Monthly Archives: March 2014

San Francisco – a city of hills, ferries & prisons

lee & hunter hyde streetWe arrived in San Francisco after a very long day of driving from Las Vegas (11 hours), with one stop to change a flat trailer tire. We were tired and grumpy yet also excited about the 2 days to come. We had a plan and everything fit very neatly in it. Glitch #1 – the Candlestick RV Park did not live up to expectations – it was crowded, loud and expensive. Glitch #2 – Alcatraz tickets were sold out for Tuesday so we could not go until Wednesday morning. Glitch #3 – we had to find a place to get the trailer tire repaired as the last one is ready to go anyway and we don’t want to be left without a spare.

Not too worry – I am resilient (I have said that a lot to myself this week)! After an hour or so of online research, I came up with a plan B… By 8:00 am Tuesday morning I was on to plan C due to the challenge of finding a trailer tire but it all came together. We got our 2nd night fee refunded and were out the RV park gates and off to Albany (north of Oakland) to get a new trailer tire. The goodyear dealer there was fabulous and we were in and out in under 30 minutes. Then it was off to the REI store in Berkley (no luck in our search for a deck bag) and then on to the California Canoe & Kayak store in Oakland, where we picked up Hunter’s new (gently used) 2Fun whitewater boat.

oakland ferry rideAfter a yummy lunch at Jack London Square in Oakland, we caught the ferry over to San Francisco and started our tourist life. It was a moderate downpour for the first hour and we were seriously questioning what we were doing planning on walking around the city all afternoon. Luckily we found some fun things to amuse ourselves as we wandered down the waterfront.

The Exploratorium had a really neat outdoor exhibit on skateboarding that caught our attention. It taught you the science behind skateboarding (how you turn, composition of wheels, size of wheels and the physics of doing an ollie) and had real skateboards to play with and experience.

By the time we got to Fisherman’s Wharf the rain was slowing down and we were able to hang out and enjoy the sea lions.

lee & hunter fisherman's wharfWe knocked off another Junior Ranger badge by exploring the San Francisco Marine National Park – it celebrates the heritage of the city as a shipping port.

From there we wandered up steep hills of Hyde street (the one they show the car chases going down on TV), checked out the cable cars and the worlds windiest street (Lombard).

We stopped in at Ghirardelli square to check out the chocolate store and then wandered back to Fisherman’s wharf for dinner before catching the last ferry back to Oakland.

We were up bright and early the next morning to catch the 8:10 am ferry from Oakland to San Francisco so that we could catch the 9:10 ferry out to Alcatraz Island (the main reason we stopped in San Fran). The National Park Service limits the number of visitors per day to 3,000 so the ferry tickets sell out quickly. Having a National Parks Pass provides no discount (similar to Fort Sumter) as the ferry is run by a 3rd party concessionaire) and they have no junior ranger program, which was a bit of a disappointment.

The orientation film is well worth seeing and gave a great overview of the history of Alcatraz. From there we wandered up the hill and did the audio self guided tour, which was impressive. It rained off and on all morning so at times some of the spaces felt very cramped as people didn’t really spread out to explore the full island.

golden gate bridgeAlcatraz has amazing views of San Francisco in all directions.

Although our visit was quick and there were many things we didn’t see, it was still a fun whirlwind and gives you a taste of the city.

18 hours in Vegas

LOVE - beatlesOn our last Friday night in Oceanside we were at the movie theatre to see Mr. Peabody & Sherman. There was a preview (one of a zillion) that showed the Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. The boys were intrigued so we did some quick checking on distances, timelines and tickets and TA-DA – Vegas was added as a quick stop on our way home….

We left Oceanside Sunday morning at 9:00 am, after a last breakfast burrito at the Buccaneer cafe (a must stop in oceanside, great food, great views & great prices). We landed in Las Vegas by 2 in the afternoon at the Oasis RV Park. In typical vegas style, it was gated, had a HUGE lobby and 2 swimming pools. It was 3 miles from the strip ($20 cab ride) so not as convenient as I would have liked for a quick stop, but it was very clean, well maintained and safe which are high priorities these days.

LOVE sign - mirageAfter a quick swim we cleaned up and pulled out the stash of “good clothes” (first time they have been out all trip) to head off to the theatre. The show was GREAT. Hunter has never been to a Cirque show and his eyes were wide open and mouth was grinning from beginning to end. Everyone was busy pointing things out to ensure that no one missed a single fun thing. The music was fabulous and a neat story line to the show.

lee & hunter bellagioWe spent some time wandering south on the strip after the show and stopped to enjoy the lights at the Bellagio – another new thing for Hunter (we were in Vegas 3 years ago with him but did not catch this). He loved it so much we stayed for a second show before heading back to the campground.

