Let’s start with the day before, shall we… After we made a critical stop to round out costume ensembles at one of the Halloween stores that pops up for the season, we returned to the LA Disney enterprise for a second round of fun.
Flight covered the California Adventures pretty well and already gushed about his home state, so I’ll just add a few photos to supplement his post.
We checked out a few rides, most notably California Screamin’ for Firebolt.
While the older kids rode with Flight, WoodSprite and I took in King Triton’s Carousel.
Just as Flight holds firm on his spinning ride abstention, I try not to embark on a bumper car if I can avoid it. I was much happier to keep my neck from jerking hither and thither and instead snapped a few photos.
We then checked out Radiator Springs and, with a 120+ minute wait to ride and no FastPasses to be found, opted to try the new Cars ride on our next visit. We settled for Luigi’s Rollickin Roadsters, which had less than a quarter the time commitment and seemed entertaining enough.
Our day ended up back at Disneyland with a few nighttime rides before we retreated to Davista.
I always like to see how the pros decorate for reasons I’ll delve into shortly.
Halloween is the holiday I enjoy most. Not for the distribution of candy, not the trick-or-treating business, not the dressing up, but there’s something in the shift in temperatures from the last gasp of late summer to fall’s crisp clarity that I can’t help but celebrate. Oh, and the decorating is so much fun. Last year was the first year I was able to carve out some time to really devote to that enterprise and I, um, got a little carried away.
Who knew there was so many fun projects on Pinterest?! I really couldn’t help myself. It helped that WoodSprite’s birthday party was a couple days earlier and we had thrown a Harry Potter bash.
This year’s holiday was bittersweet and somewhat subdued, all of us acutely aware that we were not in a decorated sticks and bricks house in our known destination neighborhood for Halloween festivities and, for the kids, not trick-or-treating with cousins and friends. It has become a tradition for the kids to watch A Nightmare Before Christmas as they inspect their respective candy hauls and set to bartering to improve their lots. A little sad to be without this:
However, an overwhelmingly bright spot in our 2017 Halloween celebration was dinner with our dear friends in Long Beach who kindly had us over for delicious pre-candy collecting eats. Our monkeys suited up and were unleashed on the locals.
Inspection and bartering still ensued, but with fewer trades due to fewer than normal traders. And, instead of A Nightmare Before Christmas, game six of the World Series served as the soundtrack.
Looking forward to loudly playing “This is Halloween” wherever our 2018 celebration calls home…
When I was teaching at the Naval Academy, midshipmen would often ask me about my experience in the naval aviation community as they were wrestling with whether or not they wanted to Fly Navy after graduation. While there are plenty of positives to cite, I would always share the one drawback as well: “Living by the Flight Schedule.” Although it was kinda fun as a junior officer not knowing what I’d be doing any given day until 1800 the night before, the inability to plan anything eventually wore on me. I definitely wouldn’t prefer to live that way now, especially given Flight’s schedule and with three monkeys in tow. Even after explaining how challenging it might be (e.g. your best friend asks you to be her maid of honor in eight months and you can’t commit to it until maybe a week prior to the wedding, if then…), I would still get a unconvinced eyebrow raise from most midshipmen until I shared the following sea story.
Back in the day our squadron was on “surge” status, which meant we were within the six-month window prior to deployment and, if our assets were needed anywhere in the meantime, we should be prepared to pack our bags and go. It just so happened that a new Russian submarine, one on which our Navy had yet to collect any intelligence, had just pulled out of port and was near enough to Alaska for us to trap, or record its acoustic signature. As the “surge” squadron, we quickly launched to establish a detachment site in Alaska to run a “flap,” which meant we would schedule round the clock operations to maintain overhead tracking of this target of interest while we simultaneously gathered data on its gear aboard.
For those of you unfamiliar with Navy P-3 squadron (VP) operations, such a flap requires three aircraft to be airborne at any given time (one crew on top of the target, one flying home having just turned over with the “on station” crew, and one flying out to relieve the crew “on station”), another crew pre-flighting a fourth aircraft to launch shortly and another crew debriefing their mission, along with all the maintenance and crew rest requirements in between. As you may imagine, there are a lot of moving parts (literally) and all operational planning must have redundancies built in to account for some of these parts not functioning as advertised (usually due to operational wear and tear). This particular flap was such a big deal that the whole VP community was salivating at the opportunity to participate. No kidding, squadrons based in Hawai’i wanted in on the action – even squadrons who were currently deployed to Japan (where we would be deploying in a few months) were scrambling to see how they could be part of the flap back home.
Curious as to what my crew would be tasked to do the following day as the squadron geared up for this detachment, I popped into Schedules to see if that had yet been decided. As of 1400, we were on tap to go to Oahu the next day for about a week so that one of the Hawai’i squadron’s crews could get in on the submarine action. Sweet! I had this vision jump into my head and was suddenly far less interested in the submarine…
After mentally reviewing my packing list (did I have to pack my sandals and/or my flip flops in addition to flight boots?) and being seasoned enough to know how quickly things can change, I stopped in Schedules again just to double check the ever evolving “rough” (schedule draft) before I departed for the day. I learned that Hawai’i was off the table. Bummer. Instead, my crew was staying home while I was navigating a logistics run up to Alaska. “Well, that’s sounds considerably less fun,” I thought to myself as I headed home and went about my plans for the evening.
When I got home from Scottish Country Dance Class at 9ish, there was a message waiting for me. “Call the duty office ASAP.” Oh geez. That’s never good. I made the call and was told, “Pack your bags. You’ve got a 0800 preflight for an 1100 go. Your crew is flying to Japan tomorrow. We don’t know for how long, so pack for three weeks.” Um, what?! Roger, Semper Gumby. So I packed. And we went to Japan. Two months early for deployment. (Spoiler alert – it was only for ten days). Yikes. At least I got to do some pre-deployment reconnaissance… Like I said, that crazy inability to plan even tomorrow due to shifting world events really got old after a while, however it did prepare me well for life as an airline family in general and for this deployment in particular.
One of the privileges of being married to an airline pilot is that we are able to travel fairly easily, although we must be extremely flexible when we do so. Often we can fly to most places we’d like to go either for free (with Flight’s company) or deeply discounted on other airlines, but always, always, always as standby passengers (meaning we’re never sure we’re actually on a particular flight somewhere until we’re airborne and the plane’s wheels are in the well). As such, our plans must always be malleable enough to accommodate changes and we will travel to the airport with plans G, H, I, J, and K in mind (typically we’ve already moved through a few plan modifications by the time we get to the gate), because we expect things will continue to rarely go as planned. Being in that practice has set us up well for this current deployment, which is far more like an extended flap than I had first realized. We have easily rolled with any schedule changes necessitated by events well beyond our control (e.g. wildfires ravaging Oregon) or additional requirements due to our own self-induced drama (see Captain Crunch).
