Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Child GOes back to Bend, OR

Last summer we fell in love with Bend, OR.  And with that dedication to that love…and our friends who live there, we vowed to return.  So after many false starts we found ourselves on our way on a long weekend in early October.  This time we opted for a half way stopping point of the Best Western Plus Treehouse in Mount Shasta, CA.  Again for a family of 4 we did well.  And old travel lodge built in the 70’s the rooms were quite spacious.  In the morning the children enjoyed a dip in the indoor, newly remodeled and heated pool prior to enjoying a full, hot complimentary breakfast bar.

Then we were on our way.  Night 1 found us taking in the last First Friday of the year that was termed an Art Hop instead of an Art Walk.  More lively with music and adult and children’s beverages free in many galleries it seemed the entire town of Bend was downtown.  We enjoyed dinner at Bend Brewing Company complete with expansive children's menu and beers crafted by a amazing female brewmaster.
The next day we enjoyed activities that most everyone with small children does in the crisp October weather….a pumpkin farm.  But this pumpkin farm had a backdrop like no other…Smith Rock.  The Pumpkin Company of Central Oregon had a large corn maze which from the air took on a Star-Wars theme.  Tokens got you into this, a train, petting zoo…and for our adult men…the ability to fire gourds from a pressurized cannon at 2 junk cars way out on a field.  Daddy certainly did not hide his testosterone-laden delight when he nailed the yellow car.  Of course we also took in some seasonal eats of kettle korn and caramel-covered apples.

Back in town and sweet treats continued as we arrived just in time to take the last Goody’s tour of the day.  Started in Bend in 1984 Goody’s is a chocolate company favored by the locals and these non-locals definitely saw or shall I say tasted why.  The tour was led by a high school aged gal who had obviously memorized the speech, but she enjoys her job and we and the kids enjoyed the 6 samples…one each provided at the 6 production windows on the tour.

By October the Bend temps are getting quite chilly, so the next morning we forewent a planned stop at Lava Lands and have vowed to GO again to check that one off the list next year.

Related Posts:  http://www.childonthego.com/2010/10/bend-we-will-be-back.html

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Another 24rs GO'ing in San Francisco

We love San Francisco and we love our friends there, but we don’t care for the traffic getting there on a Friday afternoon, so we tend to pay our visits on Saturday and get back out on Sunday before the traffic gets bad again with people coming in or going out from weekend adventures.  So one of the last weekends of the summer we decided to escape the triple digit heat of the Sacramento-area and partake in one of Mark Twain's wrongly attributed quotes…"The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco."

And when we arrived it was quite breezy, but comfortable enough for us with jackets to make a stop we have long wanted to make...The Wave Organ. The wave organ is a wave-activated acoustic sculpture made out of 25 PVC pipes that that go out to various elevations in the bay at the end of a jetty at the Boat Harbor in the Marina District.  An extension of the nearby Exploratorium it was completed in 1986.  Shocking…you can actually find free parking if you just continue past the intimidating yacht club only parking signs.  It doesn't look like anything much but put your ears to the pipes and its amazing the sounds that nature’s waves provide.  And while you are at it you have incredible views of the bay, the Golden Gate, and Alcatraz.

After we spent a good hour there we decided to take a drive through Presidio.  Over the last several years this old military installation has had an amazing revival now converted into homes, businesses, and even home to a Walt Disney Family Museum.  But after the long drive earlier in the day we decided the kids still needed to burn off some energy.  So we visited the Julius Kahn Playground located at West Pacific Avenue and Spruce Street.  Parkscan.org has lots of photos. And their description fits it quite well…"Locally known as "JK," Julius Kahn is adjacent to the Presidio, the nation's largest urban National Park.  The playground is in excellent condition and provides kids and parents two structures to choose from--one designed for babies and toddlers, and another for school-aged kids. Both playgrounds are situated in a sand pit!  JK also has basketball and tennis courts, and soccer and baseball fields that makes this park appealing to people of all ages.  This park is very green and is surrounded by a grove of beautiful trees that make this spot a great place to hike and explore.  The clubhouse has water fountains and restrooms available to the public.”  But the one thing not included in this description is the view…The Golden Gate rises beyond a beautiful field and grove of trees.  Our kids could have played for hours…and really they did on the wide range of play structures.

The next day we met friends for breakfast in the Hayes Valley area.  After lots of research for a place that could accommodate 6 adults and 4 kids we settled on Straw, a carnival themed eatery…including a Tilt-o-World booth.  They do take reservations for 6 or more and on a Sunday morning in the city this is highly advised.  We by-passed the large crowd of walk-ins and were seated.  From the theme-inspired d├ęcor to the brunch dishes like “Play with your Food” where you are invited to play Jinga with cinnamon toast sticks there was no going wrong with the kids and their mimosas and bloody mary’s met with the adults approval.

