I got the weekend of the IndyCar race in Sonoma off work so I talked the family into going with me and staying in hotel up there. But then I realized that they only agreed to go to make me happy. So i surprised them and we went to Monterey instead, stopping at Gilroy Gardens on the way down. It was a fun weekend of rides, and food, and visiting the aquarium. Pictures of the trip are here. After we got home I watched the race on TV and it looked hot and boring, so it really worked out for the best.
For her birthday, Sandy got some iPhone (puzzle) apps, Hello Kitty pajamas and slippers, some thongs (with arch support) and a pedometer (to replace the one we lost at the Orange County Fair). There was cake and ice cream and we all went to Eddie Papa’s for dinner. Elizabeth and Daniel both had lots of fun picking out and giving her her presents but had even more fun eating the cake and ice cream. Happy Birthday Sandy.
Boy summer was sure short. It’s already back to school time and for the first time with first grader Elizabeth going at the same times as fourth grader Dan. Finally Sandy gets some time where she’s not always having to keep the kids busy all day. Now we get to look forward to homework every night again. Yippee!!!
On the last day of summer vacation, we went to the UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science. They had a dinosaur animatronic exhibit that worked out to be a nice follow-on to the dino bones we saw in LA the previous week. In addition to the dinosaurs, there were lots of other little science displays and exhibits and beautiful views of the bay area. While we were eating lunch there, some UC students came and got Elizabeth to play in some learning experiment. Fun, but small place. I’d say Daniel and Elizabeth are probably getting too old to come back unless it’s for a class or something. Click here for a whole gallery of pictures of the day.
The dinosaur exhibit at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History was pretty impressive. Lots of bones including a complete t-rex named Tommy. We couldn’t help but compare it to the Dinosaur Resource Center we visited a couple of years ago in Colorado. LA’s is much more elaborate and well laid out for display than the one in Colorado, but the one in Colorado really emphasized research, science and preservation of the fossil specimens over making them look pretty for visitors. The kids had lots of fun and were truly impressed, except for Olivia who seemed to prefer the pretty rocks in the geology section over the dinos.
After the museum we went back to our hotel where John, Deanna, Wade, Jeanine, Olivia and Luke joined us for ribs and chicken. There was far too much food and I’m still feeling full writing this a few hours after my last bite. It was wonderful to see so much of the family together again and we need to do things like that more often.
We tried deep fried everything almost at the Orange County Fair. Jeanine, Wade, Luke, Olivia, Tura, and joesandanliz all took the van to the fair where in addition to trying deep fried artichokes, butter, kool aid, corn dogs, cream cheese, bacon fries and potato skins, we also had popcorn, crepes, shrimp cocktail, a pickle and probably even more stuff that I forgot. We also looked at farm animals, took some turns trying to win prizes (Elizabeth got 5 stuffed animals, Daniel got 2), watched a motorhome demolition derby, rode ponies, looked at millions of exhibits and went down a big slide. The kids were so tired by the time we got home, but no where near as tired as the adults were. Lots of pictures are here.
We walked into Dodger Stadium on throwback day and everything was Brooklyn’ed out with hardly a mention of the team being the “Los Angeles” Dodgers. Maybe they should be renamed the Brooklyn Dodgers of Los Angeles, since the LA team is clearly playing in Anaheim. We went to Olivia and family’s house so we could ride in her van to her first Dodger game. Wade and Jeanine got us great seats and we got to spend the day with Tura and the Haller family watching the Dodgers take an amazing early six-run lead, just to watch them blow it and lose 9-8 in the end. It was the first Dodger DAY game I can remember going to and it was very hot and sunny. Kind of sad play by the Dodgers, especially Andre Ethier, who seemed lost in his own thoughts in the outfield, and went through the motions and struck out wildly swinging two at bats in a row. Disappointing result but still a great time.
The day started out with Luke and Dan going swimming at the hotel, then a trip to the Santa Barbara marina for a great lunch at Sushi Go Go, and winding up with an afternoon of shopping on State Street.
Just a picture gallery of one of our Santa Barbara vacation days when Wade, Jeanine, Luke and Olivia came to visit us.
