July 2007 Bay Area Trip

Post date: Oct 14, 2010 2:45:12 AM

Here's a recap of our trip up north. Players are me, my wife Melissa (Mel), daughter C (age 7), the boy E (age 2), my mom & her man of 20 years Butch

The trip started on Wednesday (7/25/07) evening. My mom called me from the road while I was locking cars on the lot and getting ready to leave. They planned to stop at Chumash Casino along the way. I got home shortly after 7 and got us out of there by 9. The kids fell asleep on the way (one of the benefits of traveling late for us and them), and we actually got to the Santa Maria Motel 6 before my mom and Butch. They apparently did not do very well at the casino. We checked in and settled into probably one of the worst rooms we have ever had. Don’t get me wrong. It was clean and everything, but the shower was tiny, the beds were uncomfortable, the freeway was noisy, and E (at barely 2 years old) figured out how to get out of the room right away. We had to wrestle E to sleep with Mel walking him around the room past midnight. He must have slept too much the evening before.


I managed to get enough rest but woke up very early. Everyone else was able to sleep in a little:

So I grabbed a quick shower (careful to not lift my arms in the cramped space) and went to the office to get towels and ask where would be a good place to get breakfast. My mom did the same thing and the lady recommended each of us try Francisco’s Country Café. After everyone was ready we checked it out and were all impressed. Good food and service. Checked out and hit the road by 11. Along the way we passed the Mid State Fair, but there was not much time to add it to our itinerary. C got sick once, and we also stopped at a Gilroy Jack in the Box for treats. We got to the Winchester house at 2:30 and took the 3:00 tour. E was not ready for the tight spaces and flipped out right away. Somehow we got through the house (which hadn’t changed at all in the ten years since we had been there), but the garden tour presented another challenge: C was petrified of the bees. We all enjoyed our time at the house and spent time in the gift shop area, but had to get out fast before a total meltdown would occur.

We got to the Sheraton San Jose (actually in Milpitas) at around 5 and checked in to a beautifully remodeled room. It had the most awesome and comfortable décor and a giant plasma TV. I thought it was the best, especially at roughly $60 per night from Hotwire. My fams got a suite that felt like a condo.  It was a hot day but a cool night so we took only a quick dip in the pool while Mel ran. After that we spent time hanging out in my fams’ room before we decided to try a cool Italian restaurant. I used my Vons card at a Safeway (that looked like a Vons) and we enjoyed the rest of the evening together.


We didn’t have to get up too early, but for some reason, I did anyway. We all took our time getting ready and met for breakfast at the hotel. The buffet was actually pretty good, but I think it was a little expensive. We got out of there at around 11 (all six in our car) and headed for San Francisco to the Marathon Expo. E got sick along the way and we had to stop to clean up at a McDonalds in front of an Ikea around Palo Alto. The trip to SF was a little longer than I thought it would be due to traffic, I guess. We ended up parking pretty much exactly underneath where Mel was to pick up her race #. We didn’t spend too much time at the Expo and got out of there on our way to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. The only traffic was right across the bridge (due to an accident on the other side). The bridge was a lot of fun and it was a pleasant drive. We were surprised by another cool bridge before Vallejo. Toll: $4. Parking cost $15 at Six Flags…that’s right $15!!! E got sick again right when we got there, so we had to spend a little time cleaning up when we got there. We waited a little for a tram that never came, so we decided to walk to the entrance. The first stop was the gift shop to get E another outfit. He barfed himself out of all of his spare clothes! We then continued to some animal exhibits on our way to the Thomas section. We took some photos and rode the train and a few other rides before we started getting pretty hungry. After lunch, we saw the sharks and then the Shouka (killer whale) show. We spent the rest of the day meandering around the park and riding here and there. The highlight was the rapids ride where Butch got soaked by a waterfall. That place was really a blast. I would gladly go several times to be able to do it all. Too bad there’s really nothing like it around here.

We got out before closing and took a tram back to our car. I bought tickets online for that place before learning that our Six Flags Magic Mountain Annual Passes work there too. Lesson learned: Annual Passes are good at any Six Flags! No sickness on the way back, and we were able to stop by In-n-Out and get to my fams’ room by 9ish. After dinner, we watched Goldmember then headed back to our room for a good night’s sleep. (did I mention how comfortable the bed was?)


Today we had to get up early to make it to A Day Out With Thomas by 8. We had the continental breakfast delivered to our room and got out of there by 7:30 (same car again). There was no traffic to Roaring Camp Railroads, but the trip still seemed longer than I thought it was going to be. They had Thomas right at the entrance, so that looked like fun. E slept until we got there. It was a little chilly but the place was decked out pretty nicely. We got right on the train at 8:30 and departed for our trip through the woods. It was all so beautiful and definitely worth getting up early. There is nothing like a forest first thing in the morning. The air was so crisp and fresh. We took tons of pictures…even after we got back. E saw Topum Hat and C went in the Jolly Jump before they both got their faces painted. A few souvenirs, then it was back to the hotel.


I wanted us to get a chance to rest a while but we had to get going. We finally got out right at check out and made our way over to Great America after a stop for lunch at Taco Bell (separate cars now). No tram here, but this park is very beautiful at it’s entrance. We made our way over to the rapids after a ride on the carousel.  After that, Mel and I rode Survivor (the one ride I for sure wanted to try. The parts about the show were interesting if not cheesy, but the ride was intense. It spins around as you go back and forth across a track. The rest of the day was spent following the kids from one ride to the next with one stop at the water park. The wave pool was empty because a youngster had drowned there a couple weeks earlier. The last ride was Psycho Mouse, which was cool for C and me (photo below) because it is the exact same (except reversed) ride as Mulholland Madness at Cal Adventure (DCA), which is a family favorite! Of note at this park: the rides are all very slow loading no matter how long or short the lines were. 


