Adventures in Waimea Canyon

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After some nice lazy days, we were up for a little group adventure. So, we decided to check out Waimea Canyon – aka “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” There was a fair bit of driving on some very winding roads, but our first viewpoint was pretty spectacular:

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A nice lady offered to take our picture, so we have proof that we were there:

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There was a guy dressed in traditional native garb, talking about various local traditions and lore. But he was dramatically upstaged by the baby pig that he brought with him for some reason. I mean, I took this picture:

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But this is what made it onto Instagram:

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We stopped in at the visitor center to look up a good hike. The lady who worked there recommended a good route, but also that we should continue up the mountain to the other viewpoints, since it was still clear. She was right, it was glorious:

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Clouds were just starting to obscure the view at the next viewpoint up, so we headed back down to start our hike. We’d chosen a nice trail to a waterfall, described as a moderate 1.5–2 mile hike. It started innocently enough…

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We walked through primordial forests and eventually came out next to the canyon. The textures and colors were mesmerizing:

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The trail turned to volcanic rock that was kind of steep and a little bit scary, given that you basically can just go sliding down into the canyon if you aren’t careful:

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But we all made it down safely and were rewarded with a very pretty waterfall view at the turnaround point:

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Not pictured, the legions of crazy people who thought it would be fun to swim in the freezing cold water. It turns out, that’s not super fun. But watching them learn that definitely is. We had some snacks and headed back.

As we approached the volcanic rock part of the trail, we encountered a fairly large man, with one side covered in red dirt and scrapes with his knee wrapped in a bandana, very clearly in pain. His name was Ron (which would quickly become Big Ron) and he was with two younger men who turned out to be his sons. It was clear that they needed help, and trail karma is a thing, so we stepped up. The menfolk worked with his sons to help get him up the steep trail, while Jenn, Erin and I tried to warn people to get out of their way. It was slow going and stressful, plus Jenn had The Bird on her back in a pack. So, we opted to move further up the trail and figure out a plan.

For context, here’s where we met up with Big Ron, approximately a mile away from the road, over some fairly challenging terrain:

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Erin had cell reception, so she called 911. We decided that the best plan was to get Amalie back to the car before she went into full-scale meltdown mode and then direct whatever paramedics/forest rangers were coming our way. Erin was still on the phone and not confident her signal would hold, so Jenn and I made our way back. Amalie was incredible, largely due to Jenn’s ability to keep a calm-voiced monologue going while hiking at a brisk pace up a hill with a fairly heavy weight on her back.

We made it back to the road. Amalie had fallen asleep on the way back, so we sat in some shade and waited for Erin. She showed up much faster than we were expecting and we discussed what to do next and whether we should drive one of the rental cars down the dirt road and get them closer to the trailhead. I was dubious that either car would make it down there, but thankfully, we heard sirens in the distance before we had to find out.

The sirens belonged to a giant red paramedics pick-up trip, loaded with rescue gear and four ridiculously hunky firefighters and their captain. (Seriously, it was like something out of central casting… ) The captain rolled the window down and asked “Which one of you is Erin?” At which point, Erin went over and gave them the lowdown on the situation. (Which might have included the quote “You guys look MUCH stronger than our middle-aged husbands… ” Amazing.) They headed down the dirt road to the trailhead and we loaded Amalie into her carseat and headed to the nearest town to get some lunch and wait for the boys to text us.

We found a surprisingly tasty taco spot (with glacially slow service) and had some lunch while we waited. Thankfully, it wasn’t too long before they texted and we were treated to a play-by-play of the rescue of Big Ron. It turned out that they were there for his other son’s wedding and (as we’d later learn when Jenn & Bryan ran into him at the airport while waiting for their flight home) he’d snapped his MCL and would need surgery.

He may not have been able to buy us drinks, as we’d often lament over the next few days, but he did give us a pretty fantastic story to tell, so god bless you Big Ron, wherever you are…

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Return to paradise

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A while back, there was discussion of a repeat of our awesome trip to Hawaii. Originally, we were going to return to the awesome Lana’i house, but apparently the entire island is closed due the the Four Seasons undergoing some substantial renovations. So, we had to make due with Kauai. (I know, we suffer so… )

We got a better rate for flights if we left on Friday morning vs. Saturday, so we booked a single night at a cute little hotel in Kapa’a. Here’s the view from our lanai:

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The sign for the beach club pictured above:

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We headed into town to grab some lunch and explore a bit. We went to Mermaids cafe at Erik & Nerissa’s recommendation. Should you find yourself in Kapaa, definitely go. It’s insanely delicious. We got to see our first (of many) free-range chickens/roosters, courtesy of Hurricane Iniki.

