Category - Adventures

Places we’ve been, things we’ve seen as we travel through life.

Climb Ev’ry Mountain
The Exploratorium
Apples and Haunted Houses
Touring San Francisco
Staying at the Fairmont
Ice Castles
There Goes My Baby
A Few Magical Moments

Climb Ev’ry Mountain

One of the best things about Colorado is being outside. One of the most popular things to do is climb 14’ers. A 14’er, if you don’t know, is a mountain greater than 14,000 feet above sea level. Pikes Peak is one, and at 14,115 ft, is #30 in the state. Climbing these mountains is not for the weak of heart or mind! You have to be in good physical condition and prepared for the worst weather conditions and ready for all sorts of challenges.

Boo recently had the opportunity to go on a 14’er climb with his Boy Scout troop. Because of scheduling conflicts he had to go without his dad, but the adult leader agreed to bring him because Boo has proven himself to be a Reliable Scout on many other adventures.

I promptly started to worry. I’m his mom, it is part of my job! I had a very serious discussion with him about safety and weather. I warned him that he could expect the mountain to be 30 degrees colder than where we live. A hat, gloves and a fleece jacket would be necessities, even in August! He humored me. I think he even managed to keep from rolling his eyes. Then the planning meeting confirmed all this and more. I, for my part, did not say “I told you so.”

Departure day arrived. When I dropped him off I could tell he was nervous. I reminded him that the first day was just car camping and the climb to the peak was “just” a hike. I don’t know if my words helped him, but I know I felt better! Still, I worried just a bit.

Saturday morning I got a call.

“Hey mom! Can you guess where I am?”

“Well, I have an idea, but why don’t you tell me yourself.”

“I’m on the top of La Plata Peak! 14,336 ft!”

What a great kid! He accomplishes a mighty feat and his first thought is to say “hi, mom!”

When he returned home on Sunday he was full of stories. He said the scenery was absolutely beautiful and that the pictures he took couldn’t do it justice.

He showed me pictures of how steep the terrain was and told me there were four, very discouraging false peaks. One of the scouts got altitude sickness and needed to turn back with his dad. Boo said it was the toughest hike he’d ever been on.

So let’s hear for the boy! Conquering a 14’er at 13 years old.

The Exploratorium

We finally made it to The Exploratorium. My first experience with this (or any) hands-on museum was when I first started college. My good friend Ben took me and my roommate, and maybe Philip. Ben had worked there in high school and he showed us all the best exhibits. Everything there is good, actually, which explains why a group of college students would even be interested. During the time I lived in San Francisco, I went to the Exploratorium at least once a year.

The children loved it! They dashed from exhibit to exhibit, trying to get experiments to work. Most of them required little or no help from a parent, beyond reading the instructions for the early reader among us. We couldn’t get all the experiments to work and some turned out differently than we thought they would. Others we totally rocked. But that’s all part of the fun!

At the bubble tables you try to create the biggest bubble you can. Bip tried to pull a bubble over his head, but it didn’t work.

Then we watched other kids doing it and realized that he needed to move faster. And then he got it!

Funny chairs!  This would have been a fun picture of all my boys, but Boo was off with his cousin.  I had no idea where he was.

This room was dark and had lights moving across the floor in various patterns. The only point of this was to interact with the light however you felt like. Pipsqueak loved this! He chased the lights, stepped on them, attempted to hop over them. He even rolled on them.

If you go:
The Exploratorium is located on the grounds of the Palace of Fine Arts, so make sure you allow time to walk around outside and check it out, too.

They have a small cafe for food and a place to sit down. Food isn’t allowed outside that area. They’ve also got lockers available for a fee if you have stuff to stow.

Don’t forget, they are closed on Mondays!


Our next stop on our tour of San Francisco was Alcatraz. I’d been twice before – first with my parents sometime in the early 80s when the tour was guided, and second with Philip while we were in college and by then the tour was a self-guided audio tour. Both times we just showed up at the pier and bought tickets for the next available tour, usually the very next one leaving.

All that has changed. We bought tickets a week earlier and it was a good thing! Apparently tickets sell out well in advance and perhaps the only thing that saved us was the fact that most California schools hadn’t let out for summer yet.

