Thursday, August 18, 2016

Summer 2016 Vacay - Stop 1, Part 1 (San Di ... oh no!)

I'm going to try very hard to do something that I've promised myself I would do for the past few months: I am going to update my blog.   Please understand that any lack of routine updating has nothing to do with desire, and everything to do with children who insist on staying up as late as they possibly can, and in doing so, completely decimate any energy I have to write.

Tonight, I held firm and have forced our children go to bed before 10:00 ... which given that it's 1) Summer and 2) The Olympics are on TV, makes me feel like I, myself, have won the all-around Gold.

I'll start my musings with the trip that our family recently took, the incredible 5,000-mile adventure that spanned three weeks and afforded us the opportunity to visit friends and family, and on our way home - took us through five states and five national parks, in five short days.   In a word ... this vacation despite all odds, was epic.  And it will require more than one blog post, but we've got to start somewhere, so here's Post Number One.


Three weeks ago, almost to the day, we left Texas and drove to San Diego, California.

This was the first time our entire family has been to California since we moved away - six years ago - and it was a huge event for us.  So huge that we failed to make any reservations for our visit to San Diego because we were under the solid impression that we'd be staying with friends during our visit. Friends who had told us a couple months ago, "Please, come stay with us!"  and then less than two weeks before our visit said, "Bummer we'll miss you ... we'll be out of town!" 


This was an excellent reminder of Rule #1: Don't have any expectations.

And Rule #2: Roll with it, and always possess the ability to be self-sufficient.

Upon learning that we had no place to stay in San Diego, our first thought was that we'd make it an adventure and camp.  But then we researched campsites and quickly learned that unlike 20 years ago when we could just show up and secure a campsite anywhere, with the overwhelming population boom, people now-a-days make reservations months in advance.  And so it is, there wasn't a single campsite available in San Diego.

So we looked in to renting an RV for our entire trip.  That seemed like an EXCELLENT idea, until we realized that in addition to the rental rate of approximately $200 a day which didn't seem too bad, we'd also be charged for mileage which can range anywhere from $0.35/mile to $0.99/mile. Also, gas costs are approximately 2X what we'd pay for our minivan (20 miles per gallon versus a dismal 10 miles per gallon - on the downhill).

Imagine us whipping out the calculator, tallying it all up.  And wow, you know what?   

Since we'd be driving 5,000 miles .... if we're going to spend $10,000 on a vacation for our family, it better include the Eiffel Tower and London Bridge.

(And not the Lego-sized variety.) (More on that later.)

So there we are trying to figure out where we'll stay in San Diego and because I read something about a certain number of campsites being held aside and available on a "first-come, first-serve" (FCFS) basis, decided that we'd just take our chances and GO FOR IT.

Because that's how we roll. 

And thus therefore to we left Texas with no destination, other than San Diego in sight.  Because we drove 800 miles a day, and gained a whopping two hours (moving from Central Standard Time to Pacific Standard Time) we arrived in San Diego by Friday mornig and drove straight to the campsite in Encinitas which had touted FCFS availability.  

Alas! Even though we arrived at 8:00 AM, there were NO campsites available, and even if there had been, we wouldn't have felt comfortable staying there because it looked like a homeless encampment.  Tents, one on top of another, with tarps and towels and undergarments strewn along a fence that bordered the road, people sitting around in lounge chairs drinking beer as the sun rose.   Our adventurous children were only slightly less dismayed by the sight than we were, so we pressed on.

It turns out that all of the other FCFS campsites were also booked because apparently, people camp out, over night and are there at daybreak to secure their campsite location.  So rather than linger and lament our loss over camping, we immediately turned our sights to Sea World and decided we'd resolve the whole "where we'll lay our head issue" after a day or visiting with Shamu and riding the Manta.   And so it is, after the fireworks concluded at Sea World - at 10:30 on a Friday night, we attempted to reserve a hotel for our little brood in San Diego.  And guess what?


Who knew?!?!

Everything was booked for miles and miles. And miles.  What a watershed moment for us to realize that good old San Diego was a mega-destination hot spot on a summer weekend.  So we began calling upon various friends at 11:00 PM - pleading on their answering machines that they let us camp in their front yards.  It was the height of pitifulness with a tinge of irresponsibility because parents really should have a solid plan for where their children will sleep at night.

Then again, I genuinely think these "on the fly" experiences give the children invaluable lessons in life such as perseverance and grit. Also, the importance of PLANNING.

In light of the grim circumstances, things came together as they always seem to do.  Yes, regardless of how bad it might appear, the sun SHALL rise again.   We found an overpriced hotel room in San Diego, despite all odds. And it was just down the road from Legoland, which was highly convenient, because we'd be visiting that park the very next day.

Here are the photos to recap our first day....

GPS screenshot, we've just driven 1,500 miles and are almost in San Diego with NO idea where we'll be staying for the next few days.  My adventuresome spirit says, "Boo-Yah ... Bring It!" Charlie's much more conservative spirit says, "Good God Almighty.  Pass The Tums." 


Stop 1: Sea World.  My how they've grown.


Henry, doing his best to summon his beluga.


The dolphin show that inspired all of our children to pursue studies in Marine Biology.


Happiness. With absolutely no hint of concern regarding "where, pray tell, will we sleep tonight?"


The graceful sting ray.


Charlie in the front seat on "The Manta" a totally awesome, hold on to your HATS roller coaster that we rode no less than eight times.  Woot!


One of my BFFs, Michelle, with two of her three kids riding with us on Ship Wreck Rapids. Michelle went to Graduate School with Charlie and I in San Diego, and just so happens to work for the same company as me.  She and her family currently live less than 10 minutes away from us in Texas, and our children are similarly aged.  Her sweet daughter is 12 months older than the triplets, and her adorable son was born the same month and year as Henry.  They were vacationing in San Diego at the same time as us, and we met up for the day at Sea World and had a such a blast.    


Best brother ever.


Best siblings ever.


One of the amazing shows that we watched ... these two were unbelievable and inspired Charlie and I to learn the trapeze.


This guy, also part of the Cirque de la Mer show totally blew our minds when he flew 30 feet out of the water on his water jet boots. Turns out, you can rent these things?!


Incredible trapeze artists in the front, water-booted rocket man in the back ...


At which point, we begin to contemplate: no, seriously ... where will we sleep tonight? 


Michelle, who is a much better planner than me, had secured a little bungalow for her family right on the beach and invited us to come stay at her place.  Thankfully, it wasn't necessary. But there's no doubt, everyone needs to have a friend like Michelle.


(And a pair of jet rocket water boots, if at all possible.)