Portofino.

The third day we just had breakfast and packed up to move over to Disney. We went over to the Hilton next door to use their pool, which had a lazy river and a slide. Addy, Charles, the kids, and Dave all arrived and met us there. We tried to have dinner at Disney Springs with no reservation, but ended up just eating back at the hotel lobby.

On Thanksgiving, my plans to eat nothing until dinner was thwarted by a nice lunch at Eddie V’s. We hit the pool at our hotel in the afternoon, which had less amenities but was at least heated. We had Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel restaurant, which is not our style, but still a lot easier for those who usually cook and or clean. Our main motivation for visiting Orlando was to see Grace’s mom’s brother, Ben, who lives there. We were happy that he joined us for our family dinner. This was Elin’s first American Thanksgiving, which she hopefully enjoyed.

Black Friday was spent at Disney World. It was my first visit there since 1980, which was before Epcot was even built. We planned this part of the trip terribly, as we just bought our tickets and had virtually no fast passes reserved among our big group. Our plan to mitigate this was to catch the first shuttle to the Disney, which meant a pre-dawn wakeup.

The main attraction Charles wanted to ride was the new Avatar-themed Pandora attraction. We didn’t exactly elbow our way into the park or run to the ride. By the time we were in line, it was already a 3-hour wait. Oof. Thankfully, everyone was patient (including the Grandparents). I don’t do well on these 4D rides. It was pretty amazing, but I’m still queasy. The kids and Elin loved it. We took it a little easier in the Animal Kingdom and did some Safari ride. Because the damage was done, even the Dinosaur ride was painful to me. We did actually have 3pm fast passes for Pandora, so Elin, Addy, Olivia, Lucas and Cameron rode it again.

We all headed over to Epcot for dinner. It was my first visit there. We then rode the monorail back to the transit center. Olivia, Lucas and Grace’s parents were done at this point, so I took them back to the hotel. The rest of the group headed over to the Magic Kingdom to check it out and watch the grand finale. Everyone was impressed.

On our last full day together, we finally made it into Morimoto Asia for lunch. Afterwards, half the group went back to Disney World for another day and night at the park. Elin had a Fast Pass at 11:30pm at Space Mountain and didn’t make it home until late. The kids, Grace, Dave, Grace’s Dad and I went to the pool for a bit. We were back at Disney Springs for a healthy meal of fried everything at Art Smith’s.

Sunday, we packed up, and headed out of Disney for the last time. What we didn’t know was that our flight was going to be delayed about 4 hours, which made for a long rest at the Orlando airport. The one good thing about it was running into my long lost b-school buddy, Ted, who was on his way back to Austin.

As always, we have so much for which to be thankful and now this amazing trip  with family is also on the list.

Work Hiatus Golf in San Francisco and Las Vegas

For the first time ever, I took off a little time between jobs. By first time, I mean the first time when I voluntarily changed jobs vs. being laid off or unemployed. Somehow, I found myself quite busy during this time, as Grace gave me a big punch list of things to do around the house and for the family. Honestly, I didn’t knock it all out, but I did my best and made some progress. It also helped that I didn’t have a car to fix.

First, big shout out to my buddy Albert who took off several stealth days from work, including the first and last days of official time off to golf with me. We got in a round at Half Moon Bay on day 1 (Erich also joined that day) as well as a couple rounds at Harding Park in San Francisco. I also got in one solo round of contemplation during week one.

For the last hurrah, Eddie met me in Las Vegas for 5 days. I can’t tell you how relaxing it was relative to our normal itinerary, which usually involves break-of-dawn golf, pool with the kids, dinners, etc. (i.e., too tired to gamble). Aside from our morning tee times, we had no agenda. We got in four rounds of golf at Bear’s Best, Royal Links, Paiute Wolf and Coyote Springs. The weather was perfect for golf in the desert.

Each day we had lunch when we were done and dinner whenever we were hungry. We had great meals in the Encore/Wynn where we stayed and also ventured off the property to Carnevino (best lamb chops ever) and a romantic dinner outdoors at Mon Ami Gabi. We had some fun in between, but truthfully, we were in bed by 10pm on day one and got crushed on day three, also resulting in an early night. Although we see each other once and sometimes twice a year, we gathered that we haven’t traveled alone together in over two decades when he was single and still in medical school. It was QT with my ride or die.

