California Road Trip

Disneyland 051

It started with a wish and a dream… “Wouldn’t it be nice to take the kids to Disneyland again? Bruce is 4 and likes waving good-bye to the MAX. He would just love seeing characters and parades!”

Of course, we couldn’t go without Tracy, and this time we needed Larrydad too! And what about our families? Wouldn’t that be fun?!

So this winter began the discussions and planning. I felt like I was already vacationing and enjoying the trip the more I researched about it! We developed what became an 18 day touring plan (Father’s Day weekend through the 4th of July) that included a couple nights in Shasta area, 2 nights in the Sequoia National Park, picking up a Southern California CityPASS and trying out AirBnB lodging in the San Diego area, hitting some theme parks, a couple nights stop at a beach campground, another AirBnB house in Anaheim for 5 nights, then wrapping up with visiting an aunt and uncle and cousins in Alameda for a few nights, and then one more camp stop in southern Oregon before our last leg home.

Preparations for the trip included making reservations in February and March, reading a bunch of guidebooks and websites and taking notes for the parks we planned to visit. We made our Lim Family Campout notebook with our destinations and cool cutouts and colored camping art.  I made a Youtube playlist of Disney movie highlight clips starting chronologically from Snow White on to more recent films to share with the kids throughout the months before our trip. I borrowed Lego Star Wars books from the library so the kids could get to know the characters and stories in a safe, kid-friendly way.  I studied maps that Larrydad dropped off. I spent a lot of time reading nutrition labels and purchasing sustaining foods and snacks that we could have. I hashed out a menu with my mom and divided up who was bringing what. I cooked as much as I could bring frozen, and packed a suitcase of food as well as a suitcase of rice cooker, blender stick, etc. I gave the kids mealtime chores to practice so they’d know how to help us on our trip. The kids did their laundry and packing. We bought hiking sandals from REI, as well as mummy sleeping bags for the kids, camp suds, etc. We bought a big toolbox to roll our tote-able kitchen in, fixed the broken latch on our cooler, got a cargo bag for the top of the van, bought some car seat organizers for the kids, borrowed books and cds from the library, brought some toys, clay, and entertainment, charged our batteries and took off!

And we went back for something. I think it was umbrellas in case it rained. And we took off again!

Saturday, June 18th: Day after the last day of school

We got a later start that day, but we wanted to make sure we had everything. I felt excited and nervous and giddy. What would our adventure be like? Will everything fall into place? We ate waffles and sausage, snacked on fruit and veggies. We didn’t really stop for lunch but ate our cold cuts of meat and squash as we drove on. We left cloudy, stormy Oregon and made it to California. The border patrol dude asked us if we had any citrus or avocados, and as we answered no, he let us on by. Mount Shasta was beautiful to behold as we drove past it and found our campground at Castle Crags.

We arrived around 7pm and hurried to get our tent set up as my folks helped and cooked tacos for dinner. The mosquitos were already snacking on David. I got out the garlic with parsley gel tablets. It ended up working great for me! Kadie even learned to swallow a pill for the first time on this trip. But she and David were still too tasty for those skeetos. We washed dishes in the dark, and snuggled in our sleeping bags for the night. It was about 53 degrees. Not bad. We were surprised to hear a train whistling in the wee hours of the morning though.

Sunday, June 19th: Father’s Day

Castle Crags

We gave my dad and David some Father’s Day cards, and a little batman for our van.

We took our time with a fire in the morning, leftover tacos, and roasted marshmallows to make s’mores with my almond cookies shaped like trees with some chocolate chips on them. We took a small hike to view the Crags (the one-way road was a bit too scary for me when another car was trying to come through).

Then we drove an hour south to see the views from Shasta Dam. It was too hot to hike across the dam, so we took a dip in Shasta lake at a fisherman’s point. It was super rocky, making it necessary for sandals, and there was barely a spot to wade in before it dropped off deeply. Not really a great spot for non swimmers. Mom and I swam out a bit to cool off. Dad jumped in too. Some jet skis kept coming into the area we were trying to hangout in, and then the police on a boat came and were busting them for not having updated “whatevers.” At this point I felt rather annoyed at all the little irritating things. But after a while, I started noticing the colors of the rocks: beautiful blue greens, white and oranges. The kids started building a castle with the rocks and ended up having a great time. David skipped rocks for a while, and then we saw a dead fish floating our way. After our initial “ew!” reaction, we all made a game of trying to hit it with rocks. How gross! How weird are we?! Yet I couldn’t stop laughing!

We headed back for dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, did our chores, locked up our food in the bear box, and sang a few songs before bed.

Monday, June 20th: Travel Day

Today we ate protein bars and snacks as we packed up camp and headed out. Maintenance was cleaning the campground bathrooms at an inconvenient time in the morning. It seemed to happen at more than one campground throughout this trip. We took off back down past Shasta Dam and beyond. Getting through Sacramento and then Fresno seemed long and hot. The map aps advised us to go south of Sequoia to get to Lodgepole Campground for the shortest distance. So we came into the park through the Ash Mountain entrance. The views were breathtaking! Hospital Rock, Moro Rock, the river, the red glow of the setting sun on the cliffs and trees! The big beautiful trees!!! But man, oh man, the twists and turns that wound up and up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains were difficult! Our van started smoking and making chugging motions (perhaps bad gas at the last refill), and it was getting darker and darker, and longer and longer till we could get our supper.

Although we had only been on our journey for 3 days, I kept thinking about how when Gandalf came to Hobbiton to ask Bilbo Baggins to go on an adventure, just how apprehensive he was to such a notion: “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them.”

Bilbo was right. Adventures are uncomfortable and make you late for supper. Had I known the degree of the uncomfortableness and worry of that journey, I might have not been brave enough to go through with it.

We finally made it to Lodgepole campground! The adults, weary and fatigued got supper together after putting up our tents. As we washed dishes in the dark, I wondered if we’d recover and have a better day the next day. I also wondered when we’d ever get a shower. Thank goodness for Cetaphil wipes, and baseball caps and deodorant.

