In which I give a summary of my vacation to California and how it ties into life and writing.

When Robot Guy gets restless, he wants to head to California and revisit our roots. Both of us were raised there (he was born in Michigan, but grew up in San Diego) and big parts of our families still live there. So we left home just before Labor Day to make the long drive to California. It’s about 11-13 hours in the car, depending on where and how often we stop.

Mind you I like California, but for me it’s not a vacation. Okay, I get a break from cooking (my mother or sister insist on doing all that, or we go to restaurants when we’re out), it’s definitely a chance of venue, and we always try to do a vacationy thing while we’re out there, but California is familiar. To me, a vacation is something new, and California is not that. It’s visiting relatives. We had planned on staying for eight days, and had something planned for everyday.

First was reconnecting with my family. We spent our first full day at my sister’s, in her pool, and in front of the TV. The TV is always on at her house (not a judgment, just a statement of fact). Besides which it was US Open time and my mother, who was also there, is a HUGE tennis fan. Next day was reconnecting with old friends,the man who served as Robot Guy’s Best Man and family. We walked around Hermosa Beach at the end of their weekend festival. Now if you know me, crowds are not my thing, and there was a crowd. But Robot Guy was able to play sand volleyball (just a little) and go body surfing before the lifeguards chased them out of the waves (The big surf caused by a passing hurricane was just coming to its end).

Tuesday was my daughter’s choice of Universal Studios Hollywood. IMG_0636I hadn’t been in decades–the last time I was there, I posed with a life-sized cardboard display of Tom Selleck in Magnum. It’s very different now. Oh, the tour of the studio still exists, but all the details that made it so interesting for movie buffs like I used to be are gone. They don’t point out Lucille Ball’s dressing room anymore (or just barely) and Hitchcock’s old cabana is now an office for some production company. I suppose young people today don’t know Hitchcock. I know I showed my kids PSYCHO and TO CATCH A THIEF as part of their education. But it was fun. The Jurassic Park Ride is a (wet) blast, the Mummy roller coaster is a lot of fun, and the Despicable Me ride is loads of 3D fun. They have some fine shows too. I had visited Universal in Orlando for Harry Potter World before the new expansion and enjoyed it, but was a little underwhelmed. I was raised on Disneyland, you know. I felt the same about Universal Studios Hollywood. They had limited hours now that “summer” is over, but it was the perfect amount of time. And I will have to go back. Why? Harry Potter World is being furiously built in California as I type this.

We drove down to San Diego to visit my father-in-law. Robot Guy and his dad drove around to see the old homesteads, while youngest and I caught a movie–Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (all I can say is it is definitely a Michael Bay film).

But the highlight of our trip was whale watching. We took a catamaran (I say “we”, but “we” did none of the sailing) from Dana Point for three hours on the ocean. I can think of a few words to describe the experience without hyperbole–incredible, amazing, awesome (in its try sense), inspirational, breathtaking. Blue whales have been spotted with some frequency off the coast, and we saw three. BLUE WHALES!

Blue Whale Fluke!
Blue Whale Fluke!

I never thought I’d see them in my lifetime. As a kid I was sure they’d be extinct by the time I reached adulthood. They’re making a comeback, folks.

Back of a blue whale.
Back of a blue whale.

It’s too soon to be complacent, but it does give one hope for the future (Maybe. A little). We also sailed among a huge pod of common dolphins. Watching them frolic in the water, you have to believe they are consciously having fun.  What a day.

We came home from our trip a day early to mow the lawn and do laundry. Besides, the dogs missed us. I got little writing done despite my best intentions (My dear agent: ignore the last sentence. I wrote so much!), and it took us that day to get back into the groove. So now it’s off to the mundane and comfortable. That’s not so bad either.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

Cuisine of Hungary by George Lang

A Week of Magic, part I

No one who knows me doubts my love of Disney, so when the youngest received her high school diploma (a major milestone in her life and such an accomplishment–it is a regular high school diploma, no asterisk or special designation) I knew her graduation present had to be a trip to Disney World, a spot none of us had ever been. And what a magical idea it was. Not only did the three of us spend a week in Florida, but my oldest two were also able to join us for four days.

