The day after Thanksgiving, we hopped in the car and drove up the California coast to visit Ryan's family in the Central Coast area. Usually the longest part of this drive is the traffic through LA, but it was non-existant! We even made a quick stop off the freeway to get some cheapie sunglasses in Chinatown (I love you, Chinatown!) which was a 10 minute side-step, start-to-finish. What?! Unheard of! The rest of the drive was trafficky in parts (thanks, Santa Barbara!) and the winds were NUTS. We saw an SUV that was towing a big trailer/RV get blown over and jackknife so that the car itself was dangling in the air. It was crazy! But we made it safe and sound.
First, we checked into our hotel, which I was a bit nervous about. It was a mid-range motel-type place and those places are always a crapshoot. As it turns out, it was one of the more charming places I've ever stayed in! The Best Western Casa Grande is adorable! (See some candid pics on TripAdvisor - I forgot to take any) The room was gigantic and everything was very well-kept. We got a cut-rate deal from Hotels.com that was ridiculously low and I would have gladly paid twice the price. The people there were also wonderful - in fact, I left my phone charger in the room when we checked out, so on our way home, we stopped back by the hotel and they sent someone from housekeeping to look for it. While we waited, the front desk manager gave us a key and let us have a self-guided tour through the suites and townhouse on the property. It was really sweet - and now Ryan just wants to find an excuse to book that townhouse!
ANYWAY - after checking in, we met up with the rest of the family at Ryan's grandma's house. Poor grandma (everyone calls her Happy, just bear with me) has been in and out of hospitals lately so she's working a rehab program to build up her strength to come home full-time. This week, she's supposed to be staying at a rehab facility, but the family keeps taking her home, so she wasn't as strong as she will be in a week or so. She was in good spirits and it was good visiting with her, but the poor doll is still kind of weak, so she mostly just lounged around while we buzzed about the house. It was kind of strange to see her that way, because Happy is a go-go-go lady. Literally 2 months ago she was on a cross-country road trip with her "boyfriend" (weird to call him that, since they're both in their 80's) and before that she was jet-setting down to Mexico and all over the place. And even when she's home, she's never still - she's got aqua aerobics and card games and lunches and stuff all day, every day. So, it was good to see her in one place, although I could tell it was aggravating her to no end. There are bridge games to play! And things to sew! And places to be! But in any case, it was good for us because we got to sit and chat and catch up.
Ryan's dad took a picture of the boy cousins a few years ago (I think it was 2003?) and it's been on Happy's fridge since then and he decided since the guys were all there again, he'd line them up to re-create the image. Shannon and I were giggling behind him and taking the "making of" snapshots so ours aren't lined up the same as the original.
It was a funny photo session, because it was SO BRIGHT out that the sun was literally blinding everyone. The guys were trying to pose and smile, but their eyes were burning out of their heads. In fact, when we later tried to get a husbands/wives pictures, we all had to stand there with our eyes closed until the count of 3 -- and then we would open them for the picture and close them again. After 2 pictures, my eyes would NOT stop watering so I had to put my sunglasses back on.
While we were visiting, we took a walk over to the Monarch grove, which is literally at the end of the street where Happy's and Shannon's houses are (they live on the same street). The numbers are dwindling pretty significantly this year, which is sad. In years past there were literally hundreds of thousands of butterflies, so that every branch of every tree was covered in them. And the skies were filled with them. This year, there were very few and they were in a couple clusters that were high up and hard to photograph.
This is what a Monarch cluster looks like. What? You don't see it? Centered in the picture, look for the orange leaves - those are butterflies! (They are on a eucalyptus tree)
It was a nice visit and good to see everyone. I'm hoping that we can make it up to visit again soon.
On our drive home, we made a stop at Pea Soup Anderson's, which is loaded with happy memories for me from childhood. This picture of us as Hap-pea and Pea-wee is from 2007, but still: funny!
There used to be another PSA location in Carlsbad, CA also and, in fact, the windmill is still there but it is a TGI Fridays (gag), so this is the only place you can go to get that famous fresh-made pea soup (seriously, GOOD STUFF) and tons of other lovely foods too. I love this mileage chart in the display case which gives you the milage from where ever you are to where ever you are going - and showing how you're never far from a Pea Soup Andersen's! Which also means you're never far from family and fun!