Monday, December 22, 2008

Headed to the North Pole

The Polar Express is a Christmas train ride for families that travels to the North pole to see Santa. A friend of mine told me about one that runs out of Old Sacramento. I was able to get tickets back in October (they sold out in 5 days) but the trip almost happened without me. I was at work in Reno Thursday and wouldn’t get off until 8am Friday. A storm moved in with snow and high winds that closed Highway 80 over Donner Summit, my way home. I had left the tickets with Pat so he could take the girls and head to Sacramento without me if needed. So between running calls half the night and stressing about getting home I didn’t sleep much.

Luckily for me, Caltrans decided to reopen the highway and I was able to get over the hill and join my family for a very fun event. Our first stop was Fanny Ann's restaurant for lunch. It’s a great burger and fries joint that we’ve been going to for years and it never changes which is its charm.

After lunch we walked the streets of Old Sac while the girls ran around and burned off some energy. Eventually we got them changed into their pajamas and made our way to the railroad museum which is a real treasure and will turn anyone into a train buff. While the family checked out the many different types of trains including the dining and sleeping cars, I headed over to the railyard and picked up our boarding passes. It wasn’t long before we were loaded up and moving on down the tracks.
Nana and Sara enjoy some quiet time

The cars were all decorated for the season and Christmas music played on the speakers. The first order of business was to get our tickets punched by the conductor.
Next came the cookies and hot chocolate and the reading of The Polar Express written by Chris Van Allsberg (we own the book and highly recommend anyone with kids to get it). The train slowly made it’s way to the North Pole where Santa waited for us.

Santa came aboard the train to hand out the magic bells from his sleigh and Caitlyn was the lucky one to receive the first gift of Christmas. The train car quickly filled with the magic sound of the bells ringing (we must truly believe because we had no trouble hearing all the bells).
A hobo who didn’t believe and therefore couldn’t hear the bells, made his way through the car. Caitlyn was afraid he’d try to take her bell so she hid it safely in the pocket of her robe.

All of the entertainment and support personnel was made up of volunteer docents, some who have been doing this for many years. This is Chuck and Jan, Chuck punched our tickets and Jan fed us goodies.
Soon we were headed back moving at a faster speed which allowed us to enjoy the rhythmic sway of the train. This was my first time on a train (other than BART) and I must say, it is truly magical.
My folks enjoying the view of the Sacramento Capital
After disembarking, my dad walked over to the Amtrak station to catch a train back to central California to take care of some things before joining us all again for Christmas. Due to the fact it was nearing 5:00pm, we weren't in a hurry to hop on the traffic congested roads so we headed back to the train museum and try to see the things we missed earlier.
Sara mimicking her daddy
So if anyone has kids and wants to enjoy a trip to the North Pole to visit Santa, I would recommend the Polar Express. It was a lot of fun to see the kids dressed in their pajamas and experiencing something they truly believe in.
Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's certainly COOL in Reno

Yeah, I got in! accepted my registration for Way Too Cool 50K at 8:04am. I managed to get someone to come in early for me at the fire station so I could sequester myself at a local Starbucks and continuously push the "register" button starting shortly before 8:00am.

For those of you who don't know, Way Too Cool 50K is one of the most popular trail ultras in the nation. Last year it filled (450 runners) in 11 minutes. I really wanted to run it in 2009 so I'm definitely a happy camper. And guess what? Suddenly I'm filled with the desire to go for a run. Too bad it's so blasted cold in Reno. Maybe I'll just head home to my family instead :)

Good luck to all of those still trying to register.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

On The Hunt

This is a little late but I wanted to show off some pictures from our 5th Annual Great Christmas Tree Hunt. Since Caitlyn was born in 2004 we've made it a point to go out after Thanksgiving as a family and hunt down the perfect Christmas tree.

Doing it right after Thanksgiving has its perks. We each make up our ideal turkey sandwich, fill a thermos each of hot chocolate and spiced apple cider and throw in a few treats. The adults even have these funny looking flasks filled with something not appropriate for children. But you could probably start a fire with it if we got lost in the woods.

When you gotta go, you gotta go

After making a little pitstop for the little one going through potty training, we headed to our familiar spot near Gold Lakes off Hwy 49. In the past we've had every type of weather from the perfect post-snowstorm but blue sky day, to rain, to sun. This year proved to be perfect weather-wise but it was a little disappointing not finding any snow on the ground. It's been an exceptionally dry fall.

Our first stop was Mills Peak Lookout. We'd never been there before and it was a great spot to stretch our legs. The views were great, including the Sierra Valley, Loyalton, Sierraville, and the Sierra Buttes.

Sierra Buttes

Braving the chilly wind, camera-shy Caitlyn

Sara bundled up

Of course, someone had to take advantage of the potty with a view.

Mom, you didn't really think I'd leave this picture out did you?

After heading back to the tree cutting area and parking the truck we all split up looking for the perfect tree. This is a process that can't be rushed. We like this area because it has white firs which are tall but thin, perfect for our living room.

Pat and Sara

Caitlyn and I find a little snow but not the perfect tree

We searched and searched without any luck and headed back to the truck. My mom made the suggestion to try one other place before driving on so we did. And that proved to be the trick. Pat found the perfect tree and we set to work cutting it down.

I started the cutting but realized I would need more help so Pat jumped in. My mom spoke up and said she wanted to try. After innocent 4 year old Caitlyn said "Nana, you can't do it", my mom's resolve stiffened. She attacked that saw like never before and made a serious dent in the wood.

Watching Nana as she wields the saw

Caitlyn helping her Nana

My dad took his turn and the tree finally gave up its valiant fight.

Caitlyn helps her Papa with the big push

Every year the forest service issues permits to cut down trees. They have rules about which trees can be cut down and it's all with the thought of thinning the forest, making it healthy, and more resistant to catastrophic fires.

Caitlyn and Sara enjoying their lunch of sandwiches and hot chocolate

After wrestling the tree back to the truck we all enjoyed our turkey sandwiches, hot beverages (some with a little extra added) and treats. It had been another successful tree hunt. I realize now I don't have any pictures of us decorating the tree so I'll have to add those to a later post.

Happy Holidays.