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.

Father’s Day Weekend at Carmel Valley Ranch with Rhees

My parents and Jen had been staying with us since graduation. Grace planned for them to stay through Father’s Day so we could celebrate together. Elin took the opportunity to travel by herself to Vancouver and Seattle (now another place she’s been that I haven’t).

Grace was in Singapore all week with Dennis Rodman et al. My parents and Jen were on point for Camp Rhee at home. As a thank you, Grace wanted to take everyone to Carmel Valley Ranch for the weekend. In this type of situation, it’s best not to ask them what they want to do, and instead just let them know when it’s time to pile into the car.

We drove down Saturday morning and went straight to Carmel for lunch. My parents hadn’t been there in 30 years, so they and Jen walked around for a bit while we went to check in and get a head start on pool time.

We more or less celebrated Father’s Day at Saturday dinner, which was followed by the s’mores tradition. On Sunday morning, I rallied everyone early for breakfast because it was included. By everyone, I mean everyone except Grace, who was still wrecked from her Singapore trip. We let her sleep 14 hours while the kids and I had a practice session at the golf range. By 1pm, she was ready to rally for one more trip to the pool.

My dad is 82 and opted to not go sit outside by a pool filled with pee and screaming kids. I don’t blame him. He sheltered in place to watch the U.S. Open, which is right where he should be.

We had a late lunch together before heading out for home. Waze suggested HWY 1. It was a beautiful day for only my second drive up this route.

It was a great Father’s Day and the kids got in some QT with their grandparents and Aunt Jen. Happy Father’s Day!

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.

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.

Carmel Valley Ranch With The Lees

We had planned to skip our annual summer trip to Carmel Valley Ranch because we went to Las Vegas instead. Julie and Albert were going for 4th of July weekend and we got the hard sell to join them, the main argument being that Albert didn’t want to golf alone. Grace and I could not let Albert golf alone.

The kids were all in golf camp together last week, so we all didn’t leave until Saturday. We had a late lunch, which threw a wrench in our pizza dinner plans. The kids ended up eating s’mores before we headed to the pool for a late dinner. They showed us their golf skills as we waited for the bus to take us back.

On Sunday, Julie insisted that she was fine taking all five kids while we golfed. She does this all the time throughout the school year, but we still feel she should have just golfed with us. She has many reasons why she isn’t golfing: needs new clubs, will get frustrated, will get angry, etc. We tried to assure her that we all need new clubs, get frustrated and get angry, so we might as well do it together. It’s our mission to get her out there.

This was the first time golfing there for me and Grace. It was fun, but Grace and Albert need new clubs and everyone was frustrated and angry by the end of the round. We met up with Julie and the kids at the pool and spent the rest of the afternoon there.

I dropped off the kids at minimum security (kids club) while Julie, Albert and Grace got a head start on cocktails. We enjoyed a leisurely adult dinner together. Despite the pace, there was still time for Grace to fetch the kids for one more night of s’mores.

On Monday, we had our usual breakfast together, followed by a photo session. All the big kids were coerced into going on the bee experience. While Julie and Grace took them to face their fears, Albert and I took Theo to the range to face our own fears.

After lunch in the club house, we went to downtown Carmel as Olivia and I were on a mission to get more Mackintosh’s Toffee, which we scored last year at the Cottage of Sweets. When I was a kid, my friends would bring this back from Canada, and to this day, I think it is the best candy in the world.

The Lees were staying one more night, but we were heading home that evening. We said our goodbyes after an awesome trip together and got on our way. Thanks for letting us crash your summer vacation!

Spring Break 2017 in Los Angeles

After a lot of skiing this winter, we decided to road trip to Los Angeles for spring break. The main motivation was because Grace was convinced her mom was turning 75 and wanted to have a surprise party for her. Then Addy and Charles changed their plans to meet us in LA, and Dave came down, too.

We drove down on Saturday and stayed in Westwood. We were going to go to Santa Monica, but decided to go to Century City for dinner instead. While there, we decided to see a movie. The nice thing about taking your kids to a 9:30pm movie is that no other parents bring their kids to a 9:30pm movie. I stayed awake for all of Boss Baby. They loved it.

When Grace was planning her mom’s dinner, she mentioned it was going to be on April 9th. Ummm, that’s our anniversary… No matter – it’s her 75th! We celebrated our anniversary at lunch instead with the kids at Bouchon. Lucas was very leery of French food, but found the donuts to his liking. We did some shopping for Grace’s mom in the afternoon.

The kids wanted to visit with Emme and Elsen before dinner even though we didn’t have much time. I took the opportunity to catch up very briefly with my long lost friend from home, Joanne, who also lives in Santa Monica. Our visit was too short, but still long overdue. So great to see her and meet her sons.

Sometime before all the family arrived at the restaurant for Grace’s mom’s surprise, we determined that it was actually her 76th birthday. Surprise! She deserved a big party anyway, so it was all good. Awesome to see all the Park cousins.

On Monday, we met up with the family at République in Los Angeles. It is a beautiful building, which used to be Charlie Chaplin’s estate. When I got there, I looked up and saw someone familiar. My instinct was to say hello and his instinct was to say hello back. It was Henry Winkler. Who is more familiar than the Fonz? That was one of the highlights of my trip year.

