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.

Epic Michigan Golf Tour

After dropping Lucas and Olivia off at camp, I had absolutely no where to be. Joseph (JP) and I have been contemplating this situation for some time. Still, we had no real plans.

We’ve been wanting to play Arcadia Bluffs for a while, but the opportunity didn’t arise until just a day or so before camp when a cancellation opened a spot on Monday. We left JP’s car at camp and headed to Crystal Mountain, which was not far from Arcadia Bluffs. When we arrived, we headed straight to the pro shop and got in a full round on the Mountain Course well before dark.

Eddie was visiting his parents in Ludington, which is about an hour away. On Monday, he and Ethan rounded out our foursome at Arcadia Bluffs. Despite living most of my life in Michigan, I had only laid eyes on Lake Michigan from the Michigan side a few times. I wasn’t quite prepared for how beautiful everything was: the lake, the elevation, and the links course nestled in the golden heather. Even though it was a tough course, JP went low and was actually under par through 9. Wow. I got our money’s worth on a per stroke basis. We all had lunch together and then JP and I decided to replay. We got in a solid 15 holes before we called it due to darkness. The wind had kicked up towards the end of the first round, but by late afternoon it was calm and beautiful as could be.

We had also secured a tee time for Tuesday. However, the one thing that didn’t go our way was that we wanted a room at AB, but it was booked (we only asked about 20 times during the day about cancellations). Graciously, Dr. and Mrs. Lee invited us over to their house, so we headed to Ludington. We got there late and stayed up even later being entertained by JP. On Wednesday morning, JP had to switch sports to tennis along with the entire Lee family. I went in search of coffee and postcards for the kids. We played golf at the Lees’ club, Lincoln Hills, followed by dinner together. We couldn’t have been more thankful for all their hospitality while we were golfing vagabonds.

Jen happened to be in Traverse City visiting friends, so we headed there to see them out at the bar. JP hit a wall like I’ve never seen (he’s usually always high octane), so we found a place to stay in downtown TC. Somehow he mustered some energy for 11pm ice cream. The next day we decided to play “The Bear” at the Grand Traverse, which was also a first for me. It was difficult, but fun. We had already payed for a reply when JP got the bat signal from our friend Anita that she was in town but had to head back to NY early. We changed gears and drove 3.5 hours back towards my parents house to meet up at Christine’s house.

JP now had the opportunity to entertain my parents for a couple days. We played U of M on Thursday (exactly a year to the day from our last round there). We had dinner at home together with Jen and cancelled our Friday golf plans at Forest Dunes. Our luck continued when a room finally opened up at Forest Dunes, which is the resort at which we stayed last year with Grace and YY. We got rained out then, so we were determined to play there this year. JP fancies himself a very lucky guy and true to form, when we checked in, they put us in a two-bedroom cottage because there was a group of 24 dudes that were expected to be a little rowdy. Perfect!

We finally got our last round together in at Forest Dunes, which didn’t disappoint. There was a lot of trouble and the greens were fast. The good news was that I made it through the whole week with only the balls I brought (and found of course).

I haven’t played this much golf since my honeymoon (Grace is the best). I just can’t see why this doesn’t become the annual ritual while the kids are in camp. We’re currently accepting applications for our 3rd and 4th players.

Visiting Family and Friends in Michigan

There were three reasons for our annual trip home to Michigan:

  1. Visiting Michigan grandparents, seeing aunt Jen, and catching up with friends.
  2. Attending Sae Jong Camp
  3. My golf tour of Michigan

Last year, because we attended a reunion before camp, the kids didn’t feel like they had enough time at grandma and grandpa’s house. Thus, this year we went a few days early not only to adjust to the time, but also to spend quality time with family and friends.