Since we didn’t plan on doing any serious walking today, I decided to get up early and go exercise. The stationary bike at the Hyatt fitness center was broke, and rather than do one of the treadmills, I decided to run in the real world and see the sites instead. I followed a trail that took me up a cliff by the water that had great ocean views when I ran by this giant imposing gated driveway. The path went past the driveway and around the property. A little further along, there was this guy with like 17 cameras hanging off of him, snapping telephoto pictures over the back wall. It was comical because he had a two-step stool hanging off his backpack. When he saw me though, he quickly turned around and started taking pictures of the beach. I was so curious that on my way back I took some pictures over the wall with my iPhone. It was an impressive house which Zillow.com said was a 20,000 square foot single family residence with nine bedrooms worth 22 million dollars. Lots of internet speculation on who lives there but no one seems to know for sure.
Once I got back to the hotel, we hopped into the car and went to the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum. They were having a butterfly exhibit that even I enjoyed despite my intense dislike of insects. Also there were lots of dioramas of native animals and a section on the Chumash indian tribes that lived in the area and on the Channel Islands. After the museum we headed to Solvang where we had a Nordic lunch, shopped, and picked up some yummy Danish pastries. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at an awesome wooden-fort syle playground which Daniel and Elizabeth seemed to really have fun at.
For dinner we went to the Palace Cafe which had excellent Cajun faire and a great quirky atmosphere. I had crawfish stuffed filet mignon and Sandy had blackened redfish. We decided to share the two, and it was pretty awesome. The people who work there are amazingly friendly, and they even had the everyone in the restaurant singing “It’s a Wonderful World” together.
We went back to the room for the kids to wind down and Sandy and I to have drinks on our balcony when she noticed dolphins swimming just a few hundred feet from the shore. I tried to take pictures of them but they broke the surface so seldom, it was impossible to snap a picture before they were back under. We walked across the street to see if we could see them closer but they were hiding or gone by the time we got there, so instead we watched a sea lion and some pelicans, played in the surf and sand a little, and watched the sunset.
Today we went to the Santa Barbara Zoo. It was small but a little bigger and better than we expected. They had some large animals like elephants, lions, giraffes, snow leopards and gorillas. They also have lots of small animals and lots of birds. The most unique thing was the California condors. I don’t think I’ve seen them at a zoo before. There was also a dinosaur show, a very small carousel and a train ride. After we got home we went to Trader Joe’s, to fill up our little hotel fridge with snacks, then went to the pool to play for a while.
We got up early to go to the Old Spanish Days Fiesta in downtown Santa Barbara and watch a parade that consisted mostly of horses and mules. Its is supposed to be one of the biggest equestrian parades there is, and we saw enough horses to last us several. After all of the clip-cloppiness of the morning, we went to Stearns Wharf to eat some sea food, and then learn about sea life at the Ty Warner Sea Center. Dan and Elizabeth got to touch sharks, sift bottom sand to find sea life, and pretend they were in a shark egg case. Another small aquarium but much nicer than the Morro Bay one and without sickly fish. After we left the wharf we headed downtown to check out the Fiesta but it was so crowded and lots of people were already pretty drunk and rowdy but the time we got there. So we stopped at a booth where the kids played with slot cars, bought some kettle corn, and wore out Elizabeths legs walking back to the hotel. But we were able to enjoy a surprise carousel ride in a park on the way back. After pizza for dinner, Dan and Joe explored some of the parks and nearby hotels why Sandy and Liz stayed in the room and did crafts and rested Liz’s broken legs. Click here for pictures of the day.
We stopped at Morro Bay on our way to Santa Barbara and got to have lunch and visit the aquarium while we were there. We ate sea food right next to the water and while it wasn’t the best food or the best restaurant, we did get to see boats and sea lions and pelicans while we ate. The tiny aquarium was interesting in that it was both charming and sad at the same time. Elizabeth and Daniel fed the rescued sea lions and seals there and that was fun and there were lots of fish, some we’ve never seen before. But, many of those fish had sores and eyes that were bulging out. They said it was mostly because of the pressure difference that happens when deep sea fish are brought to the surface and while that may be true, the same fish don’t look so sickly at other aquariums. We did some shopping in the touristy town, then finished our drive to Santa Barbara where we ended up with a wonderful ocean front room.