I feel like we have been everywhere since the last time I blogged! Time off was much needed. After all, we came on this adventure to spend time together as a family, experiencing it together, without irritation (I am doing important writing stuff here, so do not interrupt my massively intelligent/hilarious/wise/changing-the-fate-of-the-world-as-we-speak thought process, for crying out loud!!!), hesitation, or just-one-more-minute-and -then-we-will-see-the-wonderful-whatever-thing-because-I-am-almost-done-writing-about-the-last-wonderful-thing-ation. I couldn’t think of another -ation word. Sorry.
So, in the theme of the Geoff Mack song – that’s the title- you’ve heard Johnny Cash sing it, right? – I’m going to quickly tell you everywhere we’ve been and one or two “must-see’s” in that locale. Are you ready? And no, don’t sing it to the song tune, it really doesn’t work, I tried.
Scott’s Bluff, NE: Visit the Farm and Ranch Museum (FARM); buy some doughnuts at the bakery downtown (sooo good); wave at 2011 Miss America Teresa Scanlan (actually she is in college now in VA but her family is a wonderful, home-schooling, runnin’ errands after work, just folks bunch of people who I am blessed to call my friends); say hello to Kay Grote down at the paper; and do not forget, whatever you do, to climb Scott’s Bluff and stand in awe. It’s truly beautiful and worth the trip! Read the newspaper article about our visit.
Scott’s Bluff, NE
Mariposa, CA: Visit the giant Sequoia’s and Yosemite National Park.
Los Banos, CA: Eat at Ming’s Chinese Restaurant and then head up Pacheco Pass to one of my favorite places ever (mostly due to childhood memories but it’s still pretty cool), Casa de Fruita. Once there, ride the carousel, buy some Chaucer’s Mead (honey wine) because if you like sweeter wines it is wicked good (I am currently in Maine so . . . wicked), and get yourself some dried fruit from the huge “buffet” offered.
Pismo Beach, CA: If it’s winter, get over to the eucalyptus grove off of the beach, and feast your eyes on thousands of Monarch butterflies spending the cold months in the tree tops. It’s pretty amazing. When you get hungry, head over to The Cracked Crab; if you don’t mind paying a bit more for really good food, that is.
Monarch butterflies in eucalyptus trees in Pismo Beach, CA. Photo by Vincent Winkelman, all rights reserved.
Clovis, CA: My home town, actually, although it’s practically been swallowed up by Fresno. Clovis has managed to keep its small-town charm, though. The rodeo grounds are still one block off main street. Stroll along the cobblestone streets in the re-vamped downtown area and eat at DiCiccos Pizza – the Italian salad dressing is probably bottled but it tastes so good, bringing up all those memories of me and my mom and sister sharing a small pepperoni pizza and a salad. We’d sop the last of the dressing up with warm bread, and it still tastes just that good, to me.
Santa Cruz, CA: The Beach Boardwalk is where it’s at. Ride one of the country’s oldest wooden rollercoasters. Rides are still just $1! The surrounding communities are lovely, as well, with lots of public beach access and shady spots under giant redwoods. Visit Soquel (where I did my Zumbatomic dance fitness instructor training with Joy at Santa Cruz Dance Company) and Felton, where there is a fabulous natural foods store. Why, oh why, didn’t I stock up??) Go to the Mystery Spot, preferably not in a 36 ft. motorcoach (white knuckle drive.) But go, it’s crazy.
Redwood tree in Soquel, Ca
I am not leaning. I am standing straight, right? Mystery Spot
San Marcos, CA: Great beaches, and LegoLand (very overpriced – get some discount tickets, I beg you.) Kids under 12 will love it, though. The rides are geared toward younger children. My sons are Star Wars fanatics so that exhibit was extremely cool for them. Save time to just watch your kids build in the Lego play area. Take a whale watching cruise – but be warned, there is no guarantee you will see whales (we didn’t) but you will likely see dolphins, at least.
Crescent City, CA: What a great little town. It’s the farthest north you can go on the coastline before Oregon, meaning it’s far enough north to leave the snotty, entitled, don’t-you-even-think-of-parking-that-rv-here and get-out-of-my-way-I-am-in-a-hurry attitude, of a certain western state, behind. Whatever do you mean? Hey, I grew up there, I can mock it. And yes, there are many,many wonderful people in CA (like my entire family practically) and even more beautiful, wonderful sights and locales. Crescent City is just close enough to Oregon to catch the relaxed vibe, as in, “We don’t care, park that rig anywhere you want.” I parked on the pier and listened to the waves crash all night long. Do not miss going to Ocean World– quaint, inexpensive, and up close. The seal demonstration is a crowd pleaser!
Driftwood at Crescent City Beach, Ca
Lake Havasu City, AZ: See the London Bridge. It was falling down (hence the song) so they took it down, sold it, shipped it, and re-built it. It’s beautiful. Say hi to Connie Alexander (Alexander Insurance) and her incredible non-profit org., “Women with Willpower.” And do not miss out on the Arizona Sonoma Desert Museum. I don’t know why it’s a museum, the whole thing is outdoors. I’d almost call it a zoo. Just go. I’ve never seen so many types and colors and varieties of cacti in my life. It’s a forest of green in the desert. Be sure and catch the Raptor Free Flight.
- Cacti at Arizona Sonoma Museum
New Mexico: The Gila Cliff Dwellings. A wonderful stop for home-schoolers and history buffs. It’s also just really pretty. The staff are all volunteers who are dedicated to this beautiful monument. Also Carlsbad Caverns. Amazing. That’s all I have to say. Oh, and take a jacket.
Gila Cliff Dwellings
San Antonio, TX: Yeeeee haw! No, actually, it wasn’t like that. Although on the drive out there, wow, miles and miles and miles of noooootthhhing. The speed limit was, I kid you not, 85 mph. Cause, what are ya gonna hit? Nothin’. Hear my accent, ya’ll? San Antonio is actually very cosmopolitan, clean, and not desert-like at all. Other than the cacti growing in the woods around the church we camped at, like the one I kicked over to show my son “what’s inside” and got a nice bunch of 3 inch long spikes through my shin for my troubles. While you are there, of course, see The Alamo, like, duh. Also, check out the River Walk. It’s a beautiful place to take the kids for a stroll along the walkway-enclosed river and it’s a whole lotta fun at night for dining and dancing. Refer back to that yee-haw, earlier. Actually, we spent our evening at a salsa bar doing Zumba routines to the latino beat!
Beautiful old tree at The Alamo
Little Falls, MN: OK, it’s kind of where we live, but there are great things to do there. Check out the antique shops downtown, and Charles Lindbergh State Park. Take a class through Community Services. Enjoy the clean air and nearby lakes!
Sunset on Big Deep Lake
Grant’s Pass, Oregon: Too big for my taste, but lots and lots to do in the surrounding area. There’s a Farmer’s Market nearly every day of the week, somewhere. Our favorites are the Applegate Valley and the Rogue River. Yeah, and I’m not giving away all the good places because I am going back there and don’t want to find you all crowding it up. I’m selfish like that.
So, that, in a nutshell, is how we spent our summer vacation. Or the past 11 months to be precise. I bet I skipped a few places, so feel free to point them out and remind of the coolness I neglected to mention. Oh, by the way, we are hanging out in Maine right now. I know, it’s reaaaaaalllly rough.
Be well and safe travels!
Want more? Visit my foodie column on Examiner.com and see what tips and tricks I’ve found for you on my blog. Perhaps you’d like to check out my book? Come on, live a little!