Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Adventure continues...

Money?  What Money?  We don't need no stinking money!
             And so we wrap up another summer vacation weekend.   This weekend was a bit of a rest weekend for us.  I didn’t realize just how exhausting it is to keep the kids going on the weekends and to keep up at work and with all the various stuff that needs to be done at the house.  The item I really didn’t foresee when I started out on my quest to fill the weekends of summer vacation with fun was the cost.  I mean seriously folks it’s expensive to expose your children to new wonders and exciting new sights.  Museums cost money, camp sites cost money, the food to eat while at said Museums and camp sites cost money…oh and don’t forget the gas to get there.  I’m not whining really or being overly negative I just really didn’t see the expense involved.  This is probably due in no small part to having the chance to do the above things as a child and being oblivious to the expense on my parents.  I know Boy Scouts helped to lower the cost a bit….or at least I’m thinking it did…but it couldn’t have been cheap, especially on one income for the early years.  I’m impressed with my parent’s abilities to get us to some of the places we were able to go.  I’ve done what I can to get discounts and stuff but it’ll be a real challenge to keep it going for another 7 weeks or so.  Anyone know of a website or two that has discounts for just some schmuck looking to expose his kids to adventure and fun that isn’t an amusement park?

Dad?  Why must you take pictures of us eating?  No Really?  WHY!???
                Any who, on to bigger and better things,  like I said above; this weeks was an R&R weekend, a ‘dad catch your breath’ weekend but I wan’t just going to sit idly by and let us settle into the same ol routine of ‘Play DS, watch TV, play on the computer…repeat’.  So yesterday was an errand running day and today we got out some hiking gear and hit up the Santa Rosa Plateau.  The weather has been pretty darn near perfection and I was hoping it would hold out for another day or so and it did.  We hiked in cool weather (couldn’t have been more than 75 degrees out) with a nice breeze.  It was quite lovely.  We parked at the Hidden Springs Trail Head and hiked out to the little Adobe house.  We had a little bite to eat and walked around the Adobe.  There was a small nature trail that we walked along to.  I was a little unsure how well my son would do but Captain J pulled through with flying colors.  All in all we covered 4.1 miles in about an hour and a half (we spent about a half hour resting at the Adobe) with 500ish feet of elevation gain.  The only time Lil J whined was towards the end on a pretty good incline in the last .3 miles or so.  Like I said on FB I think we may have a hiker on our hands.  After that we went into town and hit up DQ, always a nice way to end a ‘mini-adventure’.

                So far we’re doing pretty well with keeping the adventure going for the summer break after a month.  This is technically Adventure #4 and I’m thinking a trip up to Palomar for an overnighter is on the books for next week maybe.  In other personal news I’ve kept up with my exercising and have been pretty steady with the two rides/two runs a week.  This combined with an increase in portion control at meals and a cleaner diet has meant that I’ve dropped about 15 pounds in the past couple of months.  I’m feeling better and was only slightly embarrassed to have the hip belt on my day pack wrapped around my fat…errrr….gut….errrr…waist.   I’ve got a ways to go before I can settle and be happy with my weight but so far I’m feeling pretty good and clothes are fitting well again.  Oh and I’m still off of the soda!!!!  Yay me.  Unfortunately, I did just kind of take a hit at work but that’ll work itself out in the end I hope.  So with that I say ado and wish you all continued Adventures for the Summer of 2012.  Anyone want to share what you’ve been up to so far?  I’d love to hear about it.     
Captain J & the Giant Oak...title of my first childrens story?  I think so!

mmmmmm the gear!  Best part of the outdoors.  Wait? What!?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Frozen Moment in Time...

            I wrote this last night.  The whole family (including Kelly) and I went up to Hurkey Creek, which for those who don't know, is near Idywild for a quick little campout.  It was an awesome 29 or 30 hours away from the world with the only 4 people I trully need in this world, I would like to do a little trip report but I liked this little diddy and am choosing to post it for my weekly post instead because I wrote it on my phone in the moment.  I've not really changed anything except for getting rid of the odd '&' sign and cleaning up the sentences a little (it's hard to 'type' on an EVO with big fingers and autocorrect is a pain.) Thanks for stopping by, hope you enjoy it. 

