Thanks to the friendly & talkative artists at the campground where we stayed following Thanksgiving, we learned about Railtown 1897 in Jamestown, CA. It’s home of various historic steam engines that have been featured in Back To The Future, Petticoat Junction, and numerous other productions, as well as one of the country’s last working roundhouses.
Needless to say this was 100% up Henry’s alley, and even Finn was a good sport about visiting—as was Seamus, of course. The friendly staff were more than happy to take us on a short cruise via their old “speeder” (of the sort we explored in Leadville when the boys were just 2 & 3; see previous).
“The days are long but the years are short,” and that applies to four-legged kids just as much as the two-legged kind. We can’t believe this lovable man has been on this planet for two years, and in our home for nearly that long. We couldn’t ask for a better quarantine buddy.
To celebrate we got him a smart-looking kerchief & party hat, plus a new chew toy he immediately put into play. Check out a little gallery of the good times.
Finn’s a huge fan of late-year holidays, so while all of us were bummed that trick-or-treating had to be called off due to the pandemic, he was especially sad. Happily, though, we found ways to rally and keep things “festive,” as he likes to say: Mom-O & the guys carved pumpkins, and then all five of us (including Seamus!) donned costumes before heading to a socially distant party at our friends Matthias & Samantha’s little farm.
From fires to droughts to quakes, the California environment can be a handful—but boy is it beautiful. On a couple of recent weekends we’ve been able to get away to the beach—first in Santa Cruz, and then in Half Moon Bay.
In SC Hen & I trekked around the old railroad tracks and bridge, and up north Hen buried Finn in sand while Seamy met some “big giant dogs” (horses). One of my old Lego knights made an appearance on the dunes so that Hen could get artsy serving his Instagram feed. 😌 Later we swung by one of Half Moon Bay’s famous pumpkin patches for some gourds n’ tacos while Seamus amused himself making friends with a piglet at the petting zoo.
Henry’s been upgrading his special effects skills lately, as you can see in this clip featuring his Gold City Junction set (a prize from putting in a solid summer’s worth of reading & exercise). Turn on your speakers & keep an eye out for cotton-ball explosions. 😌
Our neighborhood auteurs Henry & Nathan have been back at it, creating some delightful Lego hijinks. Check out how they’ve used my childhood red boat to show how oil tankers & shark-infested waters just don’t mix. 😌🦈
“Life is as big as you make it,” and expanding the bounds often doesn’t require traveling far. With a long weekend at our disposal, we headed down to nearby Morgan Hill to stay in a 1964 “Airstream Among The Vines.” Antique-loving Hen was of course in vintage heaven, and the boys joined me for an impromptu round of horseshoes (probably the first I’d played in 30-some years!). The boys took turns in the hammock, and Finn even slept out in it overnight.
With temperatures due to hit 108º, the idea of baking in a large tin can all day (especially with Seamus) sounded pretty bad, so we cruised down to seaside Monterey for Saturday afternoon. There Mom-O & Hen got up close with otters & seals (!) via a kayak rental while Finn & I toured around with Seamus (master maker of friends & general Doodle Goodwill Ambassador).
I always used to joke that half the reason I wanted to have kids was so that I could go to the Lego store without feeling like quite such an old weirdo. 😌 Happily, the boys provided many years of Legonic enjoyment.
During the pandemic Hen has really applied himself to the task of “restoring your childhood,” as he puts it. In addition to reconstructing some of my old train & boat sets, he’s lately turned to one of my all-time favorite sets, the King’s Castle from circa 1984. I have such strong, fond memories of asking for it at Christmas, thinking (based on box size as the pile of presents was dwindling) that I hadn’t gotten it, and then GOING OUT OF MY MIND upon realizing that it was to be mine after all.
Check out this set of photos that Henry captured on his own, especially to show off to our cousin Tony (for whom he also narrated a private tour).
In recent days, Hen & our neighbor Nathan have also discovered a shared love of Legos & making stop-motion films. Check out how they put the new-old castle & knights to use this weekend:
Whereas our previous trip through the old Route 66 waypoint of Barstow had seen Henry & me chilling—literally—in the high-desert January cold, this time was just the opposite: we delayed our evening foray to the train yard in the face of triple-digit heat that persisted past sundown, and we opted instead of drop by first thing Sunday morning.
