Family Visit 2022

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Family Visit 2022

I don’t blog much anymore. Partially because of self-induced covid precautions drastically narrowing the field of potential topics and partially because in today’s internet-of-things landscape blogging feels like throwing a stone into an ocean on another planet. The current consumption mode seems to be doomscrolling through three second copy and paste clips on Tiktok while binge streaming whatever show that’s controversial this week while keeping tabs on your activity status on that work laptop.

None of that’s me, or at least not all of it altogether at once. But one doesn’t need to have a tiktok to be aware of it. Ten years ago the news and thought piece blogs I follow started putting up the meat on click-outs to Twitter (how’s THAT going now, guys?!), two years ago they started to mix that up with tiktok clips. In six months tiktok will be undercut by whatever’s shorter and easier to produce contentless content on.

And all the while I’m acutely aware that I’m aging into a man yelling at the cloud. (which is now a meme of a meme, if you don’t know – the Simpsons being prescient in a thousand different ways, grandpa’s original yelling at cloud meme being one of them now taking on a whole new meaning)

While I was busy in a losing battle trying to convince my brain to sleep late one night back in June I heard a weird noise. We moved into a new house back in January, so weird noises were not out of the norm yet (so would that make them NOT weird, then?) and I assumed this one was a car alarm going off or something similar. It happens.

But what does our car alarm sound like again? I don’t remember. Since I’m a very paranoid individual I better make sure it’s not our car. Which is two flights of stairs up.

But now that I’m out of bed I realize that’s NOT our car alarm, or any car’s alarm. What the hell?

Now that I’m in the hallway it’s stopped. But I think it was part of our house intercom system, which I’ve never used before. Better go check on things or at least see if Sam (probably still awake upstairs) knows what it was.

At the top of the stairs I met Sam coming out of the bedroom, holding her arm and sort of swaying. She mentioned something about dislocating her arm and hitting the intercom before passing out just long enough to knock her head on the bedroom door and come back as I grabbed her to stop from falling to the floor (she doesn’t remember most of this).

Skip ahead five days and I’m picking her up again. This time from Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital after a five day stint for a spirally fractured humerus (meaning it just completely broke in two) that required a 7 hour surgery, a titanium plate, 20+ titanium screws, and god knows how many stitches.

So apparently it wasn’t just dislocated. At one point that night as we struggled to figure out what urgent care to go to (her insurance has nobody to call after hours) she said “let’s just go to bed and figure it out tomorrow morning, I’ll be fine.” While we were driving around looking for a hospital (the urgent care on her insurance website turned out to be closed) I asked her what it felt like and she said “strange.” A couple hours later they were giving her morphine in the ER. And it didn’t even work, but she kept upbeat through the whole thing, even though she had to stay up all night with pain and couldn’t get into the operating room until late in the afternoon the following day. So from that last paragraph you’ve hopefully learned two things: Sam is very resilient. And Sam’s healthcare plan was not great. She’s now on my health plan instead 😉

Skip ahead two more weeks and we’re leaving a hospital in Burbank after spending the night getting x-rays and CT scans on freshly broken ribs.

All these accidents happened in the bathroom – though not the same bathroom, and (I’m glad they do this) prompted doctors to have “the conversation” with her about exactly how these accidents happened and how exactly I was involved. Unfortunately the reasons for the accidents are entirely mundane and just go to show we’re getting older and need to be more cautious even in our own home.

You notice I’ve not created a gigantic singular post about these accidents. I’m not sure if she would appreciate that, and it’s not meant to be the bulk of this post. It is, however, the backstory, because once Sam’s family in Thailand heard about these broken bones they kicked their existing “let’s see their new house” effort into high gear. Visas were obtained and flights booked as soon as the visas would allow. Which turned out to be early November.

And so, on November 12th, three travelers arrived from Thailand and the family thanksgiving trip commenced. With a trip to Costco. Having done that trip three times in reverse I can confidently say Costco is the last place in the world I’d want to be after two long flights and 8,000+ miles. But Sam’s love of Costco comes from somewhere, and it must be genetic! Plus we did need to buy food for the road trip that would begin on the following Tuesday.

On Sunday I took them on the infamous Hogback Trail Griffith Park hike complete with picnic and sunset at the top. They took the quick way down to the observatory and had fun crab walking and sliding down the more perilous parts. Afterward we grabbed take-out from a Filipino take-out place we’d only discovered a few weeks before when I needed to drop off a broken TV (don’t buy Vizio) at the UPS store next door.

