Celebrating the second anniversary of my 40th birthday, although it kind of turned into "Jen's Eating Tour of California".
I think it's well-documented that Sequoia National Park is my favorite place on Earth. It's calm, quiet, and somewhat remote. We had originally planned to go to there for my 40th birthday, but COVID scuttled those plans. But now I returned, family in tow, to finally get the birthday trip I so richly deserved.
Day 1: One Sick Hombre
Our flight from to LAX was uneventful, but the rental car, oh! the rental car. We waited in line three hours and ended up with an “upgrade” to a minivan. We had initially thought to get lunch at a nice sushi place, but since we had waited so long for the car, we just stopped at Wendy's and started the three hour drive to the park.
And then JH got sick.
We had just started getting into the mountains when he said his stomach was feeling bad; he ended up having quite the episode on the side of a highway exit ramp, poor kid. He recovered a bit and was even able to snap a few pictures of Kaweah Lake as we got closer to the park.
We were staying at an AirBNB property in Three Rivers, CA. Three Rivers is the town right outside the park, and relies on tourists for most of its income. The AirBNB had a good view of the mountains, and it was nice to be staying in a house instead of a hotel.
Dinner was bad - stay away from The Ol' Buckaroo restaurant, especially when getting takeout.
Day 2: Adventures in the Park
In the morning we drove up into Sequoia National Park proper, and hit all my favorite places - Turtle Rock, the General Sherman Tree, and Moro Rock. We had a couple hitches too, such as overestimating the walking ability of our children, and the miscalculating the distances between two points.
Perhaps the worst of all is I interfered with Jen's eating on a sandwich. After walking to the General Sherman Tree we decided to eat our picnic lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Except we couldn't, because I left the jelly at the house. A PBJ without the J is a sad thing, a thing to be pitied. But on the bright side, I did have to hear about how I basically starved everyone for the rest of the trip (perhaps my life?).
Day 3: Maybe Other People Should be Sick Too
So I don't know if JH had a stomach bug or just ate a bad burger, but I'm learning toward stomach bug because then my mom got sick too, in a pretty similar way. She even prepped the rental car in some destruction happened on the drive back.
We checked out of our AirBNB, and started the drive back to Los Angeles. We stopped in Visalia to eat at the Black Bear Diner (a California tradition). Once we arrived in LA, we settled into the Quality Inn in Hermosa Beach. I'm pretty familiar with the area around the hotel because we often stay there when we're in LA for work. At dinner we went to my favorite sushi place, Fusion, and a grand time was had by all (except for Mom because of her stomach issues and also she hates sushi).
Day 4: Beach Time & Eating Around Hermosa
A new day, a new breakfast! We went to the classic Ocean Diner, just up the block from our hotel. Mom, Jen, and I bought matching t-shirts because we're cool like that.
We took the kids down to the beach because hey! we're at the ocean. But they figured out pretty quickly that the Pacific in the spring is not quite as warm as the Atlantic in the summer. We ate lunch at Hennessey's, and I kinda remembered from previous trips that it was bad and it turned I was right, even the chicken fingers were bad. We returned to the hotel and the kids hung out with Grandma while Jen and I walked to Redondo Beach.
We tried finding a place to eat at Redondo but nothing leapt out at us so we ended up back at Hermosa at El Tarasco for some delicious tacos and guac.
Day 5 - Knott's Berry Farm & Medieval Times
Jen awoke at the crack of breakfast. "I know!", she exclaimed, "Let's go back to Ocean Diner and grab something to go, and also, to stay." So we did, and it was good. But now it was time to apply sunscreen, for we would actually be out all day in the harsh California sun. Today was the day for Knott's Berry Farm, and the kids couldn't wait!
But, you say, a berry farm? Who cares? Knott's Berry Farm isn't a farm at all, it's an amusement park, kind of on the scale of Hershey Park. There's lots of rides, and it's very kid-oriented, although there are some bigger coasters too. We all had a blast, although the hour long wait for the log flume felt more like three.
And after a day in the sun, it was time to enjoy the cool, dim comfort of Medieval Times, a dinner-and-a-joust place just a few blocks from Knott's Berry Farm. The food was about as good as you'd expect, but the kids were the perfect age for the experience and had a wonderful time. H was crowned queen of the tournament, which was awesome. JH and I got light up swords to wave around during the jousting.
They both fell asleep quickly that night, and the next day we all flew back to Pennsylvania, which, although not as grand as California, is still pretty good.