Our general flight plan has been to make a wide sweeping counterclockwise trek circling the United States as we chase mild weather. We pulled chocks in Maryland and got on the road at the end of July, only nine days after committing to actually doing so. Early into our travels we found that locating campsites last minute, especially those in desirable locations, was rather tricky in the summertime and nearly impossible on summer weekends. It became especially critical to lock in sites at those key times as well as reserving places that readily fill up regardless of the season and, fortunately, Flight has been all over that. Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons in late August come to mind, as do several choice California coastal towns throughout September and October. Aviation-trained to be Semper Gumby, our trip has flexed to meet those critically scheduled campsites while making the best of a few other destinations loosely along our planned route.
Another variable for our route planning is Flight’s work schedule. Unique to the airline industry is Flight’s ability to continue to work from wherever we are on the road, as long as we are near a reasonably sized airport so he may commute to Boston to start his work trips. Additionally, his seniority in the company is such that we can usually plan his schedule around our intended path (taking into account where we might find commutable airports near by) or, once his schedule is published (typically a month out), we can modify our travel route to make his commuting to work a little easier, if necessary. We’ve also been very fortunate in that Flight has had several weeks of vacation over late summer/early fall, meaning his work schedule has been relatively light. Starting in November it’s going to get real and our travel tempo will need to shift to accommodate his more frequent commutes and absences so we can maximize what we get out of this experience as a family.
How do we plan to make it so? Great question, I’m so glad you asked. If Flight has a trip, we can plan to stay put a little longer so he can still see some of the environs. Wherever we are, we do research on the top ten things we’d like to see in the area, discuss what his priorities among these are and try to schedule our “Field Trips” accordingly (e.g. we plan to drop Flight off at the Las Vegas airport and the kids and I will head directly to the Hoover Dam to study agriculture, water maintenance and hydroelectric plants without him, and he’s good with that). Amazingly, we are handling the planning and execution of our macro schedule reasonably well, yet, as with any deployment, the manifestation and impact of the human factors aspect can’t truly be known until you’re actually executing flap operations.
In aviation “human factors” is the term encompassing all aspects of being human while doing things a human was not necessarily designed to do, and includes everything from crew rest to mid-mission bathroom accommodations to what might be taking up mental real estate and can’t be compartmentalized to post mission impact (e.g. PTSD). When planning an evolution from an operational perspective, it’s easy to solely focus on how to best accomplish a mission without taking into account how the completion of said mission (or failure thereof) might be experienced by those executing the flight schedule. Flight and I have been guilty of doing just so, although not intentionally in a “Suck it up, Buttercup” kind of way. Instead, it has been mostly due to our not knowing exactly what we were getting into. Don’t get me wrong, that’s part of the fun of this whole adventure, but really we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We probably still don’t. Again, part of the challenge and joy of this nomadic lifestyle.
Flight and I did know that this deployment would affect each of the kids (and us) differently, but as to just how we had hypothesized at length before we departed and most of our musings were not quite correct. Keeper is at the age where he is feeling every aspect of our year on walkabout most acutely. However, given the transitional phase of adolescence, that may have been the case anyway. He has been holding strong to online connectivity as that is the main tether to his friends back in Maryland. When we are without that social lifeline, he feels its absence most. Because we all live in such close proximity to each other, Flight and I are keenly aware of any of Keeper’s shifting moods and are working to meet him wherever he is, which often necessitates giving him some space and allow him to retreat to his “room” and close his “door” (curtains) until he’s willing to read us into his state of mind. Probably sounds a lot like parent-adolescent behavior anywhere. So we’ve heard – we’re not sure as he’s our first to reach this transition.
Firebolt is an interesting mix of opposing characteristics. While she is above and beyond our most social member of the family, she has recently self-proclaimed her shyness, all the while chatting away with any kids we encounter which, unfortunately, has been fewer than we’d hoped. In her daily existence, she seems to prefer to live life far from the edge, yet will surprise us by being the first to volunteer for a crazy hike like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park – !!! She is a most compassionate and caring individual and feels everything deeply, but has an almost hardline justice streak and can quickly get her Scottish ire up when her sense of fairness is breached. Firebolt seems to be taking to our travels well, constantly reading and singing, but when pressed rates the experience with a lukewarm “okay.” I guess time will tell on how she chooses to remember our trek.
WoodSprite is just a sponge, soaking in every experience, as well as being a constant source of entertainment. She is one funny kid and I think we’ll probably see her on stage at some point. No kidding, I have a deadpan video from last year of her saying, “Live, from New York, it’s Saturday night.” We often overhear evolving improv between her and Firebolt and are blown away by their witty repartee. When I think back to my own memories from the Kindergarten years, I can produce distinct snapshots of people and some places, but the storyline behind each of those is likely more based on family narratives instead of my own fuzzy recollections. As Flight observed at two months into this adventure, I too am hoping that WoodSprite will fondly recall this journey as a joyful play list of family memories.
One of the unforeseen positives of this adventure is that the kids have really grown close. Believe you me, there’s still plenty of sibling picking at each other in the back of the Subaru (makes us very thankful for the motorhome during long transits!), but they have become very good friends who kindly support and encourage each other and play together well. I am thrilled with that unintended side effect of our travels.
Probably the most significant oversight we made that Flight has already touched on in his summary at two months in has been our lack of involving our kids in the planning and execution of this deployment. We started out pretty well getting their inputs as we prepared to go (see here for a run down on our departure), but, as soon as we got on the road, the training and operational plans have been unintentionally kept between me and Flight.
One of the common recommendations I’ve read in raising children is to be sure to give them rules and boundaries so they feel safe and can therefore thrive. We have neglected to define our kids’ daily existence by failing to appropriately manage their expectations. Shame on us. In our defense, we are just now figuring out exactly what we are doing with enough lead time so that we can coherently communicate those plans to the rest of the clan. It has also helped that we have transitioned to the academic year and can routinely give them more concrete assignments to focus their mental energy. I’ll give another (better, I hope…) update when we’ve made it through the transition and I can draw some conclusions on how the roadschooling adventure is going in earnest.
To better help us communicate the big picture, we purchased a small dry erase board calendar with a stretch of corkboard at the bottom and it is now firmly posted on the outside of the bathroom door. Although it may seem odd, this location is the center point of Davista and has now become a Combat Information Center (CIC) of sorts. Posting pertinent scheduling info has been a huge improvement for everyone involved – I’m not sure why it took us so long to figure that out.
In addition to having a picture of where we’ll be in the upcoming weeks, the kids know when it’s a travel day, how long we’ll be underway while driving, how long we’ll be at any given campsite, etc. The not knowing had made a tricky existence for them – they’ve all expressed how much they now appreciate having a map and a list of where we’ll be when, so they can plan appropriately, although I don’t know what exactly. Maybe their calendars are thick with social obligations on which I have yet to be briefed.
