Monday, November 3, 2014

We Took a Vacation from Our Vacation

It has been an eventful week here in the golden state. We spent our two days off in Monterey, where we rented a cottage in town and did some sightseeing. We checked out the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in the world. It was impressive. In addition to the many large aquarium tanks, they had cool activities for the kids. They also had presentations every hour in their auditorium where an actual person stands and narrates a video and engages the crowd.
The 'Open Sea' Exhibit is pretty wild. 

The presentation we saw was about sea otters. When the presenter was talking about what sea otters like to eat he asked the kids in the audience what their favorite foods were. “Just shout it out. What do you love to eat?”

Then kids started shouting out typical foods. “Pizza!” “French Fries!” “Hot Dogs!”

He was walking up our aisle and Sammy shouted out, “Bang chicken!”

The presenter gave Sam a blank look and paused for a minute. “Pancakes, okay, great.”

No, dude, bang chicken. You know, the Bangladeshi curry dish that is served over basmati rice? Jeez, haven’t you ever seen a 3 year old Korean kid who loves Indian food before? I swear, kids say the darnedest things sometimes.
They loved the sea otters. 

We watched the World Series on TV. I know this sounds like a basic function of normal life but, for us, watching television and using our smartphones is like taking a refreshing bath in brain rotting information. To top it off, it was one of the most exciting World Series matchups I have ever seen. I suppose our ‘home team’ won in the end but I was really rooting for the Royals. Noah, my oldest son, knew this and was walking the streets of Monterey chanting “Let’s Go Giants!” To counter his smartass move, I taught Sammy to chant “Let’s Go Royals!”

So, there we were, walking the streets of Monterey with two small children chanting back and forth “Let’s Go Giants!” “Let’s Go Royals!” and for those of you who don’t have small, hyperactive children, let me fill you in. Once they start chanting or yelling something that results in a lot of attention from strangers, they don’t stop.

A TV with CABLE and a long hallway separating me from the kids. It's the small things. 

Monterey was great and it was a nice reset for us. We had a house with real furniture and a yard. While we were relaxing in our cottage, catching up on laundry and taking showers twice a day, I realized that it had been exactly 3 months since we moved into the RV. When I think back to our first nights camping in a county part in Michigan, It seems like so long ago but, when I think about our life, on the road, the whole things still feels so new to me.
Biking the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail
Our Quaint little cottage in Monterey. 

After Monterey we spent an afternoon checking out Big Sur. It’s a part of the California coast where Highway 1 winds along a mountain ridge, high above the deep blue waters of the Pacific. Or, to quote Rod Stewart, it’s where the ocean meets the sky. We had lunch at a really cool restaurant, checked out some of the state parks in that area, and then headed back to our jobs as camp hosts. Everyone really enjoyed our two day mini vacation.
Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. 

Halloween came and went. We originally planned on just hitting a local neighborhood for trick-or-treating, maybe Santa Cruz or Half Moon Bay. Then, someone in the park told us about Montara, CA. It’s a neighborhood where they get pretty crazy about Halloween. We figured it was only about 30 minutes away so we went for it.

‘Pretty crazy about Halloween’ doesn’t accurately depict what happens in this town on Halloween. EVERYONE passes out candy. Sure, there are a FEW houses that don’t because they aren’t home or whatever but, if you are home (which, why wouldn’t you be with this awesome event happening in your neighborhood?) you are passing out candy.

 In fact, passing out candy seems to be the bare minimum in Montara. The majority of houses go above and beyond. There are homes that have been converted into haunted houses and one that has carnival games inside. There is a world famous witch house where two women carve a ton of amazing pumpkins and sing witch songs to people as they walk around their house and yard. Yes, they let people inside of their house, which isn’t at all uncommon here. Some neighbors have food spreads on the table that you can help yourself to and many serve adult beverages. Jessica went inside of one house that had a frozen margarita machine! My favorite stop was a Hawaiian themed yard where two guys were wearing scuba gear and grilling food. They had island music playing and they had a keg of Long Board on tap. 
I promise, there is a suburban home behind these games. 

By 7 o’clock the streets were overrun with people and cars could barely get through. People in the corner houses used garbage cans to block off the roads. I don’t think these are state or county approved barricades but there is no stopping this phenomenal Halloween event. Honestly, if you live in the bay area or you plan to visit around Halloween, do yourself a favor and go to Montara for Halloween. I have only scratched the surface here and no words can do it justice.
Montarans in their natural habitat. Great town, great people. 

On Sunday, California State Parks had a Volunteer Appreciation Lunch at the IDES Hall in Pescadero. Even though we have only been on the job for two weeks, and what we do hardly feels like work, we were invited to partake in the event. They fed us, gave us dessert, made some speeches, did a cheesy skit that the boys LOVED and then raffled off door prizes. They had a map on the wall where volunteers are supposed to put a pin on their hometown. We are officially the farthest from home...and our kids are the youngest volunteers in California! I was sitting there, in this hall full of people and just kind of taking it in. Here we are, thousands of miles from home, yet we have established ourselves enough to be invited to something like this. I felt wanted. Significant. Which bring me comfort after being a person who blows around with the wind for 3 months. 
That's ranger Terry, He is sort of the head honcho for the San Mateo Coastal State Parks.
That's Ranger Carrie, Noah's favorite person in California. She is sort of our mentor and she is our go-to when we need something. 

Back at camp things are starting to slow down. The cooler air has been hanging around for long periods of time and the rain is here. Rain is good news for California after a record drought season but it kinda adds to the gloominess of the redwood forest. The wood shed is dwindling down to the last stack or firewood and we are only about 1/3 full on the weekends. Meanwhile, we still have another month on the job so we plan to get out and do some backpacking, sightseeing and relaxing.

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