There won’t be pictures of all of the stuff I’m talking about for two reasons: 1) I’m not sure everyone would want their faces on my blog. 2) I didn’t bring my camera everywhere

Monday took us to The Huntington Gardens and then back home for leftovers.

On Tuesday the gang requested a trip to 3rd Street Promenade. While the Thai folks shopped for clothes Sam and I test drove a Tesla. Our new home has an EV plug in the garage that we plan to make use of soon. However, like many, we’re caught right now waiting to see which manufacturers will qualify for the rebate in January, etc., test driving the options in the mean time. (if you’re curious, the Bolt EUV is currently in the lead for overall value, but unlike Ryan Day’s coaching in The Game, it’s not already over in the third quarter and we’re still keeping our options open!)

After sunset we drove up to Malibu to eat at my dad’s favorite fried oyster joint. It was here that my sister and brother in law parted as they’d be in my other sister and brother in law’s (that live in south bay) car for the road trip while Sam and myself would drive her mother. The other car wanted to get up early to avoid traffic, I did not.

Ironically we’d end up ahead of the others on the road after a while because the first stop on the itinerary, Vasquez Rocks, was closed at the early hour they arrived – so they went out to eat. Unaware of this we decided to skip the rocks so we could catch up to them, so we ended up in Alabama Hills first.


A quick hike together to the Mobius Arch and we were back on the 395 north.

After a few more hours the sun was starting to set and we were closing in on Mammoth. Multiple destinations on the itinerary were either closed or snowed in enough to dissuade us (even though we had SUVs with 4 wheel drive) from attempting. Sam’s sister (that lives in South Bay) was not comfortable driving on any snowy roads because, unlike me, she never lived in (and drove in) a snowy place. But secretly I didn’t want to drive in the snow either, we escaped after getting stuck in the snow in Iceland and Canada, but it could have gone a different way and that’s not a risk I’d want to expose extended family to. The last two times we had to pee on the snow, a solution more awkward with your mother-in-law watching!

Convict Lake was plowed and open, no need to warm the tires with golden showers.

After checking into our hotel we went to get gas, creating a first for Sam and myself: First time putting $100 of gasoline into a vehicle in one stop! (did I mention we’re getting an EV soon, good grief!)

Booking hotels so close to the skiing season (Mammoth ended up opening early, the week before our visit, after a snow storm) made accommodations in the not-super-rich range tricky. Our hotel looked very nice in the lobby, lots of wood, big fireplace, chandeliers made of antlers, everything you’d see in a warm and cozy PUT DOWN THAT HOT CHOCOLATE AND BUY YOUR WIFE A LEXUS WITH A BIG BOW ON IT FOR CHRISTMAS! commercial. The rooms, not so much. This was two stars doing what two stars do. Noise, dirt, you know the drill. Arranging accommodations for four rooms and seven people, all with their own well established preferences, wasn’t without a few hurdles. I am not sure they’ll be confident in letting me book most of the hotels on another family trip ever again. I’m also pretty confident without a steep rise in room price there wasn’t anything better available. I hoped that the Lake Tahoe hotel rooms would be better.

(in Ron Howard’s voice) They were not.

But we wouldn’t know that without doing the drive first. In the morning we visited a few lakes that were “open.” Parking lots were often not plowed, but we could relatively safely park our SUVs.

Ol’ Stumpy in Twin Lakes
June Lake….in November!
We cruised by a very Goth looking Mono Lake.
And then hovered above the clouds for a bit as we continued to climb in elevation along the California Nevada border towards Carson City

In late afternoon we made it down the backside of the Sierra Nevadans into South Lake Tahoe and checked in. This time there was no nice lobby, 2 stars all the way! But they had free hot apple cider, which was nice. Although we were still plagued by noise and grime, the Lake Tahoe hotel at least tried to do a cheap “modern” remodel of the rooms. This meant a green paint job, giant weird headboards that stuck out and caused me to hit my head at least twice, and 60s inspired Rorschach pattern wallpaper. But the bathroom sink without a stopper was the wink to make sure we didn’t forget how many stars the hotel had. Or didn’t have.

(side note. after just obtaining wedding rings you can imagine the anxiety of doing anything near a sink that has no stopper, just a gaping black ring-eating hole in the middle. Yes, I know it would get caught in the p-trap, but would you really want anything back from a 2 star hotel’s p-trap?)

But we weren’t here to review sinkholes. We were here to see Lake Tahoe. So we all piled into our Highlander and went to Zephyr Cove to watch the sunset.

