Posted in adventure, Dreams, family, Goals, Holidays, Life, manifestation, Musings, People, travel

New England Dreaming

fall foliage
Basically, this is where I want to live

Ever since I’ve been back from the East Coast, I have been thinking about it non-stop. I sent a text message to the girl I traveled with yesterday that said- “I am so homesick for New England. I cant stop thinking about it!” and she replied “Me too! I miss it every moment of every day.”

I guess that is the mark of a successful vacation, huh? And when I think back to my trip to Maui a few years ago, I think I felt a little the same…I mean, who has ever had a bad time in Hawaii? And even when I came back from there and daydreamed about living in Maui, I knew that if I did move, it wouldn’t be for long. The idea of living on an island seemed prohibitive, and I knew I wouldn’t last.

traffic.jpg
Ugh, my nightmare

If I’m being honest, this feels a little different to me. I’m definitely NOT a city girl. Even more than that, I’m not a particularly great “town” girl. I get upset and anxious trying to navigate the complicated four way stop that leads into the shopping center near my house- no one EVER knows when it is their turn to go, and how someone hasn’t died there yet is a mystery to me. I put off shopping at Target or for groceries as long as humanly possible to avoid crowds. Rush hour traffic makes me homicidal. And yes, Salem was a freaking zoo when I was there, but that’s only because it was October, and I should have known better, but…I want to go back. I want to be there. Maybe not Salem, maybe not even Massachusetts, but…somewhere in New England, there is a perfect place for me. I just know this.

Maine in winter
This just doesn’t look so bad to me! Courtesy of benvollmer.com

Everyone cautions me against the winters there, and I get it. I have never lived through a truly freezing winter…unless you count the first year I lived in Reno when they got the most snow they’d had in over 20 years. It reached the bottoms of my first floor apartment windows, and driving was the most terrifying experience of my life. I fell twice in one day in the same icy parking lot (I was wearing heels, like a moron). As a long-time resident of the central coast in California, I must say- I miss seasons. Last year, on Christmas, we decorated our tree in summer dresses with the doors wide open. It is what it is, I know, but it certainly dampens the magic of Christmas.

I don’t have the first clue how to make this dream a reality right now. I have a wonderful career at a place where I am comfortable and secure. I have great health insurance. I have very little- almost no- uncertainty, and for a person like me, whose life has been one uncertainty after another, this is very seductive. Safety, routine, security. I have a daughter here that has a close relationship with her father, and so, he’d have to be convinced to move with us. My other daughter is already ready to go. I have a life here, and it’s scary to think of giving it all up for the unknown.

You know what I really wish? I wish there were a way to take a time out- to take a year for myself to just go there and see how it feels. If I didn’t like it, I could come right back to my life in California, no questions asked. If I loved it, I could stay, no hard feelings. Wouldn’t that be great?

thanksgiving
If I’m being honest, this is pretty much my dream.

In the meantime, I am examining what it is about life there that is so appealing to me. I think the reason I am so enamored of changing seasons is because it appeals to my love of fresh starts and new beginnings. A new autumn, a new winter, a new spring, all marked by definite changes in the weather and the world around me. And it definitely has to do with my dreams about closeness, family, and tradition. The idea of a white Christmas, or being cozied up in my house with my kids, drinking hot chocolate…sigh. It reminds me of the magical times of my own childhood, at my grandmas house, where I felt safe and loved and happy.

So, as we go into the holiday season, as I ponder what, if anything, will come of my desire to live as far across the continent as I can possibly be…I will try to bring some of those things I loved about my own childhood into this house. Fill up the rooms with the scent of something delicious baking. Take a trip up to the snow. Bring as much holiday magic as I can to a house that is 75 degrees in mid-December.

If it is meant to be, I will find a way. I just have to keep reminding myself that I can have a wonderful life anywhere- whether it is here, or there. But I can’t allow my fear of the unknown to keep me from living the life I want most. I just need to be really sure I know what that is before I leap.

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Posted in adventure, Dreams, escape, Goals, Learning, Life, Musings, People, travel

Finally, Boston

George Washington in Boston Public Gardens

It seems crazy that it’s almost been a week since I’ve been home. The funny thing about travelling is that it takes up your mind for so long after you get back. Not to mention how strange it is to have this momentous event in your life and then, suddenly, you are right back in the middle of your normal life, trying to get back in your groove. Maybe seasoned travelers don’t go through that, I don’t know. But for me, it’s been really weird.

