The latest incarnation of our plan, as you may recall, had us staying in my parents’ driveway in Alamo until just after New Year’s Day, and thereafter heading down to Southern California for a month or two. At the time, I had perceived two future months as a very long time to stay in one place, let alone someone else’s home. It wasn’t though.
The holidays came and went, I worked too much, we had seen hardly anything in the area it seemed, and we were very much enjoying getting the quality extended family time. We really didn’t want to go. So in a late-night discussion, Tacco and I strategized on how to broach the subject of our maybe sticking around… like possibly all the way through February??
Of course the strategizing was superfluous, but my parents humored us when we sat them down for “a serious talk” about what we were considering. “Hmmm…” they offered thoughtfully, before answering that yes, they would love to have us continue to darken their driveway. Excellent! We revisited the house rules and attempted anew to preempt potential avenues into and beyond the imposition zone — so far so good. And then we settled happily back into our routine.
Alcatraz was the next National Park Service site that got a visit from our squad.
I can’t say that it was our favorite, but it’s never a bad idea to take a boat ride in the Bay, particularly one that spans the sunset.
One memorable evening started with the family picking me up from Oakland airport after a trip. My parents had highly recommended a relatively new Mexican restaurant in town, so we figured we would use my needing a ride as an excuse to get the family out to dinner.
They were correct about the restaurant; it was excellent. The area in which it sits, less so. Here was what we emerged from the restaurant to find.
Unfortunately the reason for the glass-shattering was to extract my fully packed luggage, which included not only a full load of clothes and a uniform, but my company ID, my passport, my computer and company iPad, etc. Well, shoot. That is not at all good. When we walked back into the restaurant to let them know what had happened and give the kids a place to sit down while we started the process of reporting it to the police, (and to be fair, the restaurant folks were very helpful and accommodating), the first question we were asked was “did you cover up your luggage?” Huh. Evidently, not only is this a common crime in the area, but we brought it on ourselves. That’s disheartening.
The story took a turn toward the bizarre when I got a phone call after midnight that night from a man claiming to have “my stuff.” He was difficult to understand and his explanation was twisty and almost certainly alcohol-soaked, but seemed to involve my bag (or bags?) being thrown out of a moving car near the Oakland BART station and someone he knew (daughter? girlfriend?) grabbing it and realizing that there were important items in it, apparently including my phone number. All I had to do was come to his apartment in Oakland the next day if I wanted to pick it up… and oh, I don’t know, maybe there might be a reward involved?
What could go wrong there?
Plenty, if you ask the police, which I did the next day. In retrospect attempting to involve the police was just a complicating and stress-inducing factor in the whole scenario, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know. They stopped just short of asking whether I was making my best attempt to get robbed and/or shot, and weren’t particularly helpful. I explained that this person potentially already had my stuff, what could possibly be the point of luring me out to Oakland to shoot me? But I get it – they see a lot of Bad, day in day out, and my little suitcase was exceedingly small potatoes for them. It wasn’t so much that they were giving bad advice as it was that they really didn’t have the time or inclination to give advice at all. Just stay in your lane and no one gets hurt. OK. The thing is, I really, really wanted my passport and ID back. Those are very hard to replace, and I need them for work. It was quite a dilemma, and pitted my Assume The Best From People nature against whatever meager street smarts I’ve picked up over the years. Skipping to the end of a very long and far more than a little bit crazy story, my dad and I spent an afternoon in what we were later told is the “roughest” part of Oakland, culminating with a convergence-via-cellphone to a “neutral” street corner, getting out of the car, rapidly exchanging a handful of twenties for a medium sized black bag, throwing it into the trunk, and tearing off. I’m sure it wasn’t suspicious and attracted no attention.
Got my stuff though (the passport and ID at least – all the valuable items were naturally gone).
Winter wore on, and stayed wet and chilly. Very much so, in fact. So much so that California pulled out of the exceptional drought it had suffered under for the past several years, and then some. Growing up in California, one of the many things you get used to – actually two things, are 1) Drought, 2) The inevitable barrage of stern newspeople explaining, after every big rainstorm, that though this rain was welcome and may have seemed significant, it didn’t even put a dent in the current drought.
Except in 2019, that wasn’t the case. It rained and rained and snowed and snowed in the mountains. Great for our ski season and even better for the state, but not so good for getting us outside.
Woodsprite took to making “markets” in front of her grandparents’ various fireplaces, selling mostly drawings she had made in order to raise money for “LOL Dolls,” a recently adopted enthusiasm of hers and her sister’s that I don’t entirely understand.
And in the breaks between storms, Tacco set up art class outside on the deck.
We also took a trip out to Pt. Reyes National Seashore, where explorer Sir Francis Drake had made landfall in 1579, after missing San Francisco Bay just a dozen or two miles to the south, due to the Oakland hills blending in with the coastline. Or so the legend goes.
It’s wild, empty seashore, and quite beautiful – even more so when you have it to yourself on a Winter weekday.
Near the end of our time in Alamo, we finally managed a trip up nearby Mt. Diablo, home of the tarantulas Tacco mentioned last year. February is not tarantula season, however, so we were able to enjoy a short, spider-free hike, some rock scrambling, and killer views.
Both Tacco and Keeper found places for some tranquil me-time as well.
Overall it turned into an outstanding Winter, with multiple ski trips (to be covered in a separate post), an anniversary trip to St. Maarten for Tacco and me made possible by the kids staying with my parents, and lots of truly invaluable family time. It had never been the plan to travel significantly in the RV during Winter, but as it turned out we didn’t really move the RV in the winter at all, leaving it stored in Southern California the first year and parked in Northern California the second year. In doing so we managed to avoid the mass winter RV migration to Florida and Arizona’s campgrounds, which I’m told tend to be filled to bursting. I’m ok with that.
Though I’ve mentioned my distress at the kids’ ratio of stare at screens time to play outside time, one undeniably positive by-product of this trip has been how close they’ve grown. The sisters especially, as they’ve been each other’s sole playmate for the vast majority of the past year and a half. They’re more or less inseparable, and their modes of play are both sophisticated and fascinating at times, involving intricate roleplays and improv. They’ve decided that they would like to be “You-Tubers” as soon as possible, and have worked up what I’m assured (by them) is compelling content. I pretty much don’t know what any of that means. But they’re of like mind and make a great team, so who knows?
And I don’t want to leave out Keeper – he is an exemplary big brother to his sisters. Of course he gets annoyed by them at times and they pick at each other, as is required by law, but in general he’s both tender and protective of his sisters, far more than I was at his age or even much older. Good man.
Next we head back down to Southern California’s beaches for a stretch, starting with another stint at Camp Pendleton in northern San Diego county. It’s probably a bit early in the year to do much swimming / wave play, but we do have the wetsuits, so who knows? I do know that going to sleep to the sound of crashing waves will be welcome. Very, very welcome.