Our first night in Alameda was a little rough. We stayed in a hotel along the estuary with beautiful boats in the harbor. We'd been in bed about an hour when the hotel's smoke alarms started ringing. At first we thought it was some kind of joke, but then heard people shuffling out of their rooms, so we put on our coats and went outside. The halls were a little foggy with light smoke, but it was obvious the place wasn't burning down. After a few minutes, the front desk crew told us that someone had been burning incense in their room and it had gotten out of control, but everything was fine now and we could go back to bed. Though it disrupted our sleep, it was a good experience for the kids.
The next day we drove two hours to Modesto in the Central Valley to see Scott's mom. The valley isn't unlike ND. It's filled with farms, vacant land and rolling hills. The only difference is smog and traffic. After our day out there, we drove back to Emeryville (just east of San Francisco) and met up with Scott's cousins and aunt. We had supper at one of our favorite hang-outs, Public Market. PM is a huge food court featuring at least 15 different ethnic foods including Japanese, Indian, Greek, Mexican, Chinese, Afghani, Lebanese and Italian. Scott and I used to eat there a lot while I was in massage therapy school. Gracey ate stir-fry, Adam ordered a big burrito like his "big" cousin Joshua while Scott and I ate Indian food.
On Tuesday, we visited the Academy of Science which is a well-known and well-loved museum, aquarium and planetarium. Growing up, my favorite field trip was always to the Academy and I asked Scott to take me there on our fifth date. We had so much fun looking at all the different fish, rays, jelly fish, and other sea life. The kids held starfish and touched anemones. We even saw the penguins whose web-camera the kids watch on their Kindles! After lunch, we watched a movie about earthquakes on the planetarium screen and learned about tectonic plates. Then we ambled through a four-story rain forest with butterflies flying around our heads. But our favorite thing was the earthquake simulator. Having lived through the Loma Prieta 7.1 earthquake in 1989, we were anxious to show the kids what an earthquake is and the damage it leaves behind. The simulator is a small house on a platform and it simulates the 1906 and the 1989 earthquakes so that visitors can feel different types of earthquakes.
Later, we visited the Golden Gate bridge, Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf and China Town. We also drove down Lombard Street, road a cable car trolley, and took a ferry ride in the bay. But the most amazing and educational thing happened without planning. San Francisco and the surrounding area has a bad homeless problem yet as Scott and I prepared the kids for our trip (stay where you can see us, don't talk to strangers, you may see people dressed funny, you'll see lots of different races, etc) we completely forgot about the homeless and the "panhandlers." We were in San Francisco walking along the wharf. There the homeless wait for hand outs. Each time we walked past one, Adam asked me for a snack from my bag and gave it to the person saying, "God bless you." It brought this mama to tears. I'd expected my children to be scared by the homeless men and women. But instead, they rose to the occasion and showed love.
Other fun things we did included visiting Tilden Park and riding the miniature steam train. Adam and Scott went with Grandpa to the aircraft carrier and took a tour. We also showed the kids the houses we grew up in, our grandparents' houses and the house we lived in after we got married. We visited neighbors who were like grandparents to me and the kids got to feed their koi fish and look at their different species of orchids. And then we took them to Mills College where I attended. I showed them around and cried the whole time. Ha! We fed the ducks and watched 747s land.We ate shrimp cocktails and played on the beach. We visited the church where we got married and stopped at the Raiders headquarters. We sat on Grandpa's boat and watched the Coast Guard do their daily duties. And we visited with friends and family.
Another educational adventure complete!