You’ve got to get to the pier early but they’ve got some displays to read. You can also check out this scale model.  Our traveling monster, Estrella, liked it very much!

Estrella imagines herself as Godzilla attacking Alcatraz.

Eventually we got to board the boat. (Here’s a tip, don’t bother queuing up early unless you’re cold and want to get on the boat for the warmth. Just wait for the line to go down, then board at your leisure.)

The boat ride is windy. Wear a jacket.

The audio tour is excellent! It has you moving around the prison, looking into cells or at displays that help tell the story. The sound effects and background noises really add to the atmosphere. I highly recommend it!

These are isolation cells. The audio tour has you go in one and close your eyes while a former inmate describes what is was like to live in total darkness.

A display showing a bar spreader constructed by an inmate and used for one of the escape attempts.

Prisoners were allowed to pursue some hobbies, like paint by numbers or crochet.

If you go:
Buy tickets online well in advance. This is the official site: Alcatraz Tickets. You can buy both the ferry ride and audio tour tickets together. There is limited street parking, so be prepared to walk or just get someone to drop you off or take the bus.

Wear comfortable shoes and bring a jacket, even in summer.

Eat before you get on the ferry because there is no food allowed on the island. We were gone for 3 hours!

I wouldn’t recommend this tour for toddlers. I don’t think they allow strollers and there is a lot of walking! Plus, everyone is wearing head phones and listening to the tour. A small child would get bored and restless very quickly.

Apples and Haunted Houses

Our second day in San Francisco, we traveled down to Cupertino to visit Phil’s brother who works for Apple.  Yes, that Apple.

First we needed badges because you can’t just wander aimlessly around Apple Headquarters without an escort or a reason.  We each typed in our name and the company we work for.  Much hilarity ensued as the children decided who their employers would be.

Then we wandered around and ended up at the cafeteria for lunch.  All I can say is…wow!  They sure are living large there with a big assortment of cooked to order meals, custom pizzas, smoothies, and fruit.  We wrapped our time there taking pictures in front of the address sign, proudly displaying our free apples.

Fruit.  Not electronics.

And since we were pretty much right down the street, we also went to the Winchester Mystery House.  I have no pictures of this event because they weren’t allowed.  I have no idea why. No military discount, either.  And definitely no free apples.  But the kids thought it was really, really cool (as did the grown ups), so it was time well spent.

Touring San Francisco

Not San Fran.  Not Frisco.  San Francisco.  Or The City.

Phil’s brother John drove us around in their brother Donald’s minivan.  I think Donald paid him because it has been 20 years since we’ve driven in The City and he didn’t trust either of us.  No matter.  We spent the day doing tourist things in The City.  We started off at the Palace of Fine Arts where none of the adults could correctly remember which event the whole thing was built for. (The 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition)

We walked all the way around, admiring the architecture, heading for the Exploratorium.  We got there…and it is closed on Mondays – which I *totally* remembered, after the fact.  So we walked back to the car and headed to the Golden Gate Bridge, but their little parking lot was completely filled, so we headed to Fort Point.

Fort Point is this Civil War era Army post built to help to protect the bay.  We walked all around and pointed out the cool features like the sally port and the spiral staircases built to allow right-handed sword fighters defending from above to have the advantage.

My friend Shanti took her ship under the bridge just a couple of weeks earlier.  Boo thought that this would have been the perfect vantage point to wave to her and his friends from his tiger cruise.  

We saw some shark bait surfers.

Then we drove down Lombard St.  We had a traveling monster with us, so we took her picture.  Because it was San Francisco, nobody was at all surprised to see a monster with a star tattoo popping out of the bushes.

Then we went to Mel’s Drive-In for lunch.  Boo had this huge hamburger.

The kids’ meals came in these cool car boxes.  Estrella, the monster, grabbed the fries and took off cruising down Geary Blvd.  Nobody seemed surprised at that, either.

Next time: We visit Apple HQ and get free samples.

Staying at the Fairmont

Early in June we took a trip to San Francisco. Philip grew up there and his family still lives there. We’ve taken the older children for a visit, but they don’t remember, so it was time for a pilgrimage.

