S: California Trip - March 2011
BC: THE END! | That is, until the next one...
1: March was a great month to take a two week vacation to California. We loaded up a minivan and made our journey northwest. San Francisco was the first destination. We left on a Saturday morning with a planned stop in Barstow. Our trek to San Francisco began on Sunday morning. Boy, were we surprised at the vast difference in the geography during the drive North. Driving first through the Mohave Desert, then through the beautiful lush green hills that skirt "Wine Country" only to end up in a vast metropolitan city surrounded by water. Driving through the streets of San Francisco wasn't all that challenging. Majority one-way streets, the city is in a fairly gridded layout. When we got to our house we were happy to have our own parking place on the street. The driveway was far too short for the van. The house was awesome. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, office, spacious eat-in kitchen, playroom, and family room. The only "bad thing" was the tiny closets. The house had modern updates, but the original beauty still remained. We loved living there. It was in a great location, making getting to our daily destinations super easy. We were also only a few houses from the Muni. We took that into Golden Gate Park one day. Our stay in San Francisco was great. We did all the touristy things: toured Alcatraz, ate at Fisherman's Wharf, shopped Pier 39, walked the Gold Gate Bridge, Ghiradelli Square, and drove the Scenic Route around the city. The weather, however, was not. It rained most days, but there were a few times that it was just beautiful, although still very chilly. We even managed to squeeze in time to visit with Timothy & Darien and Joni and her family. After spending a week there, we started the next leg of our trip heading South. We left San Francisco and the rain behind us, or so we thought. Our original plan was the take the Pacific Coast Highway (California 1) all the way down, but because of all the rain part of it had been washed into the ocean near Monterey, so we had to take a more inland drive. That proved to be just as nice. We drove through more lush green hills, farm country, and cute little towns before being able to finally get on PCH. We stopped at Hearst Castle, but unfortunately, because of the rain, the tour wasn't as enjoyable as we had hoped. Remarkable is the best way to describe the property. The gardens are splendid, the pools are outrageous and the house is just over the top. There was no shortage of detail and exquisite finishes. We look forward to returning on another trip. We were also lucky to see the giant elephant seals along the coastline in San Simeon. Stacked 2-3 deep in some spots, these giant seals laid on the shoreline for as far as you could see. Too bad it was raining so terribly - could have gotten some great pictures of them. | Pismo Beach was our stopping point for the night. We stayed at the Lighthouse Inn and Suites and again, our accommodations were amazing. Mom & Dad's room had a great view of the ocean from their balcony. When we left Pismo Beach we headed to Rick's favorite stop on the entire trip - The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in Simi Valley. This was our first trip to a Presidential Library and I must admit, it was spectacular. There were pictures and artifacts that represented his very long life and most impressive legacy. From his family's childhood Bible to the suit he was wearing during his assassination attempt, to campaign buttons, to his letter to our nation about his Alzheimer's, to the bugle played at his funeral - there was no shortage of remarkable pieces of his life and story. Let's not forget Air Force One, Marine One, the Berlin Wall, and an abundance of breathtaking views. The most moving of them all, his final resting place. With a view of the valley, our 40th President is buried on top of a hill surrounded by Wisteria and shade trees. Again, we look forward to returning for another visit. DISNEY - what else can be said about Disney other than Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!!! Everything about our stay in Disneyland was magical. There was Mickey Mouse and Friends everywhere you looked - from the walls of the hotel to the waffles eaten for breakfast. What made our trip to Disney even more special was that Aunt Samantha was able to join us. The kids adore her and she them. We spent 3 days enjoying all things Disney. We got more rain during our day at California Adventure, and because of that, we returned to the hotel early and ordered in room service. An added bonus - Samantha joined us and spent the night too. She and Sydney had a sleepover in the living room of our suite. Those two just love each other. Sydney and I stayed until the park almost closed on our first night there. Even though it was freezing cold and we were both super tired, we stayed to watch the fireworks, Dumbo and Tinkerbell fly overhead and catch a few last minute rides. It was great fun and she really enjoyed it. At days end of our second afternoon there, we stopped at Build-A-Bear for the kids to make a new pet. Ryan was able to make his very first, very own, stuffed dinosaur and Sydney added another cat to her ever growing collection of BAB pets. As we said our good-byes to Anaheim, we headed East. Destination: HOME! After several thousand miles, 3 hotels, a house, many stops in many places, we safely returned to our place in the desert, with countless memories made. Worth every single minute...