How can I even complain about that experience, though, when I think of the miles on foot or horseback people used to travel back in John Muir’s day. I really enjoyed learning more about John, how he’d climb up to the top of the tree in a raging storm just to feel what the trees feel when they get blown around, or climb up to a ledge under the top of Yosemite Falls (no ropes!) to see what the water falling down would see and feel. I’m so grateful for his spiritual experience of nature and his contribution to the establishing of our National Parks!

Tuesday, June 21st: Summer Solstice in Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

We ate and then drove down to the General Sherman trail. Finally! After months of researching and dreaming about seeing the giant trees, I got to see them up close, and even touch some! I felt like I wanted to lean on them for a while. It was too short to just view and move on. I wanted to be like John Muir who would sit by a new plant friend for a day.  As we descended into the forest, it looked like a typical forest until, here and there, the biggest, oldest trees in the world came into view. Their bark was a beautiful cedar reddish color, and their trunks were so thick all the way up toward the top.  The Sequoia tree’s bark is 2 feet thick! It’s resistant to bugs and fungus, and even fire. Forest fires actually help the seeds pop out and grow new sequoias. They do not have a deep tap root, and so if the soil is too wet with too high of winds, they can topple over from their own weight.

It was still early enough in the morning that there wasn’t yet a big crowd, and I felt as if I was entering a quiet, sacred cathedral. My new friends, the trees! I was overjoyed in my heart to get to meet them and be with them for a while. It wasn’t such an elated experience for me, as it was a grounding one. I felt a sigh of restfulness and contentment, feeling that this is how the world should be. Nature was speaking and perhaps singing quietly, and I felt a hush as if I wanted to stay for a long, long time and just be with them, and hear their songs. This now reminds me of how I imagine Bilbo must have felt when staying with the elves in Rivendell.

I was sad to have to leave my dear friends in the Giant Forest. I ended up buying a Sequoia sapling from a gift shop to take home with me.

We ate our cold lunch at the Lodgepole visitor center, and then decided to see the nearby Tokopah Falls. Before we hit the trail, we waded in the river, snoozed, took pictures, and I attempted drawing the scene while the kids threw more rocks. These rocks were granite and all different shades of beautiful!

The hike along Tokopah river was just gorgeous! I remember thinking that you really can’t find such beauty unless you make the trek into mountainous wilderness like we did. The river was too hard to resist! I just had to stand on some massive slabs of granite, letting the water flow over my feet. The trail was only 1.7 miles but it felt quite a bit longer toward the end. But the views changed to more steep cliffs, and then to a rocky climb over white granite boulders and through narrow tunnels. Finally we reached the falls which was coming off the rocky cliffs. I had somehow imagined there would be more trees by it, like in the Gorge. But it was still very pretty, and an impressive roar came from the water carving through the rock. The spray felt nice too. Many pictures later, we turned around and made the long journey back to camp, singing “Agony” from Disney’s Into the Woods. We were hungry, tired and, again later for supper.

But a delicious supper it was: fire cooked veggie kabobs, hot dogs, and burgers. Dishes in the dark and yet another missed opportunity for a shower. Gotta love that campfire smell!

Wednesday, June 22nd: Travel Day

We packed up as early as we could and decided to go the more pleasant route out of the park by going north through Kings Canyon to the Big Stump entrance. Much smoother road than our trip into the Sierra Nevadas! Maybe it was that much more pleasant because it was at the beginning of the day instead of the end of a really long driving day. I was happy my folks were open to stopping to see the General Grant Tree before exiting the park. Wow! Happiness and one last hug good-bye!

We took a highway through a farming valley to get back down to the south end and cut west towards Anaheim. We stopped at a fruit stand for some peaches, blueberries, nectarines and plums. We made it through the dry and hot hills leading to L.A. and then maneuvered through traffic. That wasn’t fun. Six lanes of stress with speedsters cutting in and around us. Finally! We stopped at Downtown Disney to pick up our SoCal Passes and picked a restaurant that would perhaps have something gluten free. The Naples Restaurant did not have gluten free pizza but did have some potato pasta and sauce. This turned out to be a low point for me. It wasn’t very soft to eat, and tasted very bland. Bruce had had another accident (probably from the cheese I fed him the day before), and it took so long to get food, that I was having a “hypoglycemic crash” with a horrendous headache. As I started to cry in my warped drowning in darkness sensation, and feeling super sad about my kids’ symptoms that had worsened through our trip, I could hear a few musicians playing a beautiful song below the balcony on a guitar and cello (Oak and Gorski). Kadie came and hugged me, and I cried on her shoulder. The sun was setting golden, we ate dinner, and even though we had another couple hours of travel ahead of us, I felt much better.

This was another difficult part of the journey for us- getting to our destination past 8pm, trying to settle quickly and get the kids (some of them crying) to bed. New places can be hard to feel comfortable in. This AirBnB house was lived in by a woman, her son, and two doggies. As she showed us to our room, one dog had snuck up and made a puddle in the kids’ room. The place was a beautiful home, but I didn’t really care for the dog smell, the dog hair, the way it made David sneeze more, or the fact that we had to sort of tiptoe around the living space of the residents there. I kind of need to spread stuff out to cook, and there wasn’t much space in her fridge, nor did she have cooking tools that I was used to. We ended up bringing in our tool box kitchen, removing all her pans from her oven she doesn’t use, and baking chicken and squash. We had to keep the baby gate on the stairs to keep that little doggie who likes to potty up there out. Her washing machine had to be massaged and coaxed to turn on. And if I dropped a piece of clothing coming out of the dryer, it was immediately coated in dog hair. But enough criticisms! It was affordable, and a pretty good location between Legoland and SeaWorld. It was so nice to be clean after 5 days of camping!! I took two showers and a long bath while there!

Thursday, June 24th: Legoland

We headed to Legoland, arriving around 10am. We took the boat ride to see Lego replicas of the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, and many more neat things. Then we wandered through Miniland USA. Awesome! I especially liked the farmlands, with the little animals and chickens.  Star Wars area was also amazing! David had a lot of fun here. The Driving School rides were cute and the kids earned their driver’s licenses, and the Pirate Shores spray and play area was a lot of fun for the kids. I liked that even if you weren’t on the boat ride, you could shoot the riders with water canons from the sidelines. The big bucket dumping on kids in the ship play structure was entertaining to watch as well. The kids got to build their own mini figures and we split up to explore other areas. Lego Friends land had an incredible Duplo playland. We left at about 3 or 4 when we were too tired and grumpy to have anymore fun. On our way out the castle land looked so fun to play in too, and there was a theater show going on, but we pulled ourselves away, needing to get some R&R.

