As you know I am the queen of birthday parties. Well, guess what happens when your kid turns 14 and she’s pretty much had every kind of birthday party there is? She really doesn’t care about birthday parties anymore. What?!! What kind of spoiled kid do I have??
This should be of no surprise but of course it was a little hard for me to swallow. “You mean, you don’t want a party of any kind?!!” I asked, incredulously? “Not even a little dinner party with all of your friends at a nice restaurant?” “Nope, Mom. I don’t,” she answered firmly.
The sad part is she’s gotten a little embarrassed of the fact that I always throw over-the-top affairs. That’s fair. I get it. Her friend’s families don’t go bananas over their birthdays and it kinda feels like we are rubbing in our white privilege. Not that it ever was my intention but I can see how that could happen. Maybe I can stuff my wedding-planner-extravaganza personality back in a box and be humble about that one day a year that marks the anniversary of the day I had a kid.
I asked her if there was anything special she wanted to do on her birthday. And guess what she said? She wanted to take a trip to Eureka, the hometown of her dad’s family and where I actually was born and lived until I was five years old. Her dad and I didn’t meet in Eureka (we met in Southern California) but it definitely was something we bonded over in our dating years. Bug and I had been discussing all the old haunts and lamenting how we never get to go there together anymore because of the divorce.
So we planned a trip! A birthday trip to Eureka. Let me tell you, a party would have been cheaper. But it was fun and I don’t regret spending the money at all.
We flew out of LAX first thing in the morning. That meant driving my car to LA from Orange County (a 1.5-2 hour drive depending on traffic) and leaving it in long term parking over the weekend. This seems simple enough but I’d never done that before and LAX airport is a mass of construction lately so of course I got lost trying to find the long-term parking lot. That meant that we had to take a shuttle and we almost missed our flight. We had our shuttle driver drop us off fifty stops early because trudging along in traffic in the shuttle was taking FOREVER. That meant we had to RUN to our terminal. I held Bug’s extremely heavy and bulky duffle bag and she trolled along behind me with my light wheelie suitcase, tossing people aside as we huffed and puffed down the busy sidewalk.
But we made it! And then everything was pretty stress-free after that. We had a direct flight and the airplane was tiny. It was pretty smooth sailing.
When we got to Arcata (the Eureka stop airport) I picked up our rental car. Except it wasn’t the car you see below. It was a huge ugly black Chrysler boat of a sedan that smelled like smoke. Bug and I immediately hated it. I knew we’d be driving on slick rainy mountain roads so we pleaded with the rental car company for something a little more rugged. They gave us a Ford Echo Sport.
I hate Fords as a rule but this car was kind of awesome I have to admit. It was the little car that could do everything except accelerate on a hill. Just a minor detail. It was quick and reactive with good breaks and it had every technological bell and whistle ever invented. It had Apple Play and two USB ports for our phones and great big windows that made sight-seeing and driving at the same time great.
Bug played deejay and educated me on Minecraft music. Did you know there is such a thing? It’s soft and melodic and very peaceful but also kind of boring. Especially when your kid plays the same five songs over and over and over. She deviated to Twilight music when we were driving through the forest but most of the time she drove me crazy with Minecraft music. This is fourteen.
Our first stop right after we left the airport was Los Bagels in downtown Eureka. We were hungry. It’s not that this is some crazy good bagel shop but it’s more that I used to go here with Toby and I remembered liking it. I also remembered always wishing I could buy a souvenir cup but Toby was too cheap and didn’t believe in collecting crap.
So guess what? I bought myself a cup! It’s so good to be older, divorced, independent and reasonably successful. Oh it felt so good. This whole trip felt good that way. In fact, I realized that this is the first time I have actually driven in Eureka. Isn’t that weird? All the times I went before I was little (under five) or Toby drove. So it was sort of a hear-me-roar kind of moment.
Next we drove to our hotel: The Victorian Inn in Ferndale and checked in. It was just as cute and charming as I remembered. Fun fact: Toby and I named Bug after this inn. We were picking names on a trip and stayed here while we perused the baby name book. Her middle name is Victoria. So when I told the inn keepers that story and that it was Bug’s actual birthday, they upgraded us to the best room in the house! Not too shabby! We were probably the only guests staying there so we had the whole place to ourselves. It was great. Except at night when I imagined that we had the whole place to ourselves WITH a few ghosts. But anyway, I digress.
I include these photos because Bug took a picture where I actually look pretty in my smudged eye-make-up. I’ve been trying really hard to remember to wear make-up now that I’m not a spring chicken anymore but it usually ends up under my eyes instead of actually on my eyes. I should probably start wearing foundation or something but I refuse.
