Tuesday, December 5, 2017

late summer family road trip

Ahoy,

Over Labor Day weekend, in my never-ending quest to see more of Michigan, I arranged a family road trip to Holland, MI. It's a little town known for it's early Dutch settlers. Car 1 held K, Z, A, and me. Car 2 held my mom, dad, aunt, and cousin. We stopped at Warren Dunes State Park for a hike, which turned out to be much more of a crawl through the sand dunes. My mom invited her sister and our cousin. They didn't know what they were in for.

The sand dunes along the Michigan adjacent shore of Lake Michigan are unlike terrain you will find across the way in Chicago. These were proper hills that set you back with every step. Slogging up the sand was a struggle. You could see the skyline of Chicago from the top. I chose a hike that took us up and down some dunes in a forested area. There were really sandy parts and some more dirt lined paths. We haven't really encountered any hikes like that elsewhere. The loop back took us along the beach. Some folks said that was their highlight. My highlight was seeing my aunt struggling along. At one point she lost her phone in the sand. She was sliding down on her butt, because it was so much steeper than she was comfortable with. I still remember the way my dad laughed when she realized she had lost her phone. I don't think we've ever heard him laugh so raucously.

We went to New Holland Brewery for dinner. A turned out to be familiar with the brand and is a big fan of their dragon's milk. It's actually a pretty well known brewery we had all had before. We all got flights that I'm pretty sure filled us up more than the food did. We got my dad a flight, but he really only likes Tsingtao. What a trooper. It started to rain and we were seated outside, all the staff scrambled to get everyone under covered sections.

When we were kids, my parents took us on a family vacation every summer. We went to Wisconsin, Florida, Boston, California, etc. And then our summers filled up with school things. In retrospect, it was really remarkable that they were able to make arrangements for our trips given that there was no internet or google maps and they had limited English proficiency. Now the tables our turned, because it's up to me and my brother to arrange the logistics for all our trips and they just follow along. I hope it's less stressful for them that way, but it's also nice to be able to provide the 'service' for them. At some point we were kids and they wanted to show us the world, so to say, now it's me who wants to show them what's out there.

best,
jt

Thursday, November 30, 2017

some things I missed

Ahoy,

In September, it was coastal clean-up day. It's a nation wide, maybe world wide event? I managed to wrangle A into volunteering with me. Luckily, the Ballona Creek entrance is near us - so we were able to roll out of bed and walk to our site. It was fun to do something right in our neighborhood. We collected over 300 cigarette butts. I witnessed a dad with his sons chatting about sports while they cleaned, lots of families. That's the dream! I would like to one day have a family of little liberals to volunteer for coastal cleanup day. That would be delightful. And A can talk about sports to them, because we all know I'm not interested.

Camping season started with a trip up to Morro Bay. Many folks regard summer as camping season, but summers here are too hot and crowded for my taste. We had stopped through the area before on our way to or from places, and stayed in a hotel once. This time we relished in our site by the water. Each morning the mist would roll out leaving our tent drippy. We picked up oysters from the shop to grill at our campsite. In conclusion, it is still a lot more worthwhile to buy them already grilled. The campsite allows trailers and hook-ups. We were appalled when we first arrived and we could only hear the hum of all the vehicles around us. Fortunately, everyone was prompt in observing the posted quiet hours.

A's folks met us for a day. Kudos to them for making a day trip out of it! We did some touristy stuff stopping at the museums and reading informational placards, going on a hike or two. It was a really good day to be outside. We always go to the same place for oysters and other accoutrements. Tognazinni's is no frills, great outdoor seating on the water, with live music. It's further from the other throngs of tourists. I don't think we'll ever go anywhere else. 

We had some back to back camping reservations in October. And we ended up going with the same group of people. Great group of friends. We went to Joshua Tree one weekend. It was about time because A and I had never been. Our campsite was spacious, but especially because our neighbors never showed up. This turned out to be more of a climbing trip. S brought a bunch of her gear to teach us how to crack climb. I did my best to avoid using the cracks, much to her dismay. We ended up staying at the crag. Honestly it was too hot in the sun for me to have fun on a hike. The weather was really so nice. It was perfect. I was apprehensive about the desert. It's kind of my nightmare. But the weather turned out really great. We went on a hike on our way out the second day. And stopped at mama's lu on the way home. We returned to 100 degree weather in LA. We were better off in the desert.

The following weekend we had reservations for Yosemite. The site was incredibly luxurious in that it was giant. Our neighbors were so far. It was quiet and uncrowded; I would book that site again. This was originally intended to be a climbing trip with some other friends. And A went with them to climb, but I was able to get on a hike with another group in Tuolumne Meadows. After some runaround trying to figure out if the road was open, we were finally on our way. The hike was snow covered the whole way. It was gorgeous. It was also treacherous because none of us had proper shoes to plod in the snow without getting wet. We all had wet shoes by the end. It was well worth it. The lake at the end was such a nice site for lunch. A says I would have been so displeased if I had stayed with the boys to climb. We left for home first thing the next day with our hearts full. I was so delighted with the weather. We stopped at Bravo Farms for BBQ and to visit the alpaca, sheepies, chickens, etc. It's a great stop for the whole family.

best,
jt



Monday, November 20, 2017

NOLA

Ahoy,

There are not a lot of things more thrilling is discovering a place for the first time. The RRS went to New Orleans for work, and I got to tag along. He requested a hotel in the French Quarter so that I could freely explore. Their work is somewhere in Mississippi, but a little less than an hour's drive away. He only this time realized it is in Mississippi; he thought it was in New Orleans for a while.

My airplane landed early so I was able to catch the bus to get to our hotel. The bus driver was very nice and gave me very specific instructions for how to get to my hotel. The hotel we stayed at had this social hour thing to provide snacks and drinks every night. We developed a routine of getting to the hotel, drinking and eating before going out for dinner. I usually arrived between 5-6 after a day of exploring, and A and his co-worker arrived between 6-7.

My first day I spent walking around the French Quarter inquiring about ghost stories and admiring architecture. I went on tours of the 1814 House, Herman-Grimma House and Beauregard-Keyes House. I went to all the visitor centers, in addition to a police station. The city has so much history. It is so different there. NOLA was French then Spanish and French owned again before being purchased by the US, and it is still very evident the European influence. The architecture is so unique and interesting. My obsession with shotgun houses led me wandering into the adjacent Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. The density of Victorian architecture is also easy to admire. That neighborhood is little more residential, but also industrial further along the waterfront into Crescent Park. River access is not as much of a highlight as I've seen in other cities; much of it is not open for public viewing.

My second day, I got on the streetcar to City Park. I realized the streetcar is not something you rely on if you are in a hurry. I wasn't, so it was really a great experience for me. City Park is about 1300 acres, which is ginormous. I only saw a small part of it. I walked over to the art museum. I don't like art museums, so I walked through the sculpture garden instead. I made my way over to the oak meadow. City Park has the nation's largest and oldest oak grove, some of the trees might be 600 years old. They are quite magnificent. Park attendants were dressing the trees up for the holidays. I spent some time in the Botanic Gardens. On my way out I admired the dueling tree, where folks used to duel and settle disagreements back in the day. Back on the streetcar, I took it all the way to the end of the line to take the ferry across the river to Algiers. Algiers is the only portion of land across the river that is still considered New Orleans. It was pretty quiet and sleepy over there, but again I wandered around looking for shotgun houses.

With my final full day, I walked to the Garden District, and later took the streetcar back. NOLA has the nation's oldest fully functional streetcar system. This neighborhood is known for it's giant Victorian houses. It was developed after the Louisiana Purchase for the affluent Anglo-Americans that were moving there from up north. Opulence and luxury would be great ways to describe this neighborhood. I made my way back towards the French Quarter to explore Louis Armstrong Park and Treme.