I probably could have bribed those ducks with some bread to stay still…

For day two in Lake Tahoe we went to the other side, the California side, to visit Emerald Point.


Access to Vikingsholm was closed so Sam, her mom, and I (is that the correct way to write that? I majored in art, not English!) decided to keep driving north while the other four folks went back to the hotel to do laundry. Or maybe that was a euphemism for gambling at the casinos? Maybe I’m related to a cartel launderer? (joking, joking, but… the alternative is that they did laundry after only two days on the road, which leaves me with more how and why questions than the money laundering would)

We quickly found a picturesque beach at Sugar Pine Point and I got to work trying to take more long exposure daytime photos. If you hadn’t noticed already that was going to be my gimmick this trip. If I have one regret in life it’s that I didn’t take the time to clean the lens before we left. (photographers you will understand this and know my pain when I got back and had to edit hundreds of dots all over these photos) If Sam’s mom had one regret (on the trip) it would be hiking uphill off the trail through the woods after telling her daughter that they’d start back to the car on the trail while I was finishing up a few more shots on the beach.

Somewhere on that off-trail excursion she dropped her cell phone in the previously untrodden 2+ feet of snow on the ground. Sam and I spent the next hour or so getting well acquainted with the hill behind the rail tracks, but the phone never made it out of that mobile phone black hole that is shady snow-pack.

somewhere in those trees is a phone just waiting for the right bear to mistake it for a chocolate bar

It was after this that we got back in touch with the rest of our party. Freshly laundered they were ready to drive up the Nevada side and meet us at Sand Harbor.

Thanks to Peter Jackson I expect every stationary boulder to start moving if I wait long enough. This photo proves these rocks are quite good at sitting still, at least for 30 seconds, to fool us.
Not a Lone Pine, there’s two

Although it was already later than planned, we tried to high-tail it to Cave Rock for the sunset (as many had advised us to do). We arrived just after.


On the road again the next morning we took different routes to San Francisco and would not see everyone again until Sunday. Our car (Sam, mom, and I) took the high road through Sacramento and Davis (for lunch), over the San Pablo Bay and out to Muir Overlook.

Visiting a college town after turning 40 is bizarre. You feel like you remember those days and you’re not that much older (mentally), but then you realize you’re their parents’ age and you’re the elephant in the room-er-Chipotle. I remember feeling very much like “I’m a fully fledged adult now” at that age when I walked around my campus, but every kid I saw at UC Davis now looked like a child barely capable of managing their newfound freedom and clueless of the joy and pain they will soon experience in the “real world” after college. They think rush week, midterms, and underage drinking is the ride, but they’re really just sitting in the little seats holding onto their safety harnesses (mom and dad) and the coaster hasn’t even started the long ascent yet. And then you remind yourself that at least with age comes the contentment of having survived the roller coaster enough you can try to enjoy even the stomach churning bits now when they still happen. After all, we’re all just lumps of electrons orbiting in formation until the eventual heat death of the universe pulls us apart for good, right?

Anyway – here’s Muir Overlook:


Before driving over the Golden Gate we stopped at what I think is the best view in the area: Hawk Hill Vista Point. Everybody fights for parking and creates traffic jams at the lower vista way way down the same road, oblivious to the view that’s just another five minutes up the hill. There were MANY open spaces up there at Hawk Hill when we arrived for the sunset but people were still double parking and fighting over spots at the lower point. Pfft, amateurs.

On Sunday the group met up at the Palace of Fine Arts and picked up a local cousin (the same one Sam and I met up with almost exactly a year prior on our Oakland home buying adventure) for the next couple of hours as we walked out to Crissy Field and drove up to Coit Tower. We stopped at Fisherman’s Wharf for a bit before driving just south to China Town for a family dinner on outside seating compliments of sister and brother in law (from Thailand). Chinatown being Chinatown we couldn’t shake a cigarette smell even though we never saw anyone actually smoking. My insistence on eating outside was likely testing the patience of those in the party less risk averse (and probably why we ate so few meals together on the road trip).

After dinner we went due west to show the family Land’s End at sunset. We intended to merely walk the same path past Lobos Rock that Sam and I visited a year ago in September. Ironically it was on that same walk last year that we set our hearts in San Francisco and decided “yes we can!” move to Oakland. Getting outbid on multiple properties up there by multiple 100’s of thousands of dollars later it was funny revisiting the place after finally landing on a better home in Los Angeles. Even more so because we quickly learned that the path we’d visited back then paled in comparison to the spectacle just a bit farther around the corner at Sutro Baths.