One thing I have noticed is we have had to modify most family rules, or I should say we’ve had to provide more specific guidelines because non-compliance has far greater potential for catastrophic outcome. One such example: not putting laundry actually into laundry bags can interfere with the slide’s operation as we expand or retract our port-side wall and break our house. That would be bad. Another would be not putting the lid to the commode (the toilet seat is a given) down means any towels or articles of clothing drying in the bathroom now has the opportunity for a swim in the bowl whether we are driving or not. Not necessarily catastrophic but certainly gross. Closing all cabinets and drawers is critical not just so we don’t bonk our heads or shins, but the contents of which might (proven) become projectiles as we wind our way down any road.
One last observation before I close (whew, this is a long post!)… One aspect of daily life has become far more efficient out of necessity: our ability to plan what we eat and eat what we plan. While living in Maryland the concerted effort to efficiently meal plan was usually overcome by the ease of running to one of the nine grocery stores nearby after wastefully throwing out what wasn’t used in time. Now that we’re on the road, everything needs to be thought out well before we’re at a campsite, which is sometimes located in the kingdom of Far, Far Away. Some observations:
The offered hook-ups at intended campsites drive much of our meal planning efforts. Whether or not we’ll have access to electricity to: run the Instant Pot, the microwave, or the electric hand-mixer will dictate much. If so, great, those meals are good to go and will pepper our upcoming week’s menu. If not, will we be able to run the generator? If Generator Ops are feasible, we’ll try to minimize that necessity. If Generator Ops are a no go, then, alas, we must grill or use the indoor stove-top or oven. Or leave our kids with grandparents to luxuriate in Healdsburg’s newest culinary mecca (unfortunately cost prohibitive to repeat more than almost never again).
We are getting much more adept at grocery shopping for our space limitations, then planning for and making the most of any and all leftovers. The few items we’ve had to pitch before using include mushrooms (I just don’t trust them when they’re moldy and Flight and I are the only ones who might eat them…) and avocadoes (I swear it’s tricky to get good ones in some states).
Water limitations (both what we can carry to Far, Far Away and how large our grey tank isn’t as it catches all the post dish-washing drainage) are not something I previously had to consider. Sorting out what pans to use to cook meals depends on whether or not we have a readily available dump receptacle at our specific campsite. If not, tidying up after meals requires reliance on skills I learned at Girl Scout Camp. (e.g. Boil water in the lone pan/pot used for cooking, add soap, and then wash the other dishes in said cauldron, before dumping the wash water outside and allowing only the rinsed soapy water to go down the drain and into the grey water tank).
So, overall how is our flap going? Pretty well, all things considered. From an Operations perspective, I am stoked that we have now roped the kids into the experience as we try to make the most of our travels. Sure, we can always improve how we do business, but I’m hoping our constant (sometimes obsessive) self-assessment will inform the ways we better move forward. As we continue to streamline processes and roll with the impact of our human factors, we may just figure out how to live on the road, at which point, true to our Navy training, it will be time to shift gears and assume a new posting. What that might look like is a discussion for another time…
Just as Flight had opened his birthday gifts yesterday at the breakfast table, so did WoodSprite. As much fun as it was to see her brother and sister delight in what they had picked out for their younger sister, I only snapped pictures of WoodSprite’s joyful reactions. I think these just about capture it…
Starting off as close to opening time as we could manage, which brought us through the gates at 9:45ish, we made our way through the park counterclockwise. We first had to stop for a photo op.
Almost the same picture, right? The Disney version is 1/100th the size of the real one in Zermatt. How do I know such things? While I’d like to say it’s because I’m really good at surveying on the fly, it’s actually right there on the Disneyland website.
WoodSprite is way more animated than Flight, maybe because it’s this princess’ birthday?
Actually, mine was five days ago, it was the other princess’ big day. And a big day it was. Pretty much an ideal 6th birthday celebration, at least from this more seasoned royal person’s perspective.
As we made our way through Fantasyland, we first stopped at the Mad Tea Party to get our woozy on. Everyone except Flight that is, he obeyed the “Guests who are prone to motion sickness should not ride.”
We then rode Space Mountain which was appropriately “Halloweened up” and now called “Ghost Galaxy.” I don’t know what that means to you, but to the folks at Disney it was an odd combination of caricatured demons and the Bodies exhibit. Not scary really, just strange. Both Firebolt and WoodSprite made it through the ride (WoodSprite is sitting next to me) without much fuss, other than both commenting on its weirdness.
Still scratching our heads following our Ghost Galaxy experience, we meandered over to the Buzz Lightyear ride and delighted in reminding Keeper that at two he bailed out of the line just as we were about to get on in response to the enormous animatronic Zurg. He didn’t know Zurg was part of this adventure and that clearly exceeds his comfort level – Nope. WoodSprite, four years older than that had no such concerns and gleefully rode with me.
Matterhorn Bobsleds it is! Initially Flight had fed me some insider gouge about which line to wait in because Disneyland newbies don’t know any better. We learned said insider gouge has been overtaken by this cool thing called the internet (look it up, it was created by Al Gore). Apparently that was back in the day when the overhead sky cabs still passed through the Matterhorn and the bobsleds ran around it. WHOA, what?! Although I don’t know when that was overhauled, here’s a pic from 1959:
That seems pretty trippy and probably not in the best interest of safety. Clearly envisioned and engineered by the same generation who gave the thumbs up to the ironing board…
Needless to say both Matterhorn lines were impressively long and we made our first attempt at a FastPass to assign a time to our Matterhorn Bobsledding adventure. The girls saw a face-painting station right next to FastPass stations (brilliant layout Disney), which wasn’t yet peopled by cast members. We vowed to come back after riding the Matterhorn.
To pass the time, we sauntered over to “it’s a small world.” Sadly, (that’s from our girls’ perspective, not mine – I was giving thanks), that damnable ride was closed as it was being outfitted for the upcoming holidays. WoodSprite, however, found her perfect gift (my parents and my sister’s family had combined birthday giving forces to provide her spending money at Disneyland) at the store nearest the end of that ride.
Not at all resembling Brave’s princess in coloring or temperament (HA!), WoodSprite hardly surprised us when she picked out Merida’s bow and arrow set. Although it took measurable mad logic skills to provide enough clear and convincing evidence to obstinate WoodSprite, I was able to get her to see the wisdom of returning to this particular kiosk to purchase her gift at the end of the day so she wouldn’t have to carry it around the park all day. I say I as I was left to my own creative devices in persuasion tactics as the men folk were busy texting each other.
Kidding! Flight was busy FastPassing us to our next adventure after the Matterhorn and Keeper was probably watching a youtube science video.
Apparently the Matterhorn’s Yeti doesn’t approve of Stanford or peace symbols because he hollered at the girls every time he saw us, much to the distress of said princesses. To spool down from that adventure the girls faces were indeed painted:
Woodsprite opted for a Halloween spider and Firebolt went with a sparkly princess something or other theme. To further decompress, we rode the canal boats through Storybook Land.
That was a first, and probably a last, for both me and Flight, but the girls seemed to enjoy it. The painted face and Storyland bliss lasted for about 20 minutes until we rode Splash Mountain.
