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A Pirate’s Life for G! 🏴‍☠️

I’m thrilled to say that our theatrical young Henry recently made his triumphant stage debut, revolutionizing the character of Yellowbeard in Hoover Elementary’s rousing rendition of “Pirates! The Musical.” 😛 His drama class took their bow right before the four of us saw Hamilton on stage in downtown San Jose, making for quite a night.

Check out a few photos I snapped from the crowd, along with a video of the production recorded by his teacher. As you may hear, Hen is one of the few (if not the only) kids to go the extra mile in affecting a piratical accent. Arrr son is alright. 😌

As it happens, Finn is preparing for tomorrow’s debut of his class production (for which he’s handling props), and hopefully these will be just the first of many exciting shows to come!

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Stalking “The Wild Maria”

Thanks to a chatty Ace Hardware employee who talked me up after seeing my ND jacket, we learned about Russian Gulch and its striking waterfall just outside of Mendocino. As we began our trip south, we did a quick detour to take in the beautiful redwoods.

Here’s a video of the waterfall up close:

Check out our photo gallery for the full set of visuals.

And for the piece de resistance, our budding naturalist Hen, aka Dr. Alias Fakename (“Elias Fah-ke-nah-may”) filmed “The Wild Maria” traipsing around her natural habitat, Sasquatch-style. Check out his report (sound on!). 😝

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Mendocino: From Sea Glass to Sunrise

Following our railbike outing, Hen & I met back up with the crew for Giant Burgers at Jenny’s (“next to Denny’s,” the locals helpfully noted—as apparently all directions are relative to Denny’s).

Margot & Finn were looking for a little downtime, so they peaced out to the campsite with Seamus. Maria had dropped by the local Sea Glass Museum, so armed with new knowledge & a little guide book, she took Hen & me out to Sea Glass Beach to hunt for treasure:

If you squint, you can just see the two of them hunting amongst the crags in this interactive drone panorama:

I swear, I almost had to crowbar the two of them off the beach as the sun set. 😌 It was worth it, though, as they collected quite the haul:

Some locals had recommend a funky local seafood joint called The Sea Pal Cove, where fishing boats pull right up to the pier to drop off their hauls. While Hen & Maria got us a table, I drove back to reclaim the rest of the crew & bring them to the fishy scene.

After a good night’s sleep, we again hit the beach. Talk about live & learn: Seamus grinding his face into a log full of barnacles left him smelling deeply gross for our four-hour ride home. 🙄

And Maria learned just how quickly the sea can turn on you & soak your feet 😅, necessitating some fireside steaming:

Check out our gallery for the full set of pics & vids.

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Mendocino: Skunk Train Rail Bikes! 🦨🚂

Back at the tail end of 2014, we had a ball riding the famous Skunk Train out of Fort Bragg (see photos and video):

For Christmas break last year we were all set to visit again, even booking tickets—but then <sad trombone> the ‘rona had other plans.

Happily we were able to reschedule for this year, and Hen and I took full advantage by renting a pedal-powered railbike!

Check out the high-speed silliness in this video:

We even got the Lego family (complete with Lego Maria & her dog Tippy) in on the action. See more in the full gallery.

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Mendocino a-Go-Go!

After having a terrific Thanksgiving at home with our visiting pal Maria, we packed up the Westy—complete with the spacious new “techno-yurt” Margot bought for my birthday & which finally arrived at the last possible minute.

First we zipped across the Golden Gate Bridge under picture-perfect skies:

Afterwards we made our way north to Hopland & Ukiah, where we visited an antique store & then an army surplus store, both recommended by our friend Marcos who grew up in the area. From glass insulators to fake teeth to all manner of MAGA madness, the selection & clientele were eclectic & memorable, to say the least.

From there we made the long and very winding path out to the coast, arriving in Fort Bragg to set up camp just outside of town, then score some pizza and supplies. The new tent went up like a champ & kept Finn and Maria cozy all night, with an assist from space heater Seamus.

The campsite was located just a short walk from the beach—which proved delightful to visit the next morning.

Check out our gallery from the first day’s adventure, and stay tuned for lots more from the weekend.

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Week 4: Rafting Adventures

Believe it or not, there’s still a handful of stories, galleries, and videos from our summer adventure that we have yet to share here—so let’s use Throwback Thursday as an excuse to start finishing the tale.

As we’ve done for several years now, we headed out on the Arkansas River for a day of whitewater rafting.

This year we went all-in for an extended trip, meaning we could stop midway through, grab lunch, and enjoy sights like a giant banana-man leaping into the rapids. (Not to be outdone, Finn leapt, too!)

Here’s hoping that one day soon I’ll finish paring down the hours of footage captured via the dorky-looking cameras I insisted on affixing to Henry’s & my helmets. In the meantime, check out a gallery from our wet hot American summer.

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Week 4: Llamarama!

For many, many years we’ve heard about Leadville’s burro races (part of their annual Boom Days celebration), but the timing has never worked out for us to attend. Fortunately this year our trip overlapped with a similar quadruped-fest in nearby South Park. Not only does it feature burros, it has a whole day called Llamarama!