I find myself sitting here contemplating the small fire I built only a few hours earlier (with only 2 matches might I add). The glowing red embers mesmerizing and captivating as the flames dance over them. It's a chilly night with a rushing breeze amidst the soaring pines.  It's an ideal moment.  A moment I always cherish and wish I could freeze.  Reach to my watch and hit pause.  Let the moment last for a day, maybe two. This moment of nothingness that reaches down and plays a fine little blues tune on my heart strings.  In this moment the world ceases to exist. The children are asleep in their bags, as is my wife. There is no monotone drone of a TV, no possibility of a phone call (no cell service), no urgent thing to do or task to complete, there is only the fire, the breeze, and me. The dancing flames are my entertainment, the canvas of stars above the back drop and the rustle of pine trees the soundtrack. This is heaven. This rejuvenates me. This is one of the only times I'm at peace and quite frankly....I don't want it to end! Ever! But it’s cold and late and tomorrow is a new day with a fresh adventure eagerly awaiting the family and so I must spread the fire.  The moment is over, time re-started, life moves forward once again. There is food to put in the truck, a run to the restroom to make, and a sleeping bag to get comfy in.  I know I will have this moment again though and so I am not sad per se because I know that when next I sit down in front of fire on a cool mountain evening I will once again be able to hit the pause button of life.  I will treasure it just as much as this one. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Summer 2012 - Week 2: Balboa Park Adventure

                Last week was a great introduction to the summer for me and the kids.  My problem this week was how to keep the momentum going.  It is very easy to lie around ‘relaxing’ and ‘doing nothing’ only to find yourself at the end of the summer having completed none of the goals or tasks you had wanted to.  On top of this, the past week was pretty hectic at work and I worked some long hours that I’m not used to.  On top of that, I had to attend a meeting up at Hurkey Creek and was unable to do much with the kids on Wednesday except get them to karate and stuff. That also meant a six day week for me.  It’s been a fairly hectic one and I was left with the question last night;
                What to do this week?
                For the past several years I’ve wanted to get the girls down to some of the museums in Balboa Park.  We used to go to the zoo a lot and usually we took the time to go to the San Diego Model Train Museum (which is quite cool) but never to any of the other zoos.  So I decided to finally cross that off the Bucket List.  First though I had to get up and summon the energy to load em up and head on down the road.  This was far more difficult than you’d imagine.  I got a solid seven hours of sleep but my bed did not want me to go.  A friend of mine recently posted the question, “Why is it that the bed is most comfortable just before you have to get up?”  This morning I was wondering the same thing.  It was tough but I did finally drag myself out of bed and did my best to gather a head of steam.

Flowers from Balboa Park
 I’m not sure if I mentioned it last week but we ate out twice on our camping trip and boy was it expensive so this week we packed a lunch, snacks and few things to drink.  (this was a good thing cuz educating your children by visiting Museums is not cheap…not at all) We loaded up and hit the road.  Eagle Eye didn’t want to get car sick so she took some pills and fell asleep which meant that Lil B and I actually had a fighting chance to play the license plate game.  Lil B crushed me but came up 10 plates shy of Eagle Eyes record.   (On the way home Eagle Eye didn’t take meds and also crushed me….and nearly got her PR again!!!  That girl can spot them from a ways off, it’s uncanny) The trip down was traffic free and dare I say relaxing. 

                Our first stop was REI.  I know, I know, not the most exciting for the kids…but it’s better than Disneyland for me!  I’ve been looking for a slightly bigger pack for some of these trips and had done some internet shopping.  REI had what I wanted plus an interesting looking book written by a NPS Ranger.  I bought it as well.  I could’ve stayed in my favorite store of all time for at least another hour and spent a ton more money but the kids were getting antsy and hungry.  We split pretty quick.  (although I did take the time ogle as much as I could.  I could live in that place and be quite happy).

                My original plan was to visit the museums and then do a little picnic but my propensity for sleeping in and my foray to REI killed that idea.  We ate in the car en route to the museums.  The kids kind of dug this too because I hardly ever allow them to eat in my car. 
Future Pilots
                Our first Museum was the San Diego Air & Space Museum.  I loved this museum as a kid and its pretty much the same way I remember it.  The place is broken down into ‘zones’ which cover things like WWI, WWII, Space Flight and the ‘Golden Age’ of flight between WWI & WWII.  It’s a tight space but I’ve gotta say they do a pretty good job of setting up dioramas and really making you feel the change in time.  Lil J liked all of the little models best but probably because he was hoping to play with them.  The girls seemed interested which was what I was hoping.  On a side note, it brings a bunch more realism to this museum with the big passenger planes rumbling overhead while on approach to Lindbergh Field.  This is always one of the highlights whenever we’re down at the Zoo/Balboa Park. 
Look at the Floating Ball....
         Our second Museum was the Ruben H Fleet Science Center.  It’s been years since I’d been in this museum and from the web site it looked interesting.  When we got into it…not so much.  It didn’t help that half the place was a little torn up as they were swapping exhibits (and we did get a 20% discount because of this).  Kind of an odd time to be doing it what with the beginning of summer happening…like right now…but what can you do.  The place looked and felt and smelled a little old and worn out.  I will admit that I was a little disappointed as I followed the kids through the place.  We played with solar energy, saw how water gets to our homes, saw how the body works (this was actually pretty neat as they played up the ‘grossness’ of it), and played with a few tricky cool science’y things.  As we were leaving one of the girls said, ‘That was really fun.’ And the other one said, ‘It was kinda better than the air museum’.   As I followed them down the side walk and past the giant fountain I had a wry smile on my face; guess you never can tell what kids will and won’t like…go figure.

