A Trip to the Coast

We took an extended-weekend trip out to the northern California coast last weekend.  We left Wednesday afternoon (April 5) and headed out to the Red Lion Hotel in Eureka.  We got in a little late so it was straight to bed the first night.

On Thursday we headed out to the Elk River Trailhead & Old Town of Falk Walking Tour to take the ~2 mile round-trip path out to what I was led to believe was a ghost town.  But, at least as far as we could see from the trail, there really isn't anything to see left of the old logging town.  You can see some of the remnants of the old caretaker's house from the 1970's, but that's about it.

Though the goal of the hike was a bit of a letdown, I really liked the quiet of walking through the redwood forest with mostly nobody else around.

After our hike we headed to the Loleta Cheese Factory (not to be confused with the Cheesecake Factory restaurant).  They had already completed their cheese production for the week so we didn't get to see any being made, but we had lunch at their grilled-cheese bar and then completed their garden scavenger hunt.

We bought some cheese to bring home and then headed back to the hotel.  For dinner we walked across the street to the China Buffet.  Corinne was happy to have a plate of green beans and honeydew.

On Friday we got up and headed out to the Samoa Cookhouse for breakfast.  They claim to be the last operating cookhouse (from the logging days).  They have a daily-changing, set, all-you-can-eat menu served at communal tables.  We had pancakes, eggs, sausage, orange juice, and biscuits with gravy.

We needed to fill up for our drive up north.  Our first stop was at Trees of Mystery and stereotypical tourist trap, but with the unique draw of gondola rides through the redwood forest.  We were thwarted in this plan due to a power outage and the gondolas weren't running.  So we kept on driving up to Crescent City to see the Battery Point Lighthouse.

The road up to Crescent City from Eureka (US 101) seems to have suffered some damage from California's rain this year.  Several sections were down to one lane due to landslides, with construction going on to rebuild the lost roadways.

Here the stormy weather made for a much more interesting visit.  You can see a wave crashing over the far side of the cliff upon which the lighthouse sits.  It's an operating lighthouse with a 24/7 staff.  Its cliff is an island during all but low-tide and when low-tide aligns with midday they offer tours.

We got there a little early for the tour, so we headed to the Apple Peddler for lunch where we narrowly avoided getting caught out in an impressive hailstorm.  After lunch we headed back to the lighthouse for a tour.

The stormy sea made for some moody pictures I really like:

I would have taken more long exposure pictures of the waves, but I didn't bring my tripod, so I took a few by setting my glove down on some seaweed on a rock and putting the camera on that.  This rather limited my subject options.

On the way back from Crescent City we tried Trees of Mystery again, but the power was still out.  However, I snapped this picture from the parking lot.

Dinner was at Marcelli's Pizzeria.

Saturday morning we got up and had breakfast/lunch at Kristina's Restaurant before heading out to Trinidad State Beach.  Our GPS unit doesn't understand where that is and attempted to kill us.  It wanted me to drive down some steep, dark, dirt/mud, little one-lane road. I vetoed that option and Jess used her phone to find our way to actual beach access.

I call this "Heather versus the ocean"

After the beach we ate at the Lighthouse Grill in Trinidad and then headed back in to Eureka to get dessert at Vampire Penguin (shaved snow sundaes).

On Sunday we packed up and headed on the road back towards home.  We drove through Avenue of the Giants where I snapped this picture:

Then we stopped off at Chandelier Tree to see if I could squeeze the van through a tree.  We managed to squeak through but not much room to spare.

Heather and Corinne desperately needed to get out of the van and run around for a bit, so we stayed at the tree for a little while.  Heather explored the meadow and Corinne played with the gravel.

Then it was back in the van until we managed to find a Taco Bell for a quick dinner before pushing on home.

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.

2016 Family Adventure - Part 5: Kidcity & CT Science Center

On Monday, the 17th, we took the girls to Kidcity Children's Museum in Middletown.  Mom was watching Ryan again and brought him with us.  It's a pretty impressive set up; intricately designed rooms with almost all of the equipment in proper working order.  The girls couldn't get enough.  We practically had to drag them out after 3.5 hours.

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While wandering about in the science-fiction-y space room Corinne wandered off and got herself stuck in an elevator and freaked out.  Grandma rescued her, but now both our kids probably have elevator complexes.

Heather serving up bowls of water vapor at the bar:2016-10-17_13-29-06

 

Running the cash register:2016-10-17_13-38-37

 

"I'm a sea creature!"2016-10-17_13-45-39

 

The Fishery was pretty cool.  The fish have a screw in their mouths, the conveyor belt has magnets to which you can stick the fish.  We spent a lot of time in the Fishery.  Conveyor belts, sorting baskets, slides, elevators--so much fun!2016-10-17_14-06-42 2016-10-17_14-10-25 2016-10-17_14-24-05

 

Climbing the monkey bars in the sound room:2016-10-17_14-41-11

 

Riding the see-saw:2016-10-17_14-42-40

 

The Medieval Room was also really cool: crossbows, a carrot farm, a corn field, a bread oven, a "water" wheel, building blocks!2016-10-17_14-52-32

 

Heather put on a puppet show for me:2016-10-17_15-30-21

 

Snack time:2016-10-17_15-59-36

 

And one tuckered out Heather at the end:2016-10-17_16-56-24

 

Then on Tuesday we headed up to Hartford to see the Connecticut Science Center.  The school groups and older kids weren't allowed in the water zone, which made it the perfect place for Heather and Corinne.

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And Corinne got herself soaking wet by pouring water all over herself.  So Jess bought a "Sweet as Pi" onesy for her to wear the rest of the day.2016-10-18_11-33-16

 

Apparently you can get a stream of water to shoot up higher if it hits a surface and then spreads out horizontally instead of falling back down on itself.  Who knew?2016-10-18_11-41-02

 

Heather giving her green-screen weather report:2016-10-18_12-57-45

 

Driving the ambulance:2016-10-18_13-29-20

 

Heather got a personal demonstration about inertia and centrifugal forces:2016-10-18_14-04-41

 

After the school groups leave they open up the dinosaur-bone digging pits:2016-10-18_14-12-52 2016-10-18_14-31-52

 

Astronaut Heather ready to explore the solar system.2016-10-18_14-49-51

 

They had an entire exhibit about Leonardo da Vinci's various inventions:2016-10-18_15-25-18 2016-10-18_15-27-40

 

The sound exhibit was fun too.  Corinne thought the laser harp was a great place to sit (notice the laser beams on her head).2016-10-18_15-50-07

After a long day of fun at the science museum it was back home to play with cousins in the back yard.

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Up next Newport Mansions.

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