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Afterward, we wandered around and looked at the shops. We also tried out a local delicacy we hadn’t had a chance to have during our previous trip, Hawaiian ice. I’m officially obsessed:

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Plus, the fruit stand where we bought it was utterly charming:

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While we were sitting out front and eating our ices, the lady delivering avocados asked us how long we were staying and offered us some. We, of course, said yes. Score! This vacation was already off to a fantastic start and we’d been there for about three hours.

We headed back to the hotel to relax for a bit. I mean, you have to take the “Mai Tais by the beach” picture to post on Instagram:

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Followed by the obligatory “we’re on vacation selfie”. I know, we’re the worst…

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Mostly, we just enjoyed looking at this:

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Erin and David had arrived a few days prior and were staying on the north side of the island, so we drove up there to meet them for dinner. Naturally, there were some stops along the way to gawk at the beautiful scenery:

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We had a magnificent sushi dinner, at a place recommended by the friend they were staying with. Then it was off to bed, since we’d been up since 5 am PDT. (Stupid early morning flights and time zone changes… )

The next morning, we went to check out a breakfast place that had good enough Yelp reviews for me to overlook the fact that it was called Kountry Kitchen. (I hate “cutesy” misspelled words in restaurant names.) But it was great, quirky and charming inside:

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With really great food. We split orders of mahi-mahi & eggs and macadamia nut french toast & homemade coconut syrup. So. GOOD.

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After breakfast I made T take my picture in front of the Lava Lava sign:

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Then it was time to pack up and meet Erin & David at the rental car place. They dropped their car off, we added her as a driver to our car, shoved all of the luggage in the back and headed off to lunch and then the condo for check-in. Jenn & Bryan were arriving about the same time, so we text-coordinated and arrived at the condo at roughly the same time.

As usual, we were really roughing it:

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The view from the lanai was especially ridiculous:

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The Bird taught a seminar is how to chillax:

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We took a little evening beach walk and met some local celebrities – the monk seals that hang out on the beach. I particularly liked that they are so lazy that this sign is needed:

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They are super cute though. Like big beach cats:

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And then we finished the evening with lots of wine, laughter and a beautiful sunset:

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Not bad, Kauai. Not bad…

A rebuilding year

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I’m not much of a sports enthusiast, but I’ve always liked the phrase “rebuilding year.” I’ve heard it invoked when a team gets a new coach or a bunch of players graduate or what-have-you and I just really like the idea of it. I’m in the middle of a job search – a process that, for me, requires a lot of reflection as I examine what I want to be doing and how to present my skills, etc. and I’ve decided that 2016 is going to be a rebuilding year for me. I’m cutting myself some slack and just working on making small sustainable steps to change the things that I want to improve in my life. It’s hard work, but feels like I’m on the right path.

Otherwise, life here is pretty great. We spend a lot of time with these goofballs:

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We also added a few members to the “extended pack”. Erik & Nerissa adopted this handsome fellow:

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His name is Finn and while they’re still getting used to having a young, exuberant dog after only having an older dog, I think they are enjoying him. Austin is certainly a big fan:

NewDogPackWe also dog-sat for Todd’s boss’ dog Natasha, a.k.a. Austin’s boss. (T’s office is dog friendly, so Austin goes in a couple of times a week.) It’s pretty crazy watching this tiny thing lay the smackdown on two big dogs. She’s fearless and apparently indestructible:

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She also spent a lot of time stealing bones and hoarding them on the couch

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We’ve also been enjoying our new surroundings. In February, I took a PTO day and tagged along on one of T’s trips down to Santa Cruz. Yes, you read that right – FEBRUARY:

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I’m a sucker for a cool lighthouse:

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There were also these cool things shaped like giant jacks along the jetty. I’d love to know what they were originally:

SCpilingsSCpilings2There have been some lovely hikes:

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And some urban excursions around Lake Merritt (which reminds me a lot of our old neighborhood in Seattle):

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And, of course, lots of culinary adventures. Such as a fancy ice cream place that makes your ice cream to order with some crazy nitrous-using mixer:

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Brunch research (It’s important to know what your options are!)

