Friday, March 25, 2016

Spring Break

A few weeks ago I got this itch to go to Catalina Island. I don't remember what exactly set it off. Maybe it was when I was watching on of those nature shows and saw the flying fish or something. The funny thing is my sister mentioned going there years ago and I had a snobby attitude about it and said "We live 40 miles from the Bahamas why would we want to go to a crappy island with cold water"? Well since then I have been to the Bahamas and let me tell you I wasn't impressed. I'd pick Catalina over the Bahamas almost any day unless it was to snorkel and see tropical fish.

There isn't much I remember from my only trip to Catalina. I was probably only 5-6 years old. I remember my Grandma came with us, we were sitting on the right side of the boat leaving Long Beach and my mom was pointing out the Queen Mary and telling us about the Spruce Goose, we stayed in a little hotel with prickly pear in front of it, I have memories of the glass bottom boat, and I remember being tired and bored while we walked to the casino.  

So this year for spring break we wanted to go up to San Jose and visit my Aunt Peggy. Unfortunately Adri's spring break was two weeks before Easter making the trip impossible. So I threw out a couple ideas and we came up with Catalina. The plan was originally to go out to Riverside Tuesday afternoon but due to a super flexible job we went out the week before on Friday. I worked Sunday/Monday at my dad's house and took the rest of the week off. Wednesday morning we got up at 3:30 and got ready to head out for a 6am ferry out of Long Beach.

Most of our boat ride was in the dark. The water was choppy coming out of Long Beach so we started getting sick. The closer we got to Catalina the smoother the water got. The sun came up right before we pulled into Avalon Harbor and we have 1600 foot high mountains and a couple dolphins greeting us. I couldn't believe how fast the elevation went up around Avalon. We packed light planning to walk to our hotel, just .9 miles away, but I had no idea it was up a steep hill. So by the time we got to the hotel Natalie was having an asthma attack and Adri was tired. We were going to drop off our luggage in the luggage room but they let us check in a whole 9 hours early. Score for us. We headed out for a quick breakfast and then walked a couple miles to the botanical gardens, up another steep hill. 

The gardens were very unique. A lot of cactus and it looked very natural. We had noticed a very sweet smell walking through the city similar to plumeria but I couldn't find the flowers. Well at the gardens we found out what it was. Of all things it was a tree with small yellow flowers, The Catalina Island Mahogany. I could have sat all day with a cocktail under that tree. Natalie and the kids didn't feel like walking all the way back so we only had about an hour to see the park before the trolley came. We walked up to the Wrigley Memorial, took some pictures, then headed down to Decansano Beach. We took a seat while the kids played in the sand and a waiter gave me a cocktail menu. I should have gone with my initial instinct and passed when I saw they used Bacaradi but he said he could throw in some Blue Curacao so I gave it a try. Big waste of money. It was like drinking juice only after you swallow it you get hit with the fumes of cheap rum. Natalie was smart enough to pass on a drink and made me jealous when she got a Moscow Mule later.  After an hour or so at the beach we walked over to the casino and saw a lobster massacre. I'm guessing they were scraps someone threw out. We decided to pass on the casino tour and headed back to town for lunch.

We got some Mexican food that was mediocre but Natalie had an amazing Moscow Mule. I'm on a one drink a day maximum so I only got a sip. I don't think we did much else that day. We walked around town, Natalie took a nap at the hotel while the kids drove me crazy, and we had a light dinner. That night some crazy people, probably kids on spring break, crashed two golf carts into a tree and set it on fire. The sounded the island's tsunami alarms. I am normally a light sleep but after walking a good 12+ miles with these kids I slept right through it. The kids slept a whole 12 hours that night.

The next morning I woke up and tried to get some groupon deals for the submarine and island adventure. I was just about to complete the purchase when Natalie told me to read the fine print. The fine print said you had to have a reservation 48 hours in advance. So we walked down to the pier to try and cut a deal. I had not idea it would be so easy. She told me to call in and see if they would honor the groupon anyways. I did, they said ok, but the groupon was gone when I looked again. Now even in countries where haggling is normal they try to rape you so I wasn't expecting them to hook me up so easily but this girl saved us something like $90 bucks on the package and let us get on the Safari bus with children's passes. We got hooked up really nice. 

