Monthly Archives: February 2016

Oceanside Night Market – National Public Safety Week

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The City of Oceanside has both a weekly farmers market and a weekly food/fun market – both of which happen on the main drag on Thursdays. Hunter and I love food carts and food stands of any kind so we try to catch the market a few times when we are in town. It was a huge bonus when our first Thursday in town was also Public Safety Night at the night market – obviously we had to go!

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As part of National Public Safety Week, communities across the USA were creating events to connect with and educate the public about what they do. Both the Oceanside Police and Oceanside Fire Departments had a large presence, which was great for kids young and old!

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The police had a few cars, their boat, their SWAT truck and their mobile command centre out. Hunter was very disappointed to learn that you have to be 16 to participate in their Explorer Program where you get to train as a junior officer. Almost all of the police vehicles were open and could be checked out from all angles and the officers were very open to answer a wide variety of questions from a curious young boy…

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Oceanside Fire and EMS were easy to find thanks to their ladder truck having the ladder fully extended – Wow, that is big! Firetrucks are somewhat old hat to us from all our travels. We’ve found that firemen are typically super friendly and welcoming about letting Hunter explore their trucks and learn about their profession.

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A big thanks to all of the Oceanside Public Safety Staff – being out and approachable sure helps inspire and motivate kids, both to trust them and to consider the roles as a future career.

Frolicking with friends in Texas

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We are lucky that we have great friends in Texas as Texas is HUGE and takes a good day and a half to drive across, so it’s nice to have some places to stop and play.  Going both east and west we made stops in San Marcos to kayak and Houston to play and regroup.

Our Houston stop is at Kelly & Phil’s house and it’s a fabulous pit stop. Everyone gets to decompress a bit and stretch their legs in a low key way. Hunter has non stop fun with Phil, making wacky things on the 3-D printer, playing with remote control toys, doing bizarre science experiments and making original music productions on garage band. We always manage to get in a leisurely walk and bike ride to explore. Funny that we’ve now been there three times but yet never really hit the highlights of Houston – it just feels like too much effort and would take us away from the joy of connecting with friends in a low key way.

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Our stop in San Marcos is all about kayaking with our friend Ben, who got a new addition this year! San Marcos is spring fed so the water is in the 70’s year round. It’s a small play section on the river with three waves or drops and makes for a fun afternoon.

We got really lucky on both our visits this year  (November & January) with sunny afternoons, which made for a great pit stop to get back on the water (or in the water) and just play.

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Gulf Islands National Seashore

IMG_3349We said our final goodbye’s to family in central Florida the 3rd week of January and packed ourselves back into the truck and trailer to start our journey back to the west coast for February 1st. The Gulf Islands National Seashore sits on the Gulf of Mexico right at the southern border of Florida and Mississippi and looked like a fun place to regroup and reconnect as our micro family.

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On the Florida side it is comprised of a series of barrier islands that border Pensacola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, with miles of white sand and dune grass.

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We arrived on Weds late afternoon and happened to run into a Park Ranger who was just leaving work. He mentioned off hand that we should watch the weather as it was a fluid situation regarding the park closure. Huh??? Those comments caused some research and we discovered that there was a major storm about to roll through with high winds coming from the south, which often cause them to close the road as it is below sea level. It seems that it can be closed for days at a time while they clear the sand… So much for our plans for 4 days hanging at the beach surfing!

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We got up the next morning and got a beach walk in – it was chilly and intermittently rainy but the winds weren’t bad. Fort Pickens is a Civil War fort that lays within the National Park. We found an armament on our walk and made plans to hit the rest of the fort in the afternoon while sticking around close to the park / campground in case of closure.

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By mid afternoon the rains had rolled in so our tour of the Fort was wetter and briefer that normal, yet still fun. The best part for me (as mom and teacher) was hearing Hunter compare and contrast Fort Pickens with the other forts we have visited on our travels, both this year and two years ago. The old adage definitely weighs true – he excels at things that interest him!

Fort Pickens is the largest of four forts built to defend Pensacola Bay and its navy yard. The fort was begun in 1829, completed in 1834, and used until 1947. Ironically, the only real action the fort endured occurred when the country was at war with itself. Fort Pickens was one of four seacoast forts in the South that remained in Union control during the Civil War. Preserved by the American people, Fort Pickens exemplifies over a century of homeland defense from the nation’s infancy through World War II.

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After much debate by the park wardens they made the call to keep the National Park open on Thursday, even though we were about to find ourselves right in the middle of the red blob of weather warnings. Our first tornado was not something that I was all that excited about! We blew and shook all night long but thankfully nothing ended up airborne and nothing crashed into or onto us. The lightning show was spectacular!

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After being up most of the night we finally nodded off to sleep around 4am when the main Tornado watch had passed (yes, I downloaded the weather app and spent a lot of time checking it while Tim mocked me). We awoke mid morning to chilly temperatures and high winds so decided to pull up stakes and move westward, with an afternoon stop at the Pensacola Naval Air Museum on our way out of town.

The Naval Air Museum is located right on the actual Naval Base, which was a pretty cool experience for us. We drove through the main gates, where the guards found our truck and trailer quite humorous, and then headed off in search of the museum. It was like a small city, complete with golf course and hotel. We have been to a number of military museums over the course of the last three years and while this one was good, we all agreed that it did not make the top three, which as of today are the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tuscon, the World War II Museum in New Orleans and the National Infantry Museum in Columbus.

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Overall our visit to Pensacola was a bit of a disappointment, not because of what the area had to offer but more because we didn’t really get to experience it in our own way. Due to weather there was no surfing, no bike riding and no exploring of the beaches – all things that we had hoped to do. The Fort Pickens Campground is a great site with very affordable rates and we definitely recommend it as a stop for families. Hopefully we will be back some day to redo our adventures!