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Summer 2018: Day 59; Vacation, Day 9

And just like that, vacation is over.

The ride back seemed amazingly swift today, even though it took 10 hours. Lori drove the whole way and was happy, especially because she passed Michael to win Slug Bug after he led most of the week (he never knew what hit him ...). We picked up Starbucks in Barstow, bought McDonald's in Las Vegas, and filled up at Costco in St. George. After arriving home, I brought home Noodles for dinner. The cat was happy to see us, and we listened to the remainder of the audiobook of Ready Player One as we ate.

Vacation always goes too fast. Michael starts school in less than a month, and I'll be back at work shortly. But this is one trip that truly was rejuvenating and unforgettable. Until the next adventure ...

Summer 2018: Day 58; Vacation Day 8

We left Seal Beach this morning, and it was bittersweet. The week was fantastic, and the house was a great find, but wrapping up vacation is always sad. Ben literally was sad, crying a little bit as we drove away from the house. If we come back to California next year for a basketball tournament, we want to rent this house again.

Ah, yes, basketball: Michael played four games today. The first two were with his regular team, and they lost the first, struggling with turnovers and getting screwed by terrible refereeing. The second game they won easily and finished the tourney with a 3-1 record.

Afterward, we headed to Irvine, where he played two more games with the U15 team. Both games were losses, but Michael again held his own, averaging 11 points a game and showing he can play with high schoolers. He did get stepped on once and has a bruise/scrape/mark on the side of his chest.

With basketball concluded, our trip back to Utah started with earnest by traveling to Pasadena. We checked i…

Summer 2018: Day 57; Vacation Day 7

More basketball today, but some fun, too.

Michael's regular team played two games today and won both, one in a nail-biter, the other in a blowout. Between games, most of the team ate at Denny's, with eight players getting their own table. I don't remember Denny's being as expensive as it was -- for the average quality of food you shouldn't get Chili's prices. And of course, Ben ordered a cherry limeade, perhaps the most expensive drink on the menu short of a milkshake

After the game, many of the families met at Seal Beach so the boys could get a chance to hang out together. The weather was perfect, as were the waves. The waves were actually pretty huge; topping me a couple times when I was only in water up to my knees. The boys had a blast. This is what is best about the travel tournaments: Not so much the basketball, but the fun the players have and the memories they make.

We walked back to the house with one of Michael's teammates we were managing (his fa…

Summer 2018: Day 56; Vacation Day 6

We originally thought Michael would have basketball games Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but to our surprise, no games were scheduled for Friday. Instead of being disappointed, we viewed this as an opportunity to enjoy another full vacation day near the ocean. After a sleepy morning, we began pondering what to do with our unexpected free day.

About two minutes into our discussion on what to do, we received a text asking if Michael could play three games up with the U15s. Our free day disappeared, replaced with some incredible basketball experience for Michael. This tournament features a crazy amount of good teams, and the competition is top-notch high school players -- who he'll be facing for the next four years.

He held his own, though he was tired in a ridiculously hot gym complex. In three games (alas, all losses), he averaged about 8 points and held his own against older, sometimes bigger, sometimes stronger competition. He definitely proved he could play at this level, and thou…

Summer 2018: Day 55; Vacation Day 5

Today was the sort of vacation day Lori and I will remember forever. And hopefully, the boys will remember it too.

Visiting Catalina Island had been the centerpiece of Lori's California plans. We woke up early to head to the ferry dock to board a boat that would take us across the channel 25 miles from San Pedro to Avalon on the island. The ride across was pleasant although a little chilly. We sat on the top level of the ferry, which was open air and breezy as the boat raced across the water. About halfway through the 70-minute ride, the mountains of Catalina were visible in the distance. We were almost there!

As we pulled into port, we saw two seals swimming in the harbor -- a nice welcome to the island. We collected ourselves and took the short walk into town. After visiting the Catalina Island Conservancy, we decided we would hike the Garden-to-Sky Trail first. We stocked up on sparkling water and caught a bus to the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens above the city. From t…

Summer 2018: Day 54, Vacation, day 4

Even a mellow day on this vacation turned out to be awesome.

We needed a mellow day after driving Sunday followed by two nonstop days. But our day was far from boring. Lori took the boys for coffee in the morning, and I chilled with math puzzles. I then went for a walk down to the shore and then to CVS. After I watched Croatia defeat England in the World Cup semifinals, we headed to the beach.

This trip, I actually went in the ocean. The waves were fun, though I had to work hard so as not to get knocked over (I felt like one of the trees in "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" that braces itself when the flood is about to hit). We bought a cheap body board at CVS, and Michael got the hang of it right away, but Ben couldn' quite figure it out. After a couple hours, we left the beach exhausted, tan, and sandy.

We ate dinner at home, with me grilling steaks. Ben and I played a few games of the Ticket to Ride card game, and I ran to get gas so we'll be ready for our T…

Summer 2018: Day 53; Vacation, Day 3

We definitely are not taking this vacation lying down!

Today we did all the tourist-type things in Los Angeles proper. We started by riding the funicular in downtown LA  (featured in "La La Land" and admiring the above-average view from the top. It was a short ride and just $2 round trip, but it was definitely an experience -- a "Guess what we did?" moment. And it also was a neat start to a busy day.

Our next destination was the Farmer's Market, one of Lori's favorite spots in Los Angeles. We didn't wander it too much, but we did eat lunch (boys got sushi, Lori ate Thai, I ordered fried clam strips). I bought a puzzle magazine and a lottery ticket (we didn't win). As we were leaving, we saw a huge line emanating from a nearby pizza restaurant -- LeBron James was rumored to be visiting there that day and Laker fans went crazy (he never showed).

From the Farmer's Market we headed down Sunset Boulevard and back down Hollywood Boulevard. We could se…