This little side adventure made for a very long day’s drive to San Francisco (9 hours) but we all agreed that it was well worth it!

A bowl comes to life…

hunter lee pottery wheelHunter has been asking to do pottery on a pottery wheel since we started the road trip. He saw it on TV at some point at home and thought it looked really neat. Thanks to AB Fine Arts in Carslbad, California we learned the art of wheel pottery from Mrs. Susan one afternoon. It is amazing what you can create in 30 minutes with one on one instruction!

In our thirty minute session Hunter was able to learn how to use the wheel, shape the ball, create an opening in the ball and turn that opening into a bowl shape. He had a fabulous time and it was neat to see how quickly it could all come together.

We took it home to dry and paint and then dropped it back off at Mrs. Susan’s house for firing and glazing. I was amazed at how much the colours changed and came to life.

hunter finished bowlThis is one pretty proud young man. He’s interested in doing it again so I’m hoping we can pick it up in Whitehorse this summer.

Week Two in Oceanside – the Beach House

campfireGrandma Lynne generously rented a beach house in Oceanside for a week as everyone’s Christmas present this year. It was a great chance for Hunter to catch up with his cousins and for all of us to just “play”. Being right on the beach, everyone could just come and go from the ocean all day, which was also helped by the hot tub… where you could just chill out – or eat ice-cream!

kids hot tubhot tub ice creamEveryone had a great time out in the water surfing or boogie boarding…

We also had lots of sand castle building, kite flying and bubbles throughout the week.

hunter & taeya kite flyingNo family trip to Oceanside is complete without stopping at Legoland, which never disappoints and always has some new experience or highlight.hunter in the stocks legolandOn our way home we stopped at the local strawberry fields for bargain priced strawberries fresh from the field!

strawberry fieldsNo family vacation is without it’s ups and downs, especially with twelve people in one house. We all survived, finished happy and are grateful to have been able to spend quality time together again this year.

Oceanside California – week one back at the beach

Tim & HunterWe are back in Oceanside, California for three weeks, splitting our time between the Paradise by the Sea RV Park and a fabulous beach house that Grandma Lynne rented for the entire family.

Week one was kicked off by a major winter storm that blew in and brought 3 days of rain, wind and big waves. Hunter spent those 3 days hanging with his local cousin and Tim and I were left to amuse ourselves with walks in the rain, multiple games of ping pong and pool at the RV Park games room and lots of reading.

When things finally cleared up we all hit the ocean with a vengeance… We have a little wagon that we bought when we were here in October and now load it up with everything we need for the beach, while also carrying kayaks and surfboards.

Tim has a love/hate relationship with his new Mega Proton Surf Kayak – it has the potential to be amazing but he has to get through the learning curve first!

hunter and TimTim bounced between his surf kayak and my Jackson FunRunner all week. Some days were great and some days we all got quite beat up by the surf… We’re still learning how to read the surf report correctly (winds, waves, tides etc.).

The storm churned up the ocean quite a bit and it seemed to take about 3 days for things to settle back down. It was great when we saw the dolphins, seagulls and pelicans back.

Scrambling in Joshua Tree

IMG_0923We stopped in Joshua Tree for a few days to break up the drive from Sedona to San Diego. Both Tim and I have great memories of previous trips there and we wanted to share the fun of scrambling in the jumbo boulders with Hunter.

We had initially hoped to camp in one of the campgrounds within Joshua Tree National Park but unfortunately they just aren’t designed to hold a 49 foot monstrosity! After finding the one spot that would fit and realizing we were on an extreme angle and parked next to an area that had a sign warning of dangerous bees (really???), we decided to give up on that vision and head into 29 Palms to the commercial campground there. 29 Palms Golf Resort is an older, smaller worn down version of the Voyager resort in Tuscon. It was just fine for a 2 night stop…

Joshua Tree has a number of different areas / zones to the park. Situated between the Great Basin desert to the north and the Sonoran desert to the south, the Mojave desert is a rain shadow desert with a mix of latitude, elevation, geology and plants. We successfully completed another Junior Ranger badge and enjoyed the learnings through out the day.

One of the interesting “geographies” is the Chulla Cactus Garden. As you drive from the south entrance to the north entrance you suddenly come across this area full of chulla cacti. It is maybe a couple of kilometres deep and stops as quickly as it starts, leaving you really curious about the ecosystem that created it.

IMG_9435We spent a good three hours exploring all of the rocks and pushing our various comfort zones with heights and gaps.

IMG_9442Although the rock looks just like the slick rock found in Utah and northern Arizona, it is not! It’s a scratchy mixture that is almost like rough concrete. Not nearly as comfortable to slide or contort yourself when scrambling but it does provide good grip.