2: No road trip would be complete without its completely random stops. Our first one was at some strange dinosaur attraction off the side of I-10. THIS is why driving is so much more fun than flying - you never know what you'll stumble upon. | begins...
3: The only thing missing was Pee-Wee Herman.
4: Ryan didn't know what to do with himself. He was running around calling out the dinosaur names and there was always the "OH MY GOSH - it's a _ _ _"! I think he could have gone home after this stop. It certainly made his day.
6: Our first day in San Francisco was very cold and wet. We went out to Alcatraz first thing that morning. Thankfully, there was no rain while we were there. It started up again on our way back to the dock. That didn't stop us from having lunch, going to the Aquarium and a few other favorite spots on Pier 39.
7: What are the best things about Pier 39? That's easy... | The Candy Baron | and THESE guys!!!
8: "The Rock"
9: There were several flower and vegetable gardens on the grounds. The remaining structures of the former prison were something to see. They have a history all to themselves.
10: These were the first stops the prisoner would make once at Alcatraz. They'd get new clothes and basic supplies, shower and a medical check. | A typical cell and personal items they were able to keep.
11: A view of freedom? | A typical Cell Block. They were not temperature controlled. I would imagine it would make for really cold and damp days. It certainly was while we were there. | The inmates gave certain areas of the prison nicknames: Broadway, Madison Avenue and Park Avenue. Times Square was the area that was between the cell blocks and the dining hall.
13: Aquarium of the Bay @ Pier 39
14: Day 2: Another cold, wet morning, but well worth it! These trees are magnificent. | Here we are!!!
17: Day 3: At the Jelly Belly factory, we were able to see the entire process of how they make these yummy beans. What makes them different from other bean makers, is that they flavor the inside of the bean with the same flavoring of the shell. All of their beans go through the same process, regardless of color or flavor. We even got to taste an unflavored, uncoated bean. Surprisingly, it didn't really taste like anything. It just had the texture of a finished jelly bean. We added about 10 pounds of jelly beans and other candy from their gift shop!
18: Day 4: The complex contains a natural history museum, planetarium, aquarium, and rainforest. It is also home to a world-class research institution with over 26 million specimens in its collections.
19: The most amazing thing to see was the living roof.
20: The Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park
21: It was still too early in the year and a little on the cold side for the trees to be in full bloom. They were just starting to get buds. I'm sure it would have been breathtaking to see it so alive. To our delight, we got no rain this day!
22: "The Painted Ladies" 710–720 Steiner Street,
23: Alamo Square | The "Shoe Garden" - Just what it means, things planted in all kinds of shoes. | Alamo Square, home of the world famous Painted Ladies, is known for it's colorful residents, dog-friendly park, children's playground and it's oddly amusing Shoe Garden. Lucky for us, we only lived around the corner and down the hill from this very popular San Francisco site. The kids love the playground, with it's kid-sized replicas of the Painted Ladies. Rick loved the Shoe Garden, but for me, the houses were just gorgeous. There was some information posted about possibly developing the Painted Gentlemen - a block down from the Ladies and with a little more modern flare. Looking forward to seeing those guys!