Back at the house I filled the big jacuzzi tub and let the kids bring their Lego minifigs in to play. They had a blast for a couple hours! We grocery shopped and took it easy. David worked on photos.

Friday, June 25th: Down Day/Travel Day

We had planned to hit SeaWorld this day, but decided it would be better to just take our time and find our campground at San Onofre, then go back to Sea World the next day. So, I laid in bed, treating with microcurrent (I think the food I ate at the park did not make me feel very well at all). The kids enjoyed the bunny in the back yard and the big trampoline! We did more laundry, folded and packed. Baked our chicken and squash, prepared more food for camping. There was a misunderstanding about our checkout time and was jolted into action at the knowledge we had to be out of there sooner. I felt a bit stressed at that point and was in sort of a grumpy funk. I charged around, dropping things, so my dad tried to help me by taking something from my hands. I was bullheaded and didn’t stop to let him help which resulted in our foreheads colliding. I got a mild concussion with symptoms of intense anger, I couldn’t see very well, I had head pain in my forehead and back of neck, and nausea. I was so mad that I had already run the concussion protocol earlier that morning, and then had to do it again. I tried to pretend I was Dr. Libby and move my forehead back to normal, but I couldn’t quite do it right. Our whole trip was feeling a bit like a rollercoaster and this was one of the low points for me. Argh!

I held my head most of the afternoon in the car ride to our San Mateo campground near San Onofre beach. After turning off the engine, we sat in the car. We just sat in silence, trying to wade through the horrible, yucky emotional toxicity so that we wouldn’t let it boil out of the pot and burn anyone. It was day 7 of our trip. I think we all needed a little space at that point. After the tent was set up, I layed down for another several hours. The kids played happily in the dirt or in the tent. After dinner we drove to the beach for sunset which was a bit too overcast to view. The waves were very powerful, loud, and intimidating as they crashed with great force on the beach. My courage failed me to even wade in a bit. 10-20 mins later we headed back for bedtime. Our neighbor campers were a lively Korean church group, with lots of teenagers. Our kids spent a lot of time staring at them, or at the incredibly fast swarming ants, and fearless squirrels in our camp.

Saturday, June 26th: SeaWorld

Sea World 022

We headed out to SeaWorld for the day. As soon as we entered the park, Dad and I went and saved some seats to watch the Shamu Orca show while David and Mom and kiddos explored animal exhibits. The little cleaner fish that like to kiss or hang on to the kids’ hands were a real hit. Kadie says it felt like they were vacuuming her hands.

The Shamu show was educational and neat. We then let the kids play in the Sesame Street play area until we watched the Dolphin show. The dolphins were my favorite! Fun music, fast, sleek, agile, and playful dolphins jumping… so beautiful and exhilarating! I feel somewhat sad for the captivity of these wonderful creatures, yet it was also neat to see they had a friendship with their trainers. I feel blessed to get to see them up close! We also squeezed in the end of a sea lion show where they were dancing to Wapdam Gangnam Style. After letting the kids play some more, we were tired and ready to go back to camp.

I was still recovering from my concussion so I rested and microcurrented in the tent while the kids played around me on the sleeping bags. They were such a joy on this trip! The kids were full of laughter, they were helpful, and their joy about everything increased my joy all the more! The evening was filled with Korean and English praise songs from our neighbors, and watching them build a huge flaming fire that I was sure was going to light the tree above it. We sang a little too, and then hit the hay.

Sunday, June 27th: Travel Day

San Clemente Pier

We broke camp and headed toward Surf Beach at San Onofre. Apparently it’s the happening place for world class longboarders. There was a 45+ min wait just to get in to park. So we hit the 15 min parking spot, walked to the edge of the bluff to peek, and then headed north to San Clemente Pier. The palm trees were beautiful against the aqua blue ocean, and there was a swing set on the beach where we parked our stuff for a bit. We jumped in the waves for a little bit, but they were crashing quite forcefully and my heart failed me when I thought of trying to get out farther into the waves. I sort of tried to go deeper but the pebbles and rocks pelting my ankles and tendons with the undertow waves were too painful. We walked all the way to the end of the pier and watched people catch fish. One fish was flipping around super fast. It reminded us of our washing machine that gets off balance and vibrates as rapidly as a machine gun.

We took off towards our Anaheim AirBnB house.  Even though we were a little early, our key code worked and we moved everything in. The house was so nice! Mom and Kadie scooped out 20 lbs of ice out of our cooler and saved it in the freezer for later, while David and I went to pick up Tracy and Larrydad from John Wayne Airport. What a happy reunion!

We grocery shopped and baked chicken strips for dinner. We packed up our cold lunch for our first day in the park. I tried using the app we paid for to make customized touring plans for Disneyland but it wasn’t working. So I stayed up late and used the knowledge I had gleaned from the guidebooks and made our own plan. I had been trying to include everyone’s wishes as to what they wanted to see the most. But it was too hard to figure it all out for 9 people. So I ended up making our Lim family plan and gave a copy to the others so they could either join us or do their own thing.

Monday, June 28th: Disneyland


After all the planning the night before, plans changed as the Electric Vehicle Chairs had not arrived in time for our early start. At first I had a hard time with this change, but then Kadie reminded me that it was more important that we were here together, that God knows what’s going to happen today, and it will be ok. She was right. And when I looked at our plan for the day, it had all the scarier, more thrilling attractions first – the ones that only a few of the guys would be participating in anyways.

I think that while the books and plans helped me figure out our course, it also was a hinderance to being flexible since I tend to be a “follow the rules” type of person.

Some of the suggested touring plans from the Unofficial Guide book have you bouncing all over the park. That was a bit too much for my brain to wrap around, as I like to enjoy the “flavor” of a place for a while. So I chose to do the west side of the park for one day (Adventureland, Frontierland, New Orleans, and Critter Country), and then hit the other side another day.