On the third full day of our trip, we decided to go to Boston. I am not a big fan of cities, but it did seem like something that I shouldn’t miss, seeing as how I was going to be so nearby. So when my friend Alicia said she wanted to see Boston, I agreed. Boy, am I glad I did. We parked our rental car in a giant garage and took the train into the city. Honestly, for me, this was one of the coolest things ever. I don’t take trains, ever, so I just felt very sophisticated, even if it was kind of nerve wracking trying to figure out how to buy a ticket and which train to get on. Lucky for us, there were no lines and there were signs everywhere that said exactly which train went where. We hopped on with no trouble, and took the fifteen minute ride to the government center stop.

We wanted to walk the Freedom Trail, so we struggled for a minute to figure out where, exactly, that was. I told her to ask the guy dressed in period clothing in the Starbucks where we should go, but she chickened out, so…we were on our own. Luckily for us, it was not hard to find, as it is literally painted and bricked into the ground, so, after chugging down a familiar latte (I swear to God, there are Dunkin Donuts on every corner, but the Starbucks are few and far between) we quickly found our path. But before we could go more than a block, we stumbled across yet another amazing cemetery, and of course I had to go in. This one was tiny, wedged between buildings in the middle of the city, but WOW. King’s Chapel and Burying Grounds is beautiful. We wandered through, reading all the information, and I snapped a few pictures. Then we went inside King’s Chapel, and let me tell you- they don’t make churches like that anymore. The pews were like booths with doors, and from what I understand, you had to buy them? Maybe I’m not getting that right, but there were many placards describing the men who owned them, so…You’ll have to forgive me, I was very, very tired on this final day, and it’s all kind of a blur.

King’s Chapel Burying Ground
Kings Chapel burying ground
Kings Chapel
A typical example of the awesome headstones in New England

After that, we found ourselves at the State House, the site of the Boston Massacre, among other things. The museum inside was well worth the ten bucks, and we really took our time checking it out. I can’t emphasize enough how mind-blowing it was to read about the very early history of the country as we know it while standing in the places where history was made. It kinda…well, it gave me a bit of an emotional moment, honestly. It was just very cool. I’ve been much more interested in American History since I’ve been home, wanting to know more about how those days and years played out.

The State House

From there, we ran through Faneuil Hall, then made our way tiredly to Paul Revere’s old house. Very crowded, but so, so neat! I didn’t take any pictures because it was forbidden, but did you know that Paul Revere had 16 children? Yeah, me neither. Another thing- you can’t walk through that place without the words “The British are coming!” playing on a loop inside your head. It’s impossible.

After Paul’s house, we walked back to the Government Center, which by the way, passes right through what has got to be Boston’s Little Italy-I can’t believe I wasn’t hungry enough to try a legit cannoli. I’m still mad at myself. Anyway, we took an Uber from there to Cheer’s- not my idea, by the way, but…once you see it, it does cause a little nostalgic thrill. For people my age who grew up watching the show, it doesn’t suck. The inside looks nothing like the bar on TV, but so what? I had my Shirley Temple at the bar, and felt like I’d done something cool. Cheer’s is right across the street from the Boston Public Garden, so we strolled around there for a few. They have some serious squirrels in Boston, let me tell you. Fatter and far more spry than any I’ve seen here in California, there were so many of them that it started to give me the creeps. If they ever decide to organize, Bostonians will be in trouble.

Cheers! Or, the Bull & Finch, I guess.

Our final destination on our quick jaunt through Boston was the Museum of Fine Arts, and I am SO glad we went. My one regret is getting there at 3, just two hours before they closed, because you could truly spend an entire day in there. As it was, we saw a good portion, but we had to rush, which wasn’t the best. I was so excited to see Monet’s work in real life, but you know what? That wasn’t even close to my favorite. I loved the Egyptian display- it was thrilling to see things so old and so well preserved- and the Greek sculptures. There was so much more that I wanted to linger over- stained glass and fabulous paintings by who even knows who. My brain was just overwhelmed with the quality of the things in that museum. I learned another thing about myself on this trip-I REALLY love museums! I kind of knew that already, but living in a small town with just a few little museums, it’s hard to comprehend what a large museum is able to show to you. Unbelievable!

Just a few of the amazing sights at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

After a slow ride back in another Uber, through terrible rush hour traffic, our driver deposited us safely back at Faneuil Hall so that we could grab a few last minute gifts before catching the train back to our car.

The thing you learn on your first trip somewhere is how to spend your next trip there, right? I know now to never visit Salem in October, and that if I ever go back, I should give myself a few more days to spend on the things I love- namely, museums and exploring the little towns along the coast. But there are so many places I still want to see, not only in my own country, but in the world- who knows if I’ll ever make it back there? Seriously, though…I have a strong feeling that I will.

