Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Oliphant Reunion in Santa Cruz

We learned the date of the family reunion in Santa Cruz and I was thrilled to know that it overlapped with UEA break! After discussing it, Chad knew he was going to have to stay home because of his work schedule. And Colin knew missing three days of school would be too much. So Mom and I took the younger four ourselves. The matriarch of the Oliphant clan is Aunt Marjorie Oliphant Hobbs, who is my grandmother Helen Oliphant Breeding's youngest sister. Aunt Marjorie is just an angel all around. She is gentle and kind with a sense of humor. She came with her two sons and daughter from Oklahoma. Pictured below are Natalie Terry (cousin), Shelley Evans (aunt), me, Alexis Truempler Pierson (cousin), Mom, and Aunt Marjorie.
 It had been years since I'd seen Nat. Wonderful to reconnect with her and Alexis.
 Chris, Clare, and Michael Finelli knew how much the kids were looking forward to try their hand at surfing. Chris and Clare suggested the day, had a couple of wetsuits for the kids, and we went to the beach. It was just a marvelous day!
 The Finellis are wonderful people and were so good to us! They spent half of their day out there with Micah, Ella, Mira, and Matthew. We got to watch Clare do some elegant surfing.
 Matthew was in heaven playing in the water, chasing waves, boogie boarding, and laying on the surfboard.
 Micah thought everything was "lit."
 Getting instruction on how to watch for waves:
 These wetsuits made all the difference. It would have been intolerable to be in that water without them!
 Surf's up, dude.
 "If everybody had an ocean across the USA..." Micah really wanted some Beach Boys tunes.
 Hang ten and all that.
 A couple of the kids (Ella and I think Micah) really wanted to see some redwoods. Well, without driving hours to go to the proper redwood forest, we headed to Henry Cowell Redwood State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains. As we drive there, disappointment was voiced (loudly). Mom and I tried to convince them that we would indeed see some awesome redwoods. But from the road they just couldn't believe it. This picture was right after we parked and you can see the unhappiness in some faces.
 Whatevs. We're here and we're doing this anyway.
 And then...ta da! Apologies all around for not believing there were incredible redwoods.
 We followed the guide that indicated stops along the way to point out particular trees or growth patterns. It smelled wonderful in there. I would've been happy to find a good hike somewhere around here.
 The skipped along, held my hand, laughed, and explored.
 The kids marveled at how tall these are! They can grow to be 300 feet tall!
 See? All smiles now.

 I've been here before, I just don't remember exactly when. But I remember the tree John C. Fremont spent a night in.

 This tree was burnt out. But the bark of the tree protects it from complete destruction by fire and it is still standing!

We were so lucky to be able to stay at the Harbor Inn, which is owned and operated by Chris and Clare. They gave us a very nice room with plenty of space for us all. Look at those sweet brothers:
 Ella and Mira enjoying a lie in:
 Our room upstairs:
 Micah slept on the fouton. The bathroom and our food were downstairs:
Corinne, Austin, Alexis Truempler, Lizette Finelli, Mom, Gina Bass, and MJ Sparks:
 There was some playing around in the Finelli's backyard as we prepped to go on a little adventure.
 We took Hunter, Gina Bass's son, with us to Natural Bridges State Beach, along with Alexis, Corinne, and Austin. First stop was a walking tour to see the monarch butterflies. With it being October, it was perfect to see a lot of them since they migrate here at this time of year.
 I looked up in the eucalyptus trees, trying so hard to spot clusters of monarch butterflies. But I could only see them flying around. A lovely woman who volunteered as docent had a telescope set up, directed at a cluster of them.
 It was then that I was able to start identifying the clusters without a telescope. They were harder to spot at first because when they are grouped together, you only see the brownish underside of their wings. From far away, they look like dead leaves. Here is a picture of what we saw through the telescope:
 Some of us lay down to get a better view of the monarchs flitting around and on the trees.

 We then took our things to the beach. Michael Finelli met us there. And then commenced all happy beachy things.
 They went looking for tiny crabs.
 It just doesn't get much better than this.

 I love the ingenuity of these girls. They found clumps of tangled seaweed, pulled a strand free, and turned it into a jumprope!
 And why it is called Natural Bridges:
 At low tide you can walk out and check out tide pools. Spending the day with Alexis was perfect. I'm glad we could do it. She is such a nice person, and I'm lucky to call her family.
 Running up, down, all around!
 Heading out with the cooler:
 Mom brought this hat for herself. During one of our drives, we look back and Matthew is wearing it. I guess he needed protection from the sun, too. We chuckled to ourselves. By the end of our trip, that poor hat looked a little worse for wear.
One place everyone wanted to visit while on our trip was San Fransisco. We had plenty of time to do whatever sightseeing we wanted to, so we made a point to do it. After parking, we walked down Fisherman's Wharf and saw Alcatraz. The kids thought that was pretty crazy, this prison out in the middle of the water.

 And there it is:
 What a gorgeous day! It just could not have been more beautiful.
 We saw seals and enjoyed watching their sleek bodies move through the water.
 Although Lombard Street didn't mean anything to the kids, I told them it was a "must." Driving up to it was wild! There cannot be a more steep street in the world than Lombard!
 What a view! And we enjoyed the drive down.
 Looking back up. We also drove through Chinatown.
 Hearts were set on walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. There was plenty of parking, which made us happy. (October seems like a perfect month to see San Fran!) Got out and made our way over to the bridge.
 Pictures along the way:

 Group shot!