Here’s what I had originally scheduled:


Here’s what we ended up actually doing for the day:

The first thing we did was meander all the way to the far corner in Critter Country for The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh. Then we met Tigger and Pooh. Bruce ran to Pooh with arms stretched wide. So precious! I gave Tigger a high five. When I tried to do the same with Pooh, he held his palm up, took my hand and made a loud smacking sound. Cute!

David and Dad took a hike to Adventureland to get FastPass tickets for the Indiana Jones Adventure. Larrydad wanted one too so I took his park pass and jogged to the guys. One of the Cast Members asked me to slow down. So I guess FastPass runners actually should be speed walkers, not runners.

Next we did Pirates of the Caribbean. Twice. I was super impressed at how the imagineers captured the essence of Captain Jack Sparrow’s mannerisms. I thought the kids might be nervous of the waterfalls, but they loved it!

For lunch we sat in the Golden Horseshoe Saloon in Frontierland and ate our rice, tuna and guacamole, and seaweed. The show was a bit campy, sort of fun for the kids, but I was slightly disappointed to be honest.

After lunch we tried to find a way to Tom Sawyer’s Island but it turns out that the Rivers of America, the ship, the steamboat, and the Disneyland Railroad are all not running because of construction for the new Star Wars Land that doesn’t open until 2018!

So my mom, and the kids and I went to Adventureland’s Tarzan’s treehouse, and then met up with the rest of the gang at the Tiki Juice Bar for a delicious Pineapple Dole Whip dessert and enjoyed the Tiki Room show. That was a highlight for sure! After not really having much sugar for a long time, the Dole Whip was extra exciting to us! We kept dreaming about having another Dole Whip all week, but never made it back. Sigh….

I’m not sure, but I think the dessert made my blood sugar spike and drop really low. We had originally planned to to head back to the house so we could nap, but since we got to the park later in the morning, we changed the plan to stay all day. I was wilting fast in the heat, and had read about there being cots in the First Aide stations that could be used for those with special needs or disabilities. I decided to give it a try. They had 10 or more cots, 2 of which were being used. The nurses were fine with me laying down as long as I needed. After an hour of listening to various people come in who had fainted, or other more serious problems, I figured out I needed some protein and called David to come bring me the snacks. I was bummed to miss out on Gadget’s Go Coaster and other things with the kids during that time, but felt revived for the remainder of the evening. I was glad for the chance to recharge. Plus, I got a nurse Minnie Mouse sticker.

We went back to Frontierland to my favorite restaurant Rancho Del Zocalo where we ordered citrus chicken on rice with beans, and corn tortillas. Very filling!

We finished all that we had planned for the day so we ended up seeing It’s a Small World at the north end of Fantasyland. I read about how the costume department has to upkeep not only the characters’ costumes, but all the animatronic figures’ costumes as well. It’s a Small World has 300+ animatronics! All with different cultures of clothing with unique dinglebops and fru frus on them!  I read that they have to replace something like 300 buttons a year? What a job!

Then we ventured into Tomorrowland for Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters. Mom got a pretty high score! I ended up driving back to the Small World end of the parade route with Tracy’s ECV, saving us a spot for the Paint the Night Parade. I felt a little sad to be missing out on what the kids were up to, but I used my time to plan the next touring plan for our 2nd day in Disneyland. Man, oh man! It was so worth it waiting an hour to get good seats! The light parade was spectacular!!! I felt so incredibly happy. I loved that the music was by one of my favorite artists, Owl City! The joy was amplified when I saw how much Kadie loved it too! Happy tears!

We waited around for fireworks, but they ended up canceling due to high winds. So we saw the alternative castle light show and then headed through the crowds and hit the trail to home. 1 mile feels more like 2 miles at the end of the night! But we had electric wheels for carrying the girls on laps, and Bruce, who was passed out in the stroller, got a ride too.

Tuesday, June 29th: California Adventure

I woke the kids and they were so sleepy and cute, I got a video of them trying to sit up and then flopping back down.

The first thing we did in California Adventure was send David with our park admission ticket to get FastPasses for the World of Color show, and then clear across the park for Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land. We lingered in line at Soarin’ Around the World till he made it back. Soarin’ is absolutely one of my favorite rides! We hung in the air above a curved IMAX screen with simulated movements and wind, as we soared above all kinds of beautiful places in the world. It included arctic glaciers, the great wall of China, massive waterfalls in the Amazon, and ended up flying over Main Street U.S.A. to Sleeping Beauty’s castle for a firework finale. It was so amazing! I felt such elated happiness that I can still feel when remembering the ride!

Next we parted ways as a bunch of people wanted to try California Screamin’, and I waited in line for Toy Story Midway Mania with the kids and my mom.

I think we did Ariel’s Undersea Adventure next. We stopped for snacks at Flo’s V8 Cafe, and then did the Radiator Springs Racers. Super fast, and super fun! I enjoyed seeing the sights of Radiator Springs because Bruce always requests watching the Cars movie when I give him haircuts. David and Kadie went back to California Screamin while the rest of us tried Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree which the kids enjoyed but was a bit too rough for me and Tracy. Bruce enjoyed riding with Uncle Travis on this one.

After taking a short detour to Dot’s Puddle Park to get a little wet, we walked home for lunch and naps.

Kadie, mom, dad and Larrydad and I returned to the park and meandered to Hollywood Land to the Animation Building. We enjoyed the mosaic of animations and magical Disney music being shown around the screens of the huge oval room, as well as the air conditioning! We went to the Sorcerer’s Workshop to find the Enchanted Books room where Lumiere and Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast guide you through a personality survey to determine which Disney Character you are most like. Kadie got Ariel, who swims to the rescue of her friends. Mom got Elastigirl from the Incredibles, I got Belle, Dad got Marlin because he swims oceans for people, and Larrydad got Gaston because he answered that he’d enjoy eating nice people for lunch as opposed to eating lunch with nice people. Mom, Kadie and I lingered in the animation area to try our hand at drawing a series of cartoons to put in a cylinder to spin and see it come to life. My fire breathing dragon who roasted a marshmallow and ate it didn’t turn out as I had imagined. Oh well, it was fun to try.

