Monday, November 29, 2021

Fun With Family and Meeting Number Seven!

 November 5-17, 2021
Valencia - Desert Center, California; Litchfield Park, Arizona

Grandchildren photo overload ahead!!

California is a big state, so although we lived there most of our lives there are still many places we haven't seen and routes we haven't traveled. Since retirement we've added a lot, but we can still find new things to see.

Like our drive from the desert to the coast a few days earlier, our return to the mountains north of Los Angeles County includes a new-to-us Highway 95 from Highway 166 to Frazier Park. Unlike the previous drive, this route has zero other vehicles. It's a good thing as the road is very narrow, very winding, and in some places very steep. 

It's a pretty drive, but it gives us a view of the sad reality of the air quality in the Central Valley. So nasty, twice as bad as in the cities to the south.

Glad we didn't spend any time in "that"!
Frazier Park sits at the same elevation as Tombstone, the air here is crisp and clear, the temps nice and cool. 

Again we're at Lake of the Woods Mobile Village. Mostly permanent residents, there are a handful of overnight spaces with 30 amp FHUs that put us within a few miles of Ezra and Elliott and their parents. We're here for four days of getting caught up with our 6 and 1 year old grands. 

Since our last visit they've added a new family member - Rizer is a Doberman mix puppy, and a real sweetheart. I think he looks like Inubus :-)

Brian (my and our oldest) is working from home this Friday so we get to see all of them as soon as Ezra gets home from school. 

Ezra is an active 6 year old - still hard to believe he's grown up so fast!

With Momma Shalise, beautiful Elliott is fighting off the sniffles. 

Saturday is our first granddaughter Reese's second birthday party. Sadly Elliott is still showing signs of a cold so he has to stay home with mom and dad. But Ezra is excited to join us "down the mountain" at My Gym where all his cousins and their friends are having a great time playing on the equipment, singing songs, and enjoying snacks. 

It's also our first chance to meet our number seven grand - Penelope Anne is Reese's one month old sister. She's precious and so, so teeny!

Daddy Travis (Bill's number three, our number five) shares our newest grand with her PopPop.

Ezra taking on the climbing wall.

I have so much fun rolling him around (and out of) the big octagon.

Birthday girl Reese - point those toes girl!

M&M love the swings.

Putting on her birthday hat. I love her drink holder!

Mommy Emily and Daddy Travis with their precious two year-old.
Following all the activity at the gym, the family heads for pizza and more fun. We're at the same place we used to come when Richie (our youngest, now 24) was in flag football during middle school! He was 11 when Bill and I reunited, and now we have a 6 year old grandson and six others - hard to wrap my head around all that!

Cousins comparing their prizes from the arcade.

Bill and Corey (Bill's number two, our number three) getting caught up over cribbage. Matching hands along with the hair and glasses :-)))
Ezra and I play a lot in the backyard, we watch some football and movies, meals are eaten, Elliott entertains us all, time moves too quickly. 

Tessa milking the "I don't want to be down there with that puppy!"


Picking up Ezra from school.

Elliott loves Daddy's hat.

Sadly, our Monday time is cut short when the school calls with news that Ezra's class has once again been exposed to COVID. If we weren't heading to see the new baby and younger grands tomorrow we'd take the risk of carrying the virus, but alas we opt to return to the motorhome a few hours early. Sometimes it feels like we will never be free of this damn thing. The class is quarantined at their homes until they're tested on Friday. 

We're at Valencia Travel Village for a week. This tree-full park has been our go-to spot for visiting the kids since we went fulltime. 50 amp FHUs with varying size sites, we're always able to get level, and hook up to satellite. Unfortunately their prices have increased so much we no longer come for the holidays when they go up even more. 

No medical appointments this time, but we get the rig washed and waxed ($$$), and I get a little Christmas shopping started. It's nice to be in a big town where I know where to find everything!

More than usual, the kids are able to get together every day (in some combination), and we are in heaven! It's visits like this that make me question whether we'd be happier living back here, being more a part of their lives. Certainly we'd love seeing them all, watching them grow up in person, but our reality is that in-between the times we'd see them we'd be bored and wishing we were traveling instead. And the cost of living here would certainly mean giving up the motorhome and our adventures. Alas, no plans to change our life style for now.

Corey and Christie join us for dinner at our new favorite Valencia restaurant - Solitas Tacos and Margaritas. Not only does the name describe what we love, but their offerings for both are unique and delicious! And it's a beautiful interior to enjoy good company. Next time we see them they'll be parents - number eight!! I remember to get pics of them later in the week :-)

Borrowed from Google Images

Hanging out with Penelope means assuring Tessa she's still Daddy's girl.