We joke that Seamy identifies as a llama, and he was more than a little intrigued by these big, curly guys.

It turns out that llamas & alpacas are both members of the camelid family, so it was cool to bookend our trip with camels. Check out Shepherd Finn escorting a llama through the grueling obstacle course. 🙃

As you can see in our gallery, we all had fun meeting the creatures, as well as exploring the town—especially its Wild West-era buildings and trains. Here’s hoping we can meet these guys again someday!

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Week 4: Gulch Groovin’

Literally every time we’ve visited Leadville, we’ve driven past a gorgeous mountain lake surrounded by mountains, and probably half of those times we’ve asked ourselves, “Hey, why don’t we ever stop off here for a hike?”

This year we finally did it, taking Seamy for a spin around the Clinton Gulch Dam Reservoir:

As you can see it was a glorious evening, and we’ve gathered some of the best moments into this gallery.

And just for fun, here’s a little time-lapse video of the hike.

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Week 3: Empty nest, kinda the best!

Following Henry’s birthday, the lads headed off to Denver with Auntie Laura & Grandpa for a few days of fun with their cousins (go-karts & kayaks & trampolines, oh my!). This left Margot, Seamus, and me to hold down the fort—oddly & rather refreshingly alone! We took advantage of the time to bike around Leadville’s Mineral Belt Trail…

…take some gratuitous drone selfies…

…and hike with Seamus around Turquoise Lake. Here’s a little gallery from that outing.

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Birthday: Two + 10 for Hen!

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, the boys & I rang in Henry’s 12th birthday with some high-flying zipline adventures:

After we came home tired & happy, it was time to celebrate officially. Here’s a handful of shots, plus the total highlight of the day—Henry getting his great-great grandfather Liggett’s railroad watch! Check it out:

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Week 2: Copper? Tops

Following the Fourth, it was time for the four cousins to go off for some adventures together. We all journeyed down to Copper Mountain, then turned the lads loose:

We have just a small gallery from the day, given that the guys were off on their own (running through an obstacle course, duking it out on water-spraying bumper boats, cruising skyward in a gondola, and more), but here’s a video showing the super fun alpine coaster we all rode:

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Week 2: Sunset Railroad & Bridge Buddies

“Life is as big as you make it,” we always tell the boys, and Henry—in his idiosyncratic, insistent way—is often a great catalyst for getting off one’s duff and into the world.

Last year he wrangled me into poking around some abandoned train tracks, picking up “treasure” just as I did around Galena as a kid. This year he got me & Seamy to join him down there on what proved to be a spectacular evening. Check out a gallery of pics the two of us took. (Seamus contributed more as a model than as a photog. 😌)

A couple of days later, Hen persuaded me to drive down towards Buena Vista in hopes of exploring some old Rio Grande RR bridges. Amidst some trial and error involving little back roads, we were able to scramble down to the water, Legos in hand:

Here’s one trippy little video we concocted on & around the bridges…

…and another we made while zipping through the old train tunnels outside of Buena Vista:

And of course here’s a gallery from the day.

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Day 9: Leadville & the Fourth!

And just like that—a mere 168 hours after leaving home—we arrived in Leadville!

Things were just as we left them, and it was great to spread out and connect with the fam. Chilling on the porch never disappoints:

Over the weekend the boys headed down to Turquoise Lake for some paddleboarding with the cousins and Uncle James, and on Sunday the Fourth of July parade was just as cute and charming as ever. James cooked up some amazing BBQ, and we enjoyed meeting his sister and her husband.

Check out our gallery from our first days back in Pb.

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Day 8: A’Butte & Beyond

After a solid week on the road, our destination was at last just around the bend (where “bend” equals giant mountain range—but still!). Take ‘er away, narrator Hen:

We woke up, packed up, and hit the road. When we got back to Crested Butte, we got some breakfast and walked around. Finn kept stealing my hat, and he almost threw it in a river!

Next, we went hiking around Peanut Lake, where there were the most beautiful wildflowers. When we were going back to the car we ran into the Wiggins again, who told us to meet them at a bridge and a river in an hour.

While we waited, we ate some killer burgers and picked one up for Hazel. While there we saw a guy blasting country music on a pink Vespa scooter with a unicorn head stuck on the front. (A human man was actually driving this!!) We then drove to the bridge with a burger for Hazel.

We had fun skipping rocks and chatting about various topics. Next, we left CB and started up Cottonwood Pass. It was really beautiful. The end of the pass leads straight through Buena Vista and on to LEADVILLE!!

Check out our gallery from the day. 🚐

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Day 3: Hoover Dam & Tangled Tails

After we’d chilled out (literally) following our Meow Wolf & antique explorations, we packed up the van & headed out to Hoover Dam & beyond. Henry write,

After a while staying at the motel, we embarked to the Hoover Dam—”The Zeus”—which had a super low water level. Dam, that was a fun time! 😛

Here’s a quick clip of our journey across the top:

Henry writes,

Next, we went to the Nevada Southern RR for rail bikes, and on the way we stopped at A&W, where we got a family meal pack that included a gallon of root beer in its own special flagon/bladder!