Hen of course regaled me with insane amounts of railroading history as we scrambled around old engines and watched innumerable freight trains chug past us. This kid is such a piece of work—and we love him for it. 😌
If you want to behold the wonders of the cosmos, it’s hard to beat sitting at 10,200 ft., far from the light & atmospheric pollution of any big city. Leadville—and specifically nearby areas like the beautiful Turquoise Lake—provide just such an environment.
In past years Margot & I have stopped by ourselves to stare up in awe, and this year we had the chance to bring along the lads & the Wiggin crew. With a phalanx of lawn chairs in tow, we set up shop alongside the dam and took in the view, using phones to help locate planets and constellations.
Figuring we’d make it three-for-three on aquatic fun, the guys and I (minus Mom & Seamus) headed to Buena Vista with the Wiggii to take on our old favorite rafting spot, Brown’s Canyon (see semi-infamous 2016 outing 😛). While the moms biked on their own & the dogs held down their respective forts, the rest of us plowed right down the rapids, to everyone’s delight—and we even had a guide named Margo! (We’ll forgive the lack of “t.”)
Check out our gallery (featuring clips of Finn & Cyrus plunging off the raft into the not-so-icy waves) plus the video below:
Arrrgh, the Dread Pirate Seamus stands astride the saltless sea!
On Sunday we headed to Twin Lakes to join the Wiggins for a tour of the water & historic Interlaken retreat. Unlike last time, we saw no naked old German dudes sunning themselves—probably for the best, though less funny this way. Seamus did great on his first boat ride, as did First Mate Xochi. Check out some pics in our gallery.
The next day the Nack & Lingle families headed down to Frisco with Grandpa Liggett for some leisurely pontooning, with the Sea-Moose ably assisted this time by the Briny Sadie. Here’s the crew braving the alpine seas.
If you think that no summer trip to Leadville would be complete without a charming small-town Fourth of July parade (see installments from 2011, 2012, and 2018)… well, sadly you’d be correct. Social distancing this year meant no downtown fire trucks, burros, and hailstorms of hard candy—but that didn’t mean we couldn’t have fun.
With fireworks also being cancelled, we trundled down the mountain to nearby Buena Vista, where we met up with the Wiggii and set up shop in the Westy alongside a neighboring pop-top VDub. Its owner was a nice lady whose career as a Southwest pilot was on hold, so she & her son had come up to enjoy BV. The dudes whipped glow sticks through the air with Charlie while the grownups knocked back a few beverages.
As noted in a previous post, our second day on the road provided Henry with one of his best “railfanning” experiences ever as we encountered an enormous train chugging its way up and over the Tehachapi Loop. Here’s the video he shot that day, showing the train as first we trailed it, then watched it from a scenic overlook, trailed it again from the highway, and finally saw it up close coming through the town of Tehachapi. Enjoy!
After wrapping up at Mesa Verde on Monday afternoon, we made our way to the funky hideaway Kelly Place. It’s an incredibly archaeologically rich B&B/campsite tucked away in the red rock canyons near Cortez, CO, and the boys shared our fascination as we hiked around the dry arroyo & restored kivas (underground storage/community structures created by the native inhabitants).
You can check out a few images plus this 360º panorama I captured via early-morning drone flight (drag down to spot the tiny red Westy 😌):
After a nice hot breakfast, we headed north towards the spectacular Arches National Park, home to soaring spires & seemingly impossibly balanced rocks and flying arches. Much like clouds, the miles of rock formations offer a million interpretive possibilities, and we had a ball calling out the things we saw—from “Seamus Rock” to Santa’s “Chimnaysium” where we think he practices column-descending in the off season.
Sadly Hen’s legs were pretty thrashed from run-ins with stinging plants earlier in the day, so his explorations with Mom-O were cut somewhat short. They did make it out towards Delicate Arch, and meanwhile Finn & I got to scramble all around the Window Arches.