Happy Nawma! Penelope already seems bigger than she did at the birthday party. 

Penelope with Daddy Travis, all tuckered out.

Momma Emily with Moz and Reese.

Henry and Momma Megan (our borrowed daughter) come for a visit at the park.

We spend an afternoon with M&M at their home while Mom and Dad are running errands. Dinner together with Nick (Bill's oldest, our number two) and  Jillian afterwards gives us more time to catch up.

PopPop helping Maximus repair his engine.

Mason sings his way down the slide. We love spending time with these two loving and energetic boys.

Saturday we join Corey and Christie for their "drive-by" baby shower. Fun to see everyone again!

Uncle Corey and Penelope - they live in the same condo complex, just a block away from each other.

Corey and Christie and Baby Gravel - they're waiting to learn the gender at the birth. Expected to be their Christmas gift.

Reese enjoying cake pops.

Bill and Corey

Almost everyone is able come over on Sunday for football and BBQ - it's hot outside so we spend most of it snugged indoors. Good to see Richie (Bill's and our youngest).

This slide is a gauge for how Ezra has grown over the years! 

Ezra keeps a good eye on brother Elliott.

This beautiful boy is always so happy.

Ezra, Shalise, Elliott and Brian

Our last day we visit Henry and parents Chris and Megan. Silly boys!

We're so happy to count Henry as one of our grands! 

Tuesday morning the wind has died down, and it's an easy and familiar drive to Desert Center, California. Friend's Kevin and Bridgette have a perfect spot to park next door. She's feeling under the weather so Bill and Kevin (best friends for fifty years) visit on the patio and I take a nap. 

We're up and out with the sun. Plans for a brunch meet-up means getting moving earlier than usual. Lucky for us driving east, there's cloud cover until the sun has risen enough to not be in my eyes! 

Kristy has found a perfect spot to meet that has a huge vacant lot for us to park just a block from the restaurant. She and Patty graduated a few years before us, but we've all gotten closer in our "later" years. It's wonderful to see them after two years! We have to drag ourselves away after a couple hours, knowing we still have another 3+ hours to get to Tombstone.

Bill, Jodee, Patty, Kristy and Tessa.

My least favorite repeat drive from Phoenix to Tombstone passes relatively quickly this time, and before 4:00 we are pulling into the driveway. Great to see Jeff - and no new vehicles have parked inside our house!

Family and crew health issues kept any work from getting done while we were gone, but we had told our contractor not to worry about it. It'll get done by Christmas.

Which is especially important as Ezra and Elliott are bringing their parents to spend the holiday with us!!

We can't wait :-))

Monday, November 15, 2021

Desert Friends and Beach Friends

October 28 - November 5, 2021
Laughlin, Nevada; Tehachapi-Grover Beach, California

Planning to join our annual high school reunion in Laughlin, Nevada, means making some choices about just how much we're going to socialize. We know it's  a much smaller gathering as many choose not to attend because of COVID, others because they have Halloween or different plans with family. Figuring we'll do just what we're comfortable with is our plan.

Since 2015 we've attended in the motorhome, staying at the Riverside Casino RV Park's top level overlooking the casinos and Colorado River. Basic level dirt spaces with 50 amp FHUs, and a few trees that provide more parking challenges than any shade. With more of us now retired there are always a few other RVs from our group. 

This year there are five,, and we've managed to get parked next to, or close to, each other. The two of us from the driveway in Kingman are next to each other, and the party comes to us at Donnie and Anna's next door every day we're here. Being outside with light winds feels safe, and we're grateful that several people come up to visit. Also grateful that Donnie and Anna cook for everyone everyday - not even a plan, just happened that way. 

Thursday evening getting caught up with a handful of friends.

Friday is the annual golf tournament and again Bill is the unofficial-official so he and several others are out early. Maggie and I have planned a day on Christmas Tree Pass to enjoy the natural beauty and to add our own decorations. We have such a wonderful conversation that I fail to take any pics of the pretty geology along the way. A short hike breaks up our drive, and then we find a tree to decorate. I'm surprised to see only one other dressed up tree when last time I was here there were several decorated junipers along the hillside. We wrap up our outing with a yummy lunch at Casa Serrano - always a good choice!

The camera doesn't pick up the pretty blue and gold decorations shining in the sun. We're happy with our efforts.

It's a fun way to spend half an hour adding to a tradition along this back road between Laughlin and Highway 95.

