Sunday, March 31, 2019

End of Our 2019 Spring Vacation

We had a leisurely morning at the lodge near Yosemite before heading out.

The lodge has a game room and the evening before we had played table hockey and pinball. In the morning, it was far less crowded and we were able to play some billiards. I'm not very good at all, but Kai wanted to try it and I tried to give him some pointers.

And then we began our journey back to San Francisco where we will stay for one night before flying home.

For lunch, we wanted to eat at the popular California burger chain, In-N-Out Burger. It was crowded and we had to wait a while for our food but we thought the burgers were good.

The drive back was mostly uneventful, with the biggest problem coming when traffic was backed up about an hour to get through the toll at the Bay Bridge. With about 15 lanes of traffic narrowing down to five lanes on the bridge, it wasn't a surprise that traffic would crawl on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Back in San Francisco, we stayed at a hotel in Japantown. Japantown is only a few blocks long, but there is a concentration of Japanese restaurants and shops.

Kai enjoyed shopping for plushes. It was funny that at one shop, he actually got into a brief conversation with a woman when he proclaimed that "everything here is overpriced and fake" and the woman agreed with him. But he still found one plush that he bought to take home.

He also liked seeing cherry blossoms, Japanese sculptures, and other Japanese items in the neighborhood.

We had matcha drinks for a snack.

We had looked forward to having a nice Japanese meal for dinner, but was again hugely disappointed. The restaurant we picked was rated as the top one in Japantown on TripAdvisor but I'm not even going to show any pictures of the place. The edamame was overboiled and tasteless, the service was slow with our takoyaki not coming until well after we finished the rest of the meal, and the place was very loud. At least the sushi tasted better than the place we had gone to a few nights before.

However, we did find a fun spot for dessert. In the mall there was a place selling dragon's breath, a frozen dessert made from cereal dipped in liquid nitrogen.

When you eat this, it produces vapors which comes out of your nose and mouth, hence giving the name dragon's breath.

As we walked back to our hotel, Kai said that he really liked San Francisco. He said it was one of his favorite cities and he would like to live here.

And so this vacation went pretty well overall. There weren't any big challenges like we had in Japan last summer. So maybe we'll give this vacation thing another try.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Yosemite Valley

We had a full day to explore Yosemite Valley. If I had my druthers, we would do a lot of hiking. But I knew that I had to temper my plans for Kai and my wife.

We started out with a full breakfast at the lodge. Kai had a huge cinnamon roll (which he ate about half) and a plate of potatoes.

As you enter Yosemite Valley, there is a place where you can see down the entire valley and see many of the most famous sites. In the following photo you can see El Capitan on the left, Half Dome down the middle, and Bridalveil Falls toward the right.

I wanted to do one longer hike and a couple of shorter ones. For the longer hike I chose the trail to Vernal Falls. It is about a mile and a half uphill, but it is paved and the Valley had no snow in contrast to the area we went to the day before.

The hike was actually easier than the one to Tuolumne Grove, but Kai didn't think so, The old Kai reappeared, constantly saying that it was too hard and he didn't want to go on.

He took frequent breaks and I wondered if we would make it. The scenery all the way up was very beautiful, though I don't think Kai appreciated it.

We finally reached the footbridge from which we can see Vernal Falls.

The way back was almost all downhill and Kai stopped complaining. I prefer hikes where the way back is easier than the way out, but I think when we hike with Kai it is better to have the harder part on the way back because Kai is motivated to come back no matter how hard it is. If the hard part comes first, he doesn't want to go at all.

Kai was happier when we took a break for lunch.

This is the off season at Yosemite and the line to buy food at lunchtime was still slow, and the parking lots crowded. I'd hate to see this place during peak tourist season in the summer.

After lunch we drove around and found a spot to take this photo of Half Dome.

And then we went to see Yosemite Falls. The following photo shows both the Upper and Lower falls. The Upper Falls are visible from far away, but this is the place to see both falls together.

We then hiked right up to the base of the Lower Falls. It was great to lay back on the rocks and feel the mist from the falls.

Kai even admitted that he was glad we hiked up close to the falls.

My wife had the idea to refill our water bottles with the ice cold water from the falls. It was very refreshing.

I wanted to end our time in Yosemite on a high note, so rather than push for another hike, I decided to call it a day. On the way out of the valley, we stopped to see El Capitan up close.

After taking a break in our room, Kai wanted to swim in the pool again.

We had dinner and Kai, of course, wanted to make s'mores again.

Kai loves this lodge. He said that he wants to live here and loves everything about it except that it is in the middle of nowhere. Ha, to me the location is one of the best parts!

Alas, we will have to depart. Our vacation is nearing an end.

Friday, March 29, 2019

On to Yosemite

On Thursday, we rented a car and drove out to Yosemite National Park. I went to Yosemite as a child and once as an adult and consider Yosemite to be one of the 'bucket list' national parks (along with Yellowstone). I looked forward to introducing Yosemite to my wife and to Kai.

