Bug’s 14th-Birthday Trip to Eureka

StraightOuttaLAX

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.

Okay then.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I loved this house when I was little. I used to imagine that fairies baking candy lived there.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I’ve painted silk scarves with water before but it was new to Bug and her cousins.

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We all made really interesting and different creations.

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I love Kim’s giant blue bubbles.

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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.

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So we stopped and toured a Sumeg village.

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And then we hiked to Wedding Rock in Patrick’s Point.

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Lots of muddy trails and slip-n-slide rocks. It was fun.

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More flora-admiring… Bug was convinced these were gooseberries. We weren’t sure and forbade her to eat them.

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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.

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But how could you not stay and enjoy this?

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So we did. And then we traipsed down to Agate Beach which was also lovely.

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I love rocks. Apparently so does Bug.

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I used to collect them as a kid and I still love collecting them. Searching for agates definitely appeals to my hunter-gathering nature.

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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.

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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.

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Who knows. But I know that I will always treasure this trip. Fourteen you aren’t so bad. What’s next, fifteen?

Big Bear 2020

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We just got back from the best little mini-vacation in the mountains. Last year we didn’t do anything during winter vacation and even though it was nice to stay home and save money like good little entrepreneurs, we did kind of regret not going up to the snow. You know how it is when you start looking at everybody’s snow pictures on instagram and you start getting jealous… Is that just me? Maybe it’s just us Southern Californians who don’t ever have to deal with mud and slush…anyhow, I LOVE SNOW. I really love it. And I really love taking pictures of it. As you will see.

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This year we booked a little cabin. It was pricey but I don’t regret it. I feel like it was worth every penny. Especially as the girls get older and we have less and less face-time with them. It was the best for making memories, even if forced at times.

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Our cabin was small but it was super cute. It only had one bathroom, which was a little challenging at times but it was perfect for us and the dogs.  It’s hard to find cabins that are pet-friendly and not completely disgusting so we were really happy with it. It wasn’t on the waterfront but it was close, like really close. You could look out the window through the trees and see a sliver of icy blue and then if you were up for a little slip-sliding-away hike, it was just a hop, skip and a tromp down the hill.

I love the picture of the girls above with Cody. They were looking at the TV when I snapped the shot but as Gingermog said, it could be their next album cover if they ever decide to go on the road together musically. Which by the way, is quite frustrating to me. They are both talented musicians but they refuse to play together. Every once in a while I’ll catch them harmonizing some meme-song or commercial jingle together but they won’t do it in front of me. I’ve got some stubborn kids.

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Anyway, super cute cabin, right? There was even a guitar! Not that anyone played it, sadly. AND there were two fireplaces right next to each other. Dueling fireplaces. It was a really weird layout. Maybe it used to be two units that they combined, I don’t know.  The kitchen was decent too and I cooked several meals there, probably saving us hundreds of dollars and quite a few headaches dealing with the town crowd.

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Did I mention we brought the dogs? This complicated things quite a bit but it was SO FUN! They love going in the car and they love going wherever we go. They’d never been to the snow before and just liked we hoped, it blew their little furry minds.

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I mean, I knew Cody would like the snow. He likes all forms of water but Whiskey? He practically went spastic with joy!

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He buried his nose in it and rolled around like he was the happiest puppy in the whole wide world. Dogs in snow is an amazing antidote to the wintertime blues. Not that I’m suffering from them but if I was. I seriously wish I could buy my own cabin and go up there half the year. It was just amazing in so many ways.

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Joon and I were the first to really hike around and explore the lake nearby the cabin. Unfortunately Bug got a case of what we thought was altitude sickness but turned into a full-blown chest cold. She was not feeling the snow or the cold weather or the altitude at all. Even walking up a small hill had her out of breath and complaining that her lungs felt like they were collapsed and full of tiny icicles.

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So Joon and I made do and took a few zillion photos just the two of us.

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It’s so pretty up there!

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After a day Bug forced herself to get dressed in snow clothes and we took a few photos in the neighbors yard. She was a good sport even though all she felt like doing was burying herself in her sleeping bag.

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As you can see it was really cold. I mean, relatively, for us thin-blooded reptilians.

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Snow, snow, snow! Are you tired of looking at pictures of snow yet? And these are just 1/200th of the photos I took.

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Payam enjoyed his time too AND he did not fall and break his head open this time like he did that one time at Noon Lodge (omg the girls were so little then!!) He did actually slip on black ice when we were tying up the truck with our luggage but thankfully he was holding onto the rope we were tying and he saved himself. That black ice is treacherous! We had these really cool strap-on ice cleat things but we forgot them at home like the geniuses we are. Man, those would have come in handy. Yes, I am adding them to our packing list for next year.

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Speaking of treacherous falls, let me tell you about my fun little snowboarding experience. I’ve snow-boarded before (once about 30 lbs ago when I was in my 20’s) so I thought I’d take Bug’s ticket (since she wasn’t feeling up to it) and take a newbie lesson on the bunny slopes. I mean, how hard could it be, right?

Well, I guess my weight, lack of muscle tone from skipping work-outs for two months and overall anxiety about falling and breaking something has really put me in a bad way. I took two slides down the tiniest slope (with only one foot attached to my board because it was step-two of lessons) and totally wiped out. The board flipped around (swingy scooter style) and almost sliced my left boob off. Yes, I’m not even kidding. If this wasn’t a PC-rated site I would post a photo of my purple and black boob. It hurt so bad I thought I had actually cut my boob off but thankfully my skin was not punctured and I didn’t break any ribs. All I have to show for it is a massive bruise that no-one can see because I’m modest. Just believe me, it is nasty. Thankfully it doesn’t hurt anymore (unless I touch it) but when it happened I almost cried. I think a few tears did leak out actually.

At that point, even though I didn’t want to be a quitter, I did quit. I asked the instructor if I could stay on the mountain sans board and just take photos of Joon and he said I was more than welcome to. I mean we did pay $100 to be there after all. Even though it seems like a big waste of money I’m glad I gave up. In a way I feel like I dodged a serious injury. I saw the medics take two people down the hill in the two hours I was there and one of the girls in our lesson group broke her wrist. So quitter-schmitter, when you are 47, you just count yourself lucky. I think I will try to get in better shape and try it again next year IF I’m feeling really strong.

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But I did get this money-shot of Joon snowboarding. A literal money shot since it cost Payam $100 for me to be there. I would have taken more pictures but she went up the chair lift and I couldn’t find her for the rest of the two hours. People look like identical black specks in the white snow when you are staring up at the white slopes.

That day was hard. I was really glad to go back to the cozy cabin and nurse my wounds afterwards.

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I think I’ll stick to photographing the snow for now.

In other news, I have made the changes you guys so kindly showed me and the new SAJ Calendar is here!  Thank you so much everybody! Sorry it took me so long to finish, but as you can see I was having some fun in the snow. :P