Dear Tom

Dear Tom,

I can’t believe it’s been a year.  It still doesn’t seem real that you’re not here getting ready to calve heifers, worrying about the weather, riding horses that no one else can or would want to, grinning from ear to ear as you watch your girls feed bum calves and learn to ride.  When I think of you, I still picture you doing all of that.  We didn’t see each other every day, you and I, we hadn’t for a long time, because I am here and you were there. So it’s easy for me to pretend that you haven’t really gone anywhere.  It’s easy for me to forget, for a moment, that things have changed, that you are gone.

But I know that you are.  And I know that it’s not easy, not for a second, for the ones who are used to seeing you everyday. For the ones who depended on you, who counted on your strength and your smile to get them through the day, they feel your absence every single moment. I can pretend that the world didn’t change but they can’t.

Some people will say that everything happens for a reason.  But I don’t believe that.  I don’t believe that God gave you cancer or chose not to cure you for some mysterious, so called reason, known only to him.  I don’t think God works that way.  You were too bright a light for God not to want you here in this world for as long as possible.  I think life just unfolds in front us and God is there to help us through it all but I can’t believe that there could be a reason for what you went through or what we lost when you left us.

Some people will say that God needed you in heaven.  I can’t make sense of that either.  If God is God than what help could he possibly need and even if he did, I know for fact he’s got a pretty damn good cowboy crew up there already.  We need you here more.

I will never understand why this happened.  I know it has something to do with cells dividing and treatments not living up to their promises.  But I will never understand why you and why now, when you still had so much to do.  What I want you to know is that we haven’t forgotten you.  We never could.  You are missed, deeply and often.  Life marches on but it’s not quite the same.

I don’t know what heaven is like but I hope there are green mountain pastures, and cattle to gather and horses to ride.  I hope you sit around under the stars at night and tell wild west stories with the rest of the cowboys up there.  And I hope that it’s not really that far away.  That you can look down on us once in awhile and maybe send us a sign somehow.  We’ll be thinking of you and watching for you every time we saddle up.

Tell we meet again my friend…..

video below, pictures courtesy of Toms’ family and friends

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Happy 11th Birthday Anne!

11 years ago this goofy girl showed up and we’ve been having a great time ever since.

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Here are a few of things that she’s kept us busy with this year.

Hanging out with grandparents and cousins.

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and with her favorite brother

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Spending time with friends

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Hanging with Aunt Casey.  The similarities between them, and I say with love and great anxiety, are frightening.

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Moving cattle and branding calves.

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Acting and singing with the POP worship team

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Basketball

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And just being her goofy, smiling, funny self.

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Happy Birthday Annie!  You are awesome and we love you!

 

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Happy Birthday Casey

Today is Casey’s birthday.  When I was looking through photos for this post I came across a few common themes.

This look

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Tree Hunts

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Dad and Casey were in charge of the Christmas tree one year. They went on a tree hunt and this is what they came back with. They have never been allowed on an unsupervised tree hunt since.

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This year’s tree hunt.

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They had a bit more supervision this time.

Horses

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Cowboy hats

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Reindeer Antlers

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Excitement over driving

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Taco Dip

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It just goes to show you, some things change and some things stay the same.  But one thing that has changed.  Casey and Ryan are engaged!  Congratulations!

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Photo credit Alecia Scolari

Happy Birthday Casey!

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Friends in Low Places

One day last summer I found myself at Sharon’s kitchen table, discussing important things, matters of deep philosophical significance.  Who is the better country entertainer, Garth Brooks or George Straight.

Those that know me well, know that my allegiance is to Garth and it can not be swayed.  Now, don’t get me wrong, George is great, a legend even.  But Garth….Garth is it.  No question, hands down.  There was a time, back in 1990 something, that I pitched a tent and slept in the cold Wyoming wind, outside the Casper Events Center with my friend Lorinna, so we could be one of the first in line to buy tickets to Garth’s concert.  And it was worth every teeth chattering minute.  George is great and all but Garth is Garth!