We stayed on site, not only because we wanted that experience, but also because the thought of having the Disney Magical Express pick us up at the airport and collect our luggage was something I wanted to have. That’s right. Ever since I saw those buses picking people up at the Orlando airport at the last RWA conference held there, I’ve wanted to take the Disney Magical Express. Big part of the decision making. Now for a bit of a rant. Not against Disney, because the bus ride was everything I had wanted, but against the airlines. Their policies against luggage piss me off. Yes, I understand that luggage adds weight to a plane, but charging for luggage has  made carry-on bags bigger, people more impatient, the seating area less roomy, and the experience of flying more like a bus ride. And you know what they say about bus rides. People are so intent upon getting their luggage into the cabin they lose sight of politeness. And the airlines don’t enforce the “one carry-on, one personal item” rule.  And let’s face it–for a week of travel for three people, we needed a suitcase for clothes. Especially to a humid climate where multiple changes of clothing are definitely necessary. Seriously, who travels without a change of clothes, and if you are on just such a trip why would you pack an unnecessary bag anyway? Aren’t clothes part of what one needs to take?  I think airlines can charge for heavy bags or for the second bag, but really? I read somewhere that airlines collected over six billion in bag and reservation change fee. Numbers that big make me nervous. And suspicious. And we’re pretty much stuck. On the plus side, we are freaking flying in the sky and that’s awesome.

So back to the magic. After getting to the quite lovely Caribbean Beach Resort, we headed to Downtown Disney for our first night. There was a performer who absolutely lit up Steffie’s night. He was playing kid music (YMCA, Who Let the Dogs Out, etc) and teaching dance moves and making the audience sing. I have rarely seen her so animated. She loves to sing here at home–at the top of her lungs and so totally off key. But there she was singing as if she was at home but doing it in public. It was so incredible. Yes, we got many looks from strangers, and it was beautiful.

Full day one was Magic Kingdom in the morning with…wait for it… no lines. Seriously. No lines. We stayed until noon and never stood in line more than five minutes. Now I have to let you know that because of Stef’s disabilities we received a pass that we used the rest of the week to make our stays in line much shorter (read practically none), but there were no lines to speak of that morning. It was magical. And then it started to rain. What better thing to do than hit a water park. So Typhoon Lagoon it was. We did several slides and swam with the sharks. And again, it was magical (Have I used that word yet?). Most people stayed away because of the rain. So again, no lines. We got back to the hotel (the water park closed at 5:00PM) in time for our dinner reservations and waited for the other two daughters who were arriving that night.1232571_10152445237526677_1435708030_n

And speaking of food, when we bought our tickets they were offering the dining plan for free with travel during the time we had planned. More food than we could possibly eat. Although we managed. And dessert with every meal. Okay, so some of the meals weren’t anything to blog about, but free food. What’s not to like? And a couple of the meals were spectacular–particularly at the Wilderness Resort Artist Point restaurant and in Morocco at Epcot.  We also ate lunch one day at the new Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.  But we didn’t go to Disney for the food.

Day two–family united again. For the first time since June, five of us were in one place–The Magi Kingdom. we did the whole park. So much fun. Our first ride was the one with the longest lines throughout the day. I bet you’re thinking Splash Mountain or Space Mountain. You’d be wrong. The ride with the longest lines throughout the day is Peter Pan. According to the robotics engineer husband and computer scientist daughter the through-put on this ride is not efficient, so they can’t move people like they can on Pirates of the Caribbean.  So Peter Pan it was.  But we did them all. Small World, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Pirates, Thunder Mountain. There were some special surprises. The Monsters Inc Laugh Floor was surprisingly good and the use of technology in it was impressive.  And right now we are having an on-going argument whether the California Splash Mountain has a taller drop than the Florida one. If you know, let me know.

More to follow.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips