Thursday, July 25, 2013


It's been a little over a month since we left Homer.  It feels so much longer than that. Just last weekend, I remember saying that I hadn't really had time to miss it yet.  Well, apparently I did this week.  While I do still like it for the most part here in Alameda, I'm starting to notice things that I really miss about living in Alaska.

My girlie wrote this earlier this week; I agree!

I'm starting to feel a bit claustrophobic. While the houses here are nicely arranged for maximum privacy on tiny lots, the lack of space is becoming more noticeable.  We are lucky to have a yard at all.  I know that.  But our backyard fence extends directly from the corner of the neighbor's house.  The distance from my back door to the one behind me is about the length of our driveway.  It took some thinking to realize why this lack of outdoor space is getting to me.  This is the most city-like place we have lived in the past ten years!  A-ha!  In Homer, we may have lived in a duplex, but we could see about 8 miles across the bay and into the mountains from our windows.  Even in Connecticut, we lived on a 2-acre lot and rarely saw our neighbors (unless their pup ran over and snatched a toy or shoe from the yard, hehe).  I joked with Mike the other night that our house feels like a mini compound, but it is kind of true.  All of the windows are strategically placed for privacy, but we can't even see the street from inside.

So, I thought I'd find us some nice open space with wild trees rather than landscaped ones and get away from the city.  And I came across an unexpected hurdle.  Campgrounds here get booked up months in advance.  And while most of them allow dogs, most hiking trails and many beaches nearby do not.  We were hoping to venture down to Big Sur for a weekend, but the earliest available is not until October!  And even then, we'd have to board poor Midas if we wanted to hike anywhere.  And Yosemite--forget it, unless we want to try one of those concrete and canvas "housekeeping tents."  We need to sit down with our calendars now and book camping spots for next summer.  Yikes.  In the meantime, we may try our luck with some of the walk-in sites that can't be reserved in advance.  But with a 2+ hour drive to get there, we'll have some sad kids if we can't find a spot for the night.  In the meantime, we were able to reserve some Coast Guard lodging at Lake Tahoe for Columbus Day weekend.  In October, because that was the first available weekend.

Aside from the lack of open space and freedom to enjoy public lands with our pup, there are a few other things I'm missing.  Like a good, non-chain coffee place.  Or any coffee place with a drive-thru.  I had forgotten that the little espresso drive-bys are not a nationwide phenomena.  Another not-so-little thing that I'm missing-- knowing people everywhere we go.  We certainly got used to Homer's small-town friendliness.  People say that Alameda has the same feel, but I haven't gotten a chance yet to meet many people.  I think this will probably change once school starts back up (one more month, yay!).  I did find a new place to work out, thanks to Groupon.  I took my first class at Rise Bodyworks on Monday, and I could barely walk Tuesday and Wednesday.  I take that as a good sign!

Okay, pity party over. But if anyone who knows this area has suggestions for weekend getaways, let us know.  I feel like we must be missing something, because it can't be this difficult to get back to nature without planning months in advance.

We have been starting to explore the surrounding cities, and have lots planned for this weekend.  Last weekend, we ventured to Oakland.  To exit Alameda, you have to go through straight through Oakland, so we thought we'd better get familiar with the better areas of town.  We visited Peerless Coffee, since I'm holding out on using my very last bag of K-Bay beans.  It is a pretty large roasting operation with tons of different varieties.  And they even requested my info for possible wholesale orders of my reusable coffee sleeves.  We also checked out the Pedalfest bike festival in Jack London Square.  We stayed for several hours, with the kids riding in a bike parade and then watching mountain and BMX bike shows.

This weekend, we want to visit Berkeley, both to find a few shops (running shoes, fabric, REI) and to go to the Kite Fest.  Alameda is also having a huge Art & Wine Festival this weekend.  And we have a sitter booked for tomorrow evening so we can have an adults-only bike ride to Park Street for dinner.  We are really loving the bike-friendlieness of the area. Mike is still riding to work most days, and Emerson even learned to ride sans training wheels this week!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Alameda, Ala-cheetah

So my kids love to rhyme.  And the name just kinda stuck.  Oh, well.

We have been in Alameda for two weeks now.  And yesterday was the first day that I had time to just sit for an hour and read a book.  But, we are completely moved in, unpacked, organized, and even have room in the garage for one vehicle.

Which is a good thing, because vehicle number two gets picked up from the shipping company tomorrow.  Hooray for the smaller car, because the larger one gets even worse gas mileage here than it did in Homer.  The entire island of Alameda has a 25mph speed limit, with lots of stop signs and traffic lights.  Not really great for a 4wd SUV...but the furthest we have to travel is 5 miles, so it balances out.

So, the question we have been getting the most, especially from family who are hoping that we love it here more than Alaska so that we don't move so far away again, is how we are liking it so far.  In short, it's an easy place to live.  We have everything we could need right on the island (and have learned that we will not be driving the multiple I-something-80 freeways to get to malls, Target, etc. more than we have to, which will certainly save money).  We live on a little peninsula connected to the main island of Alameda, called Bay Farm Island.  It's the same peninsula as the Oakland airport--yes, we are in the direct flightpath of Southwest Airlines, but it's not bad.  The kids even refer to our area as the "quiet" part of Alameda.

