Sunday, July 15, 2012

Since Miguel had the day off and Z was still on break from ESY I decided it was high time for a mini road trip. I consulted my book of hikes in the area and once again was a little disappointed by the limited options listed. However, it did remind me that I had been meaning to bring the kids to Fort Ross. I love trips that are both beautiful and educational; the teacher in me doesn't fully go on summer vacation I guess.
 Although, when I asked Z towards the end of our visit what he had learned, he gave me such gems as, "You can walk down the road to the beach." Oh well, the scenery was still pretty at least.
Okay, we need to discuss the above photo. As we were walking out of one of the buildings Az ran to the cannon and I started shooting away. After I had taken a few shots Az ran up to me and requested to see the photo. She then ran a few feet away and walked back, and I took this photo. Again she ran up to me and requested to see the photo. She did this three or four times, each time very nonchalantly posing for me and then checking to see how the photo had come out. It made me wonder what effect having a mother who is so constantly taking photos of her will have on her. I'll be sad if I have to stop taking photos because it begins to seem like I am making her too self-conscious of the way she looks.
 I have no problem with bribing Z into photo ops though. He really wanted to go into a particular building but I wanted to make our way from each building in a clock-ways direction, rather than zig-zagging back and forth across the yard. Since we were about to enter the building he was lusting after anyhow I told him that if he went and did drills with the ranger and a couple of other boys we could go to the building. I was a little surprised that he agreed to do it, but I had a blast watching him march all around the fort. He may or may not have accidentally hit the boy behind him in the head with his gun, but otherwise he did very well staying in formation.

We headed down to the beach after we had fully explored the fort. I've always driven down to the beach but the road down was closed on this day and once we got to the parking lot we discovered that parking was actually not allowed in the lot any longer anyhow. Being such a remote beach, and sort of a hassle to get to, we had the entire thing mostly to ourselves. The photo of the kids together was supposed to be of just Z by the way, but when Az saw him posing she ran to stand next to him. I'm not understanding her change in heart regarding her attitude about having photos taken but I'm going to enjoy it as long as it lasts.
While we were exploring the beach Miguel found a secret den built into the trees. We crawled through a small, low opening in the branches to discover a hidden world created by the branches of the bushes that grew on the beach. It was large enough in there to pitch a tent or two, which Miguel and I both made special note of. Az was feeling pretty tired by then so we decided to cut our secret hideout time short to head back up to the car. Except that we ended up taking a shortcut that we knew going in led the opposite direction from where we needed to go, and ended nowhere near our destination. Az was fine enough with this though, as she got to nap in her dad's arms during the trek.
Where the path ended.
I wasn't ready to go home when we were done with the fort. Rather than turning right back in the direction of home and the ever expanding laundry pile waiting for me at home I decided to turn left, north, further up the coast to see where it would bring me. It brought me to Gualala, where we stopped for dinner at a supermarket/bakery/Mexican food/ice cream parlor/pizzeria. We opted for the pizzeria part of the menu, and okay maybe a little of the bakery too. Eating in a supermarket wasn't the most ambient of environments, but the pizza was good. When we were done with the dinner (we were ejected a little suddenly and prematurely because the woman running the place wanted to go home) Miguel assumed we would go home too. Except I wasn't done with my adventuring, so I again headed north.

I am so glad I decided to push my luck with the Great North, because we happened upon a KOA in Manchester Beach that was quite the poor man's resort, and we were poor men looking for a vacation spot. Miguel and I are determined to find our way back there in the not too distant future. We loved the KOA so much that we figured we sort of had to check out the beach. Actually, I think I was just looking for a bathroom at the time but in any case we ended up climbing the sand dunes to check out the beach. We happened to get there at sunset, and it was just the sort of ending I was looking for to our day of exploration.
 Manchester Beach is the furthest north I've been on Highway 1 in many, many years, though we were a little surprised to get into the dunes and see Point Arena jutting out not that far away. We had driven a ways to end up not really very far from the lighthouse we visited earlier this year, as the crow flies. When I was little my dad used to throw a couple of bags and a camp stove into his van and during the summers we would spend a week driving up and down Highway 1 ending up wherever the road led. My dad had a much larger van than the one I inherited from him that I'm currently driving; in it were two caption chairs, an ice box that was designed like a fridge (with one compartment on top of of the other) and a bed in the back. It lent itself to passing out on the side of the road much better than my present van, and I now travel in a group twice as large as the one my dad and I made, but I'm determined to throw some clothing and a tent into the van and just start driving up the coast the next time Miguel has two days off in a row.

(And yes, in the above picture Miguel is in fact standing on the highest dune checking his phone. He shall forever remain a little more of a city slicker than me.)
I've always known I wanted children. Always. And when I imagined my life with my littles, this was the exact type of day I imagined getting to have. It can be so easy to get over-whelmed and focus on all of the mundane tasks that fill daily life, but it is days like this that give me pause. I can't express how blessed I felt to be living the life I am with the people I am as I watched the people I love moving about the beach. The next time I'm feeling stressed and irritable I want to remember the feeling of this evening on the beach with my family.
I may have gotten a little greedy about not wanting to let the adventure end; on the drive back home I decided to take what I hoped would turn out to be a short cut. It was pitch black by then and the hour we spent of the unbelievably winding, isolated road was a little terrifying. A few days later I told my aunt, my dad's sister, about my experience with the road. She said that my dad had warned her to stay away from that particular road because it was so unpleasant. My dad had a Class A license. He drove delivery trucks in San Francisco and whipping motor homes around narrow roads that dropped off into nothing. He was not a man to be deterred by a road. It's probably good that it was so dark on the road; I have a feeling the journey would have been even worse had I been able to see what I was doing.

Not counting the wretched hour or so when I wasn't sure if I was going to ever see civilization again, the day was by far one of the best I've had in a good long while. I love that I'm raising such adventurous, nature loving children and that Miguel is up for the half-cocked journeys I take him on. One of these days we may even convince him to go ahead and tuck that smart phone of his away.

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