We then slipped into the Turtle Talk with Crush attraction. It was pretty cute. You can’t help but love the easy living, chillaxed surfer dude turtle, and it was fun seeing him ask kiddos in the audience questions and talk in real live conversations throughout the time. It reminded me a little of TED Talks, only more interactive. Every time Crush stated “You so totally rock!” We replied with a, “Dude!”

We saved spots on the curb for the Pixar Parade, which, by then I was tired of the heat, and tired of sitting and waiting for things. I wanted to go shop with David and Vi, not have to take Bruce to the potty, holding my hand in front of the automatic toilet sensor so it wouldn’t flush. I think I was pretty tired of doing that for both him and Vi over and over again for many days in a row. I wish they didn’t have automatic toilets because it scares children so that they can’t go potty when they really need to. Just my little grumble here. (A friend gave me this tip, carry sticky notes in my purse to put on the sensor! Good to know for next time!)

For dinner we ate at Smoke Jumper’s Grill in Grizzly Peak. Deliciously flavored burgers and fries and fun toppings! I wanted to eat there again!

The kids, Travis and David went to Bug’s Land to ride Heimlich the Caterpillar ride, while mom, dad, Larrydad, and Tracy and I went on the Grizzly River Run. I was so scared and joking that I wanted my Mommy who was across from me. Afterwards I thought, “That was it?” I was such a pansy for nothing- whimpering and clinging to Tracy. For some reason, what I had read about the ride had scared me into thinking it would be kind of like the huge drop in Splash Mountain. It was more tame than I had feared. Thrilling, but not terrifying.

David and the kids and I had FastPasses to ride Radiator Springs Racers again so we squeezed it in one more time before heading over to the World of Color que.

Unfortunately, there was an ECV accident with Tracy’s foot, in which she screamed and then had to go cool down by herself for a while. I was very worried about her foot, but she turned out to be ok. She came back in time for the show, and it was a lot of fun. Since the park was still celebrating it’s 60th Diamond Anniversary the show was tailored to sharing the history of Walt, Mickey, and the park. It was still neat, but somehow not as cool as the first show we saw three years ago. (Three years ago we saw it from the side by Mickey’s Fun Wheel and loved it so much we came back the next night. As we left the show a little early that second time, we realized the front view had projected images on a huge spray screen! We swore we would come see it from the front the next time! So we did it, and it was worth getting fastpasses for it! Only bummer was that there was a special effect canon right in front of us that startled me and the kids terribly. The bright light blinded us, and the steam/fog spray was so loud! It was actually quite awful to be startled again and again. We were very glad when the show was over.

As we left the park we enjoyed Disneyland’s firework show from the esplanade between the two park entrances.

It was another fun but tiring day. We trekked the mile home and hit the hay. (I did enjoy taking as many showers as I wanted, hee hee…)

Wednesday, June 30th: Rest Day

California Blog Post


After a late rise and leisurely breakfast of hot dogs, hamburgers, asparagus and squash, David, the kids and I  headed to Downtown Disney to shop. Since Violet had been invited to Build a Bear for a classmate’s birthday soon, Kadie chose to build one here. As Kadie got Ariel for her personality test the day before she chose an Ariel Bear. It was a cute process of choosing how much fluff you want, making a wish with the heart in your hands before stuffing it in, and then taking it to the air bathtub and grooming it, dressing it in the dressing room area, and then getting a birth certificate. It turned out to be a special memory for Kadie. As a bonus we found some small stuffed light sabers that were perfect for Bruce to swing around and fight with, without fear of whacking someone till it hurt.

Violet had found a pretty little Tinkerbell trinket at California Adventure the day before, and then got a cute little keychain wallet perfect for all the tiny cut out notes she likes to make. Perfect for her dolly Cupcake. Kadie had also purchase one of those pressed Pennies from the machine at the trailhead we always took home out of Downtown Disney. She got Tinkerbell Penny. Bruce got Captain Hook. Violet ended up getting Minnie Mouse singing with a microphone.

After returning home, some of us went shopping at Costco, then came home to cook and prepare for the next day. We baked squash, roasted garlic basil potatoes, cooked bacon, and I spent a couple hours making Mickey Mouse pancakes. We had a delicious brinner (breakfast for dinner), and then everybody set to work packing their snacks, and making pizza topping salads for the next day lunch. I kind of felt like I was back on the ranch in Wyoming, cooking cowboy breakfasts with eggs to order, and packing food for trail rides and pack trips.

At one point around this day, I think, Bruce shocked me with the question, “What does my bed look like? I forgot.” Poor kid! He’d been gone so long he had forgotten what home looked like!

I had lost my sheet of plans for our 2nd day of touring Disneyland and had to start over late that night. It was good though, because I kind of changed the plans anyways. Here is the revised plan I made, which was our Magic Morning Early Entry Day!


Thursday, July 1st: Disneyland

Disneyland 2

We got up at 6am and got music pumping in the house getting ready for our Magic Morning Early Entry that started at 7am.  Unfortunately Tracy had had a very difficult night with pain and not much sleep so she needed to stay behind for a bit.

We made to Fantasyland at 7:30 and went straight to Dumbo. It was very fun watching Larrydad and Bruce with their matching navy blue shirts and checkered shorts riding Dumbo together. Kadie rode with me and Vi with David. Then we did Alice in Wonderland and then Storybook Land Canal Boats opened at 8am. Before we could do that, though, David called to say he needed the kids present at the Launch Bay to register for the Jedi Knight Training, so the kids and I ducked out of line and trotted to Tomorrowland. He had secured our Star Tours FastPasses at that time too, since Tracy along with her ticket had made it to us by 8am. Storybook Land Canal Boats reminded me of the ride in Legoland, only these villages and castles were not made of Legos. I had read about the miniature bonsai trees and landscaping and was enjoying the landscaping.

I had really wanted to do the Peter Pan Adventure ride but the line was already 40 minutes. I forgot we could take advantage of going to the exits with the ECVs. Bummer. Next time. The kids and I were not real fans of Alice and Wonderland, but I thought it was kind of neat to explore some of the older original rides (14 still operating out of the original 18 from when the park opened in 1955!).

Random side note: One of the Unofficial Guidebook’s reader’s suggestions for saving money on food in the park had us all amused.

