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Disneyland

We went to Disneyland and we went on 2 roller coasters.  Normally I don’t like roller coasters but these two weren’t very fast.  They were the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Matterhorn Bobsled.  Ryan was at Disneyland and he sat on my knee on the Matterhorn Bobsled.  And he drove me on the Autopia car ride ( and I do not recommend doing that).  I did a Jedi training thing and got a certificate as well as fighting Darth Maul.

Sleeping under the stars

After a lovely picnic with our San Francisco friends and a goodbye meal with Maria, Josie and Clare we headed off to Los Angeles for the last leg of our Round the World adventure.

Goodbye to Maria

JoAnne met us at the airport and we dropped all our shopping filled cases at her place before traveling to Joshua Tree National Park to a pre-set campsite all ready for us.  It doesn’t rain much in this desert so we could sleep without a tent fly and enjoy the beautiful night sky.

Bright and early the next morning (so early for the now very good at sleeping in Skinner-Vennells that we were out of bed and in the car in about 10mins! – at 8am) we drove to Hidden Valley to do some rock climbing.  Emmett really conquered his nervousness about the heights and Bede thrived on the endorphins!  I am quite proud to have managed to keep up with my ten year old.  I admit to abject terror when “scrambling” though as we jumped across from one rock to another when just a little sideways step would have been at least multiple limb fractures if not worse.  Unfortunately I couldn’t document the biggest drops on camera because that would have involved giving less than full attention to staying on the rocks.

Emmett climbing LA Sept 2010

Anna climbing LA Sept 2010

Bede climbing LA Sept 2010

As the guide put it, the boys are in their “optimal climbing age range” and were confident and speedy over the rocks.  Bede is really keen to do some more climbing in the future – not sure if there’s much of that in South Australia but maybe when we return to NZ for good…

We were fascinated to learn that the rock formations at Joshua Tree are from old underground lava flows that have subsequently appeared above ground as earth eroded away.  It was also funny to discover that the Joshua Tree was previously known as a cabbage tree like NZ’s national icon.

Joshua Tree National Park

The kids loved gaining Junior Park Ranger badges in the Park Visitor Centre and we saw the San Andreas fault from Key Views lookout and could also just see a Mexican mountain peak in the distance.  Ryan, Emmett and Florence were more interested in running at great speed down the path from the lookout, earning the 3 mums there some filthy looks from a couple who clearly thought we were neglectful parents.  No skinned knees or additional broken bones though!

Go Florence!

We had yummy food and toasted marshmallows together on the fire (the non-marshmallow eaters scoffing chocolate too).  Today we packed up and had lunch by the pool at JoAnne’s place while the kids swam.  Then we were able to find a REI store and get some Keens for the kids – the ones we started the trip are looking pretty sad these days and Emmett has outgrown his altogether!  Bede also managed to wear through the seat of those “invincible” quick dry pants I was mentioning the other day!

Toasting marshmallows by the fire

We are now tucked up in a hotel right by Disneyland and resting up for another big day tomorrow.  I’m with Bede on preferring camping but JoAnne assures me it is better than ordinary amusement parks so here goes!

Emmett’s Joshua Tree blog

I went camping with Ryan at Joshua Tree.  I went rock climbing but Ryan couldn’t because he had a broken arm.  I ate marshmallows toasted on the fire.  And I got a park ranger badge because I answered a bunch of questions about Joshua Tree Park.  I went scrambling and I saw a chipmunk.

Joshua Tree

I went camping with a kid named Ryan, he was born ten days after Emmett.  I got a junior park ranger badge because I answered the “coyote” section of the kids Joshua Tree National Park book.  (That’s for 11-14 yr olds so I was a year too young).  Most of the questions were really hard ones and even locals sometimes didn’t get them right.  We went rock climbing with a guy named Steve and it was real rock climbing in the outdoors.  Steve has been climbing for 30 years next week.  I climbed up to the top of every bit that I attempted and I was really happy.  After we went rock climbing we went scrambling which is like rock climbing but without ropes, but there were a few places where we did need a rope and Steve climbed up with no rope and belayed us up.  Even Steve fell down at a few points.  Most of it was in a cave made by underground lava flows.  I really want to keep rock climbing, it is something that I’ve found I really like and I am pretty good at it, well Steve said I’m really good at it.