Posted in adventure, Blogging, escape, fun, Goals, Life, living, Musings, travel

Day 2- Gloucester and Rockport

Since I can’t seem to get my body back on “normal” (West Coast) time, I figure I might as well go ahead and tell you all about day 2 of my trip. Day 2 wound up being my favorite day, and I learned some important things about myself as a traveler- namely, that I am happiest without an itinerary, and much, much happier in more idyllic settings, with far fewer people.

The day started off super slow- we were both so tired from the debacle in Salem the day and night before that we were not in a big hurry to get anywhere. To be honest with you, I actually felt hungover. I had been so tired the night before, but I couldn’t seem to fall asleep, and then I woke up way earlier than I wanted to, so I wasn’t very rested. I felt achy and dehydrated, and just generally shitty, but…when you are on a short vacation in a new place, you find it within yourself to soldier on. Which I am so glad I did!

Anyway, after an incredibly unappetizing hotel buffet breakfast, we hopped in the trusty charger and headed…north? North-east? Anyway, we headed out of Peabody and away from the more populated areas. The thing about these little towns off the freeway is that they are literally right off the freeway. The parking lot of our hotel exited onto the actual freeway. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. They also have stop lights on the freeway and places to make U-turns. Crazy. But we made it on safely and before you know it, you are in the middle of massive beauty. The bright red and orange trees, and water, just everywhere. I still don’t know which were lakes, rivers, or inlets, but I guess it doesn’t matter…all I really know is, for me, water is the key. I love being near large bodies of water. I just feel better.

Just off the highway, we stopped for the first time at a big old candy store in the middle of nothing. Nichols candy house has been in business for 86 years, according to the sign. They make all their candy on site, and the ladies running the counter looked like they might have been there when the store opened. Seriously, they were adorable, in a no-nonsense, getting shit done kinda way. I didn’t buy anything there, which is my one regret of the whole trip. Alicia did, and I was lucky that she shared with me, because they know what they are doing. My advice to you? If you find yourself there, buy the truffles!

This was the view from right outside the Nichols Candy House

Anyway, after that, we programmed directions to a lighthouse into GPS. This was one of many times that Siri failed us on this trip. We asked for a particular lighthouse, she steered us to the middle of a neighborhood in Gloucester and told us we were there. After that, she stopped speaking to us. I’m assuming she was embarrassed. So, here we are, lost, trying to figure out why the ocean was so far away from a lighthouse, and we turned a corner to find…oh my God, the most beautiful graveyard in the world. It was called Oak Park Cemetery, and I demanded to be allowed to wander through it. I could tell Alicia was hesitant (she’s got weird Catholic guilt) but I was going, no matter what. I am so glad I did. The wind was super chilly, but the sky was bright blue, and the trees looked like they were bursting into flames, and the cemetery…so peaceful, and so insanely full of history. The headstones back east are incredible. I wish I had taken more pictures, up close, so that I could look into the symbolism. But at that moment, I was just so happy to be there, experiencing REAL fall weather, ambling quietly through this beautiful place, surrounded by graves that were hundreds of years old. It was one of many perfect moments I had that day.

Oak Park Cemetery

After a while out in the cold, the warm car was a welcoming place. We got back on the road, missed another turn, and wound up in downtown Gloucester (pronounced “Glah-stah” by the locals 🙂 ). Sometimes those wrong turns are fortuitous. We easily found parking (yay!) and walked up the hill to a little coffee shop to get a warm drink and figure out what next. The place was called Drift Coffee, had a wonderful view of the water, and, much to Alicia’s delight, a full bar! I had a fancy latte, she had a glass of pinot noir, and we figured out our next move. I have to tell you, I had my next perfect moment sitting at that little coffee bar, staring at the street below and the harbor across the way. It was so beautiful, so peaceful, and so quiet…I was in heaven. THIS was the trip I had imagined, and I couldn’t have been happier to be where I was.

Drift Coffee

We wandered the down the cobbled street a bit, did some shopping and sightseeing, then headed down to the harbor to see the lost fisherman memorial. We saw our first drawbridge thingy- that’s what they’re called, right? Anyway, it was delightful. And I picked up some shells and sea glass to take home. After a while longer in the icy wind that was no longer quite as bracing and more like torture, we headed over, on the recommendation of one of the friendly shop owners, to Rockport.

