Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Last week in Southern California

May 28-June 5, Yorba Linda, California

Our second week with three grandsons has been full of busy days--going to the community pool, taking boat rides in East Lake Village, playing in the park, roasting hot dogs on the campfire, getting the cousins together for dinner, and spending a day at the beach. It's an understatement to say that life is full with three boys under the age of eight. I don't know how my step-daughter keeps up with their endless energy, varying schedules, and daily needs. It reminded me of my own more youthful days raising two boys on my own and my mother visiting saying "what can I do to help?" As a parent of young children, you get into a rhythm of the daily go-go-go and it sometimes hard to stop and let others step in. Such is the cycle of life, no? Now that I am approaching my first year anniversary of being retired, coupled with the slower pace of life in our motorhome, the contrast is greater when you are around anyone with busy schedules. We are just grateful to  have been a part of their lives these last two weeks and help out in any way we could.

Vic and I also managed to sneak in a day trip on our own to the Santa Monica Pier and to Hollywood to take my niece out to lunch one day. I had heard about the Santa Monica Pier a long time ago and always wanted to check it out. I have had a long-standing attraction to piers from fishing expeditions in my childhood to romantic notions of long walks on a pier in the moonlight. Notable piers all seem to have their own personalities and this one was no exception.

The 1922 carousel still twirls around.
There were trapeze classes and exhibitions on the pier when we visited.
The Santa Monica Pier is the official end of historic Route 66--something neither of us knew. Kind of interesting to think this pier built in 1909 is the end of the line for the great California migration. The pier also used to be know for its ballroom dance hall--something I have never seen before on a pier. The dance hall was later converted to a roller skating rink which may explain some of the derby queens we saw on the bike lanes. True to my images of the pier, was a carnival-like atmosphere with the vintage carousel, and newer roller coaster and ferris wheel.  I was also happy to see there were a large number of fishermen still using the pier for that purpose while others enjoyed the "street" artists, fortune tellers, or nickel arcades. I was also delighted that they kept such attractions as the old-fashioned soda fountain and photo booths. Slices of Americana that promote nostalgic memories for us baby boomers and a fitting end for Route 66.

Our second stop on this outing was a quick trip to Hollywood to have lunch with my niece whom I have not seen in five years. It was terrific to catch up with her and hear her latest dreams and aspirations as a young woman pursuing an acting career in Hollywood. She took us to one of her favorite Thai cafes where we enjoyed her company and some really good Thai food (pineapple duck curry and Thai iced coffee for me). The only challenge of the day was negotiating the crazy LA traffic which I could never deal with on a daily basis. Sure glad the motorhome has been securely parked in one place since we came to Southern California; it's challenging enough traveling in a car.

Another big highlight for us this week was meeting up with the granddaughters and my step-son who live about an hour and half away. Since the grandsons just moved to Southern California, this was the first opportunity to get the cousins together in a while so we all met together for dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory near Pasadena, a half-way mark. The girls, thirteen and eleven, had much to tell us in terms of  their latest favorites and updates on their main sports activities: soccer and cheerleading.  (I was pretty surprised to learn they like Aerosmith and Queen as I would have guessed Justin Bieber and One Direction were at the top of their list.)  The best part was watching the cousins interact as the boys seemed a little baffled by all the girl talk but they were all ears.

On our last day in the area we (well, my step-daughter actually) packed up the boys and headed to the closest beach--Newport Beach--about a 45-minute drive to the southwest. We weren't sure which beach to go to so chose the closest one with the easiest access: Santa Ana River County Beach, a long stretch of beach just south of town with free parking on a side street--if you are lucky enough to find a spot. The day was rather cloudy and chilly (in the high 60s), but the boys seemed to be oblivious to the cold, racing in and out of the water in just their swim trunks.  What energy they expended running up and down the beach, digging in the sand, jumping the waves, stalking seagulls.  After three hours, I was tired from just watching them race around.  I would have bet money that all three would fall asleep on the drive home, but only one did.  Energizer bunnies for sure.

Monday came and it seemed too soon for packing up but with the boys still in school and our weekly rate at the campground complete, we decided to start the trek northward. With more family to visit in the San Jose area, Redwood National Park calling, and a desire to explore the Southern Oregon Coast, we will have no trouble filling the next three weeks before settling in Oregon's Willamette Valley for a month. We are also consoled by the happy thought of knowing we will see the grandsons and family again for an annual camping trip to the Oregon Coast in late July.

Another bonus--our close friends, Bruce and Sharon, who life in Mazatlan, Mexico, were in the area. We we were able to spend the day with them Monday at Sharon's sister's home and have breakfast together today on our trek northward to San Jose. (Sorry, Bruce and Sharon, I forgot to take photos of our festive little reunion.) Life is full and we are thankful for having the time to connect with family and friends as a major highlight of our travel adventures.

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