We stopped at Cafe du Monde at least 3 times. I really do think they are better than the ones at Disneyland; I think they must fry at a different temperature. We got oysters most nights and got to try mostly everything iconically cajun/creole. And we definitely drank more than we would on a typical week. Service was great, and everybody was generally really nice. The tourists age demographic was mostly older and no very diverse, which was surprising.

New Orleans is a much better version of Vegas in some respects, maybe the spirit of debauchery was what Vegas was trying to capture. NOLA has much more depth and history and meaning behind everything. Even mardi-gras traditions seem to have significance in a way Vegas partying never will. Bourbon Street, although incredibly popular, is probably the worst face that New Orleans wears. There is so much more to the city beyond that street. New Orleans has so much culture and history and is such a unique part of America. I learned a lot of things about a new place- which was really satisfying as an explorer. A was at work all the days, so he didn't really get to venture away from the French Quarter during our nightly jaunts out for dinner. So maybe one day, we will have to return for me to be his tour guide!

trouncingly ebullient,
jt







Thursday, July 6, 2017

Seattle in the summer

Ahoy,

Finally, I have caught up on the events up to this past weekend. We were super duper excited for this weekend. H and O prepared a fantastic itinerary. We flew in on a Thursday evening. And met up with E for dinner. We went to a good thai place that A was scared would be vegan. He was thinking we were going to get BBQ. Foiled once again!

We went home to prepare for the next days' activities. On Friday morning, we drove onto a ferry!! I was super thrilled to do this. It was so exciting! I was so inexplicably excited. We got off in Bremerton to pick up provisions. With a car packed full of stuff, we continued onto Olympic National Forest/ Park. I wasn't sure where the lines were drawn. We hiked Mt. Townsend. It was about 8 miles roundtrip with about 3,000 foot elevation gain. We could see Seattle from the top, and on our way down we realized we could see Seattle for a lot of the way up. Our sandwiches were the perfect accompaniment for the journey. There was snow at the top, which I was thrilled about. We had moderate cloud cover for a lot of the parts that mattered. We couldn't have hoped for better weather.

We stopped in Port Angeles for a meal that was pricier than it was worth. By the time we arrived at the log cabin resort, there was still some daylight left. But it would have been nice to have arrived earlier. And I was glad we were able to catch the 8:30 ferry. Timing worked out very well for us. The log cabin had a downstairs and a loft and a spectacular view of the lake. It is very similar to my dream home of a shotgun house with a loft. O & H very kindly let us have the upstairs, which I was so incredibly stoked for. This experience was by all definitions glamping. There was a shower with hot water. They provided towels and all the accoutrements of a hotel. There was a community fire ring we used to make our own campfire. It was a great evening. Breakfast outside overlooking the lake was so nice.

We did a short hike to Marymere Falls before turning back for home. We also stopped in Poulsbo to see the cute little Dutch themed town and for some beer and games. We took the same ferry back. Again, I was so inexplicably excited to drive our car onto the ferry. Must do! We picked up pizza and watched a movie back at home. It was such a perfect and fun trip to the Olympics!

The following day we got to see H crush at Potlatch, a tournament-like event for ultimate frisbee. And we got to go to the flagship REI. You can never have enough time at the flagship REI. I could spend a whole day there. Also, we got Ezell's for dinner. What a great day!

The next day was another lazy day of sorts as we got a pretty late start to the climbing gym. Afterwards we made our way to Georgetown and Costco. Also, another mundane thing I was super excited to do. O and A grilled some salmon while the girls supervised. It was really good. We watched some tv until it was time to play Carcassonne. This was yet another late night.

On Tuesday morning, we lazed around some more until we left to get food and laze around the house on the patio some more. The weather was so, so perfect. Perfect lazy weekend vibes. It was such a shame to leave Seattle.

disparately timed,
jt


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

June is family time extravaganza

Ahoy,

In June, E came to visit and we went to get vegan food with her. It was quite delicious. The following week, K & Z and her mom came to visit. We went to Disneyland the first day because it was a Thursday so it would have been the least crowded with shortest lines. But it's Disneyland, so it's always a s***show. We got out a little late, but spent the rest of the day there. We saw fireworks and the parade. There was a lot going on. That place is crazy. Crowds are less and less appealing lately.