The Fisherman’s Memorial

Rockport, if you can believe it, was even more idyllic and quintessential New England, (or what I imagined New England to be like, anyway) than Gloucester had been. We parked near a little white church with a tall steeple, and braced ourselves for the now freeeeezing wind rolling in off the ocean. Holy smokes! It was so cold. The first thing I did was find a store that sold beanies, and happily threw down 20 bucks for a super warm cap. Once my ears had recovered some feeling, we walked around a little bit, and decided to check out the little harbor. It was incredible. I know I keep saying this, but the sky there is just SO blue. Coming from the coast myself, there were so many similarities, but differences as well. The ocean smells saltier and brinier there, somehow. The scenery was just breathtaking.

Rockport

By this time, we were starving to death, so we found a little place called the Blue Lobster Grille, and grabbed a table. I had hot apple cider- it’s a whole different thing over there than any I’ve had here- and a giant plate of mussels, followed by seafood pasta that I could barely put a dent in. So, with full bellies and to-go bags, we raced to the car, waved goodbye to Rockport, and headed back to our room to get rested for our final day in Boston.

Posted in adventure, escape, fun, Goals, Holidays, Learning, Life, People, travel

Salem (My Trip, Part 1)

salem
Not my photo. I was not in the sky on this trip.

I’ve been home less than 24 hours, and I’m not (very) ashamed to tell you that I am still wearing the clothes I flew home in. In my defense, I wore stretch pants and a t-shirt, so they are kinda like pajamas anyway, PLUS…oh dear lord, I was so tired when I got home that I felt kind of drunk. We got up at 3 in the morning, which would be 12 midnight here, so that we could catch our flight on time, so the long and short of it is…I am all kinds of screwed up right now. It’s barely 4 a.m. and I’ve already been up for an hour. I have no experience with jet lag or time zone weirdness, but I’m learning fast. I got home yesterday, handed out gifts, hugged my children, ate some food, and passed out. I meant to shower and change, but I slipped into a coma instead, and that was that.

I’m going to break this down into three posts, since each segment was such a totally different experience, and I thought I’d start at day one- Friday- which was my first little taste of Salem. Little did I know it would be the most sane part of my visit to that particular town. Anyway, we flew into Logan, grabbed our rental car- I was expecting a Jetta, but apparently, a Charger is about the same thing (NOT), and either way, that’s what we got. My dear friend Alicia volunteered to drive, thank God, and we headed out of Boston to Peabody (pronounced Pee-biddy, apparently) where our lodgings were. After dumping our stuff, we hightailed it toward Salem, in search of food. Along our route into town, we saw a place called Kings, advertising the best roast beef sandwiches AND lobster (lobstah) rolls- two things I wanted to check off my list. Let Me Tell You Something!! That lobstah roll was good, no doubt, but the roast beef sandwiches on the east coast?! Holy smokes! I will be dreaming about that super thin, super rare, tender, delicious beef for years to come. Oh man. SO good! You know that feeling of disappointment when you realize you are going to be too full to finish your dinner? That happened. But the super friendly guys running the place wrapped it up for me, and I was able to have a little midnight snack later. It was still delicious the next day.

Best roast beef EVER!

Oh, that’s another thing I don’t want to forget to mention- the people we met, and I mean almost without exception, were the friendliest, chattiest, funniest, warmest people I’ve ever run into. I was in seventh heaven, as my chatty game is on point. I felt like I’d found my people. Anyway, onto Salem…

I do not know this man, but proof that people are extra friendly!

So, on Friday night, we made it into downtown Salem just in time for the end of the night market- I think this is a thing they do only in October. There were booths selling all sorts of Halloween or dark-themed items, and we wandered around, noting stores we wanted to return to the following day. We didn’t stay too long- it was already past nine and we wanted to be well rested for the next day, so we were in and out, after some oohing and ahhing over the amazing architecture and cobbled streets.

First evening in Salem

Saturday morning, we decided to Uber into Salem since we were worried about parking. The plan was to get there, Uber back in the afternoon, and then head back over in the evening for a ghost/history tour. What ended up happening, however, is that we decided to stay, from like 11 in the morning until around 10 at night.

Everyone said it was busy in Salem in October. I am not pretending like we were not forewarned. But “busy” isn’t exactly the right word for what we experienced. “Pandemonium” would be better, or “utter fucking chaos” even. It was intense. We couldn’t get into the restaurant we wanted to eat at, we couldn’t find a place to go to the bathroom, we couldn’t get into any of the stores we wanted to shop at. I mean, we could have done all of these things, but only if we wanted to wait in line for at least 30 minutes for each thing. I am not even remotely exaggerating. Even the stores had bouncers outside, letting in small amounts of people at a time. It was crazy.