After we checked in, we explored the nearby cemetery. Because why not! It’s right down the street. Probably where the ghosts live in the daytime.
I’ve been here many times and I probably have the exact same pictures of the view of the town from the top of the cemetery. But I don’t have any with Bug so here they are!
Isn’t Ferndale cute? It’s very pastoral and right out of a time warp.
It’s also very dreary and wet in January. (Duh.) We knew it would be that way and it didn’t really bother us. I’m just super glad it wasn’t raining. We expected rain but it somehow skipped over us. It just misted instead. And that meant there were no tourists at all. Not that Eureka and Ferndale are usually overrun with tourists or anything but it was kind of nice to be the only ones in town. Everyone treated us with smiles and friendly greetings like the walking dollar signs that we were. Just kidding. Ferndale is not fake like that but we definitely were probably their only customer in months.
So pretty, right? Bug and I share a love of plants so we marveled at all the funny things that grow in cold moist climates. Moss, mushrooms, rhododendruns, camellias, redwoods…it’s just all very wet and beautiful.
Then we hopped in our Echo Sport and sped off to Eureka to have dinner with Toby’s parents. But we were early so we went to see a few famous spots: The Carson Mansion and the cute pink Victorian across the street from The Carson Mansion.
I loved this house when I was little. I used to imagine that fairies baking candy lived there.
Dinner with the in-laws was really sweet. I haven’t seen them in over ten years. They looked almost exactly as I remembered. Me, not so much. I’m sure they noticed the thirty pounds I’ve put on since I was last here but they are old and wisened and things like putting on weight in middle age is not an issue for them. I’m starting to see things their way.
They have a new dog named Flicka who I immediately fell in love with. She is super hyper and bounces off everything. I loved her to bits.
The next day we got up early, had our complimentary breakfast in the Victorian Inn and headed off to the Strawhouse Resort on the Trinity River to meet Toby’s sister, Kim. Kim had organized a fun little silk-painting class for all for us. It was kind of a halfway point between where she lives and Eureka.
I’ve painted silk scarves with water before but it was new to Bug and her cousins.
We all made really interesting and different creations.
I love Kim’s giant blue bubbles.
When it came to my turn, I thought I’d create something gray and moody like the landscape we’d been enjoying but then I made the mistake of lightly flicking a bit of red paint onto my scarf and it took over like a virus. So I ended up with a black and red scarf with some giant blobs of green. I don’t hate it but it wasn’t really what I had in mind at all. I say it’s more about the experience than the end result. It turns out when I got back home and washed it, the paint mostly faded anyway and now I have a faded gray scarf after all. Heh.
The next day we planned to go to Fern Canyon. This was one of my big goals of the trip. Bug didn’t really care what we did. She was up for anything. But then on the way to Fern Canyon I remembered Agate Beach and asked if we could stop there too.
So we stopped and toured a Sumeg village.
And then we hiked to Wedding Rock in Patrick’s Point.
Lots of muddy trails and slip-n-slide rocks. It was fun.
More flora-admiring… Bug was convinced these were gooseberries. We weren’t sure and forbade her to eat them.
Turns out we spent so much time enjoying Wedding Rock and Patrick’s Point that we kinda of ran out of time to make it to Fern Canyon. Ooops.
But how could you not stay and enjoy this?
So we did. And then we traipsed down to Agate Beach which was also lovely.
I love rocks. Apparently so does Bug.
I used to collect them as a kid and I still love collecting them. Searching for agates definitely appeals to my hunter-gathering nature.
It was kind of like de-ja-vu to see Bug doing the same thing I did with Toby so many years ago. She’s even wearing my old jacket that replaced the jacket you see in the black and white picture above. Funny how people change but rocks stay the same. Sigh…
We still wanted to go to Fern Canyon after Agate Beach but after an hour or two driving through dark forests and attempting to ford a stream, we finally gave up and accepted that it was not meant to be. But that was okay because we had a house full of cousins to go hang out with.
When I really grill Bug about this trip and ask what she wanted from it as a birthday present, she keeps coming back to visiting her cousins. I thought it would be about seeing all the sights and spending time with her mom (which it was) but really, it was just hanging out and belonging with people who look like her. It’s a funny thing but I think she misses that, being an only kid and now part of a multi-racial family.
Or maybe it wasn’t that at all. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe it was just something special that only she and I could do together. Maybe that’s enough. Kids need to feel special on their birthdays and if that means going to a far away town and visiting family then I’m going to do whatever I can to make that happen.
Who knows. But I know that I will always treasure this trip. Fourteen you aren’t so bad. What’s next, fifteen?