We stayed at the Fairmont, because that's just how we roll.

Ok, we actually stayed there using our Disney Vacation Club points, which is really how we roll. But the children we suitably impressed with the grandeur of a hotel that survived (in part) the earthquake of 1906. Of course,now they think we are rich and keep asking for stuff.

These are the stairs in the lobby. Why yes, Pipsqueak is wearing a 49ers jersey. It says Rice on the back. Old school! Classic Niners! Again, just how we roll.

The Fairmont Lobby. We tried to keep the kids from running amuck too loudly, but they couldn't resist the call of those revolving doors.

We put the three older children in a room of their own. It was bliss! For us at least. I can’t say for sure how their neighbors on the other side felt about the whole thing. I just tried not to stand too close to them in the elevator so I couldn’t be identified as the mother. Why no, I’ve never seen that girl who looks exactly like me before! Who are these people, and why do they keep calling me “mom”?

Having the children in a different room wasn’t as romantic as you’d think.

There’s just no explanation for this next picture.

Um, yeah.


We evacuated from the Waldo Canyon Fire on Tuesday, along with 32,000 of our closest friends and neighbors.

We are at a friend’s house along with all our kids’ stuffed animals, our 3 cats and our summer clothes. From what we can see from pictures and maps, our house is still standing.

My iPad is limited as far as blogging goes, so I will try to make some time to sit down at our computer in a day or so and tell you our story.

We are safe, and that is what matters.

Ice Castles

Last weekend we headed up into the mountains near Denver to visit the Ice Castle in Silverthorne.

In a word: amazing!

The drive was a longer one than we normally make with 16 month Pipsqueak in tow, but it was worth it.

We arrived, had a quick lunch, then bundled up in the snow pants, boots and gloves we’d packed along.  Good thing, too.  It was much colder than even we were used to!

I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.


If you go (and you should!), bring warm clothing and sunglasses.

There Goes My Baby

Boo is on this ship, sailing out of Pearl Harbor. They left about an hour ago. He’s just gotten so out of hand with his adolescent self that we made him join the Navy. I’ll miss him.

Actually, he’s on a tiger cruise, courtesy of my friend Shanti, who commands said vessel. I figured that since the Navy trusts her with a ship, I can trust her with my boy. Even though he’ll probably talk her ear off.

A Few Magical Moments

I still haven’t figured out how to sum up a Disney Cruise in just a couple of posts. I could talk and talk, but I’d probably bore you. So I’ll show you a ton of pictures instead. I hope you don’t mind. I think I’ll split the pictures up into a couple of different posts, though. And now I’m just kind of babbling to make the text line up nicely with that picture on the left. It’s one of the ship’s stacks.

Here’s Bip, with his friends Patches and Whee, looking out of the porthole in our room.

We enjoyed having a porthole this time around. Some of the things we saw (besides the Cubans) included…

this neat boat as the sun set over Key West.

And Mexico…

Every night after dinner we attended the show. Sometimes it was a musical, as only Disney can do them. Other nights it was a variety show. One night it was movie night and we saw “Tangled” in 3D. We hadn’t seen it yet, so we were excited about that. We loved it! Then after the show we’d usually head off to bed. Waiting for us was a towel animal sitting on our bed.

Or just hanging around.

Our room attendant often staged the children’s stuffed animals, too.

Of course, most of the magic happened outside of our room. There were plenty of opportunities to meet our favorite Disney characters, get their autographs and have pictures taken. Everyone has the opportunity to attend one character breakfast during the cruise. Here’s the children with Chip.

Other characters at breakfast were Mickey, Pluto, Goofy and Dale.

The waiters kept us entertained by making hats out of the napkins.

But the best moments happened during chance encounters around the ship. One of our favorite memories from our first cruise was finding Belle sitting and reading by herself in a quiet corner of the ship. This time we found her just walking along. Pumpkin Girl and I were headed to the gift store when we found her. She stopped to chat with Pumpkin, and posed for a picture.

Bip and Philip were meeting up with us at the store, and I was thinking it was too bad they’d missed Belle, when Bip came running in, telling me that Belle was right there in the hallway! She spent a long time talking with him and showed him the book she’d been reading.

He was completely enchanted.

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