Six Days of Expeditions

October was one crazy whirlwind. First, the three of us took an unexpected trek to Pennsylvania, by way of New York, to be with my family after my grandfather's recent stroke. I could write a couple of blog posts just about that trip--the four flights, the three pieces of lost luggage, the three delays, the time we were literally stuck on the plane for an hour because the jetway broke, the frantic sprinting-through-the-airport-like-a-maniac-with-a-stroller ordeal, the tough family decisions, the Mid-Air Meltdown of 2014--but I'll leave all that to your imagination. It was about as much of a circus as you might envision, so I probably don't need to blog about it. :) However, Sam did see the Empire State Building, so I can check that off his bucket list, and other than the 20 solid minutes of screaming on the last flight (yeah, we finally got to be those parents), he traveled well.

Two days after we got home, Jordan left for a work trip to Korea for a week. I have to be honest: I am a wimp when it comes to staying home alone for any extended amount of time. I get jumpy, I watch too much Netflix in bed, I eat cereal for every meal, and I generally get a little weird. I hadn't ever had to be alone with Sam for an overnight. Also, I only know about three people in California, because all of my plans for making friends ASAP went out the window when we moved here and then immediately started traveling cross-country again. So, taking all those factors into account, I decided to make the most of my six days with Sam, enjoy his company to the fullest, and plan as many expeditions as possible. And then I packed the car with every piece of baby gear we could possibly need. Here's a glimpse into our six days of expeditions...

DAY 1: SAN FRANCISCO

After dropping Jordan off at the airport, Sam and I continued on into the city, found a parking spot in the Mission, and set out on foot. One of my goals as we live here is to really get to know San Francisco, but...that's kind of like meeting 40 people and trying to become best friends with all of them. It's huge, it's one unending string of awesome places, and every neighborhood has its own vibe, hidden treasures, and personality. So we're taking it one neighborhood at a time. On this particular adventure, we tackled the Mission. We got coffee, pastries, and a mind-blowing pear smoothie at Dolores Cafe (my real hankering was for croissants from Tartine, but the line was around the block), and then walked up to Dolores Park to people-watch and drink a bottle of milk in front of the most spectacular city views. We also found the niftiest little toy store, Paxton Gate's Curiosities for Kids, where you can buy alabaster-encased bugs, epic pop-up books, crocheted "taxidermy," and nothing made of plastic, and where the shopkeepers entertained Sam with puppets and bubbles while I gawked. We bought flowers at Bi-Rite Market, flipped through some Dog-Eared Books, and did some thrifting. Then we packed up and headed for home...but I couldn't leave without a glimpse at the ocean. I followed my nose (and my iPhone), found the beach, and drove south along it. We pulled off into Fort Funston State Beach, and found the view below. The overlook is 200 feet up and is built right on top of an old harbor defense bunker, but now it's used as a hang glider launch pad.

DAY II: ROAD TRIP
We packed up and headed to Carmel, 90 minutes south, a little beach town where my grandmother lives. This was a strategic decision for a few reasons: 1) I knew she would cook for us, so that would address the three-cereal-meals-a-day problem, 2) she is very festive when it comes to the World Series, which was happening that week, and 3) her house is a perfect jumping-off point for exploring Big Sur and the Monterey Peninsula. 

DAY III: CARMEL COAST
Grandma, who knows every good spot to eat in town, took us to Highlands Inn, way up in the Carmel mountains, where you can eat fish tacos while sitting on the edge of a gorgeous bluff. After lunch, she snuck us in to the fancy club lounge by acting like she owned the place, and we spent a while enjoying the floor-to-ceiling windows  that look out over Point Lobos. My grandma is a happening lady. Next, she steered us down to her favorite painting spot in Pacific Grove, through Monterey, past Fisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row, up to Lover's Point, and along the beach. We finished off the day with Happy Hour at Grandma's (it's her ritual...complete with hors d'oeuvres) and a World Series party. Never a dull moment with her.

DAY IV: BIG SUR / MONTEREY 
Now I get to introduce you to one of my top five favorite places in the whole world. The stretch of Highway 1 from Carmel down to Big Sur State Park is just stunning. At one of the vistas along the drive, there's a restaurant calledNepenthe, which has world-class burgers and a view overlooking the cliffs. So, that was our main destination for the day, and on the way, we stopped at all of the major scenic pull-offs to take pictures like the one below. It was breathtaking. And Sam sat in the backseat and quite literally snored through the entire thing. We spent the afternoon at a massive farmer's market in downtown Monterey, caught a magnificent sunset over Carmel Beach (after which everyone standing on the beach and boardwalks burst into applause), and then headed home for--what else?--Happy Hour!

DAY V: RECOVERY!
Sam and I both slept until 10 am. Because expeditions really take it out of you. Then we packed up the car and road-tripped home, by way of Prunedale and The Artichoke Capital of the World. Then Sam had a major teething episode and we went to bed at 7 pm. Eh, you can't win 'em all. 

DAY VI: PALO ALTO
The last day's adventures were mostly of the practical and musical varieties. Sam accompanied me to a gig rehearsal and a few meetings, and then we hiked to our favorite local bakery for French baguettes and to Trader Joe's to fill our bare fridge (explorers gotta eat!). Then we spent the evening on the living room floor and I played records for Sam that he had never heard before: Highway 61 Revisited, The Queen Is Dead, Summerteeth, Kind of Blue.

DAYS VII-X: Jordan came home from his volcanic island with pockets full of interesting Korean oddities, and jet lag. We all slept for three days. 

Would it have been easier to just stay home for six days? Oh, probably. But it wouldn't have been nearly as fun or scenic or memorable, and I figure that whether I'm at home or on the road with Sam, I'll mainly be preoccupied with keeping him alive...so we might as well find whatever adventures we can while we're busy staying alive. Of course, it's trickier staying alive on the road, but to me, the awkward backseat feedings and mid-hike diaper changes and total exhaustion at the end of the day are totally worth it the effort. Besides, now someday Sam can say that he's taken a bottle while gazing at the San Francisco skyline and had his diaper changed on the cliffs of Big Sur. He may be too tiny to remember these crazy expeditions, but I hope they will awaken a tiny spark in him that loves exploration and the open road and scenic pull-offs and the joy of the hunt for beauty wherever you are.