One recent pleasure of the boys growing up is that we can get onto the same wavelength about various nerdy pursuits. For Finn & me it’s been Kurt Vonnegut, while Hen & I have focused on all things historical—particularly cars & planes.
With the latter in mind, Henry & I headed up to Hiller Aviation Museum to hear a talk by Brian Shul, one of just 90 men ever to fly the Mach 3 SR-71 Blackbird aircraft & an accomplished photographer to boot. We quite enjoyed his presentation, as well as our walk around the museum afterwards.
Wrapping up our Christmas adventure for 2021, here’s a gallery showing some of the great gifts we exchanged with the fam amidst ingestions of mass quantities of fondue (the boys’ first, and quite a hit!), shrimp dip 🤤, and more.
One particular highlight was getting to make Lego versions of Jenna, Austin, and Morgan, then give them to the kids in person:
And to close things out, here’s a draggable interactive panorama of our pretty little town:
One of the real highlights of our trip to Big G was seeing Grandpa Nack pass a piece of family railroading heritage on to Henry. His grandfather from Ireland has emigrated to New York state & become an engineer (on the NY Central RR, we think), and during summer visits he’d call my dad “Seamus” (Irish for James). Happily, the beautiful gold watch he received upon his retirement made its way to my dad, and it’s now in the very appreciative hands of one Henry Seamus. 🥰 Here’s a little gallery showing the passing of this cherished torch.
Our man Henry is nothing if not just a little bit obsessive 🙃, and he spent many weeks ahead of our trip to Galena—where he caught the insulator-collecting bug during our March trip—plotting efforts to grab more of the little glass gems.
On our very first afternoon in town, we headed to Dubuque to meet up with Uncle Ted’s friend Tom who gave us three insulators!
The following morning, we grabbed some equipment & root beer at the hardware store, then headed out to the 1888 Winston Tunnel. The winding path got us turned around a few times, but thankfully Uncle Ted was our eye in the sky, texting us guidance right to the tunnel.
Despite a huge application of my elbow grease as I stood atop a very sketchy stump, we just couldn’t dislodge any of the insulators we found. At least the root beers hit the spot before we refueled with fried cheese curds at Culver’s.
The next day (Christmas), Hen & I took a long walk down the tracks below Grandpa Nack’s childhood home. “I feel like Tantalus,” he said, as we noted tons of insulators that were just out of reach. We came away with just a shard of glass as a consolation prize.
Afterwards we dropped by Uncle Louie & Aunt Dolores’s house, and in the course of catching up with their family, we talked insulators with Joe Nack. Having gathered insulators as a kid, he gave us some good pointers on where to go Sunday.
To our great surprise, Joe showed up at our house on Sunday morning, offering to take us out on a hunt. Thanks to his ladder & tools, we immediately scored an insulator that had previously eluded us, and shortly thereafter we hit pay dirt—finding tons of poles out past Rec Park. “I hope you brought diapers, Henry,” said Joe, “’cause you’re about to crap your pants.” 😝
In the end Joe & I teamed up to climb high & score an additional five insulators for Henry. As Margot texted in response, “Joe Nack saves Christmas!”
Check out our gallery, as well as Henry’s video recap of our three outings:
Though I can hardly believe it, nine years have passed since our last Christmastime visit to Chicago and Galena. Back then we took the dudes around the city (see gallery & post) and to the Murrays’ house before heading to Big G. This year we were all set to see the gang at Liz’s house, but sadly Covid put the kibosh on those plans. Thankfully, we were able to see Aunt Jane for a bit & fuel up on Lou Malnati’s before heading down to the Palmer House.
I have fond memories of visiting the Marshall Field’s windows & Walnut Room with its giant tree, as well as of myriad trips to Water Tower Place, so the next morning we enjoyed bundling up & taking the dudes to these old haunts.
Our pal Samantha (who escorted Henry on a little train & photo safari back in 2018; see post) lives right downtown, and it was great to drop by her place & warm up over good stories & a little Irish whiskey. Afterwards, while Margot & Finn took a pit stop at the hotel, the rest of us stopped by Millennium Park to visit the “Bean” and the start of Route 66:
Afterwards the four Nacks headed to one of my folks’ old haunts, the Italian Village restaurant that’s just across the street from the building where they both worked. We had a ball hiding out in one of the tiny dinner alcoves that probably haven’t changed in all the intervening decades.
Lastly, after a second night at the hotel, Henry & I took a whirlwind tour of the former State of Illinois Building (one of my favorite places to visit & photograph as a kid), noticing & posing with various Blues Brothers movie locations along the way.