On Monday the group again diverged. Our car took the scenic route down highway 1, stopping at viewpoints, while the others shopped and dined in Carmel.

Would you rather look at this, or a rack of “pre-distressed” $200 jeans?

Around Pebble Beach Sam found a scenic “17 mile drive.” After driving to the entrance we realized there was a fee to drive it and thought we’d turn around instead and just stick to the PCH. The gatekeeper said “I’d hate to keep you out of Pebble Beach on such a nice day” and let us through anyway. Then we realized it’s a gated community. The drive is basically a sales pitch. Which is not to say it isn’t an effective one. The views and also the fact that someone was able to buy and develop all of this were equal parts astounding. After we entered I realized this is the same drive as the Concours d’Elegance.

This is just some rich person’s front yard….

Finally we arrived in Point Lobos, the third time for Sam and myself, but first time for Mom and the others. Sadly the other four arrived too late to see much of it, but we were getting the feeling they weren’t as outdoorsy as we are (or at least tire of it much quicker).

Although we were already familiar with the bird island trail, we saw something new: Jellyfish, floating in the water just east of bird island.

(jellyfish not pictured)

From there it was a race back to the hotel. One which I’d lose since I stopped two more times to take photos near the famous bixby bridge.

The rest of our party drove right by us while we were stopped here. They might even be the red tail-lights in the photo!

In San Simeon we ended up staying at the same hotel Sam and I visited twice before on other PCH trips. This time, though, we were given a room in the second building (we didn’t even know there was one) that had 60s style architecture, fireplaces in the rooms, and a view (or sounds, since it was after dark) of the ocean.

On the last day of the road trip the group diverged again with our car stopping at Morro Bay for sightseeing, later reconvening with the others in Solvang for lunch at the Copenhagen Sausage Garden, which, wow, is actually pretty good and makes me wish we’d stopped there on our other two drive-thrus of the town. You pay for the sausages and then get unlimited sauerkraut, relish, and condiments. They also happen to have, and I’m not being facetious, maybe the best onion rings I’ve ever had. And it’s all outside in a beer garden, so covid safe! The only thing I didn’t like was all the giant Oktoberfest style beer mugs other people got to drink but I cannot anymore, so I got the pear cider!

We stopped again in Santa Barbara to swap passengers (Thailand sister and brother in law are staying with us for the rest of their trip) and stop by the farmers market for some last minute Thanksgiving groceries.

On Wednesday the same sister and brother in law borrowed Sam’s hot car (Miata) and hit the town (Beverly Hills) for world class shopping and Instagram likes. We stayed home and prepped for tomorrow, which was a full family thanksgiving extravaganza.

Note: while we had staples like mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, nobody was wasting their time on a Turkey. We had lamb-chops bbq’d on the grill instead, grilled corn-on-the-cob, long-simmered gumbo, and a few other things I’m forgetting (you can see where my focus was!).

After dinner came something that Sam’s been waiting on for ten years now – setting up a Christmas tree in her own house. She’d been prepping for months now going to estate sales every weekend looking for the perfect vintage ornaments and other holiday accoutrements, and here is the result:

how many owls are in this picture? As many as we could find at the estate sales!

On Friday my sister and brother in law flew back to Thailand, but Sam’s mom will be staying with us until late January.

Now, a disclaimer: Those of you that know me well know I’m super paranoid about Covid safety. This has not changed. This means I wore a mask at times when others may not have been, ate separately and/or outside when others ate inside, etc. Did this cause some awkward moments with a large group of diverse covid safety opinions? Yes. Was it “drama?” No. Will I spill the details of all that here? Absolutely not. But if you are close to us I just wanted to mention this so you didn’t think “well they were all paranoid and made us do this whole song and dance the last two years when we went to their house and then threw all that out the window for family.” No. All possible precautions were taken. It is still very much a thing for us/me and the three of us remaining in the house will be taking covid tests after 5 days since thanksgiving (this is the CDC recommendation for those not showing symptoms) and only with 3 negative tests will we be abandoning mask wearing in shared space situations.

disclaimer #2: yes, I did say wedding rings and I did say we bought a house (mentioned the latter back in April too, but the former happened on August 12th). I did not blog about these events as I’m not sure it’s the type of thing I want to put out there for public consumption. There are “stories” behind those life events, but I’m not sure I’ll ever share here. For most of you that would ever read this (hi mom and aunt Lois!) that need to know, you already knew all about those things anyway.

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