The View From the Bridge
                The last part of our week two adventure was simply wandering around the whole area.  I love Balboa Park.  I love the architecture, many little flower gardens and the way the park has let the wilderness grow in and around it all.  In the midst of a sprawling city is this little oasis of palm tree, brush, and dirt paths.  If I lived down there I’d spend all of my free time exploring this awesome park.  I tried to let the kids experience all of this as we wandered down some paths and went through a Butterfly sanctuary, we meandered through a flower filled ‘veranda’ and we hiked down a trail through the Balboa Park Palm Canyon.  We also wandered over past the Old Globe Theater.  I love the architecture on the tower that houses the Museum of Man.  We also walked half way out on the Cabrillo Bridge which is the cool bridge that crosses over highway 163.  The kids liked the view and now they can say they’ve walked on it every time we drive under it. 

Captain Eagle-Eye
                Finally we had a snack, made our way back to the car and promptly began the cut throat license plate game.  Like I said, with Eagle Eye un-medicated she was on her game.  Lil B and Lil J gave up and fell asleep.  I tried to compete but it was a lost cause.  We made it home in pretty good time, avoided any serious traffic and wrapped up our afternoon fun with some laughter and flipping on of the AC at home.  (It’s over 90 here and closer to 71 down in San Diego.  I voted for returning to San Diego but their bellies needed filling so we stayed home). 
               It was a nice afternoon and maybe a little light on the serious adventure side but it was an activity and we had some good laughs.  What’s up next?  I’m not really sure…but I’ll bet if you keep checking back it’ll be a blog post before long!  Happy Adventures everyone, hope your summer is going as well as mine.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Trip Report! 2012 Summer Campout #1

                So this weekend was it!  The first ‘weekend’ the kids and I had off on summer break.  Two years ago we launched into summer break with a load of activities and it kept the summer fun and entertaining.  Last year I got bogged down by work and life and the summer was not so adventurous.  This year I was aiming to get back to our adventuring ways.  The girls have been dying to go camping again and Lil J had sort of caught on to the idea that camping might be pretty fun.  My father-in-law had bought us a tent for Christmas and that had been the key ingredient missing so I felt it was time.  There lots of things that I could’ve allowed to get in my way, one of which was a major event this coming weekend at work.  I’m sure they could’ve used my assistance today but my kids needed to come first because if I didn’t get the summer started right I was very much afraid it’d sputter and die off quickly.

                With all of the above ever present in my thoughts I kept single minded in my desire to go camping.  I packed the truck up Tuesday morning before work and kept it a secret from the kids.  Wednesday morning dawned at around 8 am for me and when the girls came in to the room to say good morning I sent them out to the truck to see if they could tell me where we were going.  Both came running back into the house asking, “Are we going camping?” I replied that we were and one of them literally jumped up and down and ran out of the room.  From there we packed our personal items and got on the road. 

                We had to run a couple of errands and buy food for the trip before left town but by 11am we were travelling.  I grew up in Vista and so I know of this nice little regional park named Guajome.  It’s a quaint little place with a little over 30 sites.  The sites are spread out well and the crowds seemed ok (the last time we stayed there was the girls first time camping and we stayed with my brother-in-law, his wife and his daughter…that was about 4 maybe 5 years ago).   We stopped by my parent’s house and picked up some free firewood, had lunch out real quick and went and got out site.

The first campsite of Summer 2012
                The site we stayed in 4 or 5 years ago was taken and my kids were a little bummed.  We drove through the park and found a nice site with nobody around us.  There were a few trees and the tent site was a nice distance from the fire ring.  We picked that spot.  I’m glad we did because it was darn near perfect.  We paid for the site and started setting up.  I was very impressed with their desire and ability to help.  (Maybe we haven’t done such a bad job raising these kids after all) We got the gear out of the truck, set up the tent & chairs and Jackson could only think about one thing…..the playground!  So off we went.