I must confess, I think Song of the South may be the only Disney movie I have not yet seen. Aside from the references in Fletch Lives, I am wholly unfamiliar with this storyline and was mostly perplexed by the ride. Until the end – that was AWESOME.
For most of us.
Most notably NOT for the birthday girl.
However, her spirits were noticeably improved after her smudged spider was restored to its pre-Splash Mountain glory.
As the day wound down, we made good on our promise to get WoodSprite her new archery set.
She happily toted her new weapon to Downtown Disney where we met Flight’s parents for her birthday dinner at Rainforest Café. Flight and I did our standard search for the best campsite by looking at all restaurants’ menus. I’m not sure how we managed it, but we talked WoodSprite out of several better culinary experiences, each she had already agreed to, thinking the Rainforest Café would be a better birthday dinner venue for a 6-year old. Shame on us.
Although dinner was palatable, conversation was certainly made trickier by the live music competing with the World Series – apparently the Dodgers were making a fine showing and the crowd streaming by was sharing in the enthusiasm. Ah, well. We made for the Lego Store in Downtown Disney and I found the next a propos project for our family:
Unfortunately both the cost and the number of (small) pieces were entirely prohibitive for our current lifestyle and we left empty-handed, but thoroughly pleased with our stop.
On to bed…
But wait, there’s more…
We popped over to Disney California Adventures to catch the World of Color light show – a perfect way to round out WoodSprite’s birthday.
Now to catch a few winks before we return in the morning to start anew…
A little while ago my Dad’s friend Scooter (Dad came up with that) took my Dad and me to an indoor shooting range. When we first got there I immediately saw how cool the place was: it had a glass counter with all the rental pistols, a small place to sit down and eat or wait, it even had a small water fountain (not for drinking). But it was sadly packed. Since 75% of the people in front of us had never fired a firearm, they had to do a bunch of paperwork which meant a longer wait time.
We patiently waited for about 20 minutes to get our lane, during which I talked about some cool stuff and some downright ridiculous stuff from Boy scout summer camp. Once we were assigned lane 8 we all put on noise canceling ear protection that worked on microphones and eye protection. I was excited to walk in, but that shifted from excitement to regret as soon as we stepped foot in the range. The thing is my headphones had run out of battery so they were not blocking any sound and people had ridiculously loud guns like a 12 Gauge shotgun so the sound wasn’t spreading out because we were inside. I thought my inner ear was going to explode because of the sound waves. It was so bad my ears hurt and my organs moved with pretty much every shot taken by everyone in the range. When we realized my headphones weren’t working I got some of the range’s headphones and earplugs, which made the sound was way more tolerable.
The first gun I shot there was a .22 pistol, as I picked it up I was extremely careful (because it’s a gun). I tried 3 different guns that day, A .22 pistol, a 9mm pistol, and an AR ( think it was an AR 15 I don’t know for sure though). I was most excited and nervous about the AR because it was a rifle and not a pistol. I tried the AR a couple times and found out 2 things: first, that the AR smells like burning metal ( I know metal doesn’t burn but if you smelled it you would understand ), second, I actually have better aim with a .22 pistol than an AR with at red dot sight.
Afterwards I was disappointed because of my aim, but I was happy because it was awesome. I was excited to show my friends a bullet from the AR that I had fired. I wanted to share my experience with my friends and send them pictures, so I did.
Every year Flight and I do the same dance. I ask him, “How do you want to celebrate your birthday?” and his response is always the same, “I don’t.” “Oh, come on. What do you want to do for your birthday?” “Ignore it.” I don’t get it. What a great opportunity to celebrate life with those you love. So what if the mileage keeps ticking upward, I like taking the time to take stock of my blessings and joyfully affirm where I’ve been and where I’d like to go. Along those lines, I was pretty stoked to celebrate Flight’s latest birthday with some of his long time friends whose connections to Flight predate mine by decades.
I returned the birthday favor and made a lovely brunch with the family. No, wait, that didn’t happen. Flight instead ran out and collected some good local eats that we all enjoyed while he opened birthday presents. Regardless of my role in the unwrapping activity, my favorite aspect of opening presents is seeing the joy blossom on the giver’s face when the recipient embraces their newest possession. Nowhere is this delight more pronounced than with our kids.
WoodSprite was beside herself excited for her father’s birthday. All the way back at Caspar Beach she had gone with her siblings to the RV Park’s store and purchased a bracelet for Flight with her very own money. The self-acknowledged Worst-Secret-Keeper-in-the-World, WoodSprite could hardly contain herself while Flight opened her special gift and fought not to spoil the surprise all the way until he ripped the last of the home-decorated paper away.
While we were in the Beach Cottage at NAS North Island, I oversaw Firebolt making her gift for Flight. We had made a trip to Michael’s to pick out an unfinished frame, appropriate pink and blue paint for decoration, and small wooden letters that spelled out “DAD.” Once she had finished the frame, we printed out a picture of her and Flight during a Marine Biology class. Firebolt was at least as delighted as Flight with her creative present.
Before we left San Diego, Keeper and I had made a run to Whole Foods, allegedly to purchase groceries, which we did, but it was also conveniently located next to a Paper Source where we could find a few perfect gifts for WoodSprite (her birthday is the day after Flight’s). Inspired by their vast supply of colored business-card sized cardstock (and size-appropriate envelopes), Keeper asked for my assistance in creating a scavenger hunt for Flight solely inside the RV. With only a few suggestions, Keeper created poems to communicate ten clues, one on each business card leading to the location of the next. It was tricky to hide them where they could still be found, yet out of plain sight until the time was right. Opening the first one at the table, Keeper led Flight on a merry chase through Davista, which culminated with a one-dollar coin prize that the two have been exchanging for birthdays, Father’s Day, allowance payments, and missing teeth for at least a dozen of these events. A great start to a non-celebratory day.
We popped over to see some close family friends where Grammy and Papa were staying. The afternoon was filled with football, food, friendship, wine, and water toys. Keeper and Flight went out first on the paddleboards.
Keeper didn’t make it too far out before turning back, perhaps not realizing all that went into such a venture. Most impressive was Flight’s paddleboarding with a beer, which wasn’t knocked over until he came back (so he says). He maintains the solo event happened when he knocked into Keeper’s paddleboard afloat in the marina and, as I did so witness it, I’ll give that to him (it was his birthday).
Most unnerving was that he took WoodSprite out sans lifejacket for a “quick” paddle. Papa and I were equally concerned by their delay in returning and we launched the Duffy to find them. I got a visual on our wayward paddleboarders just as we got underway and we returned to the dock.
We launched the Duffy in earnest for a birthday sunset cruise completing our day with more delicious eats, excellent wine, and even better company.
I don’t know about Flight, but I sure enjoyed a very, merry unbirthday. Now we just have to gear up for WoodSprite’s big day (tomorrow) at Disneyland. A Sunday, perfect weather predicted, the last weekend before Halloween, surely there won’t be eleventy billion people at the Disney mecca…
The day after my birthday was thick with more of the same beaching activities before one of my Academy classmates joined us for dinner. Because it is Fall and we had pumpkin to use, I made one of my favorite autumn dinners, Creamy Pumpkin Prosciutto Rigatoni. It was lovely to catch up with my friend on decades of life and we vowed to reconnect again soon.
