Journal

More Adventuring up the Coast with our Grandchildren

by | Feb 13, 2015 | Editorial

For our 2010 adventures with our grandchildren we headed north to Carmel and Monterey. We had by this time commandeered our daughter’s eight-seat SUV. We were six people again and quite comfortable.
We drove north, making only on stop – at a spacious Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Pismo Beach. Just about every Coffee Bean up and down the California coast is kosher, so this made a great lunch stop. They have big couches and even bigger smiles for children.

With the stop it took us six hours to get to Carmel. We pulled up in front of our rustic cottage in the woods and piled out of the SUV. That is when six-year-old Z uttered the best line of the entire trip. I should explain his other grandparents live back East and he’s been going to visit them since he was a baby. So he got out, looked around at the rather ramshackle cluster of lodgings, and said, “I don’t get it. If we’ve been travelling for six hours, why aren’t we in New Jersey?”

Great question, right?

It was too cold for the beach, but the scenery everywhere was beautiful. We took long walks and meandered through the shops, allowing the kids to get a good start on their souvenir hunting.

We went to the Winchester Mansion, built by the heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune. The story goes that she thought the house was haunted. So she built endless corridors, doors and staircases to nowhere to fool the ghosts and keep them away from her. She kept adding on and on for her entire life. I don’t know about the ghosts, but the layout is so confusing for visitors that no one is allowed to wander off without a guide. Even the staff isn’t sure they can find you if you get lost!

Then there’s the Mystery Spot, an apparent gravitational anomaly outside of Santa Cruz. It is very, very odd. Balls seem to roll up instead of down. You stand straight and look in a mirror and realize you are standing at an angle. You can get very dizzy for seemingly no reason. Your sense of perspective and balance are completely off. You leave very baffled. Surely it can’t just be one big hoax, but what exactly is it?

We found a great kosher restaurant in Mountain View, right on restaurant row. The food at The Kitchen Table was excellent and they welcomed children. It was full of tech people. My husband eavesdropped shamelessly on a conversation between two backpack-toting Google guys. He said it was as if they were speaking a foreign language, some programming language of numbers that no one else could understand.

What I remember the most about Mountain View was the energy. The country was in the middle of the Recession. There was a general malaise, but the Mountain View – Palo Alto area was pulsing with vibrancy. I remember thinking that this, the epicenter of the tech revolution, was currently the heartbeat of the world. There was an infectious optimism and exuberance that I loved.

We also went to Monterey. We visited the Aquarium and spent more than enough time in the shops at Fisherman’s Wharf, where the Souvenir System once again proved a big hit.

In fact, we liked the northern part of the state so much that we headed back the next year, this time to San Francisco. It was 2011 and we added our four-year-old grandson N to the group, so now we were seven in all. We took in as many of the tourist spots as we could. It’s always such a treat to see someplace through new eyes, especially children’s. We went to Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Union Square, where there was, of course, plenty of opportunity for shopping. We had quite an adventure maneuvering my daughter’s eight-seat SUV down Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world. We also went to the Exploratorium, a fabulous, interactive children’s science museum.

But by far the biggest hit was the Jelly Belly Factory in nearby Fairfield, California. It’s fun to take the tour and watch them making jelly beans. They give out samples along the way and the special treat for us was that most of it is kosher. And then there’s the gift shop. Oh, my. Every conceivable flavor of jellybean, every jellybean-themed toy, hat and stuffed animal is available. They give out bags and sell the jellybeans by weight. They encourage the kids to fill their own bags. Of course they do.

This was the place we learned that our Lost Child System worked. Thank G-d it was in a most innocuous way. We have always told the kids that if they get lost, or just lose sight of us, they should immediately go to someone in uniform. The older kids knew our cell phone numbers by heart (and by now they have their own phones.) For the younger ones we’ve always tucked a card into their pockets or pinned one to their shirts. It reads: If I’m lost, please call my Grandpa or my Nana, and then our cell numbers.

So here we were in the gift shop, trying to keep track of our brood. All of a sudden I heard a child crying, a few feet away from me. It was a familiar sound, and I moved toward it. I hadn’t gone a foot through the crowd when a voice boomed out of the loudspeaker asking if N’s grandparents would come to the cash desk.

I was there in under a minute. N had simply turned the wrong way and lost sight of us. So he did exactly what he was supposed to do. Went to someone in uniform. Heads-up little guy!

