Saturday, June 30, 2012

Day 10: Amazing Race

This morning we got a clue to go to Golfland where at least one of us would have to shoot a hole in one. We got our clubs and our color coded balls and hit the miniature golf links. The clue said if no one got a hole in one we would have to complete all three courses. The kids got the bright idea to purposefully avoid getting a hole in one so we could do all three, but thankfully their competitive nature took over and they were trying their best to sink the ball.

The windmill hole was our lucky spot. 4 of us got a hole in one there. Denver was feeling very sad and disappointed about not getting a hole in one, so a little further down the course John took him back to the windmill where he was successful at last. It changed his whole outlook on the rest of the course and he was a much happier camper.

After we finished golfing through castles and over streams (I totally hit it into the water twice!) we opened an envelope to head over to the HP Pavillion to watch the women's Olympic gymnastic trials. This challenge was especially exciting for Sage who is an amazing gymnast. I know I am biased, but she is seriously incredible and does it all. Beam, vault, uneven bars, and floor. The look of pure joy on her face when we read that we were going to see the best gymnasts in the country compete was priceless!

We headed over to San Jose where there was a huge festival going on outside to celebrate "the road to London" olympic gymnastic trials. There were bounce houses, climbing walls... Oh and these two Olympic champions happened to be there...

Kerri Strug and Carly Patterson were there signing autographs.


The kid's moment with the two was very quick so it kind of looks like Carly and Kerri are photo bombing the picture, but we figure when Sage is busy winning gold medals in the Olympics, they can include this picture on her "getting to know you" video montage and it will illustrate her destined rise to gymnastic greatness.

After our brush with Olympic greats, the kids climbed and bounced and slid.

 

The next several things that happened culminated into one of the scariest moments of my life. We got in line to go inside the stadium. John went back to the car to get the binoculars while the rest of us held our spot in line. The kids asked if they could go down the slide one more time while I waited in line and since it was moving so slow, I said "yes, but stay together!" they happily ran off to go down the inflated slide. The line moved forward a bit and I watched the kids carefully from my spot in line. Bailey got to the top of the slide and checked where I was. We waved as the line moved forward again, but I knew they would be joining me soon.

The line suddenly surged ahead and some lines were shifted and redirected. I kept moving forward through the sudden chaos and figured I could text Bailey if they needed a little help finding me in line. Next thing I know Bailey and Denver are joining me in line. "Where's Sage?" ... Bailey said, "she was right behind me." I was mildly worried at this point expecting Sage to break through the crowd... Any second...

...No Sage...

...No Sage... Suddenly John showed up and said, "where's Sage?". I think saying this part out loud is when I really started to panic. "we don't know!". John had Bailey and Denver stand at a designated spot and we RAN! The crowd was so thick at this point as they were opening the stadium and we were tearing through the crowd looking for our little red-hatted, toe headed baby girl. We inevitably jostled people to go against the flow of traffic and found ourselves fighting to get back to the slide. She was not there. I can't explain the utter fear that we felt at that moment realizing Sage was somewhere, completely alone in this huge, fast-moving crowd. I KNEW we would find her, but I was imagining how scared she was and I needed to hold her that second. John went into the park and was yelling her name. I walked back toward the line sending up a silent prayer just saying, "Please! Please let me find her!".

As soon as I finished that thought, I looked up and saw her. She was sobbing and was with a uniformed man and woman. I ran over to her and scooped her up and hugged her so tight and I didn't let go until I had to. Sage clung to me and said, "I was so worried i would never find you again." it completely broke my heart!

The sweet usher walked with us to get Bailey and Denver and personally led us into the stadium to make sure we all got in together. It turns out the kids decided they could go down the slide one extra time and Sage was the last one off. While the other kids pulled their shoes on and started running to find me; she got off the slide and started running, stopped, and went back to get her forgotten shoes.