A small taste of the insanity

Even so, we did have a good time. We had lunch at the Howling Wolf Taqueria, and I tried deep fried avocado for the first time. I promise you, it will not be the last. The service was great, and the atmosphere was happy and fun. We got to see the graveyard where the “hanging judge” John Hathorne is buried, and the graveyards back east are not to be missed.  I tried real hot apple cider and cider donuts, I drooled over the houses and the history and the greenery away from the crowds, and a few times, I managed to lose myself in the merriment of it all.

One saving grace of the day was the Peabody Essex Museum. Not only did it have the most amazing Maritime exhibit I have ever seen- and the east coast has an awe-inspiring maritime history,  let me be clear about that! But-and this is important-for the price of admission, you can come in and out all day, using their clean and uncrowded bathroom as many times as you please. I loved that place.

Stuff from the Peabody Essex Museum

Alas, the museum closed at 5, leaving us to wander the streets like pitiful, tired zombies until our pre-paid ghost tour at 8. So we wandered over to the Salem Commons, and I am so glad we did. We found a tree to park ourselves under and sat and watched the carnival on the periphery, and closer, families playing, and the big trees bursting with fall color. That was a happy moment. We wandered the side streets a little more, taking pictures of houses, and then made our way back into the fray, being swept along by the crowd, which showed no sign of thinning anytime soon. I saw the Bewitched statue, and managed to elbow my way into a store and buy hoodies for my kids. And finally, FINALLY, it was time for our tour. At this point, I had already clocked about double my normal amount of steps on my Fitbit, and I was tired enough to cry, but…

The walking tour was MAGICAL. Seriously, if they offer a walking tour in a town you are visiting, you should take it. You learn so much. Every time I have ever taken one, I’ve been so happy I did. This one was extra cool, though. I wish I could remember the name of the one we did- there are many to choose from in Salem- and I will definitely be doing some research to find out, as I want to give a good review on trip advisor or something. Anyway, our tour guide was a young woman and practicing witch, and she led us through town, telling us all about the history and the legends of Salem. Even as tired as I was, I could have kept going for twice as long just to hear more.

In the end, we made it back to the hotel in one piece, exhausted and definitely overwhelmed by our October Salem experience. I would definitely go back, no question about it. But not in October. No freaking way. That being said…I’m still, oddly, very happy that I had that experience. It was wonderful. I bet it would be even more wonderful in, say, June. Ha-ha!

To see all the pictures from my trip, follow or visit me on Instagram at : https://instagram.com/courtneyloreanneduncan

Posted in adventure, anxiety, Dreams, family, health, humor, kids, Life, Mental Health, mindfulness, motherhood, Musings, People, random, travel, women

What if Something Happens?

anxiety lies

Two nights ago, I had a stressful dream that my purse was stolen. I was with my boss, at a restaurant, and realized it was gone. I was so upset! It had EVERYTHING in it- my ID, my credit cards, my makeup, my money! I didn’t know what to do. And then I realized it had my car keys in it, too, and now the thieves could steal my car. What a nightmare. Literally. But, I woke up, chalked it up to another one of my weird stress dreams and moved on.

Last night I dreamed that my car was stolen. It was a new Nissan Pathfinder (in my dream) with leather interior and all the bells and whistles. I was extremely proud of that dream car. I went down the coast to see my sister in law, and I asked her if she wanted to see my new car, which, of course, she did. We went outside, but there were suddenly so many cars, and I couldn’t seem to find mine. So I thought, hey, I’ll just click the alarm button and listen for the sound, but…my keys were gone. Eventually, I realized my car was gone. I knew who stole it, but there was nothing I could do. I freaked out. I woke up, again, very stressed out.

A single dream like this would be par for the course for me- but two? Two in a row? I know what is happening here. As my trip grows closer, I am spending my waking hours planning and being excited, and for God’s sake, not imagining every single thing that could possibly go wrong while I am an entire continent away from my children. But deep in the dark and morbid recesses of my brain, the “what-ifs” are hatching, like terrible gremlins on a gremlin-hatching conveyor belt in the fear factory of my mind. If I refuse to give them any space in my waking-hours mind, they will come out wherever they can.

This morning, as I desperately googled “stolen car dream meaning”, seeking to reassure myself that my dreams weren’t a harbinger of crashing planes and imminent death, I realized that my anxiety had me right where it wanted me. Alone, afraid, and miserable at five in the morning. Wondering how mad my friend would be if I cancelled on her two days before our trip. Hoping I came down with strep throat so I had no choice but to stay home. My anxiety is so ridiculous that I wished illness upon myself to avoid doing something fun and wonderful. Let that sink in for a minute.