  1. Go to Disneyland during a period of fasting and abstinence. You can save a fortune and save your soul!
  2. Wear clothes that are slightly too small and make you feel like dieting. (No spandex allowed!)
  3. Whenever you’re feeling hungry, ride the Mad Tea Party, California Screamin’, or other attractions that can induce motion sickness.
  4. Leave your cash and credit cards at your hotel. Buy food only with money your children fish out of fountains and wishing wells.

This last tip was particularly funny to my kids and they giggled and  tugged our arms towards each fountain we passed.

Back to our day… Tracy told me her PT urged her not to go on the Matterhorn as it is a rough roller coaster. My mom had detoured to HyperSpace Mountain, and had to hold her neck to keep from getting hurt. She didn’t like it, so I passed on that one too.

Star Tours was very cool. It was a thrilling adventure ride with 3D surprises. It was one of the rougher rides so that Tracy, my mom, and I were all holding onto our necks. 5 different flight simulators that are the same ones used by pilots and astronauts in training are used to make you really feel like you’re weaving around, slamming on brakes, and zooming into warp speed. Very cool! The C-3PO and R2 D2 droids in the loading area were really used in the Star Wars movies.

We split ways. Tracy and Larrydad went on It’s a Small World again (David waited for them to finish so he could get FastPasses for Splash Mountain), and the kids and my folks and I did the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. It sort of scared Bruce a bit with the darkness and with the sharks and creepy angler fish. I admit it wasn’t my favorite either, but I liked exploring new things for the sake of seeing what I had researched about.

After Finding Nemo, my folks took Violet and Bruce to drive cars in the Autopia ride while David, Larrydad, Tracy and Kadie and I went to the Haunted Mansion in New Orleans. I never would have cared to explore this attraction except that I had researched about how there’s so much detail to see in the mansion, and the ghosts are more Disney spooky fun rather than meaning to terrify you. It was interesting. Not as fun as Pirates of the Caribbean in my opinion, but worth visiting for curiosity sake. It’s fun to speculate if the stretch room has the ceiling moving up, or the room moving down. It’s one way in Disneyland, and the other way in DisneyWorld.

We had to get back to Tomorrowland because I had left the stroller there. We caught a few photos/videos of Bruce and Vi driving in Autopia. Then we headed back across the park again to get to Splash Mountain in the far corner of Critter Country.

Oh, my goodness! I was scared to go on Splash Mountain because the last time, I was having major adrenal fatigue and and it felt like my heart had such a traumatic shock that took me a really long time to recover from the terrifying stress of falling down that flume into the darkness that made me feel as if I were going to crash to my death at the bottom. Yeah, I was not well at that time (something about fighting illness, having 3 small children, one who was getting two teeth and not letting us get hardly any sleep that whole trip). Anyways! This time, my whole family wanted to do it. Even Violet. Even little Bruce. And he was 40 inches, just making the height requirement. Sooo, I put on my brave pants and anxiously waited in line. We delayed the loading boats a bit because we misunderstood that the two children were to sit together but, no, they had to be in their own seat between adults in front and back of them. So David sat in front, then Bruce, then me, hanging onto his trunk, Violet behind me with my mom behind her, and then Tracy and Kadie in the back. The dads went in another log. I found myself so focused on preparing Bruce and Violet for the “Weee!” moments of other waterfalls, and then the big “Weeeeeee!” that I wasn’t as scared for myself. Also, holding onto Bruce’s little body, and feeling him squeal and scream and laugh all the way down was so funny and joyful that I forgot to be scared and actually enjoyed the experience this time! This was one of our family’s top memories of the trip for sure! We ended up doing a Penny press of Mickey going down the Splash Mountain waterfall as the memento we’d like to make into an ornament for our Christmas tree.

We found some tables in between Critter Country and New Orleans to eat our pizza salad lunches. Then we went to the house to rest up before the evening.

The nap was too short. We had to rush back to get to the Jedi Knight Training. David was disheartened because he thought we were too late. But I reassured him we’d make it. The kids did so great at walk/jogging the mile plus back to the park. As we were entering Tomorrowland, one of the Cast Members saw us in a hurry and asked us if we were having fun yet. I smiled and honestly said, “yeah!”

We made it just in time. The kids got their Jedi robes on and the parents were led to the front of the Tomorrowland Terrace Stage. The show was very cute, showing how to remain calm, peaceful, to face your fears, and use the Force. The Jedi trainers taught them some light saber moves and then had the villains come out of smoke and mist. Guess who came out to fight our kids? Darth Vader! Oh, man. I’d be scared to fight him, and I’m an adult sized person! Here’s little Bruce, fearless, and in the zone! He was so into it! He did his fight stance and did his maneuvers like a true Jedi! David and I couldn’t help but laugh in proud nerdy delight and share a kiss with each other. Violet look slightly more timid, but, as I said, I would be scared to do it myself, and I am so proud of her for doing what she did! Just as Kadie was about to have her turn against him, they traded villains and so she fought a Sister of the Sith. I was proud of her too that she did it! It was so worth all the troubles to get them signed up first thing in the day, and then practically run to the park to get there in time for the show. Totally worth it!

When we asked Bruce what he was thinking when he fought Darth Vader, wondering if he was scared, he said, “No, I was calm, peaceful, I focused…”  We agree that this 4 year old boy could be a great child actor.

After that, we headed over to Main Street U.S.A. because I wanted to see what the Flag Retreat Ceremony was like. Every day around 5:15pm some officials lower the American Flag as they do in the military. I had wanted to see the Disney College Band perform as well, which they didn’t do everyday, but since I saw in the Entertainment Times Guide that it was today, I made sure to be there this day. The band came marching in, playing patriotic songs, and they gathered around the flag to play the Star Spangled Banner with the Dapper Dans Barbershop Quartet singing along. They played God Bless America and some other tunes, and then played the different themes for the different branches of the military. As they played the Marines March, various people who had or do serve in the Marines walked up to the flag and saluted through the tune. Same with the Army, Navy and Airforce. It was a goose bump experience for me. It made me realize how blessed we are to be living in this country, to be free and able to enjoy a place like Disneyland, in a large part due to the men and women who serve our country and protect our freedoms. I really enjoyed hearing songs I had played in high school and college, and marveled at the fact that these musicians have to get up at 3 in the morning to practice on Main Street! They were very good.