The whole ordeal probably took 2 minutes, but every second that we didn't know where Sage was felt like an eternity. Once we were together I kept finding Sage looking at me and she would either smile at me, or squeeze my hand or say,"I'm so glad we're all together." and I imagine every second she was alone felt as long as they did to me.

I am so glad Sage knew who to look for to help her, and I realize it was a series of things that led to Sage being lost, but with my 20/20 hindsight I realized we should have had bracelets with cellphone numbers and info for the kids to wear for the vacation. I would have much rather felt silly and overprotective not using the bracelets than the fear and panic I felt not knowing where my 8 year old was and realizing while she knows our home phone, it didn't do any good in this situation.

We all calmed down and settled into our seats to watch the competition. It was amazing. The gymnasts were super talented. Jordyn Wieber is going to rock the Olympics. We had a blast, but I was so relieved to be sitting together that we could have been watching a lawn being mown and I would have been happy.


 

We ended up going to dinner where the kids wanted to go: Rainforest Cafe which was an hour away but it was worth it to watch their faces as the forest came alive with thunderstorms, gorillas swinging and leopards twitched their tails. Then, we ran to Ghirardelli Square before they closed laughing the whole way. After our sundaes we walked to the beach to see how different the tide was and Mr. John and I ended up driving around SF long after the kids had fallen asleep in the car; just happy and grateful to have everyone close and safe.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Day 9: Amazing Race

I woke up this morning to the smell of eggs and sausage, pumpkin oat muffins and papaya and lime. Aunt Connie completely spoiled us with a delicious start to our day. The kids woke up early for kitten catching as promised. After breakfast the kids and Uncle Gary played fetch with their black lab KC. The kids could have stayed there all day and been perfectly happy, but we had a destination from our newest envelope.

We were to go to a red landmark by the sea that was celebrating its 75th birthday. After a google search the kids decided we needed to go to the Golden Gate Bridge. We said our farewells to Aunt Connie and Uncle Gary and headed the 2 hours to San Francisco { without a kitten, though Bailey did name the orange tabby Mr. Creamsicle }.

We got to the Golden Gate and opened our challenge. We were to walk the bridge and back. The kids were a little nervous at first. It is a suspension bridge so it moves a bit and would especially shake when a big truck would drive by. It was 1.7 miles one way so it took awhile.

 

It was so windy! I started out the walk with a hat on, but seeing the assortment of hats along the side of the ledge, I decided I wanted to keep my hat and took it off. After getting back from the bridge walk, we got another challenge. We needed to drive down the curviest street in the world : Lombard St.! The streets in San Francisco are so crazy and the kids loved tightly winding our way down the tiny street. We tried to imagine what it would be like to live there, throw a party, or move in there.

After the treacherous drive, our next clue told us to get some seafood for lunch and gave the address to our hotel for that evening and told us to enjoy the city for a while.

We did! Mr. John taught Denver how to eat crab...

We saw all kinds of cool things...

We took pictures...

We snuggled...

We went to Ghiradelli Square...

And we saw the colorful and tall houses around Alamo Park...

Now we are settled in our hotel room. I have fallen asleep about 5 times while writing this post. I think that is my clue to go to sleep! Goodnight!

Day 8: Amazing Race

Two monumental changes this morning! First, we slept in until 9:30! Thank goodness! Mr. John was our hero last night after the concert and drove us to a hotel closer to our next leg so we could sleep in a bit. It was much needed so we made up a cheer for him. Give me a d: D! Give me an a: A! Give me a d: D! Give me an x: X! What does that spell?! Dad with a silent X! Don't ask me what it means, the kids have been making up a theme song for everything we do or see. It is hilarious. It's amazing how creative kids get when unplugged. There have been no movies or video games played this entire trip. Just a lot of music.