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Sharon on the other hand seemed to think George was the guy.  But even though she seemed fairly certain about where she stood on the issue, I sensed that there was a possibility she might be swayed…..

I said, “you know Garth just announced that he’s going on tour again maybe we should go and just see what you think after that.”  She said, “maybe.”

A few weeks later she sent me an email that said she and Brenda had been to a concert at Cheyenne Frontier Days and the guy who opened for Brad Paisley made everyone sing Friends in Low Places because it was a song that EVERYONE knew.  And she said, “guess what?  EVERYONE knew it and sang along.”

I replied, “obviously this is a sign from God.  We must go to a Garth Brooks concert. It’s almost like a burning bush!  If we don’t go there could be floods and famine and locust!”  She said, “maybe”

A few weeks later there’s a big announcement here in Minnesota.  Garth Brooks is coming to the Target Center!  I emailed Sharon right away and said, “See it’s like the 11th commandment!  We NEED to go see Garth! If I get tickets will you come?!”  She said, “maybe”…..I don’t think she thought I would ever be able to get tickets but I was determined to pitch my tent and sleep in the cold if I had to!  Thank God I didn’t have to pitch my tent and sleep in the cold.  All I needed was my computer and cup of coffee.  Standing in line for concert tickets has come a long way since 90’s.

So, I logged into the “waiting room” about 40 minutes before tickets went on sale.  At 10:00 sharp my screen said, “You are in line.  It will be your turn shortly”  I stared intently at my screen for the next hour and half.  I was just beginning to lose hope….and wishing I hadn’t drank so much coffee…and my eyes were kind of starting to burn, when bam! It was my turn.

And I very nearly panicked because all of the sudden there is a countdown clock on my screen and I have to enter all this information and make it sure its right and then it says, something like “here are you seats do want them, cause if you do you better say so quick because we going to give them to someone else in 1 minute and 15 seconds, 14…13…12…

Here is what went through my head:  ok…ok…check the date…yep right date…check the time because we don’t want the 10:30 concert I can barely stay up that late anymore…ok the early concert….good…ok…credit card info…got it…ok…ahhhh only 1 minute left…ok…number of seats, obviously I’m going to get the most I can which is eight, I’m sure I can find eight people to go with me…got it…ok…where are the seats are they any good…does it really matter, I mean we kind have to take what we get right…but maybe I could try for better ones but if I do that we might not get any….ahhh only 45 seconds left…focus….ok date, time, credit card, number of seats…ok where are they….they look ok…they might even be good but….oh it doesn’t matter for crying tears in a bucket just buy the damn tickets already before you lose them!  Click!  Done. And we had ourselves some tickets to see Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.

Then just for fun I went and looked at another website that showed the concert layout for the Target Center and showed views from all the seat locations.  And what it said we could see from our seats was….a big speaker tower.  I wanted to cry.  When Joe got home I said, “I think I’ve just ruined everything!”  He looked up a few different views on some other sites and said, “I don’t think it will be totally ruined.  I think it will be ok.”  I just couldn’t think about it anymore and I told Sharon, “well, we’ve got tickets.  I’m not sure but they might be crappy seats, I just took what I could get”  She said she would come anyway.

Mom and Brenda didn’t want Sharon to have to travel alone, so they came along to keep her company and also they wanted to see Garth.  Jamie and Chad had planned coming out that weekend to watch Max play basketball and decided they could leave early enough to make it out for the concert.  My eight tickets were snapped up before I even had a chance to wonder who to take.

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Brenda and Sharon

And so we listened to Garth 24/7 to prepare.  Max and Anne, I am so proud to say, now know almost all of his songs by heart.

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And then finally the big night arrived!  I counted the tickets fourteen hundred times between my front door and the Target center.  I briefly let Mom hold them while I drove but told her she had to keep them where I could see them the entire time.  After a somewhat tricky drive into Minneapolis (my husband is not fun to follow in traffic…not fun at all) we were there.  We shuffled our way in with the crowd and finally found our way to our seats.  It turned out they were ok after all!

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No speaker tower! Just full view of the stage! Not quite front row center stage but not too shabby

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Smiling fans. This was the only time we sat during the next two and half hours.