So on Thursday we did the submarines. She told me it would be better than the glass bottom boat because you are 6 feet under water and they have food launchers. For 12 bucks we bought 8 shots of food. When we got to the feeding spots the kids pushed the buttons and food launched out by the windows. The windows literally blacked out with fish. It was pretty cool but about halfway into the tour Zach became tired which leads to hyperactive crazy kid. By the time we got back into the harbor the fog that had started rolling in had taken over the entire harbor. It felt so good. I never thought I would enjoy being on the cool side but after living in the desert it feels so good to be in a Mediterranean climate. It wasn't as cool as it normally is in March. They were having a heat wave so the weather was very similar to South Florida in January. Mild warm temperatures with mild humidity. Enough to make your skin feel nice but not enough to make you miserable. It was very enjoyable weather all three days. The fog came in when the high pressure system started to collapse. 

That night we went to a higher end Mexican food restaurant than the night before. It's called Maggie's Blue Rose Mexican Restaurant and the salsa and food were really good. However the Moscow Mules were better at Mi Casita. That was our last night in Catalina and the kids slept,,,,, wait for it,,,,,, 13 hours!!!! Why can't they do this every night?

So the next morning we packed up, put our stuff in the luggage room, and walked down to the beach so the kids could play in the sand. Natalie forgot her fitbit in the room and we didn't have a do not disturb sign for our door. So I ran back to the hotel and they didn't have an extra sign for me. So I found the obnoxious kids that were disturbing everyone the night before and took their sign. Normally I would say reallocation of resources that do not belong to you are wrong but they are probably Bernie Sanders loving spread the wealth socialist and they didn't mind disturbing everyone else so I had no problem relocating their sign. When I got back to the beach we did some shopping before our Safari ride. We normally pick up a shot glass on vacation but this time I found a small green bottle that said something like "Instant Pirate, just add rum". The perfect souvenir. 

The Safari ride was really cool but not what I expected at all. The road was narrow, bumpy as all hell, and windy. Natalie looked scared half the time and a lady in the front was putting her arms out like she was flying. However the scenery was epic. We didn't see any of the island's endemic foxes but we did see a herd of bison. However that wasn't all that exciting after seeing them so close we can touch them in Yellowstone. The ride was something like 50 miles round trip up to the airport at 1602 feet above sea level. From there we could see all the way to Mt. Baldy in CA. It might not be a tropical island with jungle but the scenery was still pretty awesome. At the airport I was going to grab a ginger beer but instead settled on a Hangar 14 Orange Beer thinking it would taste something like my new favorite Papago Orange Blossom beer. It didn't. The only good thing about it was that taking a shot of Natalie's coke tasted extra sweet after a shot of beer. 

The way home the ride water was like glass. No sickness at all. Natalie and I plan on going back for our anniversary this year. Originally I wanted to go camping on this trip but that wasn't going to work with the kids. Then I thought about going to Two Harbors instead of Avalon but thought I'd save Two Harbors for just Natalie and Me. So we plan on going back around Thanksgiving and doing some epic hiking around Two Harbors.

A couple days before going to Catalina we had date night with my sister and my brother in law. Normally sports bars have crappy food but the food here was really good. I got the good drink, The Jurupa Water (Gin, blueberry vodka, melon liqueur, blue curacao, peach schnapps, and fruit juices. So after giving Natalie my Jurupa water and drinking her berry whatever I got another Jurupa water. They didn't warn me every drink is a double. For 10 minutes I felt like I was going to fall asleep. Needless to say I turned down a third drink and settle for a Stella instead during the mediocre movie we saw. First time having a Stella with popcorn and I have to say they go together better than soda and popcorn.
Avalon Harbor. It was a little cool there our first morning but I was still in shorts.
At our hotel. Zach just wanted to be outside looking around.
Walking downtown we found this blue cactus with a really cool flower on it.

Walking to the botanical gardens.
At the entrance to the botanical gardens. Adri has no idea what this thing is.
The infamous Catalina Island Mahogany.
The fragrant flowers on the mahogany.

I thought these looked pretty cool.
I think this is called dragon tree or something.

Zach had to photo bomb his sister.

The door is made of bronze.

The overpriced Ninja Turtle I bought at Decansano Beach. While we were sitting there a beach came down the cliffs onto the beach. The first time I have ever seen a deer on a beach.

Dead lobsters.
Looking towards Decansano Beach.
At dinner. Zach likes the spicy stuff. Adri did too until she was about 3.

The fog rolling in while waiting for the submarine.
You have to read the fine print. "I love it when my wife lets me go hunting".

Adri dropped her ice cream. Went from smiles to tears really quick. Don't worry, all was made right in the universe when they gave her some more for free.

Zach was putting on a show for everyone while chasing the birds.
The last night there we took the kids to the playground and wore them out. So worth it.

The Safari ride.
Zach likes to pant like a doggy.

Avalon Harbor

Back in Riverside Cassandra made some shirts.