The second big change today was as you will see in the pictures, it is our first day out of uniform. John proudly represented our family as he and I have a backup shirt, but the rest of our AR shirts were in the laundry bag as we didn't do a laundry run. Sage, the one that at the beginning said she was a little embarrassed by us wearing the same shirts, was the most disappointed in us wearing different shirts. Don't worry, we will be back in black tomorrow!

Denver, who had fallen asleep during the end of the concert the night before and missed out on the excitement, was curious about Bailey's wardrobe addition with her new black cowboy hat. We got to retell the tale of "THE HAT". After our leisurely wake up and pack up, we opened our envelope during breakfast and found out we were going to gold country! We drove 1.5 hours to the place gold was discovered. Coloma. The first challenge the kids got was they each needed to discover gold. They got a quick lesson in gold panning by Holly, the park ranger {she made it look so easy!} and the kids each grabbed a pan and got to work swirling and shaking their pans.


They found lots of pyrite and they seemed more interested in the chunks of garnet than the gold flecks. There were bits of garnet in the troughs as well because gold was discovered in January of 1848 and that is the birthstone. They carefully placed their little flecks of gold into their vials along with lots of garnet. They showed their sparkly vials to Holly who congratulated them and handed them their next envelope.

The next clue told us when we were done exploring gold country we should go to my Aunt Connie's house. We looked at all the artifacts from the gold rush in the museum and all the buildings. It was fascinating to see how they lived and imagine the area filled with camps of gold hungry men, working to find that elusive metal. There are quite a few buildings and houses still standing and the place holds so much history. We went up to the Marshall cabin (the man who first discovered gold) and went through the little old historic cemetery. You could feel the history and the ambiance of the gold rush all around you.

After our gold fever had calmed down we were hungry so we made our way to Auburn, where a CNG fueling station was and filled up our car and ourselves. We had really great pizza...once again... and headed just 15 minutes to Aunt Connie's. We were so charmed by the area. We got to my aunt's house and the kids immediately wanted to know the all-important answer to the question, "do you have animals?". They were delighted to hear that a couple of stray cats had two litters of kittens back in the wood pile. Kitten hunting commenced.

Once we finally were able to drag them from the kitten hunt, Aunt Connie showed the kids a Maori stick game. We all learned the challenging rhythms while Aunt Connie sang the Maori song. The kids loved it and it took a lot of coordination and teamwork. Afterwards Aunt Connie made us the creamiest, most delicious piƱa colada shakes. How did I get so lucky to have the best relatives in the world?!

The kids and Mr. John have crashed and are sleeping soundly. The kids have planned to wake up early to get in some kitten catching before we leave in the morning. My aunt told them we could take a kitten with us... Maybe a couple of scratches tomorrow will change their minds.

Small things I don't want to forget from today:

  • We got a bag of "belly flops" (rejected jelly belly beans) from the factory and have been enjoying guessing the flavors. Denver said, "I just had one that was yellow with orange dots and a couple of red spots that changed my life!"
  • Sage made "planking" look so easy. We all tried it... It was NOT!
  • Bailey wearing her new cowboy hat all day today.
  • Tonight while putting the kids to bed and Denver hugging me soooo tight and saying,"I love you too much!... Can you breathe?"
  • The maniacal laughter coming from the backseat during the drive. They were enjoying the crap out of each other.
 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 7: Amazing Race

This morning we woke to the smells of eggs, bacon, grilled potatoes and peppers, and pancakes AND watermelon! and last night's banana bread. Uncle Matt was cooking up a huge breakfast for us and we decided then and there that we should visit a whole lot more!

The kids got their envelope and it was a fast forward. They had a choice: they could either empty the pool using spoons or complete an obstacle course Aunt Suzette set up for them. Aunt Suzette handed them spoons to get started, but they smartly chose the obstacle course. They hopped on plastic domes, rolled and tossed hula hoops, did the robot walk, shot baskets, and weaved around Molly the dog who wanted to be a part of everything.