Highlights:

  • Grace’s parents happened to be traveling back to LA from Michigan as we were landing, so they met us at the gate to say hello. Our flight was delayed, so we only had time to walk them down to their gate. Still, it was a great surprise for all of us.
  • My mom always likes to cook the kids’ favorite foods. Olivia’s best compliment to her was that we were so lucky to grow up with such great food. This is true!
  • We visited with the Melanie and Nick for a bit and Randy also came over.
  • Last year, I took my dad downtown to explore. This year, the kids and I took my mom. We went back to midtown and had lunch at Jolly Pumpkin and also visited the Shinola store for some souvenirs. The kids were also mesmerized by an actual turntable (hint hint, Santa).
  • We tried flying our kites again, but it was futile. I’ve done it many times as a kid back there, but now I think the forest has grown too tall and was blocking the wind. The kids never tire of my childhood elementary school playground.
  • We met up with the Feleses again for dinner and dessert at Stroh’s. We wouldn’t have another chance because they were off to Spain for an awesome summer adventure.
  • On Saturday, we met Jea and Eddie’s family in Ann Arbor. Jea and Emma were touring Chicago colleges and then everyone met up to visit Michigan in Ann Arbor. We had lunch together at Zingerman’s (check!)
  • Our golf tour included a detour to Ludington. Eddie’s parents invited me and Joe to stay at their place. I hadn’t been there in well over 20 years. Top Gun was being screened as we arrived. We slumber partied with Ethan in the basement like we were all 13 years old. We got the full Ludington experience, including tennis, lunch and golf.
  • After bringing the kids back from camp, I went to Michigan to have brunch with Fran and Jon. The Brimhalls were visiting their old hood from their new hood in Telluride.
  • Finally, on our last day, Kristen and Scott happened to be home visiting Scott’s parents, so we met up with Riley and Natalie in Birmingham.

For as much as we squeezed in, there wasn’t enough time to see everyone. We’ll be back in December for the holidays and will hopefully have a chance to see more friends then.

Summer Vacation Kickoff in Las Vegas

We’ve been starting summer the last couple years in Carmel. However, my parents came to visit for a few weeks, so we decided to take them on one of our Vegas excursions. Jen was needed to complete team Rhee, so she came out to CA and flew with us.

Our Vegas crew also includes Jea and Eddie. I’ve been asking them for years to bring the kids, which is always harder for our normal Spring or Fall trips. We planned this after school was out for everyone, so Emma, Ethan and Audrey finally made their debut in Las Vegas. This was a first for both families to be traveling together, unless you count our chance encounter in Vail a few years back.

The kids finished school on Thursday morning, and by that afternoon we were on our way. Our flight was a little delayed, so we went straight to our scheduled dinner at the new Momofuku in the Cosmopolitan, which hadn’t opened yet when we were there in December for Jen’s birthday. Eddie’s family were not arriving until the next day, so it was just us.

Bobby, who does not love Las Vegas, happened to be be in town for one last bachelor party. He came in a little early so we could golf together on Friday morning at Bear’s Best. He came and had lunch with the family, who were out at the pool. We haven’t really been to Vegas in the summer in a while, so it was nice that it was warm, but it was unexpectedly windy.

The Lees finally arrived right before dinner, after a very long day of flying to LA and driving to Vegas from there. We were happy to finally all be together and enjoyed a great meal at Mon Ami Gabi. Emma, Ethan and Audrey were already getting the full Vegas treatment. Because it was their first time, we crossed the street to watch the Bellagio fountains for a while.

Ed and I played golf at Royal Links early Saturday morning. Everyone else had breakfast at the Wynn and went straight to the cabana. The Wynn pool is a lot better for the kids and the Lee kids were now very deep into the routine. We all got a little rest and had the kids eat before seeing Blue Man Group, which they all loved. Afterward, the kids stayed together while all the adults had a late dinner.

We had an early flight on Sunday, so we enjoyed one last meal together at a new restaurant at the hotel. Our kids had a great time with the whole Lee family. We hope they’ll be a regular part of the crew next time (i.e., this Fall).