The following mid-morning, Papa and Grammy joined us after having spent much of the wee hours driving. One of the main sights right in downtown San Diego is the USS MIDWAY and we thought that would be a great thing to take in. This was an easy sell for Papa who had repaid his NROTC Scholarship to Penn State as a Navy Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) and easy-going Grammy agreed.
On our way to the carrier, I saw this:
Only in San Diego…
We met at the imposing MIDWAY and, after a round of hugs, trundled off to see the museum. This incredible ship was commissioned just eight days after WWII’s conclusion and remained the largest warship afloat until 1955. We were going to walk around, touch, and experience Naval History – how cool is that?!
Try as I might, I couldn’t get the kids to get as excited about seeing the carrier as I was. Maybe it was the extreme heat that threatened to melt our shoes to the flight deck and the docked vessel we were aboard relied on movement for ventilation. Or possibly it was the omnipresent smell of naval aviation (somehow all aircraft of a certain vintage reach the same malodorous bouquet…). Or perhaps it was the scent I closely and unfavorably associate with my only eleven days of being haze grey and underway while on a midshipman cruise (and revisiting that particular aroma aboard a pier-side museum is close enough for me, thank you). Or, really, any combination thereof might have served to put a damper on their enthusiasm, as noted once we moved passed the flight simulators on the hangar deck when they seemed less than gung ho about the day’s enterprise.
Papa, however, was thrilled, as was I. Steps into the museum, he found pictures of his former ship, the USS BRINKLEY BASS (DD-887) that was part of a display parked next to one of the aircraft that was used to evacuate thousands of Vietnamese children following the fall of Saigon in Operation Babylift.
While Papa read more about what his ship had been up to since his departure, Flight and Grammy observed the kids popping in and out of stationary cockpit simulators.
I was sucked into learning more about Operation Babylift as a dear friend from my recruiting days was one of those rescued. After Papa’s cruise down memory lane, I saw that his step got a little jauntier as we continued to bathe in the smell of the Surface Navy.
From the hangar deck we climbed to the Flight deck and looked at many retired aircraft.
In case you don’t speak Keeper, that look reads, “I’m so stoked to be here, Mom.”
Ditto for the girls.
Papa asked me what the things on the edges of the tail fins were on this fine Navy missile:
I told him he should ask someone who taught the Fundamentals of Navy Weapons Systems at the Naval Academy, because I didn’t know. Now, if you asked me what a Mk-46 torpedo looks like, I’d… I’d tell you… I’d probably still have to Google it, so distant is my time from the mighty P-3C that said prime mental real estate has long since been reallocated, probably twice.
While on the flight deck, I did learn something beyond “Call the Ball,” which I remembered only from watching Top Gun countless times in high school. When a “Shooter” (see below) goes to launch a jet at night, the signal to launch is two arcing taps to the deck with a flashlight.
“Why two, you ask?” I didn’t, but the docent briefing us did and immediately followed up with, “Well, what if the Shooter dropped his or her flashlight? With two taps there’s no ambiguity on a launch.” Yikes, I could see how only one tap as a signal could easily make flight ops go horribly wrong, especially considering my own tendency to suffer from the dropsies. I pondered those implications as I meandered aft. Clearly visible from the receiving end of the flight deck was a fine example of 90,000 tons of diplomacy still in operation.
Pretty cool to see her parked across the harbor from the fantail of her more diminutive foremother as she readied to get underway…
At last we made it to the tower where Firebolt easily assumed the Air Boss chair (no surprise there).
And, equally unsurprising, WoodSprite took no time sliding into the MiniBoss seat. And then they swapped seats…
On the bridge, the girls took turns at the helm and we made our way back down to the hangar deck by way of a couple of ready rooms (where aviators enjoy downtime between missions).
As our kids let us know they were done (see above), my knees simultaneously proclaimed, “Great googlie mooglie are there a lot of ladders (stairs) aboard this boat!”
Preparing to go ashore at last, we found ourselves back on the Aloha Deck.
Kidding, that’s from The Love Boat. It was really the Poop Deck.
HA! Holy cow, the Poop Deck’s not a real name either.
Actually, it is.
Unless it’s not.
Indeed the Poop Deck truly is a Naval Architecture term – it’s French, look it up – one that my inner seven-year old enjoyed sharing with our kids, especially when I was gleefully rewarded with many giggles. But, as that’s nowhere near where could debark, most fortunately that was not where we found ourselves. I marveled not for the first time of the day, “Man, is this boat enormous!” Had I not had arrows pointing me towards the exit and kind docents gesturing the way out, I’d probably still be walking around the MIDWAY.
After a most enjoyable visit to the aircraft carrier, we headed back to the cottage for more beach time.
Aside from others’ entertainment witnessing my standard sinus cavity rinses as I got thrashed about in the surf, the most delightful sight was, despite his lack of sleep, Papa’s excitement at seeing yet another Navy warship pull around Point Loma to favor us with front row seats for their conning operations – or whatever it is they do on those pointy, grey things.
Since the P-3C is far too large to fly off a carrier (thank goodness), Flight and I take great delight in trading gentle barbs with Papa who insists we were never in the real Navy. As I headed back to the ocean for more thrashing boogieboarding, I vowed that, despite having thoroughly enjoyed visiting the carrier today, I’d use my time in the ocean to rinse the pervasive ship smell out of my hair. Don’t tell him I said so, but I think that Papa’s probably right…
There will be absolutely nothing negative in this post. Coronado, for lack of a better verb, rocked.
I realized at some point that I have swum in the Pacific Ocean almost every day for a month. I have a suntan, and not from “laying out.” I feel great. More than great.
Our stay in Coronado was something I had looked forward to for a long time – the Coronado Beach Cottages are situated on Naval Air Station North Island’s beachfront, right next to the Navy Lodge, which, if you disregard the fence and security measures which separate the base from the rest of Coronado, is itself technically next to the iconic Hotel Del Coronado (the “Hotel Del”), where people spend thousands of dollars a night to loll about in a beachy haze. It is a gorgeous stretch of sand and water, and reservations for the Beach Cottages fill up almost immediately, and for good reason. It far exceeded my already high expectations.
Quick aerial view for those not familiar with San Diego. Coronado, though island-like and in the middle of San Diego Bay, is not technically an island as it’s connected by a very thin strip of land from a point near the border with Mexico. Once upon a time late 1800s it was more or less just a ritzy resort area centered on the Hotel Del, and later (WWI time frame) Naval Air Station North Island, then known as Naval Air Station San Diego. But after the bridge was built, the development followed quickly, resulting in a charming beach community that manages to maintain its own character amidst San Diego’s sprawl.