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And one of my personal highlights was finding this guy while wine-tasting. Meet Clarence, the wine-barfing unicorn. He’s pretty much my favorite thing ever:
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So, that’s my update. We leave for Hawaii in a little over a week, so get excited for a super obnoxious play-by-play of our awesome vacation! 🙂

Stuffed full of gratitude

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Longtime readers of this blog may have noticed that over the time I lived in Seattle, I carved out a set of traditions on Thanksgiving. The Ballard Turkey Trot followed by bagels with M & J and later on dinner with M, J and any other folks we happened to rope into the festivities. So, I was really nervous about what we were going to do this year and was already trying to figure out my exit strategy so it wasn’t a huge bummer weekend. (Ironically, I was planning to visit Erik & Nerissa in the Bay Area before the universe stepped in and helped me out with that arrangement.)

Even with the new surroundings, I still found myself thinking a lot about M and that whole situation. As I prepped the sweet potatoes she’s always requested, I allowed myself to enjoy the memories of our past holidays and, without getting too woo-woo about it, said good-bye to that part of my life and wished her well. I joked to T that it was culinary equivalent of pouring out a forty for your fallen homie. (We’re so gangsta now… )

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So, it is time to forge some new traditions. This year, we were hosting Erik & Nerissa in a house that one month ago movers were loading boxes into. (Talk about something to be grateful for!) We opted to trade the Turkey Trot for a nice hike, but we decided to keep the bagels portion of the program. So, Erik & Nerissa joined us for some carbo-loading and we all headed over to the beautiful parks near our house.

They brought Kali with them, who was very happy to be here:TD15_ErikNerissaHikeWe had a nice long hike. Austin got to be off leash for a lot of it and had a great time running through the woods. The rest of enjoyed a more leisurely pace:

TD15_GroupHikeI can’t believe these views are only a few miles from my house:

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We ended up hiking for almost two hours, which was a little more than Wally had in mind. He was pretty wiped. Even Kali and Austin were pretty chill when we got home…

TD15_KaliAustinWe had some time before dinner, so we ate snacks and played some Mexican Dominoes. (There may have also been some champagne… )

TD15_MexicanDominosWe finished the game and made a huge and delicious dinner. We ate and drank good wine and had a lovely meal. Then there was Cards Against Humanity and more wine and laughing so hard my clavicle hurt. Followed by pie.

TD15_CAH(Photo courtesy of Nerissa… )

It is ridiculous how much I have to be thankful for this year. With all of the terrible things happening in the world, it seems so important to appreciate good fortune while you have it. I hope you and yours are enjoying similarly awesome holidays right now.

Adventures in Oakland

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We’ve been settling in to our new life. It’s really weird to have mild sunny weather in November, but we’re enjoying it while it lasts. Working at home has been an adjustment, but, for the most part, I’m enjoying it. The dogs have found their own routine where they battle over who gets the chair by my desk:

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And because my office is upstairs, I try to limit Wally’s trips up and down the stairs. When I make him stay up there, he gives me his famous sad Lab face:

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T takes Austin to the office a couple of days a week, so I see this face a lot…

T found an awesome dog park really close to his office, so we went and checked it out one day after work. Not only is there tons of space for Austin to run around and chase critters, but there are gorgeous views of the bay and San Francisco:

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Why yes, that is the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset. From the dog park… Crazy talk!

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We’ve been enjoying exploring the trails near our house:

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This trail is only three miles away from my very urban neighborhood. It’s crazy.

We’ve also some fun adventures. We got to spectate cyclocross with my friend Katy:

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We took Austin down to meet Erik & Nerissa’s dog Kali. Since they are basically the same special dog, they had so much fun playing.

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It was a lovely evening until T dropped a knife while carving chicken. It bounced back up and nicked his calf. With the blood thinners that he’s on, it bled A LOT, so we ended up in Urgent Care:

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Luckily, he didn’t need any stitches and was totally fine.

I had another crazy thing happen. One day, when I was getting some water in the kitchen, I heard this weird noise. It turned out to be a hummingbird. IN my kitchen. Trying to get out the closed window. I was so scared that he was going to die trying to get out (or I would inadvertently kill him trying to get him out of there.) I took a broom and he’d land on it for a moment or two before resuming his efforts. Thankfully, he moved to a new window and I could remove the screen from the one next to it. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of him before his successful escape:

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It was so crazy to see one so close. I guess that’s what we get for painting our kitchen red. 😉 I’m just glad this little nugget was at the office with his dad:

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Home makeover

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The movers showed up as promised on Sunday morning. It was a whirlwind as they unloaded furniture and box after box and hauled all of it into the house. Before we knew it, the truck had pulled away and we were surrounded by all of our crap beloved possessions. Poor Austin was not happy with the drought-proof yard of gravel, so we decided to do a little yard upgrade as our first order of business. We went to Home Depot and got a roll of dog-friendly fake grass. He seemed to approve of his new “lawn”:

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T also hung some lights that I’d picked up on clearance at Target. Our little backyard is a really great space to hang out. I really love it.