Guajome Park Nature Trail
                As usual the playground captured the 5 year olds attention for about forty minutes and he was ready to be off and see other things so we wandered down some trails.  We played pirates on the trail, we talked, we laughed and we made funny faces at one another.  It was AWESOME!  The trail we were on wrapped around near our site and then led us to a second playground that was even better than the first.  We played there for another hour or so.  At this point the girls desire to start a fire and roast hot dogs was taking root.  We headed back to the site.

                Unfortunately for them (but not for me) it was too early for fire starting and dinner making so I made them relax and play while I read a book and caught my breath.  They did a good job.  There was no fighting or bickering.  They played together with a couple of things they brought and played Life as well as Battleship on the iPad (all we were missing was Taffy and some rides to go on….right now my sister-in-law is chuckling to herself….the rest of you just have to trust me, it’s amusing) After some mathematics (my watch is in 24 hour mode for work and I wouldn’t tell them the time unless they figured it out…which worked for a like 30 minutes cuz they didn’t even want to attempt it) the girls realized it was dinner time finally and so it began.  Fire starting!  I am proud to say it only took me two matches to get the ‘log cabin’ fire going.  (If there’d been a piece of string stung over that fire it would’ve been burnt in a heartbeat…ex-boy scouts know exactly what I’m talking about here) We broke out the hot dogs and began roasting away.  I made up some mac & cheese and opened some chips.  It was a feast worthy of a king!  I posted this on Facebook at some point but I’ll mention it again; Children while in the ‘wild’ are voracious eaters.  The kids ate two hot dogs a piece, polished off about half the box of mac & cheese and munched on chips the whole time.  Quite impressive compared to the nibbling they call eating at home.
Gathered around the campfire 'Settling in'.
                We cleaned dinner up and then my wife showed up followed a short time later by my parents.  We all chatted, roasted some marshmallows (I think my Dad did most of that….did you know that when my Dad eats a roasted marshmallow he’ll do this strange happy dance?  Seriously we all witnessed it.) I found out that my wife knows how too artfully roast a marshmallow and that once again my kids, like me, don’t like them.  All was not lost though because my Mom had brought chocolate graham cracker sandwiches.  Mmmmmmmmm I love those things.   As soon as the bag was opened up the kids dove in.  It was awesome.

Finding my inner peace.
                Everyone left us after about an hour and the four of us settled in our chairs around the fire.  It was a bit chilly and soon the kids wanted to go curl up in the tent.  With the iPad in tow they watched Transformers 2 while I sat and watched the fire.  It was nice and probably the first time I relaxed all day.  With my job sometimes it’s hard to enter a park without entering work mode and indeed for most of the day I failed to put my work-self away.  The smell of campfires and the way people set up their camps all triggered my ‘work-mode’ but at that moment with it being almost dark staring, mesmerized by the dancing flames and the soft voice of my children in the tent I found a little inner peace.  It was nice.

Is that a Mouse sighting?
                The next morning dawned all too quickly and while it was overcast it wasn’t all that cold.  I started a fire anyway.  You have to right?  It took 3 matches this time but I chalk that up to having used all the kindling the night before.  (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it) After ‘Dad build fire’, I started up the grill and cooked some pancakes (I made a most excellent Mickey Mouse Pancake) which the kids started putting away with alarming speed.  Clean-up followed that which was then followed by packing up.  Again, I am impressed with how much they wanted to help and did help.  We had the tent down, folded (into the original packaging even), and the gear stowed in the truck in about 45 minutes.  Awesome!

The 3 Amigos.  Inseperabled and well behaved!
                Mere seconds after getting the last of the gear into the truck the familiar chorus of ‘we want to play on the playground’ began and off we went.  (if there was theme to this trip it was playground play makes happy children.) The kids played and we had a great time.  We were tired though and I think they only laste about thirty minutes before there was a consensus that it was time to move on.  I had decided we couldn’t leave town before we hit up the beach and so we were off.  We drove around the Oceanside Harbor and then walked out to the end of the pier.  This was, I believe, my sons first time seeing the ocean.  Like I said we were all a little tired and at this point feeling fairly hungry so we put off walking along the beach and hit up some fast food. (btw, at no time this weekend did I drink a soda…for those of you keeping track.)

Girls at the Pier.  Lil J was playing shy (he was also exhausted & hungry)
                We’re home now and I’ve gotta say it was a blast.  The world is moving forward once again and even as I write this the girls are off at Piano practice and I’m about to run Lil J over to karate.  For 30 hours, however, the world was put on hold and we got to enjoy each other just being ourselves, a treat all families should partake of occasionally.  Tomorrow I’ll be diving into a mess of an event at work but that’s for tomorrow, right now, I’m happily exhausted and quite relaxed.  When I asked my son if he had a fun time he replied, “I like camping in a tent.” And that folks says it all!