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 5; Bomben Family Fourth: The day started like most others with me waking up with James and getting him set up with breakfast and cartoons. That boy loves to sit too close to the TV but he sure is cute! The plan was actually to have him up nice and early so his nap would be timed well for our day. Beth woke up eventually and took responsibility so I went on a grocery run. We were dangerously low on goldfish crackers and applesauce. Since I was out and about I also drove down to the waterfront (not too far from Debbie’s). I wanted to check it out anyway and took advantage of a rare free moment to do so.
After a busy day of sightseeing the day prior the best possible follow-up was a get-together with Beth’s family. The entire reason for our visit to California was to see them so it was planned well beforehand. After James took his nap, Beth and I headed over to her Aunt Elaine’s for the party. Debbie, Beth’s other aunt, and her husband Jack, drove separately because the four of us adults wouldn’t fit comfortably in a vehicle with James in his carseat. We were the last ones to arrive.
Already in attendance were Beth’s uncles, Thom and Nick. Their brother and Beth’s father, Ken, (not in attendance) like to argue which of them is the funny brother. Nick’s girlfriend, Nancy, was also there. This was only the second time I had met her. Thom’s son, Justin, and his wife, Lauren, were there along with their two girls, Rosie and Eve. Justin likes to say ‘Eve Louise’ like ‘Geez Louise’. It’s her middle name so I think it’s clever and kind of adorable. Lauren was noticeably a few months pregnant with their third child but had not yet made the news public online so she cleared that up quickly. I already mentioned Debbie and Jack, Beth’s aunt and her husband, of course. They were lending us a room for the trip. Hosting the party was Elaine and her husband, Lou. I believe he owns a contracting company. They were very kind to host the get-together.
Once free to roam James started chasing around Elaine’s dog, Charlie, along with the girls. Many tennis balls were thrown and giggles heard. There was a big spread of food in the kitchen and Lou was cooking meat on the grill outside. I ate too much per usual but damn that lemon cake was delicious! There were three types of cake, actually, and they were all great. It was a warm day again so we all sat in the shade on the patio and talked. Everybody shared recent updates from their lives, of course, but we also discussed the heat, light politics, and California sports. This was the largest Bomben gathering since our 2015 visit, apparently. James loved following Rosie and Eve around all afternoon. They explored the yard at length. Elaine gave him an entire box of crackers to snack on and he promptly made a big mess on the floor of her porch.
Justin played pretend roller coaster with the kids using a patio chair, which thrilled James. Justin, Lauren, and the girls were available to hang out the next day so we discussed options and made plans to head to Oakland. Thom was willing to join in too! The party lasted five or six hours before we drove back to Debbie’s. Thanks again to Elaine and Lou for hosting and to everybody else for coming to see us while we were in town!
James went down for bedtime fairly soon after we got home but not before re-arranging all the stuff he could reach in Debbie’s study where his pack-n-play crib was. He also liked playing with their powered lounge-chairs because it has blue LED lights on it. In the living room Jack and Debbie were watching poker and I got sucked in too. It has been twelve or thirteen years since I consistently watched professional poker on television but I recognized some of the faces, both seasoned pros and celebrity players like Don Cheadle. I don’t think I could go back to watching it by myself but with Jack and Debbie as active viewers it was fun to watch with them.
Around 9pm everyone else was comfortable and in for the night but I had an itch to get out and do something. It was the fourth of July, after all, so I decided I would go out to see the fireworks. In Benicia they launch fireworks over the bay from their waterfront, which was pretty close. Debbie cautioned that driving could be painful with all the fireworks traffic but I asked if I could see them from the hill nearby and she thought that would be a good viewing spot. I headed out on foot and started straight up the steep hill by their house. It’s always interesting to me how they build houses on such steep inclines in the Bay Area. I left ten minutes before the show was meant to start but I found a great place to stand within two minutes. I could see the bay partially obstructed by another hill below. I browsed Facebook and Twitter while standing awkwardly along the curb of random people’s houses. I stood next to a bush between two houses so I wouldn’t be directly in front of anyone’s house as that might freak them out. I’m sure it would have been better (less weird) if I wasn’t alone.
There was a rowdy crowd a couple houses up the street. Some of them were drunk and started lighting off their own fireworks. Certain fireworks are legal in California but I guess the city of Benicia had a ban because a high-strung woman from a neighboring house ran over there yelling at them like a hall monitor. She had to do that three or four times over the next hour. The fireworks were meant to start at 10pm but didn’t actually begin until half an hour later. It was pleasant outside when I left but up on the hill it was windier and considerably colder. I regretted not switching to jeans or bringing a jacket. I suppose I could have walked back and changed since it was a two minute walk but the show could have started at any time and the thought of doing that steep hill a second time just for warmer legs wasn’t my favorite.
Once the show finally started it was kind of disappointing. Evidently the show offered nearby is more of a traditional fireworks display with one or two dudes lighting a rocket every twenty seconds as opposed to the automated displays that launch them rapidly and higher volumes. At least that’s my guess, anyway. Either that or they were on a tight budget and didn’t want to spend a fortune on a ten minute display. From my frigid hill I could see three firework shows. The Benicia one was closest, of course, but I could see another across the water and a third off in the distance. Debbie later said it might be Walnut Creek when I told her roughly where it was. That third one, despite being harder to see due to the distance, was clearly the best show. The volume of rockets was the highest and the most dramatic (something to keep in mind for next time). End of day five.