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The rest of the week was spent trying to work while unpacking and getting settled in. By the time the weekend rolled around, we decided to take a little break. A while back, we’d put ourself on the waiting list for the wine club of a winery that we’d enjoyed during our trip for Vineman. They called to let us know that we were in on the Thursday before we moved down, so we made an appointment to come pick up our selections in person.

It was a beautiful day. We got coffee and window-shopped in Healdsburg, had a fabulous tasting and bought a bunch of wine:

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It was a great way to spend our first official California Saturday. It was Halloween and we settled in for a quiet evening at home, but were surprised to hear trick or treaters on the street! T made a dash out to the Walgreens for candy and I put out the Halloween decorations that I happened to have unpacked recently. It was definitely impromptu:

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But I have big plans for next year!

The next day was spent giving our house a little makeover. The paint colors were a little too neutral for our taste, so we got clearance from the landlord to add a little pizazz. (Probably more than she was expecting, but we can always paint it back when we leave… ) Here’s the bedroom before:

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And here’s the after:

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It’s a very similar color to our Seattle bedroom and I LOVE it.

The kitchen was a little more challenging. Here’s the before:

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We’d always wanted a red kitchen and this kitchen was a perfect candidate. The problem was that we picked the wrong red initially. It was way too orangey and bright, so we had to repaint it. (Which was tough, because the wet paint looked a lot like the dry first coat, so you had to remember where you’d painted. And apply a lot of touch ups the next day.) But the end result was very cool:

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And I forgot to take before pictures of the paint, but here’s one of the chandelier when T took it out of the box. God bless IKEA…

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But here’s the end result (of both chandelier and painting) Here’s the “closed” position:

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And the alternate “open” position. Isn’t it cool?

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The house has all of these cool little details that I just love. Like the STAINED GLASS WINDOW in our living room:

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And the pretty frosted glass window on the bathroom door:

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And the embossed flower on the closet doors in the bedroom:

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I just love it here. I didn’t really realize how much I’d missed California until we came back. Even our slightly ghetto neighborhood is so friendly and welcoming. (I think I’ve met more neighbors in my first weeks here than we did in three years at our last place.) The light is golden and warm and we have such beautiful sunsets:

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Especially now that the house is under control, it’s really starting to feel like home.

 

Moving day!

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After all of the preparations and what-not, the big day finally arrived – moving day! I should say, moving days, since it’s a two day process. (Well, technically four, if you count the driving and then the movers bringing our boxes… ) But first, we start with the packing guy’s arrival. It was so weird to have someone else packing all of our crap. Really, the hardest part was staying out of their way:

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We were lucky to have awesome plans in place for the first night: surprising our friend Jenn for her birthday at a great local restaurant: Staple & Fancy. We had an amazing meal and wonderful conversation with our friends and her parents. What a great final night in Seattle!

The next day, the loading process began. Naturally, we had to add a little drama into the mix. The night before, the Element’s headlights weren’t working, so we had to run it into the mechanic to get fixed QUICKLY. So, we had just hoofed it back to the house when one of the guys from the moving company was at our door. He was the advance man before the big giant truck. We had to get one of our neighbors to move their car. (Seriously, every other day the street in front of our house is completely clear, but the day a giant truck needs to park there? Some idiot has to park in front of our house, even though there is plenty of parking in front of her stupid house. But I digress… )

They literally rolled out the red carpet for us:

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It was a little stressful, because they arrived with three other people’s stuff in the truck and were a little worried that they didn’t have quite enough space for us.

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Luckily, we had a very skilled packing master in charge of loading the truck:

IMG_2614Little by little, the truck got fuller and the house got emptier:

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Before we knew it, the truck was filled and driving away. In a crazy twist of fate, the movers would be arriving in Oakland in TWO DAYS, so all of the stuff that I’d set aside to load into the car for us to live with while we waited for our stuff was totally pointless. Oh well! We cleaned up our little house and said good-bye to it and our wonderful landlord. I will definitely miss this place. (And Seattle, of course!)

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We grabbed some dinner and hit the road. It was late when we arrived in Salem, so Susan had gone to bed, but the dogs were more than happy to stay up and greet us. The next morning, we got up and had a fantastic breakfast with Susan and then hit the road. It was a loooooonnnnnngggggg day of driving, punctuated with a few brief dog park stops for the boys to pee and run around. But before we knew it, we were pulling into the driveway our our new home!