We didn't have a dvd player in the car so Kai actually paid attention to the scenery as we drove. "I love California. Everything is so green and beautiful."

As we got closer to Yosemite, he said, "The bad thing about national parks is that the cellular connection is really bad." We tried to explain that people go to national parks to get away from their electronics but I think he had trouble grasping that concept.

It is about a three and a half hour drive to Yosemite from San Francisco, not counting stops, so after we checked in at Rush Creek Lodge just outside the park, we had time for one hike. We drove to the trailhead to Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. It would be about a mile hike to the start of the grove and then another mile or so to hike the loop through the grove before hiking back.

The grounds were covered with snow and the temps in the upper 30s. After the spring-like conditions in San Francisco, we were back in winter here. The snow added a bit of difficulty but as the hike to the sequoia grove was downhill, it wasn't too bad on the way there.

When we arrived at the grove, we saw the most massive, magnificent trees.

Kai's highlight was finding this giant pine cone (sequoia cone?). He got the biggest kick out of it. In the background of the following photo, you can see a fallen tree and get an idea of how big it must have been.

And here is the root section of another fallen tree.

One of the highlights of the grove is the dead Tunnel Tree.

You can see how massive it is.

The hike back was uphill and fairly tough. Despite the cold temps, we were all hot walking back. All of our walking up and down the hills in San Francisco were a warmup for this hike. I could tell that Kai was getting exhausted - heck, we all were. Kai grumbled a little bit, but I was pleasantly surprised that he mostly hung in there and kept walking. It was a huge change from past vacations.

We were quite happy when we made it back to the trailhead where we discovered a snowman that someone had made since we embarked on the hike.

After that workout, dinner at the lodge was especially good. Kai had steak, my wife had short ribs, and I had a bison melt.

One of the things that Kai likes best about the lodge is that they have s'mores by the fire pit every night.

Kai enjoyed his and went back to make another one.

Kai's other favorite thing about the lodge is that they have a heated swimming pool.

Well, they call it heated and I suppose it is, but it sure felt cold to me. I tried to join Kai in the water but I couldn't get more than halfway across the pool when my body froze stiff like a popsicle. Kai did several laps, though, saying he didn't want to forget how to swim. I just jumped into the hot tub.

We have more hikes planned so let's hope that Kai continues to hang in there.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

San Francisco Vacation, Day 4 - Muir Woods, Sausalito, and More

We started out our last full day in San Francisco with breakfast at the Hollywood Cafe. My wife had eggs benedict with dungeness crab... yum!

I had pancakes along with a great fruit bowl.

I forgot to take a picture, but Kai had steak and eggs without the eggs. He doesn't like typical breakfast food like eggs or pancakes.

And then it was time to catch our tour bus that would take us to Muir Woods.

Kai and his mom had the best seats in the front row of the bus. Kai snapped this nice photo as we were going over the Golden Gate Bridge. It was raining lightly.

The rain paused just as we stopped at the vista point and we were able to take our requisite photo by the Bridge.

Just after we got back on the bus, the rain poured down. But we got lucky as it slowed to a drizzle when we arrived at Muir Woods.

Muir Woods is known for its towering redwood trees.

Some of the oldest trees at Muir Woods are 1,000 years old.

A creek runs alongside the main trail.

It's hard for an amateur photographer like me to capture the grandeur of the trees, but hopefully you can get an idea of the serenity of the place.

I think it is a must-visit place for any first-time visitors to San Francisco.

After Muir Woods, the bus took us to the seaside town of Sausalito, where we left the tour to explore the town on our own.

We had lunch at a place overlooking the bay. Kai had mussels, my wife had , and I had the Impossible Burger, a burger made of plant material but that looks and tastes just like a beef burger.

We then went to an area that has floating houses. Each house had potted plants on the dock.

It was cool to see the rows of floating houses, something we don't have back home.

The tour guide told us of a place in Sausalito that had the best ice cream in the world. Not sure if Lappert's was the best in the world, but it was very tasty.

We took the ferry back to San Francisco. By then it was nice and sunny and it felt good to have the breeze blowing in our faces as we watched the scenery.

When we got back, we walked back to Ghirardelli Square where Kai bought a couple of plushies.

After a break back at our hotel, Kai wanted to go to Ripley's Believe It or Not. We had gone to one in Baltimore last spring and he wanted to check this one out.

He just loved seeing all of the oddities and took many pictures.

For dinner, we went to Crab House at Pier 39 which was recommended by my blog friend, Shiroi Tora. We had eaten dungeness crab just a couple of days earlier, but we wanted to give this place a try. Kai and I got the double order of dungeness crabs.

We were very glad we went as the style of cooking was different than what we had at Alioto's. These crabs were roasted in a garlic sauce and were really tasty. Kai said he liked these better than the ones we had the other night. I thought both were really good in very different ways.

My wife had pasta with crabs.

Next, we head out to Yosemite!
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