So, I took a deep breath, and made a plan. When my anxiety asks “What if something happens?” I will say, “Something will happen! I am going to have fun, and see a new part of the world, and expand my horizons a little bit.” And when my anxiety insists, “Yes, but what if something BAD happens?!” I am going to say “Something BAD could happen just as easily with me here as it could with me gone- something bad could happen at any moment of any day, but mostly, it doesn’t. So stop it.” And when my anxiety continues to pester me with thoughts and images too awful to transcribe for you, I am going to fight fire with fire, by reading and remembering all the wonderful posts about women who travel all the time and make it home safe, happy, and healthy. Other people do it every single day. I am no different.

My anxiety will tell me I should just stay home. But my therapist, who I happen to have at least a bit more faith in than my own anxious brain, told me that my anxiety is dishonest…but that I will never know that if I don’t stop listening to it all the time. The only way to combat anxiety is to do the thing it tells you not to do. I mean, unless it’s telling you not to kill someone. In that scenario, your anxiety is 100% correct, and you should definitely listen.

Because my anxiety doesn’t just want me to stay home. My anxiety wants me to stay home, keep everyone I love in the house with me, close the blinds, and board up the windows. If we leave, we leave in a group. My anxiety wants not only me as a prisoner, it wants everyone I care for imprisoned as well. My anxiety calls it “being safe”, but even I know that’s not honest. That’s not living. So I will take my trip, and I will not let anxiety win this one.

And if something happens? Well…what if something wonderful happens? You can’t stop living because you are afraid. You can, actually. You can stop living because you are afraid. But I have no intention of living that way.

Posted in adventure, Blogging, escape, family, fun, kids, Life, travel

Vacation Recap: Days 2 & 3

First of all, did you know that, in the world of a seven-year-old, free breakfasts at hotels are a REALLY big deal? Yeah, neither did I. I mean, aren’t all breakfasts free when you are seven? No matter, though, the free food at both of our hotels was a major bonus for Camryn, so it was a great way to get her out of bed a little earlier than she may have otherwise.

We said goodbye to the Quality Inn in Pismo, with its free breakfast, awesome pool/hot tub situation, and giant mud pit out back, and headed out about 9 on Saturday morning. I stopped at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf because I’d always heard about it, but never seen one. It was fine, nothing to get too excited about. And we made one final stop at the Butterfly Grove in Pismo, which was awesome. The really silly thing about that is, we have a Butterfly Sanctuary here in Pacific Grove (basically, a resting stop for Monarch Butterfly’s on their annual migration) but could I ever be bothered to stop by in the past 25 or so years? Of course not. Everything is cooler out of town. And by the way, it really was pretty amazing. The first thing we saw were two Monarchs who appeared to be…um…well, they were either fighting or getting it on, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t fighting. Camryn thought it was cute that they were “hugging” and we left it at that. Just beyond the Butterfly Grove is a really nice campground (empty due to flooding from the recent rains) and just beyond that is the beach, so we got a nice little stroll in before we hit the road.

The drive to Santa Barbara was really nice, it was sunny, traffic was light, and we came in on the Cabrillo Highway rather than 101, so I got a different view than I would’ve otherwise. I drove in through a canyon, and, even though I wasn’t that far away from home, the difference in the way the place looked- the palm trees everywhere, the flowering trees…I could tell I wasn’t home anymore. It was kind of thrilling!

sb zoo

We were way too early to check into our room, so we went straight to the SB Zoo. I haven’t been to any zoo’s in my life except for the one in Fresno, where I grew up (don’t tell anyone that’s where I grew up!) and it was so long ago, and my memories of it were just that it was SO FREAKING HOT there. This zoo was chill as could be. Perfect temperature, amazing views, not too crowded. Cam and I sat in front of the Gibbons for at least half an hour, watching them groom each other and swing around on ropes. Although it isn’t a huge zoo, it is a wonderful place. We fed the goats, went through the Eew! room (all the scary/venomous/poisonous creatures), played in the kids area where you can make music, slide down a grass hill on cardboard, and climb in a “spiderweb” made of rope, and Cam even did some crafts! We stayed for a very long time. By the time we left, it was well past check in time, and we were ready for a swim.

ramada pool

Our room at the Santa Barbara Ramada was really nice. The pool there was much bigger, and the pool area was much, much nicer, but the hot tub was a lot smaller. We hung out by the pool until we were starving, and then I was feeling lazy, so we just went to the IHOP across the street. Listen, if you aren’t in the mood for pancakes and you aren’t eating meat, IHOP might not be the place for you. Actually, it’s just pretty gross in general. But the service was good and all that, so it was fine. If I would have ventured just a little further down the road, there were several other places that I could have experienced, but I didn’t, so live and learn.  We hit the sack early and woke up bright and early for our third day down south.