It was pretty hot and we were in full sun, so the kids got kind of bored and tired. We then headed into air conditioning and a darkened theater for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. I don’t think I would have viewed this attraction if I had not read about it. The Lincoln film, again, made me reflect on how difficult of times our country went through in the beginning, and feel thankful to live in the great nation we have become.  Of course it also reminded me that not much has changed in history, that we could easily destroy ourselves if we don’t unite and work together as one nation.

I appreciated Main Street U.S.A. more since reading about Walt’s idea of what it was all about. It’s an old fashioned replica of his hometown Marceline, Missouri, that represents America in the early 1900s. There’s horse drawn streetcars, nostalgic tunes, authentic gaslights from Baltimore and St. Louis, and the historic buildings even have historically correct doorknobs. The buildings seem taller by use of forced perspective techniques. The 1st floor is 7/8ths scale, the 2nd is 5/8ths scale, and the 3rd is ½ size. (The same technique is applied to the Matterhorn and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.)

Well, we dawdled after this. David wanted to go back to the Star Wars Launch Bay to look at the neat displays and shops. He took his young Padawan Bruce with him. The girls got their faces painted. Mom, Larrydad and Tracy met up with us and we decided to get dinner at our old standby Rancho Del Zocalo again. I had wanted to try the French Market, but Tracy had an app that described everything to be cajun spiced and served with bread. Bummer.

After dinner, we split up again.

It was getting cold, so I ended up jogging all the way home for sweaters. As I left the house to jog back at 8pm, I wondered if I should just call them to have the kiddos come home and sleep. But I was determined to see fireworks with them as our “4th of July” finale. Dad and Travis hung out at the house for that evening. I ran back to my mom and David and the kids just as the light parade was starting. Since we had seen it I wanted to take advantage of the shorter lines for rides, and we walked along the parade route, enjoying it again as we headed toward the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It was a lot of fun for me, but Bruce and Violet were pretty tired and didn’t care for the dark tunnels as much, or the loud dynamite explosion, nor did Violet like feeling her body lift off the seat. It was a bit too scary for her at that time.

We then headed to the train depot near the entrance of Disneyland to see the fireworks. Meanwhile Tracy and Larrydad had driven around trying to find us and ended up down at the opposite end of Main Street, closer to the Castle. The whole night seemed to be filled with frustrating miscommunications. David went to find them. Then an announcement came over the loudspeakers that the Paint the Night Parade would start in 30 minutes. Then it dawned on me that it was the second showing of the parade which usually comes after the fireworks! I asked the lady who had adopted us into her private party up on the train platform and she said they had been canceled due to high winds. Again!? Argh! I had not thought to look at the time and figured it out sooner! So frustrating! There were more frustrating events to follow as there were miscommunications about going home, or waiting for the group. The night dragged on and we were all very tired and grumpy. We all agreed that this was not how we had imagined the end of our trip turning out.

After talking with David that night, it turned out that his phone had accidentally got turned into airplane mode and therefore was not getting my texts or calls. He thought we had gone on ahead, while we had thought he wanted us to wait. His reasons for wanting us to wait were that his camera gear and pack were pretty heavy, and he knew my mom and I have bad shoulders and didn’t want us to have to push the stroller either. It made me think about how great cell phones usually are, and it was nice to contact each other instantly during our visit to the parks, and not have to pick a time and place and hope to find each other the old fashioned way. Bummer when the communication goes wrong though. I was also glad to know David was thoughtful of us and our shoulders, as well as trying to take care of Tracy and Larrydad too. David is a very good and caring man whom I am so grateful to be married to.

One more thing that was a bit more positive about the evening was that we finally spied one of the wild kitties that live in the parks. They let 200 kitty cats live in the park because they keep the mouse population down. (Don’t tell Mickey!)

Friday, July 2nd: Goodbye Everyone

Chui Family 001

We packed up and said our goodbyes and left Anaheim by 10am.

My folks went off to visit a long lost relative in Sacramento. Tracy and Larrydad were off to see their relatives. We were headed to Oakland/San Francisco area to visit David’s Aunt and Uncle and cousins, and Travis beach bummed for a few days and visited a friend before flying home.

We made it to Alameda by 6pm, grocery shopped with cousin Charlene who fought with David in true Chinese style over paying for the groceries. The cashier was telling us to let her, as then we could pay it forward when she comes to visit later. And yet, in true Chinese family stubbornness, David used wrestling, shoving and blocking techniques to get to the card machine. I have seen this done before at restaurants with my mother-in-law and her friends or brothers. It’s crazy! I think I’ve even seen my father-in-law use a basketball block to help his wife get to the register before the competing relative! It’s quite a sight to see. Anyways, we bought fish, veggies and lots of berries. We wanted to let Aunt Maggie and Uncle Jerry know how much we appreciated their hospitality.

The kids helped snip green beans, we cooked with Aunt Maggie, and shared a meal together. The kids were quite sociable and fun as usual. I think Uncle Jerry marveled at Bruce’s talkativeness.

The next morning we just relaxed, did laundry, met Chris’ girlfriend, Emily, and hung out with them and Charlene and Aunt Maggie at their neighborhood pool. Then we cooked more food and the kids played with the cousins. We watched Disney’s Robin Hood while eating dinner and everyone seemed to really enjoy it.

After putting the kids down for bed, we stayed up playing guitar and singing and talking till midnight. It was really nice to visit with them!

Sunday, July 3rd: Travel Day

Valley of the Rogue

We said a reluctant goodbye to Charlene who went off to church. Then took a family photo with the rest of the family and took off toward Oregon. We got air in the tires, and then stopped again to let air out since there was a discrepancy between two different air pressure readers. We listened to the All American Parade CD I borrowed from the library, then we listened to the audiobook of the Wizard of Oz. Kind of neat, but bizarre and long. We stopped at an In And Out Burger place for fries, and passed glorious Mount Shasta again. The hills became more and more green again.

