California, here we come!

Vivian and I just got back from a long, fun week in Northern California. We brought Hannah along for the ride, who turned out to be a good little traveler on her first big family trip.

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After a brief diversion to Oakland, we flew into sunny San Francisco Tuesday afternoon. We had a bit of an adventure getting out of the city, fighting rush hour traffic, learning what “sharp crest” means on Divisadero Street, and of course passing over the most-photographed bridge in the world.

We spent the evening with Vivian’s “granny” in Petaluma, who got to meet a Hannah very happy to get out of the car. Vivian and I had fettuccine alfredo with Donna at one of Vivian’s favorite haunts, the New Yorker on Petaluma Boulevard, and Hannah crashed after a long day of travel by car and plane.

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The next day, after a brief stop by Miwok Park and Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders, we hit the road to Fortuna and beyond. Of course, we had to drop by a few tourist traps along the way, such as a drive-thru tree in Leggett. Hannah got to sit inside of a hollowed-out redwood, sharing her adorableness with a bus of senior citizens who dropped by to snap her picture.

That evening, we met several members of Vivian’s extended family. First was her grandmother, “Nanny Nonie,” which meant we had four generations of ladies hanging out with us for a couple days. We had fish and chips together down at the Eel River Brewery with Vivian’s Aunt Judy, some of which Hannah got to nibble, which made her very excited.

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We spent the next few nights at the 150-year-old farmhouse of Vivian’s Great Uncle Rich in Hydesville. Donna practically grew up there, and Vivian had several visits to the farm during her childhood. She got to do such things as ride on Uncle Rich’s donkey, Neeta, who was still around for Hannah to ride on.

Hannah got to meet a couple more relatives while we were in town, such as her great Uncle Sandy, her great Uncle David, her second cousin Shannon, and her other great-great uncle, Ernie. I was quickly enamored with picturesque views of distant hills and the flowers that seemed to grow almost everywhere. (Hannah seemed to like them, too.)

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We drove back down to Petaluma on Saturday, which happened to be Hannah’s ten-month birthday. Naturally, we had to snap a decent picture of her for Facebook. We took several around various redwoods we dropped by on our way down south, which took us most of the day. That evening, Vivian had a reunion with her old Youth Group from Petaluma Christian Church. I picked up some pizza from Pinky’s, an old-school pizza parlor that Vivian’s dad and Uncle Lewie had actually worked at years before. Hannah spent the evening playing with new friends in the church multipurpose room, and I got to watch a few home movies of Vivian as an angel in a Christmas pageant in-between changing diapers.

We went back to PCC the next day to attend church together, and Vivian had the chance to say hello to several of her old friends again (and get some cute pictures in the garden out front).

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On Sunday afternoon, we took Hannah to up Santa Rosa to say hello to her great Uncle Lewie and Aunt Sandra. We had some lunch out on their newly-repaved backyard and spent a couple hours keeping Hannah from crawling aroudn on the ground eating everything she found.

We had one last day in Petaluma on Monday. Vivian took Granny shopping at G&G and got several things she could only get here in Northern California, such as a variety of brie cheeses that were actually might right here in Petaluma. We stopped by Jennie Low’s for some Chinese food and then later took Hannah by Luchessi Park (AKA the “duckie park“, where Vivian had spent many days playing as a child). For dinner, we met up with my old bible study friend James (who drove all the way from Stockton) and Vivian’s friend Ann for dinner. We ate at Mi Pueblo, which was coincidentally the very same restaurant Vivian and I ate at right before leaving Petaluma four years ago. I’d met James over a decade ago at Wayne State College but hadn’t seen him in years, so it was good to catch up.

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On Tuesday, we flew back home, but we had a few extra hours of rushed sightseeing before our flight left SFO. We stopped first in Novato to get a glimpse of the Good Shepherd Lutheran School, where Vivian had attended (and Donna had taught) when she was a child. We headed on to the Marin Headlands, where I got my first glimpse of serious bay area fog. I’d hoped to get a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay itself, but a thick sheet of white unfortunately kept that from happening.

We wound up having a lot more fun cruising through San Francisco itself. We headed downtown via Lombard Street, famous for being the Crookedest Street in the World for about a block between Hyde and Leavenworth (and hilariously recounted by Bill Cosby). Vivian and I had to dodge about a hundred tourists snapping pictures at the top and bottom of the winding street, and then of course I had to go and join them with Vivian creeping behind. We wound through downtown snapping pictures of various sights as we came upon them, from the Transamerica Pyramid to random trolley cars, to the Bay Bridge. Vivian wanted to visit Chinatown, which she remembered visiting as a child, so we wound up visiting one of the east side and west side of the peninsula (who knew San Francisco had two of them?)

We dropped by See’s Candy to pick up some toffee and grabbed some lunch in a small Chinese restaurant around the corner. We had time for one last stop before rushing to the airport, and that was to Lincoln Park to check out the Western Terminus of the Lincoln Highway. For some reason, I’ve been fascinated with America’s first continental highway, particularly since it passes right through Omaha, so I wanted to stop and get a good look at the end of it before flying home.

And in case you were wondering, Hannah was an excellent little traveler. This was her first time on an airplane and she slept through about half the trip. The rest of the time Vivian and I just had to make sure she was fed, watered, and entertained. Hopefully she’ll be just as amicable when we hit the skies as a family in future trips (when she’ll be more likely to remember them).

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