 Leaping for joy!

 The walkway was relatively busy with people walking, running, and biking. I always enjoy people-watching.
 As soon as we left San Fransisco, we drove to San Jose for dinner at Aunt Diane and Uncle Wolfgang's. This was a wonderful place to gather. I remember so many family gatherings here. Pictured here are: Michael Finelli, Lindsay Hutcheson, Lisa Truempler, Micah, Hunter Bass, and Holly Finelli:
 The Oklahoma crew with Richard Truempler and his daughter, Diane:
 Hunter and Lizette:
 The food, the food! Aunt Diane spoiled us! She had food catered from Famous Dave's (more than plenty!) and pizza for those who didn't want that. Gasp!
 Matthew getting his basketball on. He recruited me to play a little one-v-one.
 Ella and Mira entertained Sawyer Hutcheson (Lindsay's little boy).
 Siblings Gina, Holly, and Don Hutcheson:
 The whole gang in the place we always took group pictures (on the stairs):
 Micah getting some bedtime reading in back at the Inn.
 Gorgeous picture of Santa Cruz taken by Dana Wood:
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Chris, for an incredible time. Thank you for putting us up, taking us surfing, setting up all the outdoor gear (firepit, tables, chairs, barbecue, sink, etc.), and just being cheerful, sweet hosts. Great memories were made!
 Everyone's favorite storyteller, surfing companion, wrestler, and buddy, Michael Finelli:
 Hee hee

 Made a date with Rebeccah Anthon Seman to stop by and see her at her home in Concord. The last time we were together was when Micah was very little. She's as wonderful as ever. She fed us all a delicious lunch (copycat Cafe Rio salad, which everyone went gaga over). Love you, Bek!

We spent that night at Aunt Shelley's apartment in Merced so we could see the old stomping ground. When we first came off the freeway, I thought to myself, "This could be any town. I don't recognize a thing!" But as we drove closer to our old neck of the woods, things started looking more familiar: Applegate Park, R Street, Olive, etc. We stopped by the 23rd Street Pool. The sign is exactly the same as it was when we went there all those years ago when I was a kid! I don't think anyone has bothered to repaint it. And the pool and grounds looked just the same, too. Crazy how all that time can pass and things stay so much the same. It made me happy.
We drove by the house Mom, Dad, and I first lived in (in Merced) on 19th street when I was a baby. This is October, mind you, so those cobwebs serve a purpose. The house is so tiny. The neighborhood is older.
I had to visit Merced High School!
There used to be only one high school in Merced. Now there are three! We walked into the band room. Memories of being in color guard and having fun in here.
The grounds look just the same.
One of the students told me they painted the outside of the band room this year. Looks cool!
We drove to 3372 San Rafael Court to see the house we lived in for 12 years, the one I consider home-home. All along I had the intention to see if I might be able to get my foot in the door. I told Mom and the kids I was going to ask if we could just peek at the backyard. The woman who answered the door is the same person (along with her husband) who bought the house from us 23 years ago. They raised their three children in this home. At first, I could tell she was a little unsure, but as we stood on her doorstep and talked, she warmed up and welcomed us inside. The house was so changed from how I remember it! They've made it their own. It was neat to walk down the narrow hallway and show Micah, Ella, Mira, and Matthew how I used to put my hands and feet on opposing walls and climb up to the ceiling. I pointed out which bedroom was mine. We saw the entire house. It seems so very small, now. It was a good home. The house itself looks nice. The neighborhood is more run-down, and a lot of the homes haven't been kept up.
We walked around to the park strip. I was excited to show them how our backyard fence backed up to this gigantic park strip. We were so lucky to have all this space! Many softball-tossing, slip 'n' slide, running, biking, tree climbing (by my brothers), crawdad fishing, rollerblading, and walking happened back here. And I was amazed at how much it had not changed. The drinking fountain is the same. And that garbage can probably is, too! The grass in this area was not in great shape and a few trees had been taken out, but overall it was unchanged.
We then drove to Denver Way to see the home I lived in when we returned from Germany when I was 6 until the time we moved into the San Rafael house.
The trees were huge! This neighborhood was a new one when we moved in.
We had a couple of unexpected (and unwanted) adventures. On our way to California, the cargo carrier opened up. We lost our swim bag. Thankfully, we were on a stretch of freeway that wasn't crazy-busy, and I was able to play Frogger back and forth across the freeway as Mom and the kids looked on. I was able to retrieve all our swim suits and towels, and even a couple of sand toys. The bag, sunscreen, and treasured frisbee were goners, though. Before our return trip, I purchased 2 bungee cords, thinking surely they would keep the cargo carrier closed. No such luck. When we stopped for gas somewhere closer to Utah, I discovered the cargo carrier had come open yet again. We lost a sleeping bag and air mattress. I was just so relieved we didn't lose any more than that, especially clothing or toiletry bags!
We made a pit stop at this adorable shop/gas station. I had to get a picture of these cuties by the bougainvillea, which is Mom's favorite.

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