We of course enjoyed touring the old trains, and all five of us hopped onto a rail bike for a sunset ride. Check out the pics.

Hen adds,

When we were riding, Seamy’s poor tail got stuck in the axle, and we had to back up and unwind it. The rest of the ride [minus Dad & Seamy, who walked back up to the station] was really beautiful, though a little ruined by the incident.

We got picked up by the Union Pacific GP-30-844 and some passenger cars + caboose. Seamy & Dad rode down in the caboose, and we all rode back in the caboose. I got to sit in the cupola.

Happily, Seamy’s proud plume wasn’t badly injured, and it was back to flying at full mast within a few days. ❤️

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Day 3: Meowing Wolves & Pawn Stars

Our time in Vegas was all about beating the heat—especially for our fur-coated amigo. Even at 8am, our jaunt to the dog park was insufferably hot, though it did produce a memorable interaction with a homeless guy offering some, uh, unique grooming services (“For 20 bucks I’ll squeegee yer dawg!”).

While Mom & Finn took in the amazing Meow Wolf exhibition (more on that below), Henry and I took El Poocho on a little antiques exploration of the arts district. Hen in particular was thrilled to drop in on the shop featured in the Pawn Stars TV show. He says “I saw some Confederate paper bills & even some Picassos!”

We were relieved to find a dog-friendly & air conditioned shop where Hen chatted up the proprietor & impressed him with his extensive knowledge of arcane railroad facts. 🙃 He writes,

I budgeted myself $20, and I found the coolest old mug from the Santa Fe Railroad with their mascot, Chico. I also found an old anti-drugs pin for Finn, with a lion he named Darnell. 🦁

Check out a handful of shots of our visits.

Now, about Meow Wolf: it’s the product of an artists’ collective that’s turned into a sprawling, madcap interactive space. The entrance seems to be a too-perfect convenience store (“Omega Mart”) stocked with really bizarre products. From there you’re beckoned (by crawling through tents, lockers, and other hidden portals) into a psychedelic world-behind-the-world, complete with weird interactive instruments, climbing walls, slides, aliens, and more.

Margot and Finn checked it out first, spending a good three hours (!) exploring, after which Hen & I passed Seamus off to them and explored it ourselves. Take a peek at what we saw.

And here’s a time lapse of our weird trip:

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Day 2: Viva El Seamus

Following our Red Rocks jaunt, we plunged right into the triple-digit temperatures of Las Vegas. The city isn’t one we’d normally choose to visit, as characterized by Henry continuously flipping the bird to the big, gross edifice owned by The Former Guy. To our surprise, though, in the last couple of years the town has grown a rather cool arts district, and it was fun to explore it with the boys & Seamus, as you can see in this little gallery.

And here’s a quick little timelapse of our sunset walk:

Later we attempted to take the lads to see old Fremont Street, but between the still-triple-digit nighttime temperatures & total lack of parking, we opted to cruise the Strip in air-conditioned relative comfort. I had fun making this trippy little rendition of the journey:

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Day 2: Barstow to Red Rocks

Adhering to the timeless wisdom of ZZ Top, we began our second day by scoring some cheap sunglasses—then headed out to Barstow, the huge rail hub we first discovered in 2019 and then visited last summer and again in March.

After hitting Centennial Park (where Hen scrambled over a vintage Marine tank) and visiting the various trains and Harvey House, we headed out to piping-hot Las Vegas. Before we got there, though, we took a cool detour through Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, where Henry picked up a little stuffed buddy, “Churro the Burro.”

Check out our gallery from the day, as well as a cool video timelapse below:

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Birthday Zipline!

You only turn twelve once, so the dudes & I said YOLO and rang in Hen’s milestone by flying over Leadville at the Top of the Rockies zipline tour. As you can see in our gallery and in the vids below, we had a blast zooming over the railroad tracks and on down the mountain. Check it out!

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Start Your Giant Engines!

Having been a fireman & machinist for Southern Pacific, our neighbor Severn is incredibly well connected to folks dedicated to railroad preservation, and his skills remain in high demand.

On Saturday we were delighted to accept his invitation to drive up to Napa, where a team of volunteers devote many hours per week to restoring old engines & cars. It was an especially interesting day as the group was firing up their 100-year-old steam engine for the first time in many years.

Severn & the whole team were incredibly generous with their time and knowledge, taking us through their numerous old cars. Highlights include a mail car that had been trapped in an avalanche in the 50’s (causing the passengers to have to rip up & burn its flooring to stay warm) and a beautifully restored Art Deco lounge car featuring an amazing round bar.

The real highlight, though, was Henry getting to fire up a pair of the old diesel locomotives on site! Here’s video of the whole process:

Check out our rather epic gallery for many more shots.

Finally, after some restorative beer & potato chips (the former for me, the latter for Hen 🙃), we cruised back over the foggy Golden Gate Bridge, then south to San Jose: