A Quickie Vacation

We went on an ordinary overnight vacation on Monday… a 3-hour trip to meet up with my parents and spend the day in Redding, California.

I tell people that our home is so remote we live five hours from anywhere (meaning 5 hours from San Francisco), and by that I’m also saying Redding is not anyone’s idea of a vacation destination. Still, we had quite a bit of fun.

On the left, a photo of my daughter kneeling on a chair in our hotel room with my toddler son trying to climb the same chair. On the right, my daughter sliding down a tube slide at a playground.

Above left, my daughter was kneeling this morning on a chair to watch swans outside our hotel window.  Above right, her highlight of the trip was a playground (one of two we visited) that wasn’t all that special, but don’t tell her that.

A view from our hotel window showing two swams preening next to a pond, and a wooden pedestrian bridge in the distance.

This was the view from our hotel window. The preening swans are about 10 feet away. This is a lame photo. You missed us lounging on the patio the previous evening with these beauties next to us. Their feeding bowl was under our window.

Cool, eh? My wife made the find after we were unimpressed with lodging reviews for Redding hotels linked in Google Maps. She looked 10 minutes south to an obscure town where she found a Gaia Hotel that is hell-bent on being eco-friendly in all things. And it was only $70 for two queens (kids share the beds).

But for a 4-year-old, the real joy of any hotel is the hotel pool. She would have liked to stay another day if only for the pool.

Photo of my daughter turning a crank on a display opening a T-Rex jaw while she herself opens her mouth wide.

The focal point of our vacation was a trip to Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding where Sue, a cast of a T-Rex, is on exhibit. Above, my daughter is learning how the jaw of a Tyrannosaurs works.

By the way, Turtle Bay was the name of a logging company. The park itself is about 100 miles from the ocean.

Photo of a fox sniffing for food on the grass of an amphitheater.

For me, the highlight of our trip was caused by our arriving too late at Turtle Bay and missing all of the (morning-oriented because of the summer heat) live shows. By chance we came across animal trainers working with a performing eagle and a fox in an empty amphitheater. The trainers were very cool, letting us watch as long as we sat quietly and didn’t have any food with us.

Another couple who cared a little too much about their french fries chose not to watch. I’m sure years from now they’ll look back upon those french fries with fond memories.

The eagle flew around the amphitheater to assigned perches on verbal and visual cues dropped into the trainer’s speech. The fox, on the other hand, ran wild sniffing for bologna sandwiches, ignoring the silly humans.

Apparently, in an earlier show a careless audience member left half a bologna sandwich on the ground and the fox ate it. Now he’s cuckoo for Cocoa-Puffs, or, well, anything that smells like processed food. I’m not sure what the trainer was more upset about, that one incident had derailed the fox’s training, or that he’d eaten the crappiest of human food.

Photo of my daughter driving a black pick-up truck in a museum exhibit. Her hands barely reach the top of the steering wheel.

That’s my daughter in a hands-on pick-up truck exhibit at Turtle Bay. An audio recording plays of some guy saying something-or-other while you sit in the seat. I couldn’t tell you what the exhibit was about, but it’s definitely set up for photo-ops.

Anyhow, that was our vacation. Turtle Bay was pretty cool as far as manufactured eco-museum tourism spots go. They put a lot of attention and care into their exhibits. I just didn’t take many photos. Carrying a camera became a bit of a nuisance. I need to come to terms with sacrificing image quality, and finally buy myself a pocket camera.

Oh, and about the stuff that really matters… The car trip itself was fairly painless. On the way there, we talked to our daughter about forest fire damage evident along the way, sparked by lightning strikes the night of her being read the Thunder Cake story last year.

On the way back, my wife read her The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth — a fairly long chapter book about a triceratops that inexplicably hatches from a chicken-laid egg. And we stopped at the vista look-outs along the highway that no one ever stops at because they are singularly focused on getting to their destination fast.

Meanwhile, our 1-year-old boy was super easy. He’s a terror on legs, but put him in a car seat or stroller and it’s relative parenting bliss.


5 Responses to “A Quickie Vacation”

  1. MoJo says:

    I just heard about Turtle Bay last weekend from someone else. Highway 299 isn’t a highway that our family enjoys. Carsickness isn’t something I deal with very well. I am surprised your wife was able to read a chapter book on the way home. I will remember that hotel when we ever venture that way again. Something different than Holiday Inn Express is always a nice change.
    Was there a lot for your 1 year old to enjoy at the museum?

    May 13th, 2009 at 9:18 am

  2. AJ says:

    Hmm, the 1-year-old enjoys looking at things, but from a hands-on perspective the only activity he could participate in was go on a slide and run around the playground. Anytime, anywhere he can run around on his own is a great time from his perspective.

    We had to abandon our stroller for a butterfly and parakeet enclosure (two separate venues). The aviary was pretty cool (or scary) for people who don’t own a pet bird… feeding birds holding a Popsicle stick that has bird food stuck to it. Birds are guaranteed to land on your shoulder or head or camera bag… It was essentially a walk-in bird cage, no natural habitat like the butterfly enclosure.

    May 13th, 2009 at 9:30 am

  3. Derek says:

    We make it to redding couple times a year because of in-laws in the area. On a hot day they have two must visit water play areas. One is Enterprise Park, a free public park with all kinds of water features to play with including an erupting volcano. Also has regular play equipment. Then there is the Redding aquatic center that has a zero depth pool with a playground structure in the middle. Both my sons love this, and is well worth the very minimal charge to get in.

    May 13th, 2009 at 10:14 am

  4. MIdge says:

    Thanks for this. We are thinking of making a couple of “vacation” trips to Redding this summer and now I know a few things to do there!

    May 13th, 2009 at 10:28 am

  5. AJ says:

    Eek, I didn’t know we had so many northern California readers. Be sure you request a ground floor room facing the pond, maybe even say “near the swans,” otherwise you may get a glorious view of Interstate 5.

    May 13th, 2009 at 10:35 am

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