The next year we headed east to Las Vegas. Vegas for kids? Oh yes, you’d be surprised.

We drove north, making only on stop – at a spacious Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Pismo Beach. Just about every Coffee Bean up and down the California coast is kosher, so this made a great lunch stop. They have big couches and even bigger smiles for children.

With the stop it took us six hours to get to Carmel. We pulled up in front of our rustic cottage in the woods and piled out of the SUV. That is when six-year-old Z uttered the best line of the entire trip. I should explain his other grandparents live back East and he’s been going to visit them since he was a baby. So he got out, looked around at the rather ramshackle cluster of lodgings, and said, “I don’t get it. If we’ve been travelling for six hours, why aren’t we in New Jersey?”

Great question, right?

It was too cold for the beach, but the scenery everywhere was beautiful. We took long walks and meandered through the shops, allowing the kids to get a good start on their souvenir hunting.

We went to the Winchester Mansion, built by the heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune. The story goes that she thought the house was haunted. So she built endless corridors, doors and staircases to nowhere to fool the ghosts and keep them away from her. She kept adding on and on for her entire life. I don’t know about the ghosts, but the layout is so confusing for visitors that no one is allowed to wander off without a guide. Even the staff isn’t sure they can find you if you get lost!

Then there’s the Mystery Spot, an apparent gravitational anomaly outside of Santa Cruz. It is very, very odd. Balls seem to roll up instead of down. You stand straight and look in a mirror and realize you are standing at an angle. You can get very dizzy for seemingly no reason. Your sense of perspective and balance are completely off. You leave very baffled. Surely it can’t just be one big hoax, but what exactly is it?

We found a great kosher restaurant in Mountain View, right on restaurant row. The food at The Kitchen Table was excellent and they welcomed children. It was full of tech people. My husband eavesdropped shamelessly on a conversation between two backpack-toting Google guys. He said it was as if they were speaking a foreign language, some programming language of numbers that no one else could understand.

What I remember the most about Mountain View was the energy. The country was in the middle of the Recession. There was a general malaise, but the Mountain View – Palo Alto area was pulsing with vibrancy. I remember thinking that this, the epicenter of the tech revolution, was currently the heartbeat of the world. There was an infectious optimism and exuberance that I loved.

We also went to Monterey. We visited the Aquarium and spent more than enough time in the shops at Fisherman’s Wharf, where the Souvenir System once again proved a big hit.

In fact, we liked the northern part of the state so much that we headed back the next year, this time to San Francisco. It was 2011 and we added our four-year-old grandson N to the group, so now we were seven in all. We took in as many of the tourist spots as we could. It’s always such a treat to see someplace through new eyes, especially children’s. We went to Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Union Square, where there was, of course, plenty of opportunity for shopping. We had quite an adventure maneuvering my daughter’s eight-seat SUV down Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world. We also went to the Exploratorium, a fabulous, interactive children’s science museum.

But by far the biggest hit was the Jelly Belly Factory in nearby Fairfield, California. It’s fun to take the tour and watch them making jelly beans. They give out samples along the way and the special treat for us was that most of it is kosher. And then there’s the gift shop. Oh, my. Every conceivable flavor of jellybean, every jellybean-themed toy, hat and stuffed animal is available. They give out bags and sell the jellybeans by weight. They encourage the kids to fill their own bags. Of course they do.

This was the place we learned that our Lost Child System worked. Thank G-d it was in a most innocuous way. We have always told the kids that if they get lost, or just lose sight of us, they should immediately go to someone in uniform. The older kids knew our cell phone numbers by heart (and by now they have their own phones.) For the younger ones we’ve always tucked a card into their pockets or pinned one to their shirts. It reads: If I’m lost, please call my Grandpa or my Nana, and then our cell numbers.

So here we were in the gift shop, trying to keep track of our brood. All of a sudden I heard a child crying, a few feet away from me. It was a familiar sound, and I moved toward it. I hadn’t gone a foot through the crowd when a voice boomed out of the loudspeaker asking if N’s grandparents would come to the cash desk.

I was there in under a minute. N had simply turned the wrong way and lost sight of us. So he did exactly what he was supposed to do. Went to someone in uniform. Heads-up little guy!

The next year we headed east to Las Vegas. Vegas for kids? Oh yes, you’d be surprised.

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