The tree-lined streets all lead to the San Francisco Bay Trail system, which is basically a paved bike path along the bay.  We are two blocks away, and can ride/walk/run a 6-mile loop without leaving the neighborhood.  Alameda is the most bike-friendly place we have ever lived.  We have had to trade in our views of eagles and mountains for egrets and city skyline, but Mike even rode his bike to work today.  Very convenient.  The elementary school is also two blocks away, and we can walk to at least four different playgrounds in 10 minutes or less.

This is also the most culturally diverse area that we have ever lived, which is quite a difference coming from a place like Homer.  We have neighbors of all ethnicities, and restaurants around town to match.  On Saturdays, we have learned to head down to the main shopping center on the island for Off The Grid, an organized collection of 10 food trucks that rotate each week.  Last week we had lumpia and pancit from a Filipino truck, and the week before it was Vietnamese noodles.  The kids, especially Ava, are doing a great job with trying pretty much anything.  We have yet to find a good local coffee shop, though. Certainly missing my K-Bay Caffe, as I knew I would.  I am already down to my last pound of beans and need to figure out how to get more.

We signed the kids up in advance for several activities to help them make new friends.  They have been enjoying weekly soccer lessons, and we started swim lessons this week and an awesome operation called Aquatech.  Today is lesson #2, and they are excited to go back.  We joined a local yacht club thanks to a very generous military rate, and have used the pool there a few times.  The kids went to a movie night there last Friday, which was conveniently scheduled at the same time as a rum tasting for the adults.  We met several club members and chatted with them about what type of sail boat we should get to do a little racing in the bay.  We were also convinced to sign up for their Monday Night Football program, in which members take turns cooking for everyone in the theme of the teams that are playing on your assigned week.  They gave us the Miami-Tampa Bay game as soon as they found out that we are from Florida.  I think we will be cooking up a November Cuban feast.

So, all in all, we are liking it just fine so far!  We love being able to keep the back door open all day, and the dog loves going in and out as he pleases.  We are sad to hear that we are missing out on the nicest Homer summer in a decade, though, and have found that it is actually cooler here than there right now.  It's going to take us quite while to become completely familiar with the town, as there are just so many local businesses, parks, and things to do.  But we are working on it...and trying to remind ourselves to take time to just relax and enjoy the sunshine sometimes, too.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

AK to CA: The Redwoods

This is long overdue, but we have been spending most of our time settling in and getting rid of boxes.

We spent our last day of the moving adventure meandering our way through the several redwood parks, both the national park and state parks.  We took the scenic bypass route off of Hwy. 101 whenever possible, and managed to spend a full day driving just 150 miles.  The trees were so large that they didn't fit in a single photo frame.  This is three:


The kids loved finding "tree caves" and posing inside of them.

Even other lifeforms are huge there.

Horsetails, as we called them in Homer.  Only these were 10 times as large

Huge, gross banana slug with a friend hitching a ride

We are already missing the two-lane roads through the forests, but at least the speed limit in Alameda is only 25mph.  Not a big change at all!

Monday, July 1, 2013

AK to CA: Day 12(the short version)

Crescent City, CA to Garberville, CA: The Redwoods

This will be short since we are at a nice hotel with a bad wifi signal. I will post a full Redwoods National and State Parks description as soon as we have Internet at our new home. 

We spent 8 hours driving just 150 miles today, stopping along the way to climb into and through trees larger in diameter than our car. I took close to 100 photos, but nothing will do the trees justice. It's just one of those places that you have to experience for yourself to fully grasp. We have been lucky in that we have ended up in many of those types of places on our journeys. Standing next to a 300-foot redwood that is 1500 years old puts things into perspective. 

We are in Garberville, CA, which is having a heat wave like much of the western states. It was in the 60s along the coast, but it's 95 here. Luckily, Alameda looks to be at least 10 degrees cooler. Only 200 miles left! Tomorrow: home! (Where there is no air conditioning. Yikes.)

AK to CA: Day 11...California, finally!!

Portland, OR to Crescent City, CA

We left the Portland area this morning, but not before a little fortification for the drive ahead.

Our GPS told us that I-5 south was the fastest way to get to our night's destination, but we really wanted to get away from the city traffic.  We decided to take the extra time to cut across Oregon to the Coast on Highway 38, and we are SO glad that we did.  The drive across the state along the river valley was very peaceful, and the coastal route on 101 was breathtaking.  By the time we got our first glimpse of the Pacific, we also got to stop and enjoy watching a large pod of humpback whales.

We arrived in Crescent City late afternoon, with enough time to stop for information at the Redwoods National Park Visitor's Center.  A very helpful parks employee gave us information on a small old-growth redwood grove not far away where we could walk with the dog and stretch our legs.  The dog is not allowed on trails within the national and state parks.  We got a small taste of what we are in for tomorrow, when we take the day to drive only about 150 miles thorough the redwood parks.  If these trees are small, we can't imagine what's in store for us tomorrow!

Little girl in the big woods
Inside a tree...oh, yeah!

Me and my girlie...we are so tiny!
One more day of adventure, then on to our final destination!!