Once they successfully finished the obstacle course Aunt Suzette gave the next clue. We were to go to a factory that produces favors like juicy pear, buttered popcorn, and even booger! It was time to go to the Jelly Belly factory! We drove 2 hours to the factory where we took a tour and watched the whole process from above the workers. We then got to taste test several flavors. I wanted to be adventurous and chose moldy cheese. I can't describe the utter disgustingness of that single jelly bean! I gagged, but actually swallowed. Mr. John tried it and couldn't finish it. They are not messing around when they create a flavor. If it says dog food, it will taste like dog food. Some other crazy flavors were sausage, pencil shavings, centipede, and even barf!

The challenge for the kids was to make a recipe of beans to create the flavor of lemon meringue pie. They chose sour lemon, toasted marshmallow, and buttered popcorn. Success! It was the perfect lemon meringue pie recipe!

The next clue had us driving again, this time to Santa Rosa where we went to the Wells Fargo Performing Arts Center. Trace Adkins was performing, but before his show we were able to meet him! We went through the line and got a quick picture with him. We said hi and he said in the most unbelievably deep voice, "tell me about these shirts you're wearin'." we explained our vacation and he laughed and said, " your family has fun vacations!" he saw that Bailey and Sage were carrying their travel journals and he said, "Give me your book baby." and he signed the girl's books. "how bout you son?" and Denver handed him the only paper he had which was the clue to get to the concert. Trace read it and laughed. He wished us a fun vacation and that was it. The kids were so excited and Trace was incredibly sweet with them.

The concert was unbelievable! He is an amazing singer and performer. He told stories about his songs and has a very funny and dry sense of humor. He sang through lots of songs and then during his finale, he pointed to Bailey and motioned for her to come up to him. Bailey pointed to herself and asked ME?! He nodded his head and she went up to the stage. Trace put his black Stetson on her head and Bailey's eyes got huge and the crowd went crazy! He kept singing and Bailey dazedly walked back to her seat with us. About halfway through the song she asked, "do I get to keep this?!"

After putting the hat on her head he went back to the mic and said, " have a good vacation baby!"
After the show it was like she was a celebrity herself. Everywhere she walked people were saying, "Look! It's The Hat!" or they would congratulate her, tell her how cute she looked, or how lucky she was. Bailey writes stories, poems, and music all the time and she declared, "every time I write I'm going to wear this hat!". I could see in her eyes that Trace Adkins had just created a fan for life with Bailey! It was incredibly special and something Mr. John and I could never have planned.

 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day 6: Amazing Race

We got the day started with a clue that sent us to a chicken ranch. It said they needed to do whatever Farmer Hatch needed us to do to help out. We found the Ranch and met Farmer Hatch {that is really his name}. He said most of the feeding of the chicks was automated, but they had a feed line that was down and the chicks in that barn needed to be fed manually every day. The kids got buckets and filled them with organic feed and got to work. There were 2800 10 days old chicks in the barn we went into with the broken feed line. They were adorable! The barns are kept at a toasty 92 degrees while the babies mature

The kids filled the food bins for the babies and then held some of them. We learned that these chickens are free range and in a couple of weeks will be old enough to run around outside. Eventually these chicks are bound for Whole Foods. After cuddling with the fluffy chicks, the kids decided to never eat chicken again. We'll see how long that lasts. I know their self imposed chicken free diet will be over before this vacation ends.

After feeding the little guys, Farmer Hatch gave them their next envelope and the clue led us to Fresno where we would head to the Grizzlies {the triple-A Affiliate of the SF Giants} baseball stadium. First we went to an crazy pizza place called John's Incredible Pizza Co. It's all you can eat and the toppings are what makes it incredible. You may have heard of buffalo chicken pizza, or even cheeseburger pizza (with pickles!) but have you ever tried Mac and cheese pizza or spicy peanut butter pizza? We stuffed ourselves silly and decided to check out the arcade. We thought, "what could promote family unity?" and the answer of course was shooting lazers at each other! We each got a vest and a gun and once we were given the instructions and found out we were supposed to shoot each other for points in a blacklit room, my sweet 6 year old baby boy said,"it's on like Donkey Kong!"