The next day we went to the Getty Villa up the PCH. We finally got some food spicy/flavorful enough for Z's mom. K and A got to play some Nintendo Switch. The next day was my brother's birthday, so we all headed out to Catalina Island for some birthday freebies. We went to the Botanic Garden, K got a free meal, free coffee, free minigolf, free ice cream, and there was more we didn't get to. Pretty epic way to celebrate your birthday. And great promo for Catalina, because if it's your birthday and you get free stuff - you're going to bring friends who all have to pay. We got ramen back on the mainland that K was really surprised by how good the chicken broth was. When we were kids, our family would prepare a whole chicken just for K to eat.

The last day they were here, we went to climb. I showed them how to lead climb. We went to brunch at Republique before going to see K's godson - Jelly, the beagle. The day after we dropped them all off at the airport, A had to pick up his sister from the airport.

The following weekend, the 3 of us drove back up to the Bay for Father's Day/ his mom's birthday. We started with a night in Monterey at a fancy hotel before meeting his folks in Carmel the following afternoon. The weather was pretty near perfect here. We drove back up to the Bay Area, San Jose specifically, for dinner. It was so very, very hot. Even when we got back to Piedmont it was hot. The following day after a mad rush to cook and consume our food, we started the drive back down to LA. And when we got back - it was so very, very nice and not hot. I had never appreciated LA so much. I was so happy to have completed that family time extravaganza. It just seemed never-ending.

relentlessly ajest,
jt 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

May is scattered

Ahoy,

May was less busy than previously, but we still didn't manage to get a weekend at Black for the RRS to climb.

We went to the drive-in to watch GOTG. It was a little rainy at the end, but the show went on. We also discovered Mama's Lu. Probably the highlight of the year. Those dumpling were so good. We helped a friend move their things into storage for until they return in the fall. The Culver City car show was also this month. The changed the location. We thought it was dt Culver like in past years, but it was a mile further in a field in the park. This is probably a better location for those camping out for the day with their cars, but I was not pleased about having to walk farther. We'll have to bike next year. We also went to the Riverside Quarry for a very short day trip before stopping for Mama's Lu on the way home. The Quarry is a literal dump. I counted tires and mattresses. Not what you would think of as far as climbing outside goes.

The following weekend we went up to the Bay area for A's sister's graduation from Davis. It was soooo hot in Davis! We managed to get A's folks out on a hike before we left. There was the typical reluctance before getting out and the typical pleasant surprise after. Type 2 fun.

We had some do nothing time, which I always appreciate. We started on the garden this month too, I think.

daringly crossed,
jt

Thursday, May 4, 2017

April is packed too

Ahoy,

The madness of March seemed to carry over straight into April. That final week of March, we had a brief visit from A's sister. O and H arrived for that first week of April. They are probably our favorite long-distance couple friends.

We celebrated H's birthday with a weekend of magic. We started on Friday with a visit to Universal Studios for a visit to the Harry Potter World. I think we watched Harry Potter that night, and all the nights. The following day, we had a slow start before walking to downtown and returning home to get ready for the Magic Castle. We definitely stayed out past our bedtime. The next day we went out for coffee before taking them to the North Hollywood Wat Thai Temple for a big lunch. This was a bad idea because we were way too full to climb at Hollywood Boulders after that. I feel like I had only started to digest all that about 2 hours into the session. We stopped at a Ktown grocery store before returning home to watch more Harry Potter. A weekend of magic.

The following weekend, a trip to Yosemite was cancelled due to unfavorable weather. So it opened up for a weekend of birthday extravaganzas. There was a tamale birthday party on Friday, and a barcade party on Saturday.

