8.28.2009

California Dreamin'



California was definitely a theme for us this Summer. We visited the great Golden State a total of FOUR times this Summer. Which, maybe for some of you isn't much, but in my opinion, that's a LOT! Sea World was the first, and I have already posted about that, the Reunion was the second, and I have also posted about that. The 3rd was our Celebrate Little Brother Austin trip. Where we went to California for the sole purpose of lounging on the beach. In all honesty however, Austin got burned our first whole day there, and didn't want to go back after that. Haha! Instead, we relaxed in the Hotel, re-applying aloe vera every couple of hours. Ha! Good times. We did in all actuality spend most of the time at the beach, it just wasn't quite what I imagine Austin had expected.

We drove down to Las Vegas on a Thursday after Austin got off work. We were worried about the long drive, but Austin managed to keep Grace entertained with his....um....im not sure what to call it. Yes, that's saran wrap. But don't ask me where he got it. I didn't give it to him...
But it entertained Grace. She managed to entertain him quite a bit too. Then they wore each other out and ended up like this.
We arrived quite late at my sister's lovely abode and crashed there for the night. The next morning we left relatively early to finish the drive towards Seal Beach/Long Beach. We just had to make one short pit stop along the way.

Yup. A Surf Board. Neither of them had ever surfed. But, it was only 50$! So they decided it was worth it to try and teach themselves.
Austin and Topher had arranged to take some kiteboarding lessons while down there, so once at the beach, Austin got right into his lesson. When he wasn't worried about how his muscles were showing up on camera, he did a really good job. hehe
Topher had already taken the first lesson (see Hood River post) and so he busied himself with skim-boarding, and perfecting the art of face planting in the waves. I'd say he got it pretty down pat. The video gets funnier each time you watch it by the way...
video
So, that was our first evening in Seal Beach. The next morning we went to a local Beach where Topher and Austin tried out their new Surf Board, and where Austin learned just how much you get fried from falling asleep on the Beach and refusing Alysia's offers of sunscreen. Lobster. That is the word I'm using to describe Austin's back, arms, neck, legs after his little nap.
Grace also took a nap on the Beach and that gave me lots of uninterrupted reading time. yay!
I would LOVE to finish this post...however i can't find my camera cable anywhere to get the pictures onto the computer...so...that is the first 2 days of our trip, and as soon as I find a way to get the pictures on the computer, you will get the last 2 days. As well as our last few trips of the Summer.
On another note, Grace had her biopsy last Friday. She had her Heart Birthday on August 21. And she is doing better than anyone ever could have hoped for. The Biopsy went well, really well. The results came back great, no rejection and we are thrilled.
I have tons of things to post about, but no pictures to include, so hopefully soon that will change.
Thanks for checking in!

8.04.2009

Summer Re-Cap Anyone?

I looked at a calendar this morning and saw that school starts in 4 weeks.  That's when it dawned on me: Summer is almost over.  Let me just say that again for emphasis.  SUMMER IS ALMOST OVER! Can you believe that?  It's quite depressing for me.  Not because I LOVE summer time and will miss barbecues and holidays and the incessant heat...no.  But because Summer is when I get to spend the most time with my husband, my family, and on vacations.  I will definitely miss the vacations and constant companionship of Topher. 

Along with the realization that Summer is almost over, came the realization that I haven't posted about a single trip we've had this Summer!  And there have definitely been a few.  In fact, I feel like one or the other of us hasn't been home for longer than two weeks at a time! 

So...I will post about our first major trip of the Summer (excluding of course the California/Sea World/Disney Land Trip... that came first) Anywho...The First Trip of the Summer was for my extended family's Reunion.  We have one every other year and they are always huge, loud, hectic, far away ....and lots of fun.  This one didn't feel quite as crazy, but it was definitely still all of the other things!  The reunion was held in Grant's Pass, Oregon, and for us was going to be about a 13 hour drive.  Not really the most appealing factor when you have a 15 month old who'd rather have her blood drawn than sit in her car seat for even five minutes.  So, we decided to break the drive up into sections.  A LOT of sections.  We left a full 4 days before the reunion even started so we'd have plenty of time to get there.  We also purchased Harry Potter Book 6 on CD so we'd have something fun to listen to/do on the way there and back.