Another fun day playing outside in the sunshine 🙂

Shakespeare is cool!

hunter as donkey

I’m sitting here having just received a passionate lecture from Hunter about how the school exercise I created regarding Macbeth doesn’t make sense… It made me smile as I love that he has become so interested and engaged with Shakespeare – definitely not the norm for most kids his age.

In seeking to ensure that he really understood the story that he read a few days ago, I asked him to write a letter from Lady Macbeth to Macbeth about why she was going to kill herself. His immediate reaction was that this didn’t actually happen in the story, that it made no sense to pretend that it happened in the story and then he carried on to lecture me about the entire premise of Macbeth, what happened and why.

Learning objective complete – and he doesn’t even realize it! Big thanks to Aunt Christy, Uncle Sean and the Intrepid Shakespeare Company, who make Shakespeare fun. Last weekend Hunter read the abridged version of Macbeth for kids on Sunday, had Uncle Sean explain the play to him (after having just played Macbeth in their theatre production) and then got to see a school production live on Monday afternoon. The end result being that he intimately understands the story and likes it. He also spent time helping with some filming that the team was doing and enjoyed dressing up as Bottom (Midsummer), Puck (Midsummer), Harry Potter and a Businessman (just because).

We have been really lucky as we have had a front row seat to theatre, thanks to the family connection, and this has made Shakespeare interesting, cool and fairly every day to Hunter. It has also really re-enforced for me the idea that “how” you learn something can make a real difference in what you actually learn and your view of the topic/content.

Hunter learned about Midsummer Night’s Dream when they tackled it at their Montessori School last year (thanks to their teacher Dominic who is also passionate about Shakespeare), and also got to see it live when we visited San Diego (January 2013). At that same time, Intrepid was in rehearsal for Hamlet so we read that book and got to watch it coming together in real life. Hunter went to many rehearsals and thought that the fight choreography was the best part.

I will say that our interest in Shakespeare is certainly helped by the fact that the man liked to write about battles and fights and death and there are a lot of weapons, of various forms, used throughout his plays.

We’re moving on to read the Tempest next week so we can take advantage of Uncle Sean and his ability to teach the in’s and out’s of Shakespeare. Maybe we’ll enlist the cousins and put on a mini version of the play so everyone can share in the fun!

Shameless plug for Intrepid Shakespeare – study after study has shown that exposure to live theatre has a positive impact on kids ability to learn, read and communicate. Never mind how it brings classics to life and expands kids perspective on the world. Intrepid has an amazing school program. They happily take donations for anyone that wants to contribute to their school program so they can take it to underprivileged schools that can’t afford to pay 🙂

6 months on the road – where has the time gone???

familiy photoWow – we’ve been living in our little world (100 sq ft) for 6 months. Time has flown by and I can’t believe that we will be back home in only two months… It seems quite surreal at the moment.

I can also envision this loud ticking clock that is counting down our remaining days. But that kind of thinking infers that we are counting down towards the end of something. What if this is just the beginning of the adventure and more is to come once we get home? We are already talking about a summer filled with kayaking and biking and how paddling season will be so much better this year because we can go when the water is there and take school with us rather than working around school and work schedules. And then there’s next year…

So – 6 months on the road, where is our thinking? What have we learned? What observations do we have?

  • patience is a wonderful virtue that we have all gained some more off – learning not to react to every situation and give the benefit of the doubt to the other if they react in a certain way or make a snarky comment. Knock on wood we have not had a single blow-up, by any of us, in 6 months.
  • You really don’t need very much stuff to get through every day – clothes, toys etc. We have many things that we packed thinking we couldn’t do without them and they haven’t been touched yet (and imagine how much stuff we left behind…)
  • Time is the biggest gift you can get and family is a wonderful place to spend it. We have ended up spending close to 10 weeks with or around extended family and it has been wonderful to have this time, especially when we live so far away from everyone
  • Diesel gas and reliable internet are two things that are not easy to find and should not be taken for granted! Clean showers and recycling are the other things that should be maximized when you find them…
  • We did not end up boondocking (staying in the middle of no where with no services) as much as we had originally envisioned due to a mix of weather (cold, rain, yuck) and the locations we were hitting. We spent more time in urban and somewhat urban locations for school experiences than we normally would in our adventure style.
  • Roadschooling is fabulous. I love how much opportunity is out there to bring learning to life. We have learned so many things, by taking advantage of situations that just present themselves, that we wouldn’t have had in a traditional classroom.

We are moving forward with a sense of certainty that we are going to slow down and simplify. We can’t tell you exactly what this means, other than knowing it includes less work and more adventure time together. We don’t yet have answers to “where” and “what” but we do have the comfort and confidence that we will figure it out as we go. At the moment we’re taking one month at a time and one decision at a time, knowing that anything is possible and it’s just up to us to choose what makes the most sense for us.