After the amazing breakfast, but prior to the drive home we decided to burn off some calories and energy, so we ventured up the street to one of many parks that have been revitalized in the city…The Hayes Valley Playground.  Newly reopened in June it has the soft play surface and really neat abstract play structures as well as a small community garden.  And supporting that garden is more “green” in a water catchment system and a living roof on the clubhouse.  Nestled right among the beautiful homes of the area at Buchanan and Linden Street it was a delightful place to spend the morning before hitting the open road home.  Again more info found on Parkscan.org  At about 1PM it was time to beat the traffic and hit the road.

But no worries we always GO to the city a couple of times and will return soon for another 24hour adventure.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

GO'ing to Yosemite with Child

We had been to Yosemite several times prior to having children…camping, day trips, hiking Half Dome, etc..  But we have been holding out on our first visit with our children.  We wanted them to look in awe at El Capitan and Half Dome and not just see it as another mountain…after all they have a view of the Sierras from about every window in our house.  We also wanted them to appreciate some of it’s history.

So this summer at the ages at four and a half and nearly seven we felt it was time to go.  And by accident (I was actually on line the night of the 14th looking for sites at a completely different area of Northern California when I saw Yosemite availability for Labor Day opened the next morning.)  I happen to get us 2 campsites for Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend for us and 2 other families.  This is an amazing feat as campsites are made available 5 months in advance on a first come, first serve basis...which means you have to be on your computer (not Yosemite's site, but Recreation.gov) at 7AM sharp on the 15th of the month that is five months before you want to visit.  And then be ready to act fast.  And if you don't camp...there are lots of other lodging options.

To ensure we had energy to do a lot on Saturday we actually started our drive down on Friday night.  And we stayed in Best Western in Sonora, CAGreat place, especially as we called ahead and got rooms adjacent to one another that had sliding doors out onto a lawn area as well as the pool and hot tub.  We also enjoyed a Happy Hour reception with wine for the adults and juice/sodas for the kids and a spread of cheeses and crackers.  After a good swim and play we ordered take-out from the hotel restaurant and dined on our patios.  The next morning a hot breakfast as well came along with the cost of our room.  So with that we were fueled and on the road…and pulled into the Upper Pines Campground guard station right at check-in time.
Day one found us setting up camp and getting around on our bikes.  With over 12 miles of bike trails ...this is the way to go rather than being at the schedule mercy of the very crowded buses.  Even if you drive in for a day trip I would still bring your bikes.  We made our way to the Village and looked around and then did the brief hike up to Lower Yosemite Falls.  The kids took in one ranger-led programs at Curry Village’s amphatheatre while the adults enjoyed a beverage and plotting out Sunday’s activities.  Yosemite's website is chop full of links, articles, etc to help plan your visit.

Sunday we awoke and after breakfast some adults went for a free photography class led by an Ansel Adams gallery employee….a blend of Adams history and how to photograph like him class.  The kids and a couple of adults took in another ranger-led class.   Then we all met up and biked over to the Vernal Falls trail-head.  With grand plans to get out 4 and 6 year old to the footbridge…they surprised us and hiked all the way to the top of the falls.  They were so proud of themselves and we were of them too.  After heading back down we rewarded the kids with some play time in a gentle section of the Merced River and afterwards the adults got their reward with drinks at The Awahnee.  Back at camp some cooked dinner while other helped the kids complete their worksheets for the Jr Ranger badges.

Monday morning of Labor Day weekend Yosemite very quiet.  We made our way up to the village to do some souvenir shopping as well as the kids met with a Park Ranger to complete their Jr Ranger Program.  After she quizzed them on their efforts they were sworn in.  The Friday and Saturday evenings prior a line snuck miles back into the valley as people tried to exit at the end of the day.  So we were amazed when at 11AM check-out we found ourselves proceeding right to the exit without an issue.  After speaking with several Labor Day weekend regulars they said it’s generally an easy weekend for the campers….both in the terms of getting a site as well as entering and exiting the park.  

Hmmm…after a wonderful weekend this is one we all agreed to give this one a GO again in the years to come.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Child Goes to Camp Sacramento - AGAIN

Our friends have been after us for when our youngest, our son, turned 4 to join them at Camp Sacramento. A family camp located just beyond Strawberry on Highway 50 after you round the Horsetail Falls bend and start climbing to the summit. It is operated by the County of Sacramento and this year celebrated its 90th birthday.

