One of the few family photos we have of all four of us. Of course we’re looking into the sun so the kids are squinting. We saw an episode of Bay Area Backroads, a local TV show on things to do, that gushed about how great it was to ride your bike on the island. This was not really the case if you had a child on the back though as the dirt track road (all muddy after last night’s storm) and steep hills made it pretty tough going.
We’re all glad we went but the beer really tasted good tonight!
We just got back from a few days down in Monterey where we greeted the New Year with the rest of the town at their annual First Night Festival. We thought the kids get tired out by their usual 8pm bedtime but they were so excited to be spending the night in a hotel room that we headed back out where Tyler & Julia danced to zydeco until midnight.
So ends our long weekend. It’s amazing how refreshing some time off can be when you take the time to enjoy it by not going anywhere. Our neighbors across the street took a week-long holiday to the Caribbean and they look exhausted. We stood still while the rest of our block rushed off to the four corners of the globe. I guess that’s one advantage in having a family so far away that you don’t make it out to see them unless you can set aside at least two weeks.
So I already wrote about our Thanksgiving and the shopping expedition afterwords so I’ll launch right into days three and four. We woke up real early on Saturday so we could make the 9am tour at the Mystery Spot. This place has been around for years as an old tourist trap and I like it because they never really upgraded the place since the 50’s so it’s got this great retro feel to it. They never really got into the multimedia thing so the tours are still $5 a head and you’re taken through with just someone talking and quipping a few well-placed jokes along the way (“Here’s your complimentary Mystery Spot bumper sticker. If you don’t want to put it on your car, there are plenty of others in the parking lot.”)
The premise of the place was that some kind of weirdness has turned things around there so that just to regain your balance, you need to lean at weird angles just to keep from falling over. The trees grow in corkscrews and balls roll uphill. It’s really worth checking out if you’ve never been. Tyler loved it but had summed it up pretty nicely when I asked him why balls rolled uphill. “It’s because there’s less gravity on the one end.” was his reply delivered in a, can’t-you-see-it’s-obvious tone of voice. I guess he’s right but it’s that lack of gravity that has everyone wondering.
As luck would have it, the digital camera wasn’t charged so you’ll have to wait for the developed photos from the disposable camera we bought. It felt almost quaint spending money on film and them having people pose for a photograph. How soon we forget.
I hope the Mystery Spot doesn’t do anything funky to film.
Later that day we visited the Boardwalk at Santa Cruz. I can see that this place is a regular mob scene in the Summer (think Coney Island or the Jersey Shore) so I’m glad we were visiting when there were reletively few around. It was strange to be playing mini-golf in a t-shirt in late-November but if this is California weather, I’ll take it. We later caught a glimpse of the surfers catching some pretty impressive waves off West Cliff Drive just North of Santa Cruz on the way home. I hear that it snowed that day in the Sierras which makes it conceivable that you could surf in the morning and be snowboarding by the evening of the same day.
Today was the great unpacking (untangling) of the Christams lights and we spent most of the day sprucing things up for the annual Christmas Tree Lane light up which starts this weekend. I bought a few more lights this year so have incrementally notched up the luminary power of our display over last year’s. For those that don’t know, our street is known for it’s lights so there’s an unwritten rule that everyone needs to go a little over and above what most would do for the holidays. We have a neighborhood meeting about it every year and the city chips in by stringing lights up on the center divider on our street. It’s thankfully not competitive and we all help each other out borrowing ladders and lending a hand as we all face our duty to keep up the reputation of this block for yet another year. I later picked up a Christmas tree which we will decorate later. It shouldn’t take to long, it’s only 4′ tall – we need to make room for all our kitchen stuff which is going to take up temporary residence in our living room when we begin construction on the kitchen next month.
Tomorrow it’s back into work – I’ll plug in the iPod tonight and let it charge up and download the latest news so I can catch up during the drive in tomorrow. For now, it’s off to bed.
Ok, I’m getting there. I’ve uploaded some photos from the Japan trip to give you a sense of what we did while we were there. A guy I work with, Matt Peterson also took some pictures while he was in Japan and they are fantastic.
We went up to the Russian River this weekend to celebrate Izumi’s birthday. The draw was the annual Barrel Tasting festival but we branched out and did a few other things while we were there. There was an amazing grove of 2,000 year old redwoods right up the road from our hotel where Izumi found a four leaf clover, and we also drove down to the coast where the Russian River meets the Pacific and headed down South to Bodega Bay.
I was a tad optimistic thinking that the kids would appreciate a tour through some of the regions finest vineyards. The finer points of what makes a good Pinot was a bit lost on them. Not all was lost though, Tyler did learn that the tin cap on the top of champagne corks is there to keep out the mice who used to gnaw their way through the cork. We did get to taste some fine Chardonnay Champagne and made it to Davis Bynum to taste some of their organically grown Pinots as well as a Syrah from the barrel.
The trip was a last minute idea and everywhere I called was only taking reservations for two nights so I jumped on the place that called us back. Let’s just say I wouldn’t recommend it. I was lured by the good-looking photographs on their website (Retreat Resort & Spa in Guerneville) and the owner, who called us back, seemed nice enough. We arrived but instead of being welcomed, we felt as if we were intruding. The rooms definitely were not as nice as the pictures – electrical sockets hanging out of the wall, a soggy, moss-ridden rug out on the back deck, a half-finished closet, and water stains on the ceiling. It basically looked like a half-finished total makeover project. On the surface there was an attempt to reform what used to be a cheap roadside motel into a nicer set of bungalows but while they had made much progress so that on the surface it looked OK, there was still a lot of details that needed work.
The town of Guerneville was kind of interesting too. Despite being nestled within some pretty ancient redwoods, the kind where you’d expect to find fairies and gnomes, the folks that we met there seemed to be late-80’s era yuppie refugees. The hotel was playing a kind of house music I used to hear blasting out of windows when I lived in the Castro and the local coffee shop was playing Huey Lewis & the News.
Lessons learned this weekend? Don’t believe the photos you see on the website. Wine tasting is boring for kids. Sonoma County is beautiful. More photos here.
For those of you who were wondering where we were – we skipped out of town for a week in Hawaii. Thank you Mr. & Mrs. Takei for putting us up again in your splendid pad! We took it real easy as several of us came down with colds which kept the activities to a minimum. I did get a chance to hook up one evening with old Tokyo mate, Brad Glosserman and David Keuning, an old buddy from an internship I did at Recruit.
I also finally read Howard Rheingold’s book, Smart Mobs and was inspired enough to dabble a bit with SMS on my cellphone (which I also dropped into the jacuzzi but we won’t go into that story). One of my first exchanges was to Doug Yarrington who promptly SMS’ed back that he was sitting in a pub in Edinburgh – the power of this type of communication was immediate.
I was up in Napa for two days at the New Communications Forum, a conference about bloggers for PR professionals. While up there I learned from someone that the place to go is not the French Laundry ("overrated") but the Greystone which is the West Coast campus for the Culinary Institute of America.
One of these days I’ll organize my life so I can actually try these places rather than eat over-poached fish and oily salmon at a conference luncheon!
We went up to Tahoe last weekend to catch some of the record snows that have fallen on the Sierras over the past few weeks. Our digital camera’s battery ran out of juice so I only have this shot of a tricked out Mustang that we saw on the road but Doug Yarrington posted more pictures here.