Grace went with her mom and sister to the spa, so I took the kids to the Grove to get out of the house (i.e., off their devices). We went to a real book store, which had real books (each kid got 2). We had more donuts, ice cream, and people-watching. Afterwards, we went to Slurpin’ Ramen Bar to celebrate Dave’s birthday a little early.

On Tuesday, we went to Universal Studios, which was the 2nd big reason for our LA spring break: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Ann and Emme joined us (Elsen had no idea what he was missing). The kids have been wanting to do this for a while and were so excited. I had no idea about the rides, but we all (adults) got so wrecked by the Forbidden Journey. I took more than one for the team and rode that one twice (worse the 2nd time because it broke down the first time and I didn’t have to suffer through Quidditch). By the time we got on the Minions ride, I learned to just keep my eyes closed the entire time. I’m still sick.

Everyone enjoyed the studio tour. Seeing animatronic Jaws made the kids feel a little better about sharks after I screened Jaws for them a few weeks ago. We were all traumatized by it when we were kids; I didn’t see why they shouldn’t be, too.

Wednesday was a very routine beach day in Manhattan Beach. By routine, I mean lunch at Rock’n Fish, beach, Starbuck’s, and the Creamery. Every. Single. Time. That evening we had dinner with Ann and Jeremy at Katsuya in Brentwood.

Thursday, we had lunch with Grace’s parents in Westwood after I upgraded them from 0 MB DSL service, which was killing me, but was the only thing instilling grit in the kids on this trip. We walked to the other end of Westwood and back and then loaded up the car to drive home.

My spring break officially started on Friday with the first round of golf in a long while with Charles and Albert in Half Moon Bay. We spend the rest of the weekend with Addy and Charles, who left early on Sunday. Our nice break ended with Easter brunch at the Crowthers’ and dinner with Jeanah and Christine at our house.

Inaugural Summer Trip to Carmel Valley Ranch

Grace pressed replay on our summer kick-off trip to Carmel Valley Ranch, which we enjoyed last year. When you live in California, vacation takes on a new meaning. Ski trips are nothing like being home, but warm weather trips can sometimes feel just like being home.

The good news is that the kids and us can have fun just about anywhere. The bad news is we drove two hours to rent a pool. Just kidding – it’s beautiful and awesome down there. We ran into the Foleys, who called an audible on CVR because their campground in Santa Barbara was surrounded by a wildfire – yikes.

Everything else was the same as last year. We couldn’t have a meal with a 5-15 minute stop on the swings. S’mores were well-stocked, but Lucas was too tired to indulge. Olivia and Lucas were mostly excited about driving the golf carts to the practice range, but I think they both made some real progress on their swings.

After crushing a 2nd afternoon at the pool, we packed up and headed to Carmel for a short walk around town and a nice dinner. We caught the sunset on the way home (photo by Olivia), and three hours later, our one-night vacation was over. It was a great getaway.

Mother’s Day in Napa with the Moons

We’ve spent Mother’s Day with the Moons for at least the last 5 years. This year, the tradition continued. Mike has been talking about Auberge du Soleil in Napa for a while, so we decided to take the families there for brunch.

Initially, Mike suggested a pre-brunch hike, but we ended up just going over to their place early and taking the kids for a bike ride in Tiburon while the moms chilled at home for a bit. They live on a serious hill, so negotiating their street on the way down and back was a big part of the adventure. The kids never met a jungle gym they didn’t like, so we made a stop. I can appreciate any park with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. We rode out to Blackie’s Pasture and turned around for home. This was definitely Lucas’s longest ride and I’m glad he’s enjoying his new bike.

By the time we made it to brunch, we had all definitely worked up an appetite. It’s a really beautiful place with gorgeous views of the Napa Valley below. Everyone enjoyed their meals, most importantly, Grace and Clara.

We all headed back to our favorite resort in Tiburon, the Moons’ house. We hung out for a few more hours and headed home at the end of another great Mother’s Day together. Happy Mother’s Day to our Grace, Clara and all our moms!

Legoland and San Diego Zoo Safari Park with Lees

On Tuesday, March 29th, we met up with the Lees, who were staying in Carlsbad with Julie’s parents for Spring Break. I’m still loving Legoland and not ready to graduate to Disneyland (though the kids may be). Albert was working, so we were a perfect 8 and I had the pleasure of riding with Olivia, Ellie and Theo. These guys are such cute buddies (especially Ellie and Lucas, who continue to be BFFs at school).

Everything was going great until they demanded to ride the Teacups (why???) and I took one for the team. I wasn’t the same the rest of the day. We went to their hotel at Aviara and ordered out dinner.

We met up with them again on Thursday at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. We were originally going to go to the SD Zoo, but we’ve been there a couple times, so this was a welcome change. It was a little busy, but otherwise was super clean and nice. We spent just the right amount of time there. The weather was also perfect all week (cool and dry).

Not pictured: Albert (although he arrived, someone has to make the sausage). Great times with the Lee Family on Spring Break!