We saw earlier that the area had Fresh Choice, so Butch used his Garmin to find one close by (it was near our hotel at the Great Mall (a place I had accepted that  we would not see, but here it was). The dinner was great and a perfect pre race meal for Mel, but since we were back near our hotel, I got the idea to take the 880 and Bay Bridge to SF instead of the route I mapped along the 101. This way was faster, but I made a few wrong turns when I got off the freeway and took us to the complete wrong side of town. We got to the hotel about an hour late, which would have not been so bad if I didn’t have to go to the bathroom so badly! My mom called me to say there was nowhere to park in the tiny garage but they were reserving us a space near the elevators. I tried to check in, but the rooms were all taken. We had to all share my fams’ room with a king bed and a rollaway! It was a short night anyway and they let us use the bed. The hotel made it up to us by upgrading our room and giving us all free parking (a savings of $140!).


Not much sleep! Alarm woke me up at 4:30 to get ready for the race. Mel was already up and getting ready! She said she didn’t really sleep at all and was getting ready by 3. We hit the road at around 5 for the 5:30 start and met a lady in the lobby who walked with us the 2 miles to the start. On the way back I snapped a few photos of the city at sunrise. When I got back to the room, everyone was just waking up. I managed to lay down for about 15 minutes, then it was off to get Mel. It was surprisingly easy to find her, since I got there shortly before she finished. She did very well, finishing at 1:55:06.


We rolled down Lombard Street on our way back and found some time to crash before breakfast. We got our own room and I got  a chance to shower. More rest before heading to the Giants game. At the last minute, I decided to drive to the game instead of taking the bus. I’m sure this would have been bad either way, but it was nice having our car there just in case. The game was very fun even though we did not get to see Barry Bonds hit # 755 or 756. The park is a sight to see and I took a lot of photos. We got our hotdogs and stuff and stayed until Barry’s last at bat. I wanted to beat traffic, but apparently everyone else did too. The way we tool to get back took us right back by the park so we were stuck in traffic for a while, which seemed especially stressful for my mom. Cars were zipping all around, so I had to be extra careful.


We got back to the hotel at around 5 and crashed some more while watching Forrest Gump. It was a nice warm-up for our upcoming visit to Bubba Gump’s in Monterey. By 7 we were ready to see some sights, so we headed out to Ghiradelli’s and the other centers around our hotel. The sights were neat, but the shopping centers were kind of empty or closed. We decided on a familiar dinner at Joes Crab Shack instead of one of the local unknowns. E fell asleep on the walk, so he slept through dinner. I had the coconut shrimp, which was delicious, but my mom’s order got messed up, putting a damper on an otherwise excellent meal. Back to the hotel after that and straight to bed. 



The next morning was very lazy and very relaxing. I figured for us to get out of there at 10 then 10:30 then 11. After a quick breakfast of snacks, we finally checked out and hit the streets by 11. Staying right on Fisherman’s Wharf is awesome because you are right there in the middle of it all. We saw a submarine tour then had lunch at a place on Pier 39 called Chowders. I had a tuna sandwich while everyone else had…chowder. We rode the carousel and took photos then headed back to the hotel grabbing some bread and souvenirs on the way.


We drove a stretch of the scenic drive to the Golden Gate Bridge. C finally got to see what she wanted to see. We then drove across and back with no toll because we were a carpool! From there we tried to do Lombard again with the kids, but there was too much traffic, so we headed for Santa Cruz. The trip didn’t take long, and the carpool lanes alleviated the traffic. The Boardwalk was pretty cool, but it was a little late and cold for us to get our full enjoyment. We were all a little tired so we left without using all of our ride tickets. The 75 cent special was neat though. It was a very fun place that I would love to go back to any time. 


Our Party on one of the rides (not the Dipper!):


From there it was a relatively short 30 some minute drive to our hotel in Marina. My fams was there waiting since they left before us, and she got us rooms right next to each other. They went down to Denny’s next door for some late snacks, but it was off to bed for us!

(maybe after a little partying)


Last day! Today we had the least planned, but since it was the end of our trip, we felt the most tired. It all started with a trip to the park nearby for the kids to play and for Mel to run.

Then we took our time getting ready for breakfast. By the time we ate, it was pretty much lunch time, which allowed us all to get whatever we wanted. From there I followed through with my plan to park in Downtown Monterey and take the free trolley to the aquarium. That turned out OK, but I think everyone else would have just liked to have parked closer. The aquarium was very crowded, but the kids managed to enjoy themselves.

We finished the day with a nice dinner at the original Bubba Gump’s (finally) and took the trolley back to our car. Parking was only $4.50, I’m sure a savings over what it would have been closer to the aquarium. We only stopped twice on the way home and got here by 11:30. I managed to unpack my stuff and head to bed very tired. My next day at work went from 8am to 10pm then I had to go to a meeting at 7am the next day. By Thursday night, I was exhausted, so a late start Friday and Saturday helped. Sunday, we headed down to Santa Monica. We were tired, but I don’t think we quite had the tourist bug out of us yet!