My instinct to book a cottage at the end of October turned out to have been correct, though fortuitously so. We managed to hit a heat wave that brought over 100-degree temperatures to San Diego’s beaches. That may sound like a common thing for Southern California, and indeed it is if you happen to be inland, but on the actual beach with water temps in the high-60s at most, air temperatures over 100 are not only quite rare, but also entirely palatable due to the cool water at your doorstep and the cool evenings enabled by the near-zero humidity. Even more palatable when you’re staying in an air-conditioned cottage right on the sand.
It’s difficult to describe the feeling of SPACE we felt when we first walked in. It was about 1000 ft2 maximum, but Tacco and I had our own bedroom with a door we could close, there was a full sized bathroom and shower, a dishwasher (are you kidding me?) and a washer/dryer that we could use anytime we wanted, without feeding it quarters. We had a living room and full kitchen. Our back porch with the outside shower sported an unobstructed view of the sand and the ocean, as well as Point Loma on our West side and the Hotel Del, the last of California’s coastline, and the coastal mountains of Mexico in the distance on our South and East side.
We wasted no time commencing beach ops. Having spent the last few weeks on Southern California beaches, we knew exactly what to do. The beach itself turned out to be very similar to Carpinteria in its shallow sandiness (i.e. kid friendliness). And the surf was, for our purposes, pretty much perfect. Steep, easy to catch waves that broke far enough out to make them rideable, and just big enough to be sporty but not big enough to be especially dangerous. I discovered, to my great pleasure, that Keeper’s San Elijo frustration had been quickly forgotten, and we spent hours catching waves together, with Woodsprite frolicking happily in the shallower water.
Operating without a wallet and identification on a military base required some extra planning, but we managed it without too much difficulty, and I was able to replace my military ID almost immediately.
My parents flew down and joined us on day 2, which was another coup. They flew into Long Beach so that they could take advantage of space available flying on JetBlue, rented a car, and then met us at the USS Midway museum in downtown San Diego, where we spent a few hours exploring and introducing the kids to life on an aircraft carrier.
I say “introducing the kids” but actually… shamefully, or proudly, I haven’t decided which yet, I realized that despite 23 years serving as a naval aviator, my first step onto the Midway was my first step onto an aircraft carrier. Part of my decision to fly P-3s rather than carrier-based aircraft was what I perceived at the time to be a quality of life choice – I wanted no part of “The Boat” as we later put it. “The Boat” was our blanket term in the P-3 community for basically anything grey and floating.
Though my Naval career far exceeded what I could’ve imagined on just about every axis when I first joined, I have fired up the what-if machine at times and tried to picture what my life would’ve looked like had I flown the pointy-nosed jets off of the carriers. Touring the Midway made me wish there was a way to have checked that box without giving up everything else I was able to do. Which there wasn’t of course, but the tour made for a fun and somewhat nostalgic afternoon.
The rest of our stay in Coronado was basically like a “greatest hits” of the beach days over the last month. Keeper and I did a swim and body surf session that spanned the sunset. We had likely our best family dining out experience yet at Stone Brewery’s Liberty Station restaurant (Liberty Station is the old Marine Corps Recruit Depot, which has been re-purposed from a Boot Camp site to a ridiculously charming food-shop-residential area). We celebrated Tacco’s birthday. And we relaxed. Lots of relaxing.
One consequence of our morphing plans brought on by our house’s failure to sell was the prospect of another month in the West. Originally San Diego was to be the point at which we turned the corner and headed back to the East, with the plan being to reach the Florida Keys, then park Davista for the remainder of the Winter at a military base somewhere in Florida. Our leisurely stay in Coronado gave us plenty of time to game out several other options. We landed on a plan that would allow us to spend Thanksgiving in Grass Valley (Sierra Nevada foothills) with my brother-in-law’s parents and the extended family on my side. Basically our intention now is to head back to Southern California and take advantage of a heavily discounted 3-day pass for military folks at Disneyland, as well as to spend a bit more time visiting with friends there. I’ll also fly another work trip out of Long Beach, which is a relatively easy commute. We’ll then venture out into the desert and see Joshua Tree, Las Vegas, possibly Zion National Park (weather permitting), and maybe Death Valley prior to coming back across the mountains in California. Though I would very much like to drive up Route 395 along the dramatic east side of the Sierras, many of the higher passes are already closed, and even the lower ones, of which we would have to cross several, are at 8000’ plus and getting early season snow. As comfortable as I’m getting with Davista, snowy roads aren’t something I’m ready to subject myself or my family to.
I think I mentioned at some point feeling a mixed sense of relief about flying back to our house in Maryland for the Winter. I no longer have that – I would very much like to keep doing what we’re doing and not break it up. We’ve been looking for ways to manage staying on the road, but it has become obvious that we really don’t have a viable choice, and will need to leave Davista on the West Coast and at least base out of our Annapolis house for a few months. Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station looks like an excellent Winter home for Davista though. It’s right near Long Beach airport, so I could potentially bid a layover or two and check on her.
The kids are still looking forward to heading back to Maryland, but they seem to be getting more comfortable with our lifestyle as well. Firebolt in particular seems to be getting over her “this just doesn’t feel right” sentiment – I have an inkling that she’ll be the first of the three to want to return to the traveling life after a couple months.
The bottom line is that we’re in a good space, no, a great space. Even with all the uncertainty. Basically Coronado was a fitting book end to the beach phase of our journey. Any frustrations I was still tangling with melted away. If we could stay, I would, but of course that’s not what this is all about!
I wanted to give the resolution to our little tree limb encounter its own post as it’s instructive. At least it was for me. I had no idea how much fiberglass repair costs! I also had only vague ideas about several other things about which I should’ve been an expert.
What I should’ve done was this: Call my insurance company immediately upon seeing the damage. Taken a picture of it. Allow them to find and make an appointment with an adjuster based on where we would be over the next couple weeks. Let the adjuster work with their preferred maintenance facility to get the hole fixed. Pay the deductible and move on.
What I did was this: Looked at the jagged hole in our roof and said “shoot, that’s just a fiberglass repair, no big deal. We’ll get it fixed when we can.” I was thinking San Diego since we had a non-RV place already booked, but I didn’t find a repair place or make an appointment right away. My gross wag on what the cost would be, based on absolutely nothing at all, was a couple hundred dollars. I even looked into doing it myself, but reluctantly opted not to when I saw how involved it would be, particularly given that it was a curved surface that had crunched. Thankfully. That would’ve been an unmitigated disaster.
Turns out I wasn’t even close with my cost estimate. When we finally got down to San Diego and got the official estimate (after significant logistical aerobatics involving a rental mini-van I picked up at the airport), it came out to somewhere just north of $2700. !!! That changes things.
As that’s not the type of money we can afford to just toss around, I made a quick call (aggressively encouraged by Tacco, who recognized the time criticality far better than I had) to USAA in order to see if I could start a claim. Understandably, they asked why I hadn’t called immediately when the incident happened, a question for which I had no good answer. I had made things quite difficult for them by squeezing this repair into a short time-frame box and already selecting a repair shop. Evidently insurance adjusters tend to need a few weeks lead time to work their magic.