After we were done virtually killing each other, we headed out to the stadium. The clue said one of the kids would have to do something at the game. The kids decided Denver would perform the task since he plays baseball. We drove the 1/2 hour to The stadium and found a man named Matt. He told Denver he would be throwing out the first pitch! and he gave him a baseball. Mr. John and Denver headed down to the dugout and hung out with the mascot, a yellow bear named Parker.

When it was time Denver walked out to the mound and they announced "Denver Adams is here with his family who are on an Amazing Race vacation!" and they flashed our AR logo up on the screen. Bailey, Sage, and I were screaming like crazy. Denver pitched the ball with perfect aim and great speed. We were so proud! He got his ball signed by the catcher and we all went to our seats and enjoyed the game.

Evidence that snow cones were consumed.

After the game an envelope was opened and we headed to Merced to my Aunt Suzette and Uncle Matt's house. It was about 9:30 when we got there and it smelled heavenly. My aunt who claims she doesn't bake was in the middle of baking banana bread and a batch of chocolate chip cookies. As if that wasn't enough to make the kids want to move in, she suggested the kids go for a swim and then she and Uncle Matt set up a little bonfire so the kids could warm up after. My cousin Randee swam with the kids and Mr. John and I were able to just sit for a bit. We have had a ton of fun on this vacation, but relaxing has been something we didn't schedule in {something to think about next time} so it was greatly appreciated.

Driving and allergies caught up with Mr. John and he headed to bed early while the kids and I stayed up much too late, chatting away into the morning. It is too much fun being with family!

 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 5: Amazing Race

This morning's clue said "Sunday is a special day reserved for going to church and spending time with family. Get dressed in your Sunday best and go to church. Shake the hand of member of the bishopric {clergy}."

The funny part of this clue is I secretly packed a church outfit for the kids. We didn't want them to know how long our trip was so we didn't put it on their packing list... The problem is... I forgot their church clothes in the hotel room in Oceanside two days ago! Duh! I knew the kids would feel a little uncomfortable going into church wearing jeans and t-shirts {look at Bailey's face!} but we decided the important thing was to go and even though John and I had our church clothes, we went for solidarity and everybody went to church in our AR shirts.

We certainly stood out, but everyone in the Tulare congregation was super friendly and curious about our little crew. The kids all shook hands with the bishop, introduced themselves and thanked him. After the church meeting we got a clue to then go to "the land of giants" where you could drive through a tree. Bailey very proudly exclaimed, "we're going to the Sequoias!" I asked her how she knew that and she said "I don't know!"
 

Even though we didn't know how Bailey gathered her information we followed it and headed 2 hours to Sequoia National Park. It was beautiful! At the entrance of the the park, the kids got their challenge to find the General Sherman tree which is the largest tree in the world and walk around it.

The sequoias were amazing! So majestic and it was a beautiful day. We hiked to General Sherman and found the huge tree that is still growing in width but no longer in height. Bailey said, "It's just like humans! They stop growing taller, but they can keep getting fatter!" ha ha ha.

We walked around the tree and gave the next envelope. It told us we were done for the day and would be getting our next clue in the morning. We decided to enjoy the park and we drove through a tree, saw deer, TONS of butterflies and caterpillars, and the best was seeing 3 bears! As in real bears that looked at us and we saw their incredibly thick fur and they were HUGE. Denver said, "it's just like Goldilocks!"

The picture isn't very clear and hopefully the "real" camera captured them better, but here is the picture taken with Mr. John's phone.

