Fun With the Girls
Children California Aquarium Farm Tour Elephant Seals Beach
Louise had checked in for us so I was able to drive right to our site. We set up the motor home, full utilities with 30A electric. It was late in the day so I took the girls, ages 5 and 7 back to the playground while Louise prepared dinner. The youngest, Audrey, knows no strangers on the playground. If there are kids there she will be playing with them. It starts with, “What’s your name?” From there it goes to, “Watch this!” With that they are off and running, sort of like the board game we used to play as kids, Chutes and Ladders. Hanging upside down, climbing up the sides of the equipment, trying run up the slides, no self-respecting kid uses the equipment as it was designed to be used. Fortunately, playground designers have found nearly injury proof surfaces for the kids to fall on. The girls played until the other children had to leave and then they lost interest so we returned to the motor home for dinner.
Watsonville holds pleasant memories for me and Louise. In our first year of full timing, the summer of 1992 we spent a week there exploring the area. Watsonville is on the north coast of Monterey Bay. The coastal highway, CA 1 runs through Watsonville. The town is a working town, the industry of the area is farming. Fruits and vegetables are raised here in commercial quantities. One of the vivid memories I have of the area was buying a flat of strawberries (6 quarts) for $5 in 1992. There is plenty of harvest work which is low wage work. Many of the workers are from Mexico and the area has many Mexican restaurants. Another vivid memory is finding a little store front Mexican restaurant after an afternoon of bicycle riding. We enjoyed an excellent meal and great service. We brought the girls to this area because we wanted to share some of the interesting things in the area with them and we wanted to escape the blistering hot weather currently in the central valley of California.
Tuesday morning we set out to Ano Nueva State Park, north of San Cruz on Hwy 1. The scenic highway in this area is a feeder artery to Santa Cruz and on to San Francisco. Traffic, even at 10:00 in the morning was stop and go all the way from Watsonville to Santa Cruz. As we approached Ano Nueva the girls were asking for food. We found a small café in Davenport so we stopped to quiet the hunger pains.
After a nice lunch we were off to Ano Nueva. This state park and wildlife preserve is home to a number of elephant seals. The yearly cycle includes breeding in the winter months, pups hang around all summer while the females are out to sea feeding off the coast. The males take off to Alaskan waters then return in mid-summer for molting. They shed their fur and then return to Alaska. We hiked the two mile trail along the coast and over sand dunes to an overlook where we could see a group of 15 of the two ton males basking on the beach. Every once in a while, one would raise his head and bellow at the rest of the group. Inch by inch they would work their way toward the water as it retreated to low tide. The girls enjoyed everything about the walk and were excited to see the elephant seals. The return walk was less pleasant. Audrey was worn out and nothing was going to make her happy. We eventually made it back to the parking lot and returned to camp.
Wednesday Louise had planned a visit to a goat dairy north of Ano Nueva. We would get a tour of the facility and get to meet the goats. The trip up the coast went faster today and we arrived well before the tour started. The tour began with a walk to the garden where we sat and listened to a talk that covered the history and nature of the farm. Then we walked into the barn lot with the goats. Lily is the serious sister, she went around meeting goats and enjoyed petting them. Audrey bounced from goat to goat and then wanted to meet the llamas that were with the goats. Llamas are less friendly than the goats but Audrey was insistent so she was introduced to the friendliest of them. She then went right to the larger and less friendly llama. I was following her around and trying to steer her clear of trouble but she moves faster than me. Turn your head for a minute and she is gone. I retrieved her quickly and escorted her out to the pasture to meet more goats. We toured feeding area and the girls fed the goats. Then it was into the milking barn. Being mid-day, there was no milking underway. We then went to the dairy where the milk is processed into cheese. Our guide worked up a batch of chevre (goat) cheese while the girls and other children in the group were given a variety of flowers. They were to take the petals from the flowers and put them in a bowl. Then our guide placed the cheese in the bowl on top of the flower petals. She had Lily and Audrey hold out their hands. She turned the bowl over dumping the cheese ball into their hands as she said she would make cheese magic. When she removed the bowl there were the flower petals on top of the cheese. She then unwrapped the cheese and passed out samples on pieces of bread to everyone in the tour group. The girls will never forget this tour.
Thursday we took the girls to the Monterey Aquarium. It was a very busy day at the aquarium and keeping an eye on the girls kept Louise and I on our toes. Lily would stand and watch an exhibit for a long period of time. Audrey was off to see the next thing almost as soon as she glanced at the first. We saw amazing things, a huge orange octopus moving back and forth in its tank did keep both girls attention. There were large tanks with big sharks and small tanks with tiny jellyfish. In fact, the jellyfish exhibit was extraordinary. Equally extraordinary was the exhibit of sea horses. The variety of sea horses was amazing. Who knew there were so many different kinds of sea horses? We stayed almost to closing time before leaving.
Friday was moving day. Audrey is starting kindergarten and Friday was meet the teacher day. We had to be at school by 3:00. Since mom and dad were on vacation, Louise and I would play the part of parents today. We made the trip back to the girls home without incident and parked the motor home in the driveway next to the house. That afternoon we met Audrey’s teacher and walked through their morning routine. Then we found Lily’s classroom. She will have meet the teacher night later next week but at least she knows who her teacher will be and where her classroom is located. Later that evening we got a call from the girls’ mother and father. They had decided to return early and would be arriving about 10:00 p.m. When they walked in the door we all greeted them with cheers and hugs. Louise and I were off duty now, we could begin planning our next trip!