Although I technically rolled right into a family vacation for Thanksgiving, my hiatus is all but over. I’m already having dreams about work. I’m very thankful for this time off, for the big pass Grace gave me, and for the time friends made for me.

I may never play golf again… (until ski season is over, that is).

3rd Annual End of Summer Airstream Trip: Utah and Malibu

Our Airstream adventures have been the highlight of our last couple summers, so it has been my intention to make it a ritual. I declared myself Captain of the trip, but the Admiral tried to take the RV trip off the summer agenda. The kids and I had a secret vote to reinstate it. Everything was still up in the air in the weeks leading up to the trip as the Admiral requested for the trip to be moved up because of work travel, which only allowed one day between our Michigan and RV trips. Right up until departure, Grace was suggesting Yosemite, Crater Lake, Tahoe again, not Vegas, not Utah, etc.

It. Is. Exhausting.

Eventually, everyone got on board, both literally and figuratively. This summer, I was determined to venture beyond our Northern California backyard as there’s so much of our country to see. My goal was to visit some national parks in southern Utah.

Our trip happened to coincide with the great eclipse of 2017, so the entire fleet of Airstreams was booked. I emailed Brian earlier this summer and he let me know the 25′ was available and that they had rebranded their company to “Go Silver.” We enjoyed the 27′ we rented last year, but we found out it wasn’t available because Elaine and Brian were living in it! We figured after the 20′ and 27′, perhaps the 25′ would be just right. It was a 2015 model and the biggest upgrades were the power awning and ducted HVAC, which was much quieter.

After returning from Michigan, it was a tight turn of laundry and packing, but we had the car loaded up on Wednesday on schedule to pick up the RV at 10am. The pick up time was what was actually limiting us on how far we could get on day one. Trying to get all the way to Utah would have meant not only a long day, but also a late arrival. All routes pointed to a stop in Las Vegas.

We made good time toward Las Vegas, but one thing I hadn’t measured in the past was our gas mileage. Our longest drives were to and from Tahoe and we always made it on one tank of gas. Not only was this our longest haul ever, but we were on the open road and moving quickly. I experienced first hand the exponential nature of the force of air resistance and could barely get 250 miles on a tank at cruising speed. With one quick stop for lunch and gas and another as we got closer to Vegas, we pulled into Las Vegas Oasis RV Resort right at dusk. The gilded lobby was a little over the top, but it was clean, had many amenities, was lined with palm trees, and was less than $24/day!

We spent only a few minutes getting hooked up before setting straight out for dinner at Allegro at the Wynn hotel. By the time we got back, the kids were ready for bed. The next morning, we only had time for brunch, which was back at the Wynn. It didn’t take us long to get underway for our short haul (2 1/2 hours) to Utah.

We stayed about 13 miles from the entrance to Zion National Park at the Zion River Resort. It was the nicest park at which we’ve stayed and we had a great corner lot that backed up to the river. After settling in, we went straight into town to rent gear for our first hike, which was through The Narrows. We each rented boots, neoprene socks and a walking stick. We had our first dinner in the RV and the kids enjoyed the pool before ending the night with a campfire and s’mores.

The key to hiking the narrows aside from having the right gear is to get an early start. The first shuttle is at 6:00am. We were not that aggressive, but we were waiting on one by about 7:20am. The advantages of an early start are to beat the crowds and also the heat. It’s always 10-15 degrees cooler in the narrows, so layers are necessary. After a 40 minute ride to the last stop on the shuttle, we were on the Riverside Walk trail, which is about a mile to the gateway to the Narrows. From there, it’s another mile and a half to Wall Street. We took several breaks and when we finally made it to Wall Street, we had lunch there before turning around. I was proud of the crew for making it that far without too much complaint (aside from being cold, which was understandable). It was much warmer as we emerged from The Narrows. Hopefully the kids will go back one day and go farther beyond Wall Street.

We had some down time that afternoon and earned a nice dinner out in town. The kids enjoyed Spiderman Homecoming earlier this month, so I thought it was time to get them caught up on the Avengers universe. There’s some different views on the order in which to watch the movies, but I downloaded about 10 movies for this trip, starting with “Captain America: The First Avenger.” We watched parts in the evenings and during breaks. Everyone was pretty wiped out after this first day of hiking.

