We are taking care of our two granddaughters, age 5 and 3. Our first day was a trip to a local zoo and amusement park in Lodi, California. Day two we planned to stay at home. It turned out to be a very good plan as the second day it rained all day. We had planned on being outdoors for part of the day but we were all inside the motor home for the day.
A day indoors with the girls is eased by Louise's experience as an elementary school teacher. We keep a supply of crayons, stickers, coloring books, scissors and drawing paper in the motor home at all times. On a rainy day those are available on the table-side counter all day long. Anytime the girls want to draw or color, they can sit down and go to work. We also have a variety of favorite animated movies available. The final piece of the hat trick is the Wii game. The girls also bring a few toys from home. Finally, every young child needs a nap after lunch.
Louise was catching up with the laundry all day long. The girls enjoyed watching the Splendide washer/dryer tumble the clothes as it washed and dried. They had never seen a washing machine with a window so this was a novelty. That evening they wanted to watch the washer TV so the girls set up a step stool and a seat cushion in front of the washer. Louise picked up on that and got out my construction flashlight, placed it on the bathroom counter and aimed it at the washer door. The girls thought this was real fun. We had to referee who had the best seat a couple of times. This now ranks right up there on my Art Linkletter list of things our grandchildren like about our motor home.
Our final day with the girls we planned a picnic lunch at Columbia State Park. We woke up in the morning to the sound of rain on the roof. I checked the Weather Bug and there was some hope. As the morning continued, so did the rain. About 11:30 we decided to go ahead with our plans. Columbia State Park is an 1849 era gold rush town. Many of the original buildings remain and have been preserved. Some of the buildings are dedicated to their original purpose, a bank, the assay house, a pharmacy, a fire house, a bowling alley, a livery and blacksmith shop. Other buildings house shops, restaurants and stores. They have a gold panning experience for people to try and some lightly excavated mining areas the kids can climb around on bedrock left between mined areas.
The drive from San Andreas where we are staying to Columbia State Park is about 30 miles and there are two ways to get there. We decide to make it a round trip, taking a different route going to and from the park. The route on Parrots Ferry Road has spectacular scenery. We cross an arm of New Melones Lake on the Stanislas River and then drive along it for some distance. We'll cross the reservoir in another place on the return trip. When we arrive at the state park it is still raining lightly. The picnic tables are in a low draw between parking lots and water is standing around the base of the tables. We picnic in the car. Louise makes restroom runs with one of the girls before lunch, the other after lunch. As we finish lunch the rain stopped. We venture forth to explore the town. The first building we pass has an ice cream parlor. The girls have been here before and we explain that we will get ice cream on our way back to the car.
Our next stop is the gold panning shop. They have rocks and minerals on sale but the gold panning is closed on a cool rainy week day. We walk through the panning area looking at the water troughs that would house the running water for panning. At the far end is a rock maze, granite bedrock that remains after the quartz veins were mined from it. The girls enjoy exploring various passages and then give climbing a try. There is mud everywhere but that doesn't stop the girls. As the day goes on they find many a puddle to walk through. If you are young, there is nothing better than a wet muddy day out playing.
We visit most of the shops and stores. As we exit each building the youngest asks if we are going to the ice cream parlor. One of our first stops was the candy shop. Everyone picked out candy they wanted. We spent a while at the bowling alley. There is a nine pin set up complete with pins and balls. I was the pin spotter, Louise helped the girls get the balls off the return rack so no fingers were smashed. The girls took turns knocking down pins. We spent a few minutes at the blacksmith shop picking out a dinner triangle for our new house. We found some period toys at a general store. A penny whistle and a ball and cup for the girls to play with. The youngest is fascinated by a guitar on display. The rule is look but don't touch but a three year old can't remember that for long. I go to remind her and see the price on the guitar, $3000. I picked her up explaining I didn't have enough money to buy that guitar! We took a quick tour of the visitors center and museum. By the time we got back to the ice cream parlor they were closed! Disaster. We knew of another ice cream stop on the way back to the girls home so we said we would stop and get ice cream there. They took it well, no complaining.
Our trip home was delayed for about a half hour as an accident was cleared from the road. We were several curves back so couldn't see the action. On our way through Angels Camp (of Mark Twain Jumping Frog fame) I spotted a lighted ice cream cone in a store window. I pulled into a parking spot, hopped out and hustled the girls to the shop before they closed. It turns out they serve food as well and they were open when we left. The youngest ordered a bowl of spotted frog ice cream, the oldest wanted double chocolate. I ordered a bowl of gold nugget ice cream and Louise had a cup of hot coffee. The spotted frog ice cream was mint with cookie crumbles. My gold nugget ice cream was butter pecan. This was the perfect end to a fun day. We stopped on the way back to pick up a couple pizzas at the Pizza Factory in Valley Springs then returned the girls to their mother. We regaled their mother with their adventures over pizza. The girls were mastering their new toys and telling tales of their own. Louise and I left, ready to put our feet up for a while.