The first day our plan was to make it to Caldwell Idaho, right on the border of Idaho and Oregon.  However, thanks to Harry Potter and Jim Dale's captivating reading performance, we got so distracted we ended up an hour and a half into Oregon before we noticed we'd completely missed our exit.  Good thing we had decided NOT to make reservations at that campsite! So, we hunted for a campground, ANY campground, and finally found a state recreation area around 11 o'clock and set up camp there. 


We woke up to an obnoxious 5:45 a.m. sunrise and cows mooing in what seemed way too close of proximity to our tent. Silver lining, we got an early start.  So we continued on to our next destination of Hood River way ahead of schedule. :) Topher has always wanted to learn Kite Boarding, and Hood River is known for ALWAYS being windy and has about 6 different companies offering kite boarding lessons. 

Our campsite was across the Columbia River from Hood River and was a really fun stay for us.  It was literally right on the shore of the River, but between us and the river was a railroad track.  A very, very, very regularly used railroad track, where Trains were going every hour on the hour, in both directions, and having to blow their whistles each time they approached the bridge....also right next to our campground. As you can imagine...we didn't get much sleep.  Not just because it was noisy, but because Grace would absolutely lose it each time the train would come past.  It really was not even a rock's throw away from us, and it scared her so so badly.  Poor thing.  She would just crumple into tears and huddle between our legs sobbing each time it went.

Other than the trains, the campsite was really clean and well kept, and we were 1 of only 2 people camping there.  So it was very private and nice.  It also had the really nice, clean bathrooms and showers.  They only cost 25 cents for every two and a half minutes!!

We wandered around down town Hood River almost the whole afternoon, just going into all the kite and bike shops, and boutiquey toy stores.  It's an awesome location and a lot of fun, sort of like a downtown Jackson.  

We decided just because we were camping didn't mean we had to eat canned Tomato Soup, so we went out and bought steaks, mashed potatoes, veggies, kabobs, and all the supplies/utilities needed to make a good dinner.  I grilled steaks on the little campsite grill and made mashed potatoes and vegetables with our newly purchased camping stove and we had an awesome dinner together.

The next morning was Topher's kiteboarding lesson.  It was plenty windy and Topher had a blast learning the tricks of the trade.  He was a natural at everything and picked up 3 lessons worth of material in less than 2 hours.  He just didn't have the energy to try getting up on the board after 4 hours of kiting and body dragging in the choppy Columbia River.  





After Topher's lesson we headed for the Columbia River Gorge to meet up with my siblings who had finally caught up to us on our way to Grant's Pass.  We did a couple of hikes along the way and had a lot of fun watching Grace interact with all her cousins who she absolutely adores.   I couldn't resist these pictures of Gavin and Anya that I took.  Even if their mothers don't love em', I just love these pictures.  They are both so perfect and innocent looking in these pictures!




We even all went out to dinner at Red Robin to celebrate my brother's Birthday!  It was 9:30 at night, but hey, that's standard for Johnson family dinners anyway. :)

W
e stayed at my wonderful Aunt Sheila's house for the night, went to a Ward in her neighborhood the following Sunday morning and then continued on towards Grant's Pass.  Topher's family has done numerous vacations along the Oregon Coast, and as a result of these he loves the Pacific Coast Highway.  It goes right along the Ocean front and so we couldn't miss taking this route to our next destination of Umpqua Lighthouse State Park.  It was definitely the "scenic" route, and not just for the views, but also because it took much longer.  But it was worth it just to see the smile of contentment on Topher's face the second the Ocean came into view. 

 

Even though the reunion didn't start until Monday Evening, nearly the entire family had gotten tent sites that Sunday night at Umpqua and so we pretty much started the reunion a day early. We got to the campsite relatively late in the evening but still had a lot of fun camped right in the middle of my siblings and among all my cousins and Aunts/Uncles.

The next morning we went to the Beach where Topher flew his kite, we played in the sand, ate sand, ate food with sand in it, and tried to keep from eating our hair as well.  It was a really beautiful beach, and we did have fun...but I've decided if a beach is "perfect" for flying Topher's kite, than it's not perfect for Grace and I to play.