moxi

On day three, after our second free breakfast, we again headed out about 9, and made our way to MOXI: The Wolf Museum of Science and Innovation (I think that’s right, anyway). It got talked up big time on all the travel websites for Santa Barbara, and sounded like something Cam would enjoy, so I purchased tickets the night before, and that was our first stop of the day. Because I am a paranoid freak about parking, we got there super early, but snagged a coveted spot right out front, and, rather than just sit there for 45 minutes and wait, I decided we would take a little walk. Boy am I glad I made that call! We were a block away from Stearns Wharf, and I hadn’t even known. So, we took a nice stroll around the AWESOME neighborhood, down the wharf, and got back to the museum just in time for opening.

The museum was great and Cam had a ball- they have pneumatic tubes that you can put a scarf in and try to watch where it goes in the transparent tubing, to see where it comes out. They have magnets and sound booths where you can make your own sound effects, and more stuff than I could possibly explain (mostly because I don’t really know how to.) The best part was the rooftop level, but not because of all the cool stuff up there- it was the views that I was super impressed with. Man, Santa Barbara is a beautiful city. One of the prettiest I have ever seen.

sb natural history

After a quick lunch at a pizza place next door, we headed to the Natural History Museum, which was offering discounted prices due to construction. This museum was right next to the Mission, and I am so annoyed that I forgot to stop by there. In my defense, after spending hours at two museums, I was just ready to drop, and my GPS took me back to our room a different way, or else I probably would have. Anyway, the Natural History museum was great- in many ways, a lot like every other Natural History museum you’ve seen, although they did have some really cool Chumash relics- like, a TON of them. Lots of little dioramas of daily life in ancient Native settlements, which I found fascinating. I think Camryn was most impressed with the blind owl she got to meet, as well as some type of snake she was allowed to touch (both were alive, and I don’t know the story of either thing).

We left there, stopped by the grocery store for a few things, and headed back to the room for a final evening of swimming. The pool and hot tub were deserted Sunday night, which was great for us, and we stayed out there forever, finally heading back to the room when the wind picked up. We had leftover pizza for dinner, watched a movie, and went to sleep.

Overall, I will say this- had I been alone, or with one of my friends, there are a lot of different things I would have done that I didn’t do on this trip. But the things we did do were PERFECT for a kid on vacation with her mom, and we had a ball. The smartest thing I did was make sure our rooms had a pool and hot tub- if that had been the only thing we did all weekend, Camryn still would have had the best time. She rated our vacation a 10 out of 10, and I got a LOT of hugs and “I love you, mom!’s” while we were there. It was good to be the good guy for a few days, at least!

And now we are home, and I need to recover from my vacation, and find my routine all over again…I can’t wait until it’s time to take another trip!

*** All of these photos are from Google images. I can’t get mine to upload to my stupid computer***

Posted in adventure, Blogging, escape, fun, Holidays, kids, Life, living, parenting, travel

Vacation Recap, Day One: Pismo

pismo

I am writing this from a hotel room in Pismo at 5:15 in the morning, and I have this to say- the number one time that my bizarre sleeping habits get on my nerves is when I am away from home. It doesn’t matter what time I go to sleep (although, in the spirit of full disclosure, I will admit that I was asleep by probably 8 last night) I always wake up between 4:30 and 5. This is fine when I am at home, but when I am not, it can be a little…limiting. It’s not like I can take off and go exploring. I have a seven year old who is a bit of a night owl, and I know she was up late because I finally threatened her life at 11 last night if she didn’t put the Kindle away and try to sleep. Also, I am writing this to the smooth sounds of Larry King and some other guy, pedaling some type of credit repair scheme on an infomercial. I can’t find the TV remote, and I don’t know how to turn it off.

On the plus side, I had the presence of mind to bring my Starbucks Via Instant Vanilla Latte packets with me, so I don’t have to go without coffee or drink the awful crap they give you in these bargain hotels! I have heard horror stories about using the little coffee pots anyway, and even though they might not be true, I don’t generally want to gamble on that. Another good thing is that my trusty little laptop seems to be working okay so far, so I get to write this while I let Cammy sleep. Hey! I just found the off switch for the TV! I am so happy! I have a hard time writing with background noise. Ah, that really is better.