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Two of my most favorite people in the whole wide world

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Garth

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Trisha

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Garth and Trisha

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Kara, Joe and I

It was fantastic!  My ears were ringing and my feet ached and my voice was hoarse but it was so worth it.  We talked about hiding out in the bathroom and waiting for the 10:30 show but we didn’t.  I never did ask Sharon if she was swayed over the Garth side but I don’t even care anymore because I got to go the concert.

I told Joe I was thinking about just following the tour around.  He said, “what about the children?”  I said, “I guess they can come too.”  We’re still working out the details….

Here are a couple of video clips that Joe took.  Enjoy!  And if you ever get a chance to go to a Garth concert, please go!  And wear comfortable shoes.

 

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Happy Birthday Jamie!

Today is Jamie’s birthday.  Here are a few memories from days gone by….

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Cake makes her very excited!

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She has her eyes closed for almost every picture ever taken of her

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The perm days

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and again with the eyes closed….maybe she’s meditating….

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Jamie and her first 4-H steer, Charlie, with two champion ribbons!

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4-H horse show, riding Peter

Fast forward to present day.

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She smoked em at the matched horse race.….well, at least until Tigger caught up with her.

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She wrestled calves

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and vaccinated calves

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and rode for miles and miles with Chase and Wrangler

Speaking of Chase…..he had a birthday yesterday!

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He also gets excited about cake…even before it’s done!

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See any similarities?  most of Chase’s expressions remind me of Chad but the smile I think is Jamie’s

 

Happy Birthday Jamie and Chase!

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Happy Birthday Kimmi!

Today is my sister Kim’s birthday.  So just for fun here is a little look back at her younger days.

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Me and Kim….I was hoping for a puppy…or maybe a pony….but Mom said, “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit”

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She still eats this way

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She has spent years perfecting this look

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She’s always been an animal lover and was very bold in her fashion choices, not everyone can pull of polka dot pants let alone pairing them with stripes

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She started riding at an early age

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Looking good in a cowboy hat

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4-H horse show

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She started training early for the 2014 Matched Horse Race which obviously gave her a leg up on her competitors

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Working hard at the 4-H steer show

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High School Rodeo

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She always keeps things interesting…

Happy Birthday Kimmi!

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And she still looks good in a cowboy hat

 

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San Francisco

I am married to a guy who loves to travel.  He went on lots of fun vacations with his family when he was a kid and he has a whole list of places that he is dying to take our kids to.

When I was a kid we went on five family vacations.  Three were to Yellowstone.  We would take one day to drive there, one day to drive through and one day to drive home.  One of those trips was during the big fire, all we saw was smoke.

One trip was to Mount Rushmore and one to Minnesota and Iowa to visit family friends.  The last trip was to Calgary to see the Calgary Stampede (and that trip is a story for another time).

What I’m trying to say is that Joe and I have vastly different experience levels when it comes to travel, add in his overseas travel for work and he was by far the more seasoned traveler.  I really like the idea of travel and I do enjoy learning about new places and seeing different parts of the world but I don’t really enjoy the process of getting there and I’m a bit claustrophobic and basically the opposite of brave and have a tendency to create disaster scenarios in my head.  So, you can imagine how much fun I can be on vacation.

Most of our “trips” in the past few years have been to Casper Wyoming so I decided it was probably passed time to let Joe start crossing destinations off his list.

So, Joe booked a summer vacation to San Francisco.  My first reaction upon hearing the destination was to say, “Excuse me, but there could be an earthquake!”  To which Joe responded, “Excuse me, Wyoming is on top of super volcano.”…..touché.

(the ironic thing is that there was an earthquake just north of where we stayed, just a few days ago but long after we were safely home.  I said, “See what I’d tell you.”  The response was a heavy sigh and eye roll)

So, off to San Francisco we flew.  The flight was uneventful and as comfortable as flying can be these days.  Our first stop was Palo Alto to visit the Stanford campus.  It is a really nice campus.  We, unfortunately, ran short on time so didn’t get to see as much of it as we wanted but we enjoyed the walking around and visiting the bookstore and at lunch at the student union.

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Hoover Tower

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Enjoying lunch at the student union

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Then we drove north to San Francisco.  Here are a few things we learned about San Francisco and a few of the places we visited.

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I don’t know what this guys story is

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but he seemed to be proclaiming love for something or someone…and he had quite the dance moves

It’s really hilly!  I mean really, really steep hills.  I kept thinking that I would not want to try to pull a horse trailer around that town.  It’s also quite the workout walking around town.

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It’s much steeper than it looks like in this picture

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climbing up to our hotel

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It’s kind of cold. It’s not really very warm at all, even in August. We stepped out of the car at our hotel and were surprised at how chilly it was.   The warmest it got all week was 67.  We had to buy jackets.  We were thinking, California, summer, who needs a jacket.  Well, if you’re visiting San Francisco you need a jacket….and a hat if your going to do the open bus tour because your ears are going to get cold.

It’s foggy.  Like every day.  That’s the one thing that I just couldn’t get used to.  I really enjoyed visiting but I don’t think I could deal with the grayness everyday.

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There is a lot of history.  If you like history, like I do, it’s a really fun place to visit.  We stayed in the Fairmont Hotel which has tons of interesting history.  It was built by two sisters, Tessa and Virginia Fair, to honor their father, James Graham Fair.  They sold it on April 6, 1906 to Herbert and Hartland Law, just days before the great earthquake on April 18, 1906.  The Fairmont withstood the quake but succumbed to the fire that followed.  The Law brothers rebuilt it and it re-opened a year later.  There are lots of interesting stories and people associated with the Fairmont, plus it’s a really nice hotel.  As we left to go to dinner the first night we asked our driver what all the security people and cameras were about.  Turns out we had just missed Arnold Scharzenegger.  So for the rest of trip we kept wondering if he left saying, “I’ll be back”…..

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Max and Anne outside the Fairmont

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Inside our room

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the rest of our room

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The view from our room. You can see Alcatraz and also Coit Tower

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Max and Anne relaxing in the lobby

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In the rooftop garden

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And of course, there are the cable cars and the Presidio and the Golden Gate and Alcatraz and China Town and the list goes on.

We took an open top bus tour, which I would definitely recommend, although you will want a jacket and a hat.

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Things we saw on our bus tour. I don’t remember the story behind these legs but they were sticking out of window

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China Town

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The birthplace of tie-dye

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Joe and Anne

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The Golden Gate

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A very serious looking dog with a jacket because it’s chilly!

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San Francisco city hall

Alcatraz is a hot ticket.  We wanted to visit Alcatraz but made the mistake of thinking we could just show up and buy a ticket.  Turns out they book those trips out 2-3 months in advance, so we had to settle for a boat ride under the Golden Gate and around the island.

We had wanted to ride the cable car down to Fisherman’s Wharf but the line was really, really long.  So, we ended up taking the bus.  I very nearly had a panic attack on that stupid bus.  We were crammed in like sardines, standing room only, and the driver just kept letting more people get on!  I had to stand on one leg squished in between people I didn’t know.  Then the driver says, “just a friendly reminder, there are probably pick pockets on the bus, so get to know your neighbors.”  I can not tell you how glad I was to get off that bus and have vowed to never ride a bus again.

Then before I even had time to calm myself down, we were suddenly standing in line to board a boat (boating is not my favorite activity because you know, sharks, drowning, the titanic).  I looked back and forth at the line of people, looked at the boat and declared it was very likely going to sink and there was no way they had that many life jackets on that boat.  Joe said, “we will be fine.”  I pointed out sharks, drowning, titanic.  He gently took me by the shoulders and said, “If you really don’t want to go, there is a really nice bench right over there.  I will buy you something to drink and we will be back in hour.”  To which I said, “Well if you all are going to drown and get eaten by sharks I think I should be there!”  He said, “Fine. You can come but please stop acting like we are marching to our doom.  It’s a boat ride.”

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Would you trust this boat?