The days of the reunion have kind of blurred together for me because we didn't do any of the big family events. (Topher was a lame-o head and didn't want to...don't get me started on why not...I don't know!)  Everyone else went Rafting, Zip-lining...and we always stayed back at the Lodge...with practically no company.  :( 


 We did have fun, don't get me wrong, but most of our fun was at night when people were actually there, or related to my brother-in-law Joe's having brought his awesome dirt bikes.  I loved riding his little 50 around.  So what if my 6 yr. old nephew can ride it too?  It's still fun! Even Emily got in on the action, and that's saying something. ;) In other happenings,  my sisters and I made a big dinner for everyone and that was a lot of fun.  The girls all did a card exchange.  We played a huge game of Family Jeopardy where everyone got in on the debates that ensued after every. single. question.  We did our routine Johnson Family Photo session...and I was amazed by how little arguing there was in comparison to years past, as well as how much FASTER we were than in years past! Only two hours vs. the usual 4 where everyone is yelling in exasperation that they're going to leave if one more person says, "oh wait, my camera too!"  *sigh*  Thank goodness for Alan and his declaration that his would be the only camera, and he the only photographer. 

Topher and I did branch off one afternoon to go do a little hike that was down across town.  It was supposed to be a "Botanical" walk that showed all the different terrains and climates across Washington.  I was a bit skeptical at the start...everything was dead..and we were going over bridges where there was nothing but a dry rock bed.  But I was soon in love with the little Botanical Nature Walk.  There were sections that looked like rain forests, high meadows, pine forests...



I of course loved all the sections where there were waterfalls, esp. because they were all relatively small and we could climb on them and get Grace really up close and personal to them.


The Lodge that my Dad and his siblings found for the Reunion was great, and so fun for us all to spend time at and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with everyone.

For our drive home we decided to try and stick with my siblings.  They were going to head to Crater Lake and the Redwoods and we thought both these options sounded like a lot fun.    


We did a hike down to the lake and that was quite the adventure.  Nearly straight down, the hike was said to take approximately an hour to an hour and a half.  We discovered by the end of the hike, that this was 15 minutes for the way down, and an hour for the way back up! 

The next day we did another waterfall highway type of drive and that was just awesome.  We stopped by 3 or 4 different waterfalls, (we would have gone to a lot more...but we had a very avid nature photographer who needed at least 50 shots from every angle ;) ) we took the little walks or hikes to each one and just really enjoyed the scenery and being together.   






I am always floored when I hang out with my siblings.  I know they are my best friends, and I know I love to be with them.  But then, when the time comes, and we are all together, I am overcome with how much I absolutely LOVE to spend time with them.  I feel very blessed to have my family be my closest friends and even more blessed to have gotten to spend so much time with them this Summer.


Anyway...I am getting side tracked.  After our waterfall scenic highway evening...we stayed in a hotel all together that was actually an hour NORTH of Grant's Pass. (This is opposite the direction we were wanting to go to get home...) Yes...we planned this.  I just didn't realize how big of a detour we were really taking.  A whole 2 days of traveling just to end up an hour North of where we started.  I'd say its worth a chuckle.  Even if it was "planned". 

The plan for the next day was to head toward the Redwoods.  And again, Harry Potter messed up our plans and we ended up way past our destination.  So much so, that we would have to drive an extra 2 hours back the way we came to meet up with my siblings again...or we could continue on towards home.  As much as neither of us wanted to miss the Redwoods, Grace was starting to act sick, and neither of us was feeling all that great either.  So, we decided to head home.  A little depressing, but we were getting a little home sick anyway.  We drove all the rest of the day without stopping until we got to Reno, where we stayed at a Ramada my Mum and Sam had recommended.

The next day, we all felt pretty congested and sick so we drove all the way home.  No stops at lake Tahoe or anywhere else scenic for that matter...just all the way home.  Where we of course drove right past the exit for our house and went straight to the Andersen's for Gracey to see her Grandma and Grandpa whom she hadn't seen in nearly three weeks. :)  We went home late that night, and it was so very wonderful to be home in our own beds.  Granted, Grace only gave us a total of 4 days before we were in the Hospital with her nasty virus and dehydration.  Maybe that counts as a vacation too...?

Are you still with me?!! If you are...I'm impressed.  You just made it through the entire long, and drawn out recapitulation of our Washington/Oregon Summer Vacation.  Stay Tuned for our next post California Dreamin'.  All about the next trip of our summer...to guess where? Yup. California.