When we went back to go to Disneyland 75% of my body wanted to stay camping and 25% wanted to go to Disneyland.

Family, food, friends and fun!

It’s our eleventh day in San Francisco and here I am just starting to post about it!  We have been treated like royalty by my cousins Maria and Clare and my aunt Josie.  Maria has given us her lovely studio apartment to stay in for the time we are here, perfectly situated in the Hayes Valley.  It came stocked with all our favourite foods and Florence – proofed!  What amazing generosity!  Maria was worried it might be a bit small, but after 6 months of sleeping in the same room, including many weeks in a teeny campervan, this place is like a mansion.

Kids adoring Maria, San Fran Sept 2010

Conked out at Maria's, San Fran Sept 2010

Happy cousins

Maria and Clare were our welcoming committee at the airport and we headed straight off for dinner at Josie, Clare and Michael’s place.  Over the ten days since Maria has introduced us to all her favourite spots to eat and shop in San Francisco.  Our family is no longer all wearing the same quick dry pants and tops we’ve lived in for months.  Just in time too as everything started to disintegrate just before we arrived here.  Everything that is except the indestructible Kathmandu quick dry pants the boys and I both have.  Emmett is known for destroying all clothes within weeks, but he’s been wearing the same zip-off pants for our entire trip and they are all intact!  These things are amazing.  Having handwashed for almost the whole trip I can tell you that dirt rinses off instantly and they are dry twenty minutes later as well as remaining in one piece while on Emmett.

We are now the proud owners of two new suitcases and enough clothes to fill them, no more a back-packing round the world family, we are down to only a five day stop-over in Los Angeles before we return to NZ so we’ve been able to buy more than two pairs of pants and three tops each.  And what a fun place to shop!  Leah has been in heaven, and I’ve managed to find playgrounds or food near the shops to entertain the small people (and myself – my shopping limit is about 22mins on a good day).  Given that as a general rule most of our clothes come from thrift shops this has been a fun indulgence for us, it is obvious shopping is a major pastime here in the states in a much bigger way than it has yet become in NZ.

A real highlight of the week was our trip to Alcatraz with Josie, Maria and Clare.  Bede was completely fascinated and listened to every word of the audioguide, long after the rest of our group had headed for chocolate at the snack bar.  The tiny cells were overwhelming – it would not be pleasant to be resident in one of those for long.  Florence, who has taken great delight in always being able to track down a toilet on this trip, was astounded!  “Mum, lots of toilets in this place” – there was – one in each cell!

Off to Alcatraz

Emmett and Clare, Alcatraz Sept 2010

Convict cousins Sept 2010

Audioguide Boy

We also met up with several members of the moms list (an email list for LBTQ mothers that I’ve been subscribed to for 11 years) and have another meet up in the park planned for tomorrow.  It has been fantastic meeting up with women I feel I know well but have only ever “met” online and their lovely families.  Sue and Sarah even indulged Leah’s IKEA love last weekend which was awesome (not to mention ferrying us all to the BART station to avoid multiple taxis or waiting hours for the bus).

Leah’s brother Jeremy and his wife Anita met up with us here in San Francisco for dinner one night and then hosted us at their place in Santa Rosa later in the week – we discovered the 10 degree temperature difference – their place is tropical compared with San Francisco.  Leah braved a left hand drive rental car and right side driving to head out there, worth it for the Osh Kosh outlet store on the way though… not to mention the family hospitality!

Off to Santa Rosa Sept 2010

Wrong side of the car, wrong side of the road!

Lasting impressions of America so far:  The food is BIG, huge portion sizes and then heaps of side dishes that I can’t conceive of anyone actually finishing (and we’re big eaters).  Many homeless people (who eat the leftovers).  San Francisco is a diverse, tolerant place from what we’ve seen of it.  More people equals more demand for products often hard to access in rural NZ or Australia.  There’s a little organic neighbourhood grocer just down the road with fantastic vegetarian and vegan food that I’ve only heard of before – don’t think I could give up the space we have where we live for that though long term.

Cousin Maria has bought Bede and Emmett heelies and Emmett has spent the week showing his persistence – he is off now heelying like a pro, when just days ago he fell every time he tried to move.  He’s moved on to tackling hills the last couple of days and had a couple of falls from leaping onto the heels on his non-wheeled shoes and expecting to slide!