Check out some rather amazing (if I may say so!) photos we captured, as well as this crazy little video:
After taking in our fill of the sights, we set out to find medicine, cold compresses, and ice cream (hey, why not?) to mend Hen’s throbbing legs, after which we headed to our campsite for the evening. Fortunately he mended quickly enough that we were able to explore the unattended freight train he was delighted to see sitting just across the way.
One of my favorite childhood memories is that of taking the Amtrak out to Santa Fe, NM, with my parents & cousin Andy Stegman, and a particular highlight was visiting the cliffside dwellings of the indigenous people who’d dwelled in the area. Heading through the Southwest this year, we knew we’d like to introduce the boys to this culture if we could. Happily, Margot knew about Mesa Verde in Colorado.
In this year of Covid & quarantine, it’s not possible to enter the buildings, but we still loved taking in the park’s beauty as we drove among various overlooks from which we could view cliffside dwellings & poke into various excavated pits.
After awaking amongst the Vegas tree chickens & introducing Seamus to our host’s turkey and peacock, we headed over—at Henry’s suggestion—to the Museum of Neon. It’s the resting (rusting?) place of all manner of ephemera from the city’s glittering history, and we were delighted to get a private tour from the extremely knowledgeable (and admirably bearded!) docent Bob. Check out some photos from our exploration.
After wrapping up at the museum, we drove (and drove!) until we finally arrived upon the shores of Lake Powell, where we alighted at the Wahweap campground and set up shop for the night. The sunset was spectacular, as you can see in our photos.
The next morning I used my drone to capture an interactive 360º panorama on which you can tap/click and drag to see more. (Hello down there, Westy!)
How can it be a decade plus one since our crazy young amigo charged into the world (photos), trailing clouds of silliness & strong opinions? 😛 What a ride it’s been.
At the moment he’s off on a surprise mission with Auntie Laura, Finn, and Charlie to ride the glass gondola in Vail, and soon he’ll be back in Leadville to enjoy some cake & presents with the rest of us. Yesterday he & I spent hours exploring some abandoned railroad tracks just outside of town, picking up treasures (? 🙃) much as I did as a kid. Here are a few photos showing that outing, plus some late-night stargazing with our friends the Wiggii.
[Update: Check out some pics of Hen unwrapping gifts (including the super cool vintage train photo Mom-O found in nearby Buena Vista, showing a 19th-century train traversing tunnels there) & enjoying cake.]
[Note: I think it’s the sign of a great, action-packed vacation that a week and a half into it, I’m only now getting around to sharing a second post! Stay tuned for many more.]
After making our way from the field of light to a neat campground full of teepees & Airstream trailers, we had a good night’s sleep & woke up next to some friendly Sikh Harley guys & their redheaded buddy.
From there Hen & I hit the Estrella Warbirds Museum, packed with vintage aircraft, vehicles and ephemera. Highlights included touring a “Gooney Bird” transport that had flown over Normandy; seeing a real battle-damaged German pickelhaube helmet; and meeting an old fighter pilot who’d shared beers with a young John McCain. Here’s our gallery from the visit.
The other guys picked us up after a quality romp in the local dog park, and we headed east towards Las Vegas. In the midst of all the desert driving, we came across Tehachapi, an old railroad town where we’d stayed en route to Death Valley a few years back. I made a split-second decision to head up into the hills to see the famous Tehachapi Loop (“One of the seven wonders of the railroading world,” Hen interjects 😌)—and boy did it pay off: We found ourselves overtaking a mile-long freight train as it ascended & crossed the famous spiral. The beaming G-Man was johnny-on-the-spot capturing video, so stay tuned for what we hope is some epic video. Meanwhile here are a few photos.
Update: Here’s Hen’s vid:
Having fueled up on some burgers & milkshakes afterwards, we struck out across the scorching desert—113º in the shade!—and finally made it to Las Vegas. The boys were suitably horrified/fascinated by the, um, risqué signage, and highly disrespectful to Trump Tower.
At last we made our way to our lodgings, a funky urban farm/dog rescue full of dogs, goats, peacocks, turkeys, human children, and chickens in the trees! (“You might want to move your car,” our friendly hostess advised.) Here are a few photos showing Seamus making friends, as he always does.