Three years ago they called us the last morning of their mini-camp the summer our boy was still 3 and we placed a deposit. Why when he was still 3? This camp is so popular families return for years on end and priority goes to those already in the system. The only way for a new family to get in is to have a family already attending watch for an open cabin and stand in a long line the last morning. And with their phone call we are in for our first mini-camp, a 3 night, 2 full day session.
Why 4? 4 years old is when children can start attending camp counselor led activities. Counselors are pulled from wonderful high school to college age young adults who hail from all ethnicities and backgrounds, but above all they are all really personable and great with the kids.

No food to pack or meals to plan as there is also full kitchen staffed by again incredible young adults feeding you three hot meals a day and snacks around the clock. And if you still have not had enough to eat a general store with ice cream, popcorn, and gourmet coffees.So with a boy age 4 and a girl age 6 we were in and packing, but just the essentials and bed linens and a few other items to make camp comfy; camp chair, head lamp, etc.. We would find our cabins to be rustic, but plenty comfy. There is a full list of suggested packing items on their website.

We pull under the big “Welcome to Camp Sacramento” banner and park our car and go into the main lodge building. Here we get sticker name tags, lanyards and our cabin keys to go on them. We also meet many of our counselors along the way. Then off to our cabin to unpack and decorate. Well, the adults unpack and the kids really go play on the playground. There’s never much traffic in camp as once you are there there is no reason to leave until we caravan to Pope Beach on the 2nd day, but we still like to keep our eyes on our younger children and therefore book a cabin with clear visibility of the playground. Oh and yes I said decorate…not mandatory, but every year there is a different theme which you may choose to decorate you cabin to match as well as bring costumes for the last night’s family dance. This last year it was the groovy 70’s and we took 3rd place with big smiley faces, peace signs, and a beaded entry door.

Evening 1 is spent meeting your counselors and making name tags to replace your sticky ones. These will hang from your lanyards so misplaced keys can be linked to a name. Children get a tour of camp including all the off-limit areas…and new adults may take a tour as well. The adults also get a talk from Tim, the long-time manager, where he encourages you to loosen up and allow your children to explore a bit more freedom within the safe confines of camp. Then on to a wine social and dinner and a great evening of camp fire songs.

Day 2 starts with the traditional pajama-rama…i.e. wear your pj’s to breakfast and the children colorful slippers and all line up to ring the dinner bell or call to breakfast. After breakfast and change of clothes everyone starts their first sessions with their counselors. 1.5-2hrs in length these sessions include everything from arts & crafts, archery, hiking, tie-dye…and much more. Lunch, another counselor session, dinner and then Day 1 wraps with a dutch auction. You have 10minutes to go to your cabin and bring back anything they may have on this secret list of items…which may pertain to the year’s theme, camping in general, or some off the wall oddity.
Day 2 finds 80% of campers head to Pope Beach in South Lake Tahoe for a day of sand
and sun. This is where the camp chairs come in handy…also some spare beverages. The counselors and some kitchen staff join us and do a BBQ on the beach which is followed by a sand
castle building contest. Not to toot our horn too much, but our group we joined is undefeated for many years now in a row. Back at camp this evening to a learning/fun carnival for the kids. After a closing campfire complete with skits by the counselors about 75% of campers don themed-costumes and have an blast at the family dance

complete with hula-hoop contest. Now before dinner on this day you will have needed to re-up for the next year if you want to continue the fun.
Day 3 morning finds most packing. Check-out is 11AM. But if you want to change cabins or get some friends into the Camp Sac family you will need to hop in line early for the cabin swap and deposits for new visitors. And as most folks are traveling a distance to get home the kitchen staff loads you up with sack lunches and with a quick goodbye and photo-op with your counselors you are on your way with another wonderful year of memories.

Next year will be our 3rd year. And they now have friends they only see at Camp, but have started some pen pal relationships with. If you are interested check out the what to expect page. And as long as our kids want to GO….we will return for this incredible mini-camp nestled in the Sierras

Child has continued to Go....Mom just hasn't had time to blog...UNTIL NOW!

I found several comments needing moderation asking where I have been. Well, obviously I started this blog because I love my children and love to travel with them. But also most of the year when we are not traveling of course they are in school which is exactly what has consumed me for the last year. So those of you in California know when I say public education...you can simply say enough said. But we have not stopped going...it's just this Mom has been consumed with the state of public education.

But now to catch you all up on where we have been going and
....hopefully inspire you to go!