Tessa and Lizzie are very enthusiastic about the project. 

Two nights have planned events and we join the Friday night happy hour at the Aquarius Casino. We visit with a couple dozen classmates and teachers for a short time then return home without any casino time. It's nice that all of Clark County requires masks inside any establishment, but we're not enthusiastic about hanging around this time.

That's the last time we leave the RV site until we pull out on Monday morning. It's hot in the sun just like our usual April dates, but comfortable in the shade. We hang out with our neighbors and visiting friends, and choose not to attend the Saturday night dinner. No regrets, we have a good time and see lots of good people. 

It used to be a couple ice chests that brought us all together - now it's an outdoor coffee pot :-)))

Bill and Dan 

With our back-on-the-road plans it's very likely we'll miss our first reunion in 13 years in 2022, so I'm glad we made the effort to do this modified gathering. We continue to be grateful for our connection with friends from our little hometown.

Monday is what should be an uneventful 260 mile drive to Tehachapi, California. Instead, at what looks like an easy access fuel stop off Highway 40, we shred our safety tow cables at the bottom of a steep and sharply angled exit driveway. The deep gouges in the road show that we're not the first to sustain damage here, but it's the only way out of the station. I think I'll remember the name of the place so I can warn others, but unfortunately it's "gone" now. Between Daggett and Newberry Springs is as good as I can do.

We order replacements and install them when we get to SoCal. Not an emergency, but who wants to spend $100 on cables that should have never needed replacing?

Surely we'll have all we need in stores and elsewhere very soon with the million trucks we see on the road and the thousand long trains full of cargo!
Our one-night stop in Tehachapi is at another quirky  spot recommended by Laurel and Eric (Raven and Chickadee)  A small park where we can watch gliders "take off" from the adjacent private airport, Mountain Valley RV Park has maybe 18 sites with several shade trees between dirt sites. We're able to get satellite for the football game, and enjoy a very quiet and cool night. It's a pretty area I've driven through a dozen times, but never explored. We'll stay a few days next visit!

Wide open spaces in all directions from the park. The airstrip is the thin dark stripe in the near distance. 

Tuesday morning we're back on Highway 58 through the very dry and brown hills, west down the mountain to California's Central Valley. Also dry and brown :-(  Here we take a new-to-us route through a very different landscape. First we traverse narrow roads through agriculture fields then enter miles of naked hills. No trees or crops or any bushes - it's very strange. In Cuyoma Valley we return to agriculture which is also strange. Who says "this will be a good place to grow crops" about an area that is naturally plant-free? 

The few weeds here are the exception to an otherwise landscape of dirt.

Lots of this.

Our destination is Grover Beach, California, close to the new home of Bill's best college friends, Steve and Lori. They all attended nearby Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo a "few" years ago. Bill is even the one who introduced them :-) Realizing their retirement dream, they returned to the area and a beautiful new home overlooking a vineyard just over a year ago. 

RV parks in the area are plentiful, large and very expensive. They're also usually full. I was happily surprised to get a spot at the least expensive park, about 12 miles from our friends', and 1/4 mile from the beach. We spend every day at said friends', and never get to the nearby beach. 

Le Sage Riviera RV Park is a fancy name for a very, very tight group of gravel and asphalt, with un-level sites. First time I've ever had to back up to make a turn inside a park, and to make several attempts to get in a pull-through. We aren't able to get level with a large drop at the front of the site, but we make-do for our three nights. I think we'll pay the higher price next time and hope for better. 

Lori and Steve host us each evening in their wonderful open new home. The floor plan is brilliant!

Pic from earlier in the year, their beautiful backyard overlooks vineyards that are wearing their golden fall colors during our visit.

Mostly we visit, but also get out to see some of their neighborhood. The central coast is such a unique and lovely area, I'm so happy for them!

One of several Monarch Groves in the area. 

Hard to capture in the light, but there are several individual and clusters of the beautiful butterflies.

I'm hoping we can get COVID tests before we head to see the kids and grands, but appointments are required with a couple days for results. Then I learn about OTC tests available at local drug stores - yay! 

Bigger yay are the negative results now, and the 24-hour follow up. Yes, it's weird that "C" means you don't have COVID.

While we're on the coast Elliott turns one! That was really fast!! A delightful, beautiful, funny little boy, we can't wait to see him and Ezra and their parents in a couple days.

Too cool Elliott :-)

Happy, happy birthday boy.

Just yesterday his brother Ezra was that size!

Next up we make another new-to-us drive on our way to Frazier Park, California, for the first of our visits with the grands!