We also went to a museum and learned a lot about the park. We probably would have stayed and gone to more sights at the park, but our fuel was a concern. Natural gas stations are not as common as regular gas stations and though we filled up at the last station possible in Exeter, we were getting to half tank and worrying about getting back. When you run out of gas in a natural gas car, your only option is to be towed. The return trip ended up being much better on the fuel tank as we didn't need the gas pedal for the entire way down the mountain and we made it back to our hotel room with fuel to spare. Thank goodness!

Big day tomorrow and tonight I am actually going to bed early... For real this time!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day 4: Amazing Race

Today we woke up a bit earlier and were on the road by 7:30. Our clue led us 10 minutes away from our friends' house. We got to the Santa Anita racetrack nice and early to see the horses warming up and had breakfast at Clocker's Corner. There were no races today, so it wasn't very busy, but still lots of horses conditioning and racing past us. We saw horses of every color. They were beautiful and it was amazing to see such power and speed. The jockeys were all so sweet and friendly with the kids, answering questions and always ready with a wave and a friendly greeting. We met a horse named Interaction and lots of dogs who came to make new friends as well. The facilities were so gorgeous and very vintage. The signs, the colors, and the backdrops of mountains and palm trees made for a truly unforgettable experience. It surprised me how big the track is in real life and how quiet the rhythm of their hoofbeats are on the sandy track.

After breakfast, the kids needed to find a statue of "the horse of the year" from 1938. The kids guessed it was Secratariat as they had recently watched that movie, but he was a superstar horse in the 70's. The kids asked around and people were very helpful, directing us to the paddock. The first horse statue we saw was not our horse, but we kept searching and finally found The right statue of Seabiscuit.

They found their next clue on a nearby bench. It told them they had to be BRAVE and go to the mall next to the racetrack and see a movie they have been looking forward to. The kids immediately knew we would go see Brave! We've been looking forward to this movie since we saw the first preview several months ago. It was so fun and once again I tried to keep my crying to a minimum. Dang You Disney!

After the movie I felt a little less self-conscious about my untamed vacation hair. If The Scottish princess Merida can run around with unruly curls, this slightly Scottish lass could too! During this trip we are going non-stop and there is certainly no time for vanity or a straight iron and my hair is taking a vacation and having a wild time!

Living in a small town, the kids were amazed at the mall! So many stores! So many restaraunts! So many people! And even an escalator? Who knew that all we had to plan to make our kids happy was a trip to the mall? After the movie, they got a clue to go to a parlour in Valencia for lunch and ice cream.

Ferrell's parlour is an old timey restaurant complete with a tinkling player piano and waiters in striped shirts and straw hats. When there is a birthday boy or girl, watch out! A siren sounds and the whole waitstaff comes out banging drums, singing, and running around with huge bowls of ice cream. We did eat lunch there, but we knew the most important section on their menu is dessert and made sure to leave room for a tin roof sundae.

The final envelope of the day took us 2.5 hours north to Tulare. We are now at a hotel room, we've gone swimming and the trip is definitely catching up with us. We are planning on getting to bed early tonight and looking forward to another amazing day!

 

A couple FYI's:

  • All of the envelopes are planted by us at the time we get there ourselves. We sometimes try to hide them without the kids seeing and sometimes we just give them the envelopes. The one exception was our "good witch" who happens to be a work connection for John. She knew her role ahead of time and works at the Civic Center in SD and was excited to help us out. We didn't know she was going to give the kids so much cool Wicked swag! She really is good!
  • Mr. John and I thought of this trip idea several months ago, and started gathering a few things and looking at events and routes, but the real pulling together didn't take too long and happened within the week before heading out.
  • I made the AR Adams family edition logo and Mr John ordered the t-shirts from Vista Prints.
  • Several of our clues have keywords in it that will lead the kids to the answer in a google search.
  • We LOVE reading all the comments and emails about our trip! It is so exciting to hear that people are following our adventure and enjoying our journey with us. Our days are full so we don't get a lot of time online to respond, but wanted anyone who's joining us to know: we hear you! Muah xoxo
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