For many, many months now, our former nanny Yvonne’s brother in law has been quietly applying his patience & skills to the task of carving some really amazing, beautiful animals for the boys—a lion for Finn & an owl for Henry. It was great catching up with Yvonne after all these years, and Seamus took a shine to our new animal buddies. Check them out in our gallery!
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!
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.
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!).
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:
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.
Henry, man… “character” doesn’t begin to describe him, as I’m sure you know. Being a man of somewhat obsessive interests, he’s lately dived head-first into the arcane but charming world of old glass insulators for telephone wires—something, oddly enough, that I used to collect while walking around Galena as a kid. He will gladly tell you the entire history of the Hemingray company while proudly showing off his collection.
Having noticed a promising-looking abandoned pole near the freeway, on Sunday he persuaded me to drive him up to Pleasanton & scramble around some abandoned tracks. Through the miracle of my 10-foot-long selfie stick, we were even able to wiggle a few loose & collect them! (This is the weirdest game of Pokemon ever. 🙃) I mean, just look at the sheer joy on our man’s face:
With Margot off in Seattle to visit Alethea for the weekend, the we four remaining dudes (Seamus included) headed up north of Sacramento for some quick camping & exploration. As you can see in our gallery, we were nestled in a neat spot along the banks of the American River.
It was fun getting my drone aloft for the first time in a while, and you can drag this panorama around to see more:
Following camping, we all headed back towards Sacramento to check out a big Lego show full of cool creations & vintage bricks for sale. With an eye towards our friend Maria’s upcoming visit, we even found a little Lego representation of her dog Tippy—seen here proudly astride her stegosaurus steed. 🦖😌
Well, thanks to some last-minute improv by Finn (fashioning a tinfoil hat to make himself into a “conspiracy theorist”) and a quick trip to the Army surplus store (to bolster Henry’s military duds), both boys got into the swing of trick-or-treating this year, bringing home thousands of calories in loot. 🙃 Here’s a quick peek at their getups. [And check out our Halloween category for fun stuff from past years.]
As the chaps are scrambling around to devise some last-minute Halloween costumes, I thought it’d be fun to whip up a little Throwback Thursday gallery showing some of their fun getups from years gone by. Enjoy!
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 severalyearsnow, 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.
“Life’s as big as you make it,” we always say, and I credit Finn with shaking off his hermit-y ways & pushing us to get out and about this past weekend. Off we went to camp in the middle of nowhere (“Well, it’s not the middle of nowhere,” observed Hen, “but you can see it from here”) on Saturday night.
The next day we horked down the world’s most satisfying breakfast at local diner Huckleberry’s, then drove to Castle Air Museum—a former Air Force base that’s now home to an immense B-36 bomber & dozens of other historic aircraft.
Seamus chilled in the shade of an immense deactivated H-bomb while everyone else endured my nonstop stream of aviation ephemera. 😛 (“Every rivet has a story, all of which I will tell you right now…”)
Check out a little (er, actually rather immense) gallery from the day—mostly courtesy of photog Henry.
We were all saddened by the passing of my Uncle Tedy, the colorful Chicago policeman/pianist/patriarch/raconteur about whom the boys have heard so much over the years. If only he & Henry could’ve spent a morning together, talking over stories from a long and eventful life; they’d have gotten along famously.
Happily, Hen & I were able to visit Chicago to attend services for Uncle Tedy on Friday & Saturday, and of course to visit our big, extended fam. As I noted beforehand, “I’m drawing Henry an org chart for our Irish Catholic family; might be a long night”—and it was! That’s a great problem to have, and it was a treat to see so many folks over the course of the weekend.
Henry in particular enjoyed old photos, and given that he’s long wanted a mustache of his own, he remarked, “Wow, I would love to have Uncle Tedy’s! He looks like Burt Reynolds. He’s the Bandit minus the cowboy hat!”
Here’s Tedy with his old partner, the late actor Dennis Farina:
Hen certainly appreciated the Nadile family’s generosity in taking everyone out to eat at Morton’s after the funeral. Sad as the occasion was, I know Uncle Tedy would’ve been delighted to bring together so much family.
On Sunday we got to have lunch with Chris & Karren Hertzig (visiting from Rhode Island) as well as Aunt Jane, Sarah, and Young John. Afterwards we drove to Lighthouse Beach on Lake Michigan, where we met up with Liz & Patrick, then dropped by the nearby Baha’i Temple and scored some great Chicago hot dogs (a priority of Hen’s).
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!
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?”