The second day we had an even more ambitious day of hiking planned. Even though it didn’t require as much planning or equipment, I still wanted to get an early start to beat the heat. I read about the Angel’s Landing hike and saw some YouTube videos of the last half mile. I’m a pretty risk-loving person, but the prospects of death seemed a little too high to complete the hike. Scout Lookout is about 2 miles up the same trail and ascends 1,100 feet. That seemed like plenty for our crew, especially Lucas. It started out cool, but it quickly got hot, especially in the sun. Olivia was just cruising along, but Lucas did struggle a bit, so we took breaks often to rest and hydrate. It was a tough slog and Olivia and I went ahead for a bit and finally got the last steep ascent up “Walter’s Wiggles,” which are a series of switchbacks up to the landing. We waited for Lucas and Grace and when we saw them coming up, we went to the top where we waited for them there. Everyone had a snack and a rest before we took some photos. In general, the descent was easier, but Lucas was running out of gas, we were running out of water, and I was anxious to get to a cold beverage. I gave him a little assist on the way down, for which he was especially appreciative. Olivia and Lucas ended the hike with a short wade into the river to cool off.

We had a late checkout from the RV park, so we had lunch in town before heading back to pack up and start heading to our next destination, which was Bryce Canyon. It was only about a 2-hour drive to Bryce from Zion, which went through the park. We had dinner again in the RV and rested again after our big day of hiking.

During our only full day in Bryce Canyon, we took the shuttle from Ruby’s Inn RV Park to a few stops within the park. The kids were pretty hiked out at this point, so we got around by bus to the major view points. The rain (and light hail) seemed to follow us, so our visit was a little rushed. We had lunch at the lodge and once it started to really thunder and rain, we headed back for a leisurely afternoon. The only other thing I had planned was an ATV ride, which will have to wait until next time. I think we watched 2 1/2 Avengers movies that day. We had a nice dinner at Stone Hearth Grille before calling it a night.

The following morning, we were up early to head to our last destination: Malibu. It was about 9 hours total driving time, but took 11.5 with stops including lunch in Las Vegas at … you guessed it, the Wynn. This time, we pulled up to valet parking with the Airstream in tow and the valets had a chuckle. They were prepared for visitors like us and a runner took me to the “flat lot” and gave me a ride back to the hotel. We had lunch at Grace’s favorite, Wazuzu, which is on the Encore side where we usually stay. After a quick gelato stop, we were back on our way.

I’m not usually a big podcast guy, but I listened to Serial on one road trip to LA. On this trip, Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History” helped pass the time. Most of it was really interesting and the kids even listened here and there. It finished just as we got into California, so it was Spotify until we pulled into Malibu Beach RV Park around dusk. After a long day of travel, we had a really nice dinner at The Sunset Restaurant on Zuma Beach.

Tuesday morning, Grace’s parents drove out to Malibu to visit us and have breakfast together. They got a kick out of the Airstream and enjoyed the view. Despite living in LA for over a couple decades, they rarely made it to Malibu. We traded last year’s Marin Country Mart for the Malibu Country Mart this year and had a nice brunch at Marmalade Cafe. Afterwards, we tried to go to the beach across from the RV park, but playing frogger across PCH seemed deathly, so we drove back to Zuma Beach instead. The Sunset Restaurant was right there, so we enjoyed a light late lunch there. Back at the RV, the kids made up a game of interpretive dance where the themes were Disney and Star Wars. I won one round before fading into a coma. After some rest (i.e., more Avengers movies), we had a late dinner at Mastro’s Ocean Club, which was down on the PCH.

I’m glad I got up at sunrise on Tuesday to take some pictures because the marine layer was thick on Wednesday before we left. We went back to Marin Country Mart for a quick breakfast before packing up everything for good and heading north to return the Airstream in San Jose.

I say this often, but this was one of our best trips ever. We covered a lot of ground (pretty painlessly), visited a couple of our most beautiful national parks, and enjoyed a quiet part of LA on the ocean. Most importantly, we were all together, enjoying each other’s company (mostly) in very close quarters. I’m so glad Grace stayed the entire trip with us (she had planned to leave in the middle). I didn’t miss staying in a hotel at all and love how easy it is to visit spectacular places with the Airstream. I hope we continue our adventures for as long as the kids are interested. Next year, we’re going north, way north! Let me know if you’re ready to caravan.

Caution: 8 days on the road visiting national parks and the California coast results in over 200 photos.