Continuing our efforts to bring the party to the people, we keep driving the blinged-out Westy around San Jose & points beyond. Last night was no exception as we headed over to Los Gatos to take in their Fantasy of Lights—one of our favorite Christmas traditions. Like last week & last year, my co-pilot Hen hung himself out the window to get the best look, but this time he was content to put down his camera & just enjoy the moments.
2020 is, of course, all about adaptation & flexibility, so San Jose has converted its traditional Christmas in the Park into a driving tour for this year. The five of us (Seamus included!) piled into the car on Friday evening, and after a long wait in line we were rewarded with a gorgeous & festive spectacle. Braving the (relative) cold, Henry hung out the window & captured a nice gallery of images while I made this fun little time-lapse video. Check it out!
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. 😌🦈
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:
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:
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!
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.
One of Henry’s final assignments for the year was his 5th Grade State Report – which included research, a written report, and a very small “parade float” showcasing the information he learned about the state. Of course, our man chose his favorite state, Utah, meeting point of the Transcontinental Railroad. And, because he is in the bilingual program, all of his material was written and delivered in Spanish.
You’ll see that he included a railroad car and tracks on top of his float, commemorating the link up of the Transcontinental Railroad, as well things like the state flag, seal, and information about wildlife and interesting Utah natives (including Butch Cassidy!).
Here’s the video we recorded and turned in along with the written report.
As we crossed the Golden Gate en route to Petaluma last weekend, my copilot Finn was game to stick my 360º camera out the window of the Westy. I inadvertently set the cam to time-lapse mode, but as luck would have it the results loop perfectly. Check it out!
Much like his big bro did a year earlier, Henry has been dutifully chugging along towards getting his 5th Grade Seal Of Biliteracy. Sadly, with all the quarantine-induced chaos this year, it seemed that that the program would be cancelled. Not to worry, though: Mom-O stepped right up and made Hen a great certificate to enjoy—and later the school reversed itself & said that the’d be giving out the awards after all!
Check out our hijo bilingue showing off his skills!
Talk about being in the right places at the right times: Henry’s recently reaped a double windfall of great train gear needing a good home. First our fellow train club member Les (who’s moving to Wisconsin) provided Hen with a great set of buildings that he added to his existing layout:
And then, when we were attending a club meeting, a gentleman named Mack called in from Gilroy saying that his family was moving & they needed to find a new home for their giant (8’ x 4’!) old train table. After Hen & I drove down to take a look, we rented a U-Haul and spent an entire evening getting it home. Mack & his family could not have been more gracious, and we’re thrilled to give the layout a place of honor in our garage. Check out our photo album plus this quick tour from Hen:
On Saturday Hen & I checked out the Great Train Show in San Jose—something of an annual tradition for us. He’d been saving his money for months & months, and he was delighted to make some great buys of vintage cars & buildings. Here’s a taste he put together for his YouTube channel:
For a fun throwback, check out the tour Hen presented following the show three years ago:
It’s Willow Glen Elementary Science Fair time again, so you know what that means…Time to drop some science in the backyard! Henry and his friend Esteban teamed up to do some experimentation with Mentos and Diet Coke, to see if increasing the number of Mentos dropped into the Coke would make the soda geyser higher.
Here’s a little online album documenting their experimentation. We all had a ton of fun! Spoiler alert, the geysers get pretty high! We had an interesting result when we got up to 10 Mentos – the first Mento started fizzing and blew the remaining 9 Mentos completely out of the bottle!
Awaiting Christmas Day loot is a delightful burden, but sometimes one just has to jump the gun (or is it tracks?) a bit. Mom-O found a great little HO-scale engine & cars for Henry, and we surprised him with the gift a bit early so that it could liven up our tree for the next few weeks. Check out this quick tour Hen made to celebrate its inaugural run:
G-Man & I recently enjoyed a double bonanza of vintage vehicles. While Mom-O, Finn, & Seamus were off exploring on-street chalk art in San Jose, Hen & I headed first to Los Altos to walk among 100+ Corvettes. After getting our fill, we cruised over to San Jose’s History Park to see a huge number of even older cars, ride the trolly, and even operate an old railroad hand car! Hen did his best to channel Uncle Ted’s bus-wrangling skills.
Having heard about it from a lady passing by with her poodles, we headed down to Carmel last weekend to check out the crazy Poodle Day parade—and to let Mr. Seamus (“See-muhs,” according to the MC 🙄😌) strut his stuff on the cat (er, dog) walk. The event drew multi-colored pups & humans from all over the country, and we were treated to a truly rich cast of characters. Check out our photo gallery plus this view of our man in motion:
As it was in ’91, so it was in ’19: Having been treated to an incredibly memorable biplane ride in Minnesota for my 16th birthday, I thought it’d be great to share the experience with Margot & the lads to celebrate my 44th. We were treated to an absolutely perfect day, and after some trepidation (saying his final goodbyes, thanking us for having had a nice life 🙄😌), even Finn joined us in flight. Our pilot Jeff (a retired Air Force tanker flyer) couldn’t have been nicer, putting everyone at ease as he took us aloft in the 80-year-old Stearman.
Bonus for history-loving Hen: the old WWII-era Willys Jeep remains in loyal service, and G-Man got to serve as co-pilot while it pushed the plane back to its hangar, then help tuck it in for the night.