The following weekend we got to go see Into the Woods downtown. I loved it. I was particularly impressed that most of the production is put on by the actors. Everyone stayed on-stage the whole time to play instruments, make sounds, move props, etc. Some actors had multiple roles. It was so clever. We also went to Knott's Berry Farm that weekend. The last time I was there was a Thursday in fall, so there were no lines for anything. This time, we waited over an hour for many rides. I think we went on only a handful of rides. Our friends were so kind to gift us an annual pass to Knott's, so we could just go back another time. I had a lot of fun my first time there, but the lines really do just eat all of your time. I have to figure out a better way to do this.

The following weekend was Earth Day and Festival of Books. I volunteered at a creek clean-up Saturday AM - a great Earth Day activity. The following day, I managed to drag A to the Festival of Books. We didn't buy anything this year. Good job, us! We watched a talk from the authors of Run Fast, Eat Slow that influenced our salad game significantly. Salads have become a regular part of our diet and homemade dressings are the only kind we have in our fridge.

The last weekend in April was the big weekend I had been waiting for. I made the reservations 6 months earlier. We managed to wrangle our friends L and E at the last minute to come with us. We left Friday morning and arrived in the afternoon to a gorgeous bug-free campsite. The following morning we embarked on what would be an approximately 15-mile hike beginning with the East Rim Trail up to Observation Point and ending in the main park. This would be our longest hike to date. I was really nervous about this because L and E are super hardcore because they are avid backpackers - so this would be a walk in the park for them. Like anything challenging in life, it was fine. We got some epic views, few crowds, varied landscape, diverse topography, and a lot of sun. It was a great way to experience Zion. The following morning, we went up the iconic Angels' Landing before parting ways. I had done it solo last time, but this was definitely preferred. A and I stopped at the visitor center to watch an informational video before heading home at a leisurely pace. We left a night early, which I was ready for. We had done a lot and I was excited to go home and shower. Also, I love playing hooky with A so we had a great time the following day running errands.

splendid daily,
jt









Tuesday, April 4, 2017

March madness

Ahoy,

A lot of things happened in March.

The first weekend, we made a day trip to Solvang, a cute little Danish town. We stopped first at Nojoqui Falls for a short hike before rolling into town to look around. We stopped at a few places for wine tastings. If you stop first at the visitor center, they have a bunch of 2 for 1 coupons for tasting rooms. Great deals. By the end of the day, it could have been a tossup to spend the night or drive home - because we were schnockered and consequently sleepy. We (he) rallied and (he) drove back home after eating the worst sausage ever at the Copenhagen Sausage Garden. Costco sausages are leagues better. Do not go there for sausages despite the deceiving moniker.  

The following weekend, we planned a trip to Red Rocks, near Las Vegas. In honor of the RRS's birthday, but mostly BSB concert tickets I had gotten for the night of his birthday. I snagged a great and giant airbnb at the last minute for a lot of people. We might have had 13 sleeping in there at the highest capacity, but it could have held more. Our group was over 20 at some point while out at the crag. It was a large group to rally. I was pretty impressed everyone came through.

That first night, we bbq'd at the house and then the boys went to top golf, while I went to the concert with R. It was a great time for all parties involved. The following morning, we rolled out to the crag despite the unfavorable temperatures. It was a good day outside in the shade and hanging out with friends. We went to all you can eat sushi that night. It was delicious! We wrapped up the night with a low key gathering at the house. The following morning, we had a slow morning making and eating breakfast before heading back for home. At the beginning of the trip, there was talk of an AM climbing session this last day, but the consensus seemed to be that everyone was ready to roll back home - an indication of a good climbing day the day before, I suppose? We all parted ways, hopefully with the house cleaner than when we arrived. I do appreciate having adult friends. It was really nice to see this community in a different setting.

The following weekend, A's folks came down to celebrate A's and his dad's birthdays. We met them at Universal Studios after they arrived on a Friday. We had dinner on the Universal Citywalk and got shave ice near there. I think it was their first experience. The following day, we met them at their hotel in Anaheim to drive together to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. We packed a picnic lunch, which was a hit! I'm always happy to feed people. We stopped at what has become a Vietnamese and boba shop mainstay for his family for dinner before his folks drove back home. What a long day for them! I am always so impressed with the amount of time they are willing to spend in a car. It's nuts! It was a fun trip to see them briefly for the weekend.