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Alcatraz Island

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Going under the Golden Gate

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Max and Anne right before the big wave comes and knocks a lady down. We are lucky to have survived.

So, I wasn’t happy about it but I got on the boat and it actually wasn’t too bad.  But we did hit a really big wave that came over the edge of the boat and knocked a lady down so I felt somewhat vindicated in my assessment of the danger. (The lady was fine and it may have been the slippery floor that made her fall more than the wave but still)

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Sea lions greeting us upon our return

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There is a lot more to do at Fisherman’s Wharf but it was so crowded and I had I was barely hanging on after the bus and the boat so we got the heck out of there and went to Ghirarelli Square because chocolate fixes everything

Ghirardelli Square.  What can I say, we ended up there twice because they had really good chocolate, really good ice cream and also Kara’s Cupcakes.  We had to have Kara’s Cupcakes in honor of my friend Kara.  I took a picture for her and thought about trying to bring some cupcakes home for her but there was no way we weren’t going to eat them before we could them back to Minnesota.  So, we each ate two in her honor instead.

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Kara’s Cupcakes. Highly recommended!

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They were delicious! Sorry Kara…maybe next time or maybe we take a girls trip so you can see for yourself!

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There is a nice beach area just across the street from Ghirardelli Square.  Anne declared that it had deluxe sand and it was her favorite spot of the whole trip.

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California Academy of Sciences.  We had an excellent plan for the day we visited the Academy of Sciences.  We would get early, have a quick breakfast and get there before the crowds.  It was an excellent plan that was poorly executed.  And it turns out that executing a plan is just as important as the actual plan.  Bottom line is we slept in…..and it was crowded.  But still very interesting.

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This is partly why our plan was not well executed. We stayed up late and ordered room service the night before because, well because it’s vacation!

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We passed by Original Joe’s restaurant on our way but we didn’t have time to eat there

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The albino alligator…or could by a crocodile. I’m not sure which but he is clearly albino.

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Cable Cars.  We did finally get on a cable car.  We waited in line for about an hour but we finally made it on.

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We also found Annie’s Hot Dogs

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The Redwood Forest.  The next few days we spent along the northern shore in the Arcata area checking out the Redwood Forest.  We drove up highway 101.  In San Francisco there wasn’t much evidence of the drought going on there but we definitely saw evidence of it on our drive.  It looked really dry and we drove through quite a bit of smoke from fires in the area.  We also drove past a base camp for some of the fire crews.  All the smoke reminded me of two summers ago in Wyoming when we were surrounded by fires. We went from foggy to smokey and then back to foggy by the time we got to Arcata.

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The view from our hotel in Arcata wasn’t quite the same as our view at the Fairmont.

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The Redwoods are pretty amazing.  Max, Joe and I all had cameras, so we came home with 1516 pictures of trees.  Here are a few.  The rest basically look the same.

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After awhile photo bombing became the thing to do

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Arcata Scoop.  We found the best ice cream in Arcata. Even better than the Ghirardelli ice cream.  And it was the cutest little shop too.  I had a scoop of chocolate and honey vanilla lavender.  It was the best ice cream I have ever had…except of course for Max’s homemade ice cream.

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Sneaker Waves.  We also stopped at a couple of beach areas along the coast.  One had this sign.

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We don’t have sneaker waves in Wyoming or Minnesota so I had to google to figure out exactly what they are.  Basically, it’s an unexpectedly large wave that can happen at anytime and sweep you out into the ocean to your doom.  I was on constant lookout from that point on and I think I started to annoy my family with my constant shouting of “sneaker wave!” and “never turn your back on the ocean”

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See that there to the right. That could have easily been a sneaker wave….it wasn’t but it could have been.

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And then there was this sign at the other one.  We were in constant danger, although I seemed to be the only one who cared.

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Big Foot.  It turns out this area is big on Big Foot sightings and he was nice enough to pose for a picture with us.

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Big Foot

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He wasn’t very talkative but didn’t seem to mind being photographed

And also Joe made a new friend.

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And then it was back down to San Francisco to fly home.  It was a fun trip (aside from the bus and the boat) but it was also really nice to be home again.

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