Kyle's Birthday 2017

Heather's last day of school was Thursday, so I decided to take Friday off from work so we could go on an adventure for my birthday, which sounded much more fun than work.

We went up to the Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek.  They have a wild animal hospital and outreach program and provide homes for animals that can't be released back into the wild due to injury.  They have a roadrunner with bad eyesight, a peregrine falcon that can't fly, and a barn owl with a bum wing (as well as many other critters, particularly raptors).  It's a bit of an island-of-the-misfit-toys kind of place.

Unfortunately, after getting the camera all prepped and ready, I left it on the couch, so the only pictures we have are phone pictures, which aren't nearly as nice.

Despite lack of quality pictures, the trip was great.  The birds were really cool to see so up close.  We watched a flight demonstration by the barn owl (with the bum wing).  We had lunch in the park.  We'll have to go back again sometime.

Due to the timing of the trip and a very late lunch (and Heather and Corinne were exhausted from the excitement) we postponed birthday dinner until the next day.  So we went home and got some quick food into the girls and had cake and opened presents.  It was a good day.

Up Mt. Diablo

Last weekend we had a break in the rain and decided to get out of the house.  So we loaded up in the van and drove up Mt. Diablo (we've never been up before).  And then hiked around the top.

From the observation deck, which appears to be almost brand new.  The view is pretty spectacular, especially when everything is green.

I let Heather use my binoculars and she thought it was pretty great to look at anything and everything through them--even if it was only 3 feet away.

Out hiking the summit-loop trail:

Corinne thought climbing rocks and walking the paths was pretty awesome, but that wasn't going to be feasible once we got on the actual trail around the summit.  She wasn't enthused about the backpack at first, but once we got moving she was fairly pleased.

It was nice to get out and about, even if it took almost an hour to get up the mountain.  There was a line at the entrance gate that was moving incredibly slowly.  And then while we were waiting an ambulance and fire truck came up and passed us.  I'm sure taking the firetruck up the mountain with all the switchbacks and narrow lanes must have been fun.  I'm not sure what the correct protocol would have been if you had met the firetruck while coming down as the firetruck was coming up on the wrong side while passing all of the cars stopped waiting for the gate.  There wasn't room to go anywhere except in reverse.

The firetruck came down shortly thereafter, but we never saw the ambulance again.  So it must have gone down the northern entrance.

2016 Family Adventure - Part 8: Returning Home

On Friday, October 21st, Heather helped Grandma make sugar cookies and we went over to Dinosaur State Park and sifted out some fossils and rocks in the sluice.

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On the 22nd we had a farewell lunch at Dairy Queen:

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On our trip back, during our layover in Chicago, the weather was clear and we went up in to the Willis Tower.  Up to the 103rd floor to go stand out in a box of glass:

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Then a couple more days on the train:

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Heather woke up early 25th in desperate need of something to read.  So she read the passenger safety card:

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As we prepared to arrive back in Martinez we ventured out to the observation car, which was oddly deserted at this time.  I guess not many people take the train into Emeryville since the observation car is usually packed.

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And with that, our trip was over.  We loaded back up in the van and drove home.2016-connecticut-travel-map

2016 Family Adventure - Part 7: Castle Craig

Okay, let's clear this up immediately, "Castle" Craig is a lie.  It should be "Tower Craig" or something, but I didn't name it.  It's a little tower built up on the side of a mountain in Meriden, CT.  But it has a great view and we got nice colors from the leaves.  I don't have much else to say about it, but it makes me miss New England.  I mean, just look a these pictures!  Trees!  Everywhere!  They just grow all on their own without being carefully tended and watered!

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Just pretend that guy in the red shirt isn't there...2016-10-20_12-28-01 2016-10-20_12-30-38 2016-10-20_12-31-23 2016-10-20_12-46-24

After visiting the "castle" we had pizza at a local pizzeria before heading back to Cromwell.

2016 Family Adventure - Part 6: Newport, RI

On October 19 Mom agreed to watch the girls and Jess and I went to Newport, RI to see the "summer cottages" of the Gilded Age.  When we got to town we first stopped for some lunch at the Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant.  After lunch, while walking back to the car to drive to the mansions we walked by a little art gallery and popped in.  We really liked some of the pieces and the prices seemed reasonable for actual oil paintings, so we decided to buy a few and have them shipped home.

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The big one is about 40"x30" as framed.  The little ones are about 15"x13" as framed.

Despite the proprietor's claim, I'm pretty sure they're not local-artist works, but instead probably come from somewhere like Dafen Village in China which mass produces oil paintings.  We like them regardless.

Then we were off to the Breakers, built by the Vanderbilts.  Ostentatious is probably an understatement.  Every light fixture is wired for electrical and plumbed for gas.  Materials were imported from around the world so that every surface is just perfect.  The extravagance rivals the Palace of Versailles (though on a much smaller scale, Versailles is about six times larger).

The great hall: 2016-10-19_14-17-06

The dining room, I believe:2016-10-19_14-21-28 2016-10-19_14-22-59

Some unidentified room: 2016-10-19_14-34-16

The kitchen, naturally: 2016-10-19_15-05-32

The front of the house: 2016-10-19_15-12-23

After the Breakers we headed over to the Elms for their Servant Life Tour.  I believe this tour was developed in response to the popularity of Downton Abbey with lots of people suddenly wanting to know more about how the servants lived in these mansions.

We went through the servants' quarters upstairs, which are actually fairly large.  Then out on the roof before going down to the kitchen, storage areas, mechanical rooms, etc.

Outside before the tour, because who doesn't want a sphinx to greet their visitors? 2016-10-19_15-22-02 2016-10-19_15-25-06

The view from the roof (up on a platform to see over the wall that hides the servants' quarters from view):2016-10-19_16-08-36

The coal dump:2016-10-19_16-23-23

Every house should have an underground coal delivery rail system:2016-10-19_16-24-23

Jess posing with the pastry chef:2016-10-19_16-33-33

The back of the house that overlooks the rest of the property:2016-10-19_16-41-31

After the Elms we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Panera and headed on back to Cromwell.