The following weekend was a birthday extravaganza for several friends. Ciclavia rolled through Culver City again. They demoed these cool new cycle tracks on Washington from Helms to National. We held our post-Ciclavia BBQ again. Successful weekend that became increasingly jam-packed despite the plan to do nothing. This seems to be a recurring problem.

barely packed,
jt


Thursday, March 2, 2017

February, briefly

Ahoy,

My parents came to see our place for the first time in February. I put them up in an airbnb within walking distance. My mom was not pleased that there was no tv, even though she doesn't watch tv - she just has it on for background noise. What a waste! She also complained about it being someone's house and questioned the cleanliness. She insisted on buying her own towels at target (like that's any cleaner??) My dad was more than happy to be within a stone's throw. They barreled in every morning to make oatmeal and criticize my lifestyle and the cleanliness of my apartment. My dad contemplated opening a cleaning service as they were cleaning my place.  

They managed to have Chinese food for every meal except their first night and last day here. They insisted on going to Chinatown and then all the other days we went to various SGV eateries - the Chinatown of the suburbs. They would subsequently get Chinese food to go for dinner later. After the 3rd freeway interchange to get to "Chinatown" (my mom was under the impression that SGV is Chinatown, because that's where all her friends live), my dad, "Oh, this is actually pretty far..."

I took them on a hike every day. My mom started out complaining like there was no tomorrow. She eventually came to terms with the activity. She ended up going on all our hikes, despite the whining and threats.

Mom's philosophical progression on hiking:
Day 1: I'm not going! I don't have the shoes. You can't make me.
Day 2: I'm staying in the car.
Day 3: This is not bad. It is better and cheaper than the mall.
Day 4: Where are we hiking today?

My dad loved the hikes. He was so into it, and proposed moving to my patio and "going up the mountain with me every day." I set him up on the patio with a hammock to read his newspaper.

On our last day, we took them up the PCH a few minutes to the beach and for Western lunch. My dad picked a fish that he eventually traded with me because he liked mine better. He only likes Chinese food, and it was the most neutral thing on the menu. The RRS pulled the wool over my mom's eyes by picking up the check when they weren't looking. That is how you fool the master. We took them to blockheads for shave ice. To my surprise, they got their own and finished it. My dad contemplated opening a shave ice shop in Chicago. The highest compliment you could hope for from my parents who don't like cold things or sweet things. Truly, a surprise to both me and A.

A and I have been trying to figure out things to do with our parents, because we cannot spend the whole day eating. Hikes have been quite successful. It gets us all outside, and a way to expend some energy - making conversations easier to facilitate. Also, outside is free.

still sunscreening,
jt





Thursday, February 2, 2017

other January happenings

Ahoy,

Nothing much else happened in January. We watched Amelie, the musical. It is in our top 2-3 musicals. Philippa Soo, of former Hamilton fame, developed the character Amelie. It was very much in the spirit of Amelie, but completely different from the original French movie. We both loved it so much. It went onto Broadway in Manhattan, which ultimately ended it's run in May amidst Tony snubs and poor reviews. We were both thoroughly surprised.

We made our annual pilgrimage to Chicago for Chinese New Year. It has been too long since and I really don't remember what happened at this point. I really need to be better about filling in the blanks immediately after the events. The RRS's friend, J, met up with us in Chicago despite low temperatures. His first tourist experience, we made stops at the Art Institute, coffee, pizza, etc. He got a full ethnic experience at family CNY meals with my family, impressing them with his appetite.

We also went snowboarding this month to Big Bear. I was happy to go with our friends A and CW because we couples separated into and boys and girls, which correlated with our skill levels. Let's be honest, I am way too slow to go with the RRS. It is not good for either of us.

persistently sunny,
jt