24: What more can you say of the architecture of San Francisco other than AWESOME? Obviously known for their spectacular colors and details galore, these buildings are decades upon decades old, with a beauty unlike any other. Each very unique and visually remarkable, the homes and businesses in the area are truly works of art. Block after block, row after row, we would look for the best. Which one had the best colors? Which one had the most ornate detailing? Which one was our favorite? There was no perfect one - they were all fantastic. Living for a week in one of these beauties was a dream. To see how over the years they have been brought up to date yet left untouched. New appliances, modern fixtures and technology, but original hardware, wood floors, doors and windows remain untouched. All blended together... just perfect.
25: Our Home: 1477 McAllister
26: The Golden Gate Bridge
28: On our last day in San Francisco, we picked up Timothy and Darien and headed back down to Fisherman's Wharf. Our plan was to take a trolley ride and walk around before grabbing lunch, but it was raining, yet again, so we opted out of the trolley ride. We instead got gourmet cupcakes at Ghiradelli Square, went to the Mariner's Museum, walked the pier and ended with a great lunch at Alioto's. The docks were full of sailboats and other water vessels - all of different size and styles. We got to see people swimming in the bay too. I know...crazy!
29: Thank you San Francisco for all the wonderful memories. We enjoyed every, wet, minute of our stay! | What??? A grown man can't wear a bib?
30: Hearst Castle
31: The beauty of the Pacific Coast Highway
33: "RONALD REAGAN WAS ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL LEADERS OF THE 20TH CENTURY. HE LED A PROFOUND CHANGE IN OUR WORLD - AT HOME AND ABROAD. HIS DEEP CONVICTIONS, OPTIMISM, AND DETERMINATION CONTINUE TO INSIRE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD TODAY." ~ from a wall of the Reagan Library | One day? | "Necklace of Faith" ~ sent to Nancy Reagan from a POW
34: "America's best days are yet to come. Our proudest moments are yet to be. Our most glorious achievements are just ahead." ~ Ronald Reagan | "No foe of freedom should doubt our resolve. We will prevail, because our faith is strong and our cause is just." ~ Ronald Reagan, February 26, 1981
35: "I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph and there is purpose and worth to each and every life." ~ Ronald Reagan
36: Breakfast with the
40: The center point of the park! It is on the bridge that runs under Sleeping Beauty's Castle.
44: On our last day in Disneyland, the girls stayed in the park while the boys went back to the hotel for a few hours. We set out in search of characters - as many as we could find. We scored!!! Sydney was so happy to have been able to meet all these wonderful characters. I think she loved meeting Rapunzel and Flynn Rider the most, she was willing to wait in line "for as long as it takes". We also saw Mary Poppins, Mad Hatter and Aladdin roaming around the park.
45: The Characters of California Adventure
48: A Bug's Land
50: Disneyland Hotel vs. Paradise Pier When we arrived at Disney, we decided to get us checked in before bringing Mom and Dad to their hotel. I went to the Guest Relations Desk and told her our last name. That's when I got "the look", you know the one that means something is not good. The cast member proceeded to inform me that the room we reserved did not have the upgraded view because they were in the process of doing major renovations on the hotel. She gave us two options: stay there and have a view of the construction site/parking lot or be moved to Paradise Pier and into a family suite. We were on the fence about moving, but she guaranteed we would love our new room and that they would take care of transferring all our luggage and added in another Character Breakfast. So, we decided we would move over to Paradise Pier and boy were we surprised at what we walked into. On the top floor of the hotel, we had one of their largest suites overlooking the pool. It was amazing! It felt like home. We had so much space to relax and unwind. Thank you Disney!!!
51: All Things Disney
52: What better way to end our second afternoon in Disneyland - building a new friend. Sydney is a B-A-B pro. For Ryan, this was a whole new experience. Much to his complete surprise, there was an entire section of Dinosaurs. There was no stopping him once he saw all those bins! | Downtown Disney Anaheim, California | Make a WISH...~
53: And what did they name them...? | Samantha and Ryan T-Rex, of course!
54: Postcards from the Edge
55: Hotel #1 - Barstow | Hotel #2 - Pismo Beach | That would be the Pacific Ocean! | Car Craziness... | Roadtrip Randoms