Okay, so here’s the recap for day one: I had a chiropractor appointment at 9:30 yesterday, and I had to go, so I went to that real quick, hoping that whatever he did to me didn’t make my lower back hurt even worse than it already did. As an aside, I will tell you that my back was REALLY hurting yesterday morning, after my first night in my brand new bed which was a terrible bummer, but…the doctor told me to give my back a few weeks to adjust. Anyway, naturally, whatever he did to me made everything a thousand times worse, and then he put some long strips of black tape on my back, which I have to leave there for several days. I was determined to let none of the deter me, though, so on I went. I got my car washed and vacuumed, and got my oil changed like a responsible adult, went home, grabbed our stuff, and off we went, stopping for gas real quick on our way out of town.

Literally, within 30 minutes, Camryn was asking “How many more hours til we get there?” Which confirmed for me that I had made the right call in deciding to stick closer to home on this trip. But all in all she was a good sport, eventually just covering her head with my sweater and taking a light snooze. I just enjoyed the drive through farmland and rolling hills, feeling a little bit thrilled with the scenery and the Spanish names of all the little towns I passed by, like Santa Margarita and others I already forgot. Anyway, we rolled into town about 3 o’clock, and had no trouble at all finding the hotel.

The hotel. Oh, God, this is so funny. There’s this thing that happens in my brain whenever I am at a hotel that is somewhat sub-par. I imagine my mother there with me, being outraged about whatever thing is just not right. So, anyway, I booked the room online, and of course, they showed pictures of the sparkling blue pool, and the neat, cozy rooms. What they didn’t show, however, was the back row of rooms (where I am staying) that have an expansive view of…wait for it…a GIANT mud pit, with a rather quaint, meandering mud river flowing through it. There are tractors, also, placed artfully around in the mud, and in the distance, there is just a peek of a lovely RV village. The version of my mother that I carry around with me is disgusted by this. Luckily, if anything, I find it amusing, so no biggy.

quality inn pool

We dumped our stuff in our room, and headed out to find food. I don’t know where anything is in this town, so I picked a place out of the little book they leave in hotel rooms, and we headed there. Unfortunately, I missed my turn, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I found myself right in the little downtown area quite by mistake, and I rolled right into a public parking lot, where we decided to just walk around and see the sights. There were the usual salt water taffy places, and surf shops, and kitschy little souvenir stores- all stuff I could see any day of the week at home, but of course, it was all much more interesting because it was somewhere new. As we searched for a place to eat, I saw a young couple eating what looked like fresh potato chips, and since the original place we were going to eat at was called “Chipwrecked”, specializing in homemade chips, I asked where they’d gotten them. Sure enough, the place I had been shooting for was right there across the street! Lucky again!

The restaurant is tiny, and there was only one person working behind the counter, but we waited, placed our order (I got the bella bella, a Portobello sandwich, Cam got a grilled cheese) and then proceeded to wait some more. The poor lady working hadn’t planned on it being so busy, and we weren’t in a hurry at all, so I just hung out in the sun outside. The food was really good, the chips were good, but the best part was that there were tons of dipping sauces for the chips that you could try. I got the loaded baked potato, which I realized a bit too late had bacon in it (Meatless March, remember?) and the beer cheddar ( one dip and it had so much beer in it that I almost called my sponsor…another oops.) but they were both really good. I didn’t keep going with the beer one, but I’m not going to lie, I finished the one with bacon. Cam tried the brownie batter dip- it was really good with the salty chips, but she just ate it plain. I mean…we’re on vacation, right? Live it up, kid. By the time we finished eating, the place had cleared out, and I got to chat with the woman behind the counter- turns out, her name is Sarah, she’s the owner, and I’m pretty sure we are best friends now. Totally unflappable woman, with big dimples when she smiles, and from the looks of it, lots of loyal local customers who were more than happy to wait for their food. That tells you everything you need to know, in my opinion. Solid place.

chipwrecked

Oh my gosh, these Latte’s are clearly working their magic on me. This is a long ass post. Anyway, after that we came back to the room, put on our suits, and hit the heated pool and massive hot tub for about two hours. It was awesome. Cam found some kids to play with while I just soaked, and I didn’t even have to worry because the pool was only 4.5 feet deep. When we were done, I ran Cam to McDonalds for more food (I was still stuffed) and I told her “I’m so tired…I’m just exhausted…but in a good way.” And then the light bulb went off over my head. “I’m relaxed!! That’s the word I was looking for!” To be honest with you, that’s not a word I use very often in relation to myself. I guess that is what vacations are for, right?

Well, if you made it this far, congrats! I left out the part where we went to the beach, but now it’s in here, so…yeah. I’ll be checking in again soon for part two!