This trip took place from June 30th to July 15th of 2018. The Knutson family numbered three as James was joining Beth and myself on his first major vacation!
Day 1; MSP to SFO: The start to another big vacation at last! Months of planning in my limited free time had finally come to a head and our two week trip to California had arrived. Despite the extensive planning Beth and I had procrastinated packing our luggage so we were up really late the night before. We left the house around 7am and headed to Beth’s parent’s house to drop off our Shetland Sheepdog, Maeby. They have graciously hosted our pup on many trips and a big thank you to them once again! Carol, Beth’s mom, hopped in and accompanied us to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) so we wouldn’t have to pay for parking. The airport was fairly empty so getting through baggage drop-off and security was easy. The only slight snag was trying to fit our stroller through the x-ray scanner but thankfully the TSA agent knew how to take the back wheels off so it would fit.
It was a long walk to our gate. Sun Country doesn’t have a large presence at MSP so they probably get relegated to the furthest gates. I have a Delta frequent flyer credit card but we were flying Sun Country on a really sweet deal (I vaguely recall it was $300 cheaper than the closest Delta option with similar dates). The gate area was considerably busier so it was looking like a full flight. Beth and I took turns sitting by our stuff while the other entertained the toddler. I went first and walked James, then just shy of two years old, halfway back to security where we had passed a children’s area. On first glance it looked great for James but when we got there it was actually geared for 3-5 year-old kids. There was only one slide and it was the tube kind so I couldn’t help him down it. He got up to the top okay but then sat blocking the slide for other kids. I think he was a bit frightened. With that area a bust I let James walk back on his own hoping to tire him out. That worked for about thirty seconds before he laid down in the middle of the walkway because I wouldn’t let him walk the other direction.
Boarding began which interrupted James from playing with a high-tech vending machine that had a touchscreen tablet within his reach. We were able to board just after the first class passengers both because we had a young child to get situated but also because our seats were in the last couple rows of the plane. James was still young enough that we could have him sit on our lap without buying him his own ticket but old enough (and squirrelly enough) that we should have thought better of it. A young gentleman roughly our age showed up to take the window seat in our row. James was in a good mood but it was clear Beth and I were going to be very uncomfortable for the next several hours if he remained on our laps. Thankfully, just before takeoff the flight crew came by to offer the man another seat elsewhere. The flight attendant told him to wait until we were in the air and movement was authorized before switching spots.
Once we had the row to ourselves life was significantly better. James was able to watch cartoons (Bubble Guppies) on Beth’s iPad and he was kept happy (and quiet) by a combination of apple sauce and goldfish crackers. It didn’t last forever, of course, and he spent a great deal of time at our feet too as he tried to explore the limited space we had. We tried to get him to nap on Beth’s lap but he wasn’t interested and got maybe 15 minutes total. Everything was just too exciting to sleep! This was his third flight in his young life and he did pretty well. The only thing he did that I would consider negative was launching the iPad into the aisle nearly hitting a dude in the arm. The guy laughed it off, fortunately.
Towards the end of the flight the pilot came over the speaker and told everyone to look out the left side of the plane (our side). Apparently we were flying above Yosemite National Park, a destination from later in our trip! Having never been there previously I wasn’t sure what to look for other than the iconic Half Dome and, sure enough, it was clearly visible below. For more on Yosemite I invite you to read the posts for days thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen (once I’ve written them, of course).
Upon landing we waited to be the last ones off the plane (it’s just easier that way). Beth’s Uncle Thom was picking us up. He jokingly goes by Tom in odd years and by Thom (pronounced the same) in even years so I guess you could say he’s a fun guy (I certainly like him a lot)! Once he arrived he helped me load stuff in the car and Beth got James situated. Beth’s cousin Justin and his wife Lauren loaned us a car-seat. We brought so much stuff that it barely fit in the sedan’s trunk. Thankfully I had just learned how to take the stroller wheels off! In addition to the stroller we had a massive suitcase, a medium duffle-bag, and a heavy backpack. We never really travel light but this was the heaviest we had ever traveled.
Thom drove us to a Costco nearby so we could buy a box of diapers (having just brought enough to make it through the day) and some apple sauce pouches. James was addicted to those things. Still is sometimes. James was enamored by Thom’s sunglasses so he let him try them on. Handsome devil.
SFO International Airport is South of San Francisco so we got to see the downtown skyline as we passed through. It was a beautiful day and on the warm side. The temperature only increased as we traveled inland from the Bay. James fell asleep on the hour drive to Concord (hooray). We made decent time so Thom gave us an extended tour of Concord to allow James to nap longer. He showed us all the local sights, public and personal, such as the office buildings he worked in previously. Beth’s father and her aunts and uncles grew up in Concord. All but dad, Ken, still live in the area so there were a fair amount of family-related sights to see. The kiddo woke just as we parked at the Sunvalley Mall to go to lunch. It was over 100 degrees outside according to the car’s thermostat and even in a parking garage it felt hotter.
Thom treated us to Lucille’s Smokehouse Barbecue, which was awesome! I ordered the Tri-Tip Sandwich and it was perfect. The meat was super tender and the sauce delicious. I liked the French fries too. I’m hungry just remembering it. There was no room for dessert but Thom said their desserts are excellent. We ordered the mac and cheese for James but he barely touched it so I had a few bites (also delicious). Thanks again for the ride, the tour, and lunch, Thom!
After lunch we headed to Beth’s Aunt Elaine’s nearby. James loved playing fetch with Elaine’s dog, Charlie. He can’t throw tennis balls very well and often forgets to throw the ball entirely so it was a complicated game of fetch to say the least. Charlie would end up chasing a giggling James around Elaine’s living room and later her yard. I was falling asleep on the couch so Elaine said I should take a quick nap in her spare bedroom. I slept for forty minutes and although it wasn’t enough it was a much needed pick-me-up.
Another of Beth’s aunts, Debbie, and her husband Jack were hosting us during our trip (another massive thank you to them!) so Thom drove us there next. They live in nearby Benicia and had hosted us twice before. Beth was in charge of James while I brought everything inside. I had all the stuff we brought from home along with the car-seat and a fairly heavy pack-and-play that Elaine tracked down for our use during the trip. Beth and I would be sleeping in the guest room while I set the crib up in the den off the living room.
Jack made spaghetti for dinner that night with two sauce options, beef and meatless for Beth. Jack was watching a Giants game recorded earlier that day so he could speed through the commercials and boring parts. James went down for bed later than normal but with all the excitement of travelling who could blame him? Jack likes to listen to the TV quite loudly so I was nervous James wouldn’t be able to fall asleep in the next room. Still tired myself (and on Central Time) I turned in early. End of day one.