Well, I need to give a shout out to USAA in this case. They came through for me enormously. There was no small portion of luck involved, too – it just so happened that the USAA insurance adjuster that this repair shop liked to work with had had a cancellation that morning and furthermore was in the area, so was able to pop by and do his thing with Davista. Had this not been the case, we’d have been stuck either paying for the full repair (I presume) or sticking around in a hotel in San Diego until we could get everything sorted out, likely well into November.
So it worked out! Despite my best efforts, we picked up Davista at the end of our San Diego time with a beautifully repaired roof and paid only a deductible. Please don’t do what I did.
Although our experience bar may have been set at all time low coming out of Campland, Coronado tends to even exceed the loftiest of expectations. And we were not disappointed this go around. Hang on, let me back up…
First, let me describe our departure from “Paradise” (simulated) and the rigmarole associated with packing out Davista and transitioning to a non-mobile residence while she had a roof lift. Most fortuitously, Flight had foreseen our Carpenteria Crunch before we even got on the road and booked a few days’ stay at the Coronado Beach Cottages at Naval Air Station North Island. Okay, maybe he’s not as fey as all that, but he had correctly reasoned we could use some time under a sticks-and-bricks roof a few months into our travels and miraculously there was room at the inn over my birthday. Good man
We rented a minivan to facilitate the transfer of our necessities (an impossible enterprise in only a bike-laden Subaru) from Davista to our Beach Cottage. Our transfer happened at the shop out in Poway, only a 20-minute drive from Paradise, if you’re from LA. If you’re not from LA, it took a brutal 45-minutes of winding through residential areas and over innumerable “speed humps.” I was happy to be driving our rental and observing the satisfactory (?) performance of Davista’s shock absorbers from a healthy distance. A far cry from the back roads of Montana, still likely less comfortable than my sweet minivan’s ride.
After transferring all we might need, along with all of the food (temperatures were going to be in triple digits for the next few days), to the Subaru and minivan, we caravanned to Coronado to check in. As it was nearly 2 p.m. by this time (and our kids informed us they were STARVING), we thought we’d stop and grab some eats on the way. We pulled into a strip mall and headed for In-N-Out. This was as close as we got:
Our kids REFUSED to get out of the car. Apparently we have raised our children to abhor the notion of fast food. Keeper even said, “I can’t believe you want us to eat fast food. I’ll wait until we get to the cottage.” Of all the fast food establishments out there, fresh ingredients and a cook-to-order practice means In-N-Out floats at the top of all the greasy spoons. Ever since Flight and I have known each other, a trip to California has not been complete without a stop at In-N-Out. Although, truth be told, as the years pass Flight and I have both realized we feel not unlike garbage after consuming even their fresh creations. We looked at each other and chuckled. Okay then, everybody get back in the cars.
We checked in at the nicest Navy Lodge I have ever seen and were given keys to the most expansive 1000 ft2 I have ever enjoyed. As Flight mentioned, we have become accustomed to considerably less space and living without many luxuries afforded most Americans. Although liberating in many ways, we were all very eager to take advantage of long hot showers that required no quarters.
Our first night in Coronado, we went out to eat at Stone Brewery. I may have mentioned that Flight is a Beer Geek and, as a result, we tend to steer towards such local establishments. Although the food and drink were certainly tasty, the setting was surprisingly gezellig. The Dutch use gezellig to describe anything that, for lack of a better turn of phrase, feeds the soul. It can be applied to gatherings, places, food, drink, clothing, experiences, etc. as a means to identify the intangible feel associated with sharing in all of those with good company and yet not solely linked to any single aspect. As my inability to succinctly capture it demonstrates, gezellig has no direct translation to English, but you’ll know it when you feel it.
I say Stone Brewery was surprisingly gezellig in that its walls, along with those of the surrounding establishments, had served for decades to contain the painstakingly arduous and necessarily transformative training of new Marine Corps Recruits. Try as I might, I was having a very difficult time envisioning the grinder that was buried beneath the patio tables covered with craft beers and enjoyable eats.
While I knew it was seasoned with the blood, sweat, and tears (literally) of our nation’s warfighters, the joyful gatherings presently underway belied its angry history and I marveled at how the energy of a space can be transformed…
Although one day premature and despite all the befuddlement and fodder for future ruminations that our Stone experience provided, I opted to call our dinner at Stone my birthday celebration. In truth, Flight and I had already decided to call our excursion to Single Thread our collective birthday presents. Despite record breaking late October temperatures (104o in San Diego – seriously?!), I enjoyed my birthday immensely. I started my day watching the sunrise over the Coronado Beach while happily blogging away.
Once I was satisfied with my early morning’s work, I tucked my computer away and enjoyed a delightful brunch with the family that Flight had prepared. I say again, good man.
To celebrate gaining another year of seasoning, I continued to pepper my day with activities to feed my soul. Eager to make use of our en suite laundry facilities, I took the enormous Dumb Donald-worthy hat of Fat Albert fame I had knit and thrice ran it through the wash with boiling hot water to shrink it to a more appropriate size.
After seeing these beautiful felted creations by Carrie Cahill Mulligan the previous fall in New England, I knew I wanted one for myself:
Flight easily picked up on my coveting and, knowing I’d rather create my own, ordered the pattern from Carrie and gave it to me, along with some appropriate yarn, the previous Christmas. Although I have knit and felted several projects, there is always a leap of faith when throwing a labor of love in the washer to be distorted, albeit intentionally so. Initially apprehensive, especially using an unfamiliar machine, I set the washer to work and went outside to do yoga.
Bikram’s got nothing on beach yoga in a San Diego heat wave. Aside from the slow slide in the sand to find my footing for each pose, my body easily elongated, welcoming the dry, furnace-like calefaction and soaking in the oddly unrelenting October sun. It was glorious, and made only better still by dipping in the ocean at its conclusion. The remainder of the day was filled with a run to the Navy Exchange to replace my Oakley’s, boiling more water for hat felting operations, luxuriating for hours on the beach and savoring an easy dinner of grilled burgers and zucchini, providing the perfect opportunity to take stock of my blessings (including my new felted hat!), say my gratitudes, and get excited for Grammy and Papa’s arrival the next day.
I have been very fortunate to have travelled for much of my life and, ever the armchair sociologist, I have always delighted in noting how people choose to live in various locations as well as how they observe and perceive their local lifestyle compared to those enjoyed elsewhere. No matter where I am, I find people interesting. Seriously, they are downright fascinating, especially when observing them in their natural habitat.
Early in our relationship, a very telling conversation with Flight delved into our respective motivation to attend global airshows. When I admitted my interest was much more focused on the opportunity to interact with those who fly their respective nations’ defensive gear than on seeing the actual hardware itself, Flight then incredulously asked, “You mean you have no desire to crawl all over other countries’ aircraft to learn more about them?!” Before I could check my reaction, I blurted out, “Oh, dear God, no!” And with as much disdain as I have ever heard expressed by Flight, he pronounced, “Shame on you. You need to turn in your wings.”