Finally! We crossed into Oregon and said goodbye to California. It’s funny. At the beginning of the trip, I was nervous and a bit overwhelmed at not knowing what our adventure would entail, nor if all would come together or not. In the middle of the trip we got used to going without showers, being late for supper, tired and yet enjoying the sights and experiences. The whole journey had been a rollercoaster of ups and downs, and yet I wasn’t so sure I was ready for it to end. I think partly it was because now it was just David and the kids and I. No need to coordinate for other people, no need to try and take care of everyone, no more cooking for a big group. No need to play host anymore. I felt like now I could relax a little more, and enjoy peace and quiet…enjoy my best friend, David.

We got the Valley of the Rogue Campground, whipped up some leftovers and tried hitting the trail to see the Rogue River before dusk. We sort of found a few spots to wade our feet in and take a photo, but had to rush back in the dark. The yurt was really neat. It had bunk beds and a fold down futon. After a really nice smelling campfire (the wood wasn’t too smokey and the wood smelled really good to me!) the kids went to bed, and David went off in the dark somewhere to take some photos of the galaxy. I was falling asleep and yet didn’t want to leave the fire and go to bed. I wanted the night to go on and on. It was so peaceful.

Monday, July 4th: Homeward Bound!

The yurt was nice and it was also nice we didn’t have to set up or tear down a tent at this last stop. The only bummer was that the heater turned on in the night and roasted us. I turned it off and awoke to it heating us up again later. The knob kept turning and turning so I had to figure out the sweet spot that would actually leave the heater off.

We let the kids sleep in, and they happily played in the dirt and ran down the grass hill, yelling “cannon ball!” We packed up, ate freeze dried crunchy fruit in bowls with coconut milk for pretend cereal. We pretty much ate up leftover snacks and rice and lunch meat for our breakfast and lunch.

I listened to the American Parade CD again and then heard some Star Spangled Stories from the  Adventures in Odyssey radio show I borrowed from the library. It included episodes about Christopher Columbus, George Washington, The Boston Tea Party, and Paul Revere.

Towards the end of our journey I dj’d with our music from the iPod. A little Con Bro Chill, some pumping party music, then slowed it down with some Ed Sheeran, Frances England, and Lullatone. Then as we neared home we pumped the jam and ended with one of our family’s favorite songs “Memphis Town” by the Okee Dokee Brothers.

As soon as the kids got out of the van they threw their 4th of July PopIts in the driveway and reluctantly helped us unload the van. Ah! Home! Hello kitchen! Hello my crazy backyard! Wow, I forgot my counters looked like this! Oh my shower! My bed! Ahhhhh!

Reflections and Random Thoughts

Mosquito bite count:

  • David – 24
  • Kadie – 8
  • Violet – 4
  • Jenni – 0
  • Bruce – 0? He never complained.

Kadie was asking Dr. Morter why she and Daddy got so many bites. I told her it’s because daddy has smooth skin. And I’m like old leathery steak. Too tough. He’s like a pineapple Dole Whip!

Next time, I would like to spend longer in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Maybe camp 2 nights in Kings, and then 3 nights in Sequoia. There were more trails and viewpoints to explore, the Crystal Caves seemed kid friendly, Moro Rock, and just getting to sit and read a book against a Sequoia like in Dorst Creek Campground area would have been really wonderful.

Also, I want to remember and make time to do the Junior Ranger Program and have the kids earn their badges.

I’d like to try boogie boarding at the beach if there were a bit tamer of a place to swim in the ocean.

As for Legoland, I’d go again. The castle land looked neat, the wet rides in Pirate Shores looked like a lot of fun, and there’s more of miniland USA to marvel at.

SeaWorld was great. Not sure if it would be a priority for a while for me. Though if I felt well enough, maybe I’d try fulfilling my dream of swimming with a dolphin!

The San Diego Zoo might be fun to explore next visit down south.

I think I’d like to do Disneyland again once Bruce reaches 48 inches so we can all enjoy the more thrilling rides together. Maybe it will be 4 years from now. I’d also like to do 2 days in the parks, a day of rest, and 2 more days after. That way we could take it easy a bit more, and not feel like we have to keep such a full touring plan schedule.

Things I’d like to hit next time: Peter Pan’s Flight, the Princess Royal land area and see a show, see the quieter places like Snow White’s Wishing Well, Pixie Hollow, and California Adventure’s Redwood Creek Challenge Trail where you can also get a Jr. Ranger badge. I’d like to explore Tom Sawyer’s Island. I haven’t ridden the Mark Twain yet. Maybe eat in the restaurant on the Rivers of America with a lovely view. Relax and listen to some jazz in New Orleans, see the Aladdin Show, do Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in daylight, maybe try California Screamin’, maybe Mickey’s Fun Wheel. I’d like to try Astro Orbiters, and Autopia, Gadget’s Go Coaster, revisit Bug’s Land rides, enjoy the neon lights in Radiator Springs, try Luigi’s ride, and really see the fireworks with a good view of the castle. I’d also like to check out the Thunder Mountain Ranch where they keep the animals, and try the chuckwagon meal with the entertainment. I’m curious what musicians perform on the Tomorrowland Terrace – I hear they are really great and upcoming popular groups. If we ever made it to Knott’s Berry Farm, I’d want to see the fiddling quartet that I hear is phenomenal and very comical. I’d like to admire the historical buildings in Main Street, and look in a bit more shops, including the one that has Disney artists visit and sign their works. Maybe I’d like to try dining in the Blue Bayou. But I’d be ok if I didn’t order a $50 meal that may or may not make me feel very good. I think I’m excited to see the Star Wars land in the future! It would be fun to just take a day to explore the different lands at a leisurely pace to soak in the environment and admire the details. Like I enjoyed seeing the different vegetables and fruits growing in Tomorrowland. I guess that viewing the parade from Main Street has more of a show with projections on the buildings, and the Frozen float going by initiates snow in the street!

I think, while it’s fun to have more family and friends share the adventures, it’s also nice to have some space once in awhile. I’d like more leisure time to read a book, or color with the kids or by myself, draw or paint, journal, write songs, bum on the beach, play cards, do puzzles, just hang out.  But maybe those are unrealistic expectations for a trip like this. Maybe that’s what I could look forward to by just camping at the beach for a week.

David and I both agree that it would be nice to have a short vacation with just the two of us as well. That might just be a bit of heaven!