Heelies, San Francisco Sept 2010

Heelies day 1

Next stop Los Angeles and this time next week we’ll be on our last long haul flight for some time!

What are we reading?

Leah and Maria have taken the kids out for breakfast this morning to their new found favourite breakfast place, Stacks, who have delicious breakfast potatoes that all the kids love.  So here goes, I’ll try to catch up on some blogging.

We’ve read some fantastic books on our travels.  Bede has devoured the Artemis Fowl and Wimpy Kid series earlier in the trip, followed by the Percy Jackson series more recently.   We’ve tried to read books relevant to each place we travel as our bedtime books.  In Africa we listened to Born Free, Living Free and Forever Free by Joy Adamson.  I loved these stories about Elsa the lion as a kid and the boys really enjoyed them.  We were thrilled to discover that our new friend Maggie was born in Kenya and knew the Adamsons and had even met Elsa.

We didn’t find books about Cambodia that were suitable for the kids to read but we’ll keep a look out when we are home from our trip.  We were able to find lots of books about Italy and had read plenty before embarking on our trip, which allowed Bede and Emmett to “recognise” some of the famous features at Pompeii and in Rome.  I had not expected to find that we learnt even more about the Romans in England but this certainly did happen when we visited Arbeia Fort, where we picked up this little book.

It follows the story of an 11 year old captured by the Romans in Northern England.  We read about the process of building a Roman road, the one in the book eventually becomes Hadrian’s wall.  Emmett was fascinated by the descriptions of Roman and Celtic armour and weaponry.

In between chapters of other books we’ve also been reading these:

My only complaint is that they are LONG fairy tales, with no chapters, so I find myself reading for hours, to Emmett’s great pleasure but to the detriment of sleep and my blogging!  It’s good to meet the characters of Irish mythology though and imagine them in the places we traveled in Ireland.

We have also been finding about about Robert the Bruce in this story:

Bruce spent many years on the Islands on the west coast of Scotland, where we traveled, so we could imagine the bleak terrain described in the book very well.   I also liked the way this book began by discussing the differences between fact and myth and mentioned through the book which parts of Bruce’s life were certain to be true and which were likely to have been embellished over time.  Being six, Emmett was also fascinated by the ways myths can be “lies” or “not true” and yet can be true in our imaginations.

Meanwhile, both Leah and Bede have been reading books with labyrinth in the title, which I found amusing, but Leah says hers is not as good as Bede’s.  Bede had just finished this Rick Riordan when I took the photo and managed to convince me to buy the fifth book in the series by paying me the difference between hardcover and softcover price (it’s not out in softcover yet).  He then read it overnight the night we left Vancouver and left it in our room along with the other books photographed which we’d finished with.

I’ve had more reading time this year than during most of the last ten years when I’ve been combining rural general practice with heavy on call commitment with parenting little kids and often studying for post graduate qualifications, which has meant most of my books have been rather dry medical tomes.  Unlike all the other house officers in my first year of medicine I was parenting a teeny prem baby and so was even more sleep deprived than the average new doctor and never quite fitted in reading “House of God” the 30 year old American story of the intern year of medicine.

It’s a pretty macabre book, but doctors can develop fairly warped senses of humour and I certainly recognised many of my colleagues in this book.  The list of medical specialties graded by lack of interaction with the actual patient was hysterical.  I happen to prefer the kind of medicine where one does know one’s patients but I may still need to copy the list to refer to on challenging days in general practice!

I also read the “Life of Pi” which linked into our travel quite well as Pi explores three major religions: Christianity, Hindu and Islam and we have spent time in countries shaped by each and all of these this year.

I also have my suspicions that surviving and even thriving after six months on the world highway with 3 kids may be almost as much of an odyssey as surviving alone in a liferaft with a Bengal tiger….

Vancouver Aquarium

Alcatraz

On Alcatraz the only place we went to was the prisoners cells.  There was a mass breakout but it failed there are holes in the floor from grenades.  2 bars on the guard walk are stretched so a person could slip through this was in the 1970’s.  One person escaped to Angel island his name was John Giles.  I got his dog tag I mean the original dog tag.