When I was a junior officer based at NAS Whidbey Island, I was designated the Squadron Mining Officer, which meant I had to leave the pristine beauty of the Pacific NW to go to Ingleside, Texas, for a week of mine warfare training. Truth be told, the week-long escape to warmer climes away from the semi-oppressive relentless January rain sounded not unlike an all-expense paid vacation courtesy of Uncle Sam. A fellow in one of our sister squadrons was similarly tagged for the same boondoggle, so we traveled to Ingleside together and shared the cost of a rental car, to learn the best strategies to employ the U.S. Navy’s proven air delivery mining strategies.
Have you ever been to Ingleside, Texas?
It’s a different kind of place, as are most places I suppose, but Ingleside was unique compared to anywhere I had ventured to that point. Our daily training evolutions were held at the Mine Warfare Command, housed at Naval Station Ingleside, while our lodging accommodations were in Corpus Christi, where a large percentage of Navy pilots receive flight training. Although I could wax poetic on the distinctions between the various warfare communities in the Navy, I’ll just say there were many reasons we gladly stayed among the aviators in Corpus and drove daily to school in Ingleside.
Making the first of our morning transits to attend our course, we drove through a landscape in stark contrast with Whidbey Island (see stock photo of Whidbey below).
Where Whidbey topography is defined by at least as many striking shades of green as the Irish countryside (likely owed to similar precipitation patterns), Aransas Pass (the major water thoroughfare to cross between Corpus and Ingleside) was dully monochromatic in a pale burnt sienna crayon kind of way. The closest I had previously been to this part Texas was in my own advanced flight training in San Antonio. I had once traveled down to Corpus to visit some friends and, as transit took place at night, I had no idea what I had missed. Recently spoiled by the omnipresent beauty of the Pacific NW, I cynically thought to myself, “Not much, apparently…”
Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of the sign heralding our crossing of the waterway before it zoomed by entirely. It took me a moment to sort out what I thought I had read and, laughing at myself, I shared with my fellow traveler, “I thought that sign said, ‘Rancid Ass.’” He whooped, “HA! Rancid Ass, Texas. That’s about right…”
Imagine my surprise when, hours later, we made a stop at Commissary to grab a few goodies for lunch. When I presented my check for payment, the kind woman at the register inspected my check and drawled, “Is this yer courrent ah-dress?”
“Yes, Ma’am, it is.”
She further commented, “Well, I gyess not everyone’s luckeeenough to live in TEXes…” Like I said, people are interesting.
Flash forward a couple of decades to our next stop on the Davista adventure: Mission Bay’s Campland on the Bay, where, upon our arrival, the spunky reservation agent piped, “Welcome to Paradise!” Paradise, huh? Hmmmm…
Although Flight captured the dismal surroundings quite accurately here, there are a few aspects of our stay at Mission Bay that I would like to highlight. While Flight was away, there seemed a dearth of immediately local activities for our Flight-less gaggle to explore. Having reinjured my neck, my range of motion was limited, as was my patience.
After spending the day squirreled away in Davista, following a 30 minute reprieve at the Park’s arcade (see below), and having heard enough of the dueling alternating bouts of “offensive” (Keeper’s word, not mine, although I certainly agree) rap and equally unpalatable country music, I pronounced, “Okay, pack up. We need to leave. Now.” And we trundled into the Subaru to explore the local National Park Service Memorial out at Point Loma.
“But, Mom, why do we have to leave?” I was asked as we were driving away from paradise. “Well, my friend, you know how Mom loves bagpipes? I know that not everybody does. In fact, believe it or not, some people find them downright annoying. Because I understand that, I would never play my music so loud as to bother others. It’s just basic courtesy, which our neighbors are not demonstrating, and I can’t be around that any more right now. Let’s go check out Point Loma.” Which we did, sadly only 30 minutes before the Ranger Station closed and we had to vacate sans Junior Ranger Badges. We were there for so short a time, I didn’t even take any pictures. Bummer. And somehow on par for the Mission Bay experience.
However, there was one shining experience I have to note. Before commuting out for his trip, Flight had shown the kids the RV Park’s expansive arcade, which was on the scale of a Chuck E Cheese pizza joint (another of my least favorite establishments), and promised they would have some time to spend their money playing games. After many requests to go, I finally acquiesced and we wandered over to the arcade.
This particular arcade has advanced far beyond quarters or tokens and instead uses a card system to keep track of both your funds and your winnings so you can spend and “cash out” your prizes on your own timeline. The catch is that each card costs $1. However, if you put at least $5 on the card, you get your money back. Ever since learning the system with Flight, the kids had been scheming and came up with the following plan. They decided they would get only one card to share in order to minimize the cost. Furthermore, they would each put different amounts of money on the card based on what they had and wanted to spend, and then keep track of who spent what as they went. I’m pretty sure they hadn’t even considered how they’d divvy up their winnings at the end of their arcade time.
Imaging all the ways this could go horribly wrong, I thought, “Hoo boy, how’s THIS going to go down…”
Getting the card was pretty straightforward and they easily loaded it with their money, but what happened next was the first of my surprises. The older two walked WoodSprite around the arcade to help her identify all the games she might be interested in playing and, based on her fund contribution, which ones she would want to play and in what order.
Had I been more cynical, I might have thought this was a ploy to get her to waste her money and/or time to allow the other two more of either, however it was actually the demonstration of two older siblings truly wanting to help their little sister get the most enjoyment from her share in the entertainment. Surprising me further, they then graciously took turns and played only the games whose fees exactly totaled what they each respectively put into the pot, cheering each other on and offering consolation after any less than satisfactory performances.
And then they were out of funds.
Knowing I would not serve as an ATM and happy to call the experience complete, they joyfully took their collective, albeit meager, winnings to the prize-dispensing machine. Armchair sociologist hat on and observing the unfolding events as a non-participant, I thought, “And here’s where it breaks down…” Before they inserted their card to cash out, I witnessed the three of them peruse all the options and then engage in a well though out discussion of the pros and cons of each potential prize before coming to a decision.
Sound bites of what I heard follow.
“Well, if we get the candy, we couldn’t get something else and I don’t think we need the sugar.”
“I think we should get something so we can remember our time in the arcade.”
“Well, we could get one finger puppet, but that means only one. Is everyone okay with that?”
“WoodSprite, would you take care of the finger puppet?”
“I think that seems like the best idea.”
And to my delightful surprise, their follow through was perfect. I’m sorry, what just happened?!
When Flight returned from his trip, I couldn’t wait to share what I had witnessed. It was very encouraging to observe how close our kids are becoming through our travels and how they truly and mindfully look out for each other. Losing a wallet, dueling music at obscene decibels, tweaking my neck, one fewer Junior Ranger badge, Spring Break in PB in October, and planning to pack out of Davista for several days while her roof is repaired, all fade to a far less egregious hue when basking in this shining moment. And, we are the proud owners of a new finger puppet to remind us of the best of our time in paradise.