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 2; Relaxing Around Benicia: Our first full day in California was going to be a relaxing one. Beth prefers nice quiet vacations so this was a day for her. I woke early to the sounds of a stirring toddler through the baby monitor. I’m the early-morning parent whenever both Beth and myself are home so if James wakes up first I am in charge. I made the little man an Eggo waffle, filled up his milk bottle, and we watched cartoons until everyone else rose for the day. James enjoyed running around Debbie’s living room rearranging anything he could reach. It was a struggle to keep the delicate items (such as Jack’s reading glasses) safe. He eventually decided to try on the various shoes by the front door including Beth’s, mine, and Jack’s. Jack is 6’5″ and wears size 12 or 13 I think.
The agenda for our relaxing day was relatively empty. The only tasks that needed to be accomplished were a grocery store run and to pick up the rental car. Debbie drove me to Target for a variety of toddler-friendly foods like chicken nuggets and goldfish crackers. He had usually stuffed anything edible he could reach into his face but had started to get a bit more picky the month before the trip. Crackers and applesauce were his number one requests and meals often went barely consumed or completely untouched. I also bought James a toy fishing net while we were there. It came with five little plastic fish. I saw James playing with the exact same set at daycare back home and he was loving it so I just had to get it for him. When I gave it to him later his eyes lit up! “FISHIES!”
Next up Debbie brought me to the Budget Rent a Car location in Vallejo. For months prior to our trip I researched rental car options and it became clear that booking through Costco would be the best choice. Costco members get discounts with the biggest travel providers through their costcotravel.com website. They have a price comparison tool that lets you choose the type of car you want to rent and where you might want to pick it up. It then shows you the best pricing available between different brands and various locations in the target area. I learned that rental cars at the airport were quite a bit more expensive than in the suburbs, which is why we asked Thom for a ride instead. Near Debbie Budget had the best pricing in general the Vallejo location offered the biggest deal. I was able to book a 2018 Honda Accord for 14 days for under $550. Better yet, Beth (a Costco employee) told me that pricing can fluctuate and that Costco allows you to cancel a booking for free. She had success one time getting a cheaper rate closer to her date of travel so I kept an eye on it and was able to eventually get the same vehicle for under $500!
I had never rented a car before so Debbie came in with me. It wasn’t a small amount of paperwork but it was surprising just how little I had to sign to leave the premises with a brand new car with only six thousand miles on it. The Accord is more powerful than my car at home and, oh boy, was it a fun change of pace! It was comfortable and spacious too. If I was choosing the the exact car I probably would have gone with a Chevy since that’s what both Beth and myself drive but I was definitely impressed by the Honda. So much so that I will seriously consider the Accord when I next need a new car.
It was hazy outside. California was plagued by several wildfires before, during, and after our visit and the ash in the air was noticeable everywhere. The nearest fire was an hour away but the entire area was affected. The ash had settled on Debbie’s porch, in fact. The stroller was out there which is why I noticed it. James took a short nap but then was right back to exploring/destroying Debbie’s living room. She brought out two couch cushions from somewhere (Narnia?) so he could jump all over them.
I can’t remember what we had for dinner but Elaine and Thom came over to hang out. The entire point of this California trip was to spend some quality time with Beth’s relatives so I’m glad they visited. It’s always a fun time when you get a gaggle of Bombens in the same place. There was a little bit of business to attend to as we had to lock in sightseeing plans for the week. After they left and James went to bed I pulled out my work laptop and worked remotely for an hour. It’s not always easy to make a clean break away from your typical life while out of town. End of day two.
Day 3; James makes a new friend: We didn’t have much planned for the day so it was going to be another lounge-a-thon. I woke up first and made myself breakfast. I even ate the whole thing before being interrupted! James awoke second so I gave him a waffle and a banana and put on some cartoons. It did take me a couple tries to figure out Jack’s complicated home theater system. I think James may have played with the buttons. I had Paw Patrol visuals but audio from a different channel. James didn’t seem to mind so I left it that way for a bit because I found it funny.
I noticed that one of the nose-pads had broken off of my glasses somehow and thus the glasses were cattywampus on my face (just not enough to notice right away). The nose-pad was in the case so they either broke when I put them in the case or as I was taking them out (the only other explanation is aliens). I bought my glasses at Costco since Beth is an employee and our health insurance is through them. Thankfully Costco does repairs so Beth said I should go get them fixed. Since we were on day two in a row of little to do I relished the opportunity to go on an errand.
So, with my glasses slightly askew I drove to Costco around 11am. The optical department was quite full and I had to take a number and wait for service. I decided to get my shopping done first. There was a serious lack of sweets at Debbie’s so I bought chocolate chip cookies. When my turn at optical came up the woman behind the counter was able to replace both the nose-pads (so they would match) in about ten minutes. Cattywampus no more!
Back at homebase we prepared James a lunch which he largely ignored. He took a nap and so did Beth. Debbie was watching a crime docudrama and I got sucked in. I assumed the husband killed the victim because it’s often a spouse but I think it ended up being a serial criminal that had done some electrical work in her house. The cheesy and dramatic narration of those types of shows is hilarious. They also repeat information a lot because they need to fill an hour. You get a recap of the previous segment for the first 45 seconds of each segment so the story progresses slowly.
After naps I insisted we go for a walk. We brought James’ stroller along on the trip for sightseeing purposes but there was no reason not to get out and use it for a regular walk. There was a park with a playground a short distance away so that was our destination. Debbie and Jack’s neighborhood is quite hilly and the streets connect at weird angles as a result. We navigated with Google maps on our phones having no idea where to go otherwise. The park consisted of a decent sized field, a basketball court, and a playground.
James was apprehensive about the playground equipment and only climbed or went down slides with assistance. He did, however, find a glittery yellow ball on the ground. There was a dad with two young kids nearby and the guy indicated that James could play with it. One of the kids was roughly four years old while the other was sevenish. James threw the ball for me to fetch a few times and then tried to make a break for it across the field. Beth followed him and impeded his progress. He used the ‘go limp’ technique to try and get his way to no avail. The seven year old was shooting hoops and James wanted to play too. I cannot wait until he is old enough to play sports more independently so we can play together as opposed to me having to fetch the ball for his amusement. That was still fun, of course.
I thanked the family for loaning us their toy and returned it. James was upset at having to leave the park (twenty minutes after trying to leave on his own). On the walk home we took a different path so we could see more of the neighborhood. Some of the sidewalks reminded me of those in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston, cracked and heaving at all angles. We passed the elementary school which also has a playground but it’s fenced off.
We ordered Mexican for dinner from a restaurant called Sandoval’s and Beth went with Debbie to pick it up. They ordered a party platter with a mixture of tacos and burritos. I love Mexican food and am rarely disappointed by it. Jack watched professional poker on full blast and occasionally checked the Giants game too. James, meanwhile, played in a laundry basket that Debbie provided. He pushed it around and climbed in and out of it. It must have been a tiring activity because by the time 8pm rolled around he was zonked out in Debbie’s lap. He looked so tired and had a tub of diaper cream for some reason. It was the cutest thing. End of day three.