Tour de Familia

Brian at Austin Hope winery in Paso Robles
Brian at Austin Hope winery in Paso Robles

Our last two weeks in the U.S. were spent visiting family along the California coast, starting in the Central Coast at Pismo Beach with cousins Jacquie, Devin and their adorable 7 month old baby boy Gavin. Pismo Beach and neighboring Arroyo Grande are trendy, funky low-key towns surrounded by dozens upon dozens of fruit and vegetable farms and grape vineyards. One of our favorite winemakers, Austin Hope, which makes Liberty School wines (among other brands) is just a half hour’s drive northeast of Pismo in Paso Robles. We HAD to stop there on our way down from San Francisco, even though Maya – who was running on empty not having had a nap that day – had reached meltdown thirty. We were taking turns tasting wine and placating Maya (and Kubu – who was tied up outside), when one of the vineyard staff graciously offered Maya a seat at the bar and some crackers and juice, and invited Kubu inside the tasting room (and even gave her cookies!). Whines turned into smiles and howls turned into wags. Needless to day, we are now Austin Hope customers for life.

On a hayride at Avila Farm with cousins Jacquie, Devin and baby Gavin.
On a hayride at Avila Farm with cousins Jacquie, Devin and baby Gavin

We then descended on my cousins, who with full time jobs AND a new baby, amazingly allowed us to stay a whole week at their beautiful home. Also visiting part of the week were Jacquie’s parents, my aunt Patty and Uncle Bob. But rather than chaos, the house was filled with love, food, stories, giggles, gurgles (from Gavin), games and heart-to-heart talks. It was wonderful. We explored Avila Farm, Shell Beach, and Morro Bay. We spent one whole day lazing around on Pismo Beach. In all our time on various beaches that week, we saw dolphins, seals, whales and sea otters.

Brian and Maya at Morro Bay
Brian and Maya at Morro Bay

Brian also got in a couple surfing sessions with Devin and one on his own. I think he might actually qualify as a bona fide surfer now. Here’s a photo of Brian after surfing Morro Bay, just one day before another surfer was attacked by a shark on the same surf break!

Devin and Gavin
Devin and Gavin

Seeing my cousin as a new mom was amazing. We are ten years apart (I’m the old bag) and live several states away from each other, so we don’t see each other very often.  My most vivid memories of her are as a child, when I lived in CA up until I graduated high school. She is a natural with Gavin, and Gavin is beyond adorable, as you can clearly see from this photo of him and his daddy, Devin.

Grammie Fellner and Maya
Grammie Fellner and Maya

After Pismo, we made our way to Culver City where my 92-year-old grandma lives with my aunt Patty and uncle Bob. My parents – who live in Washington state – were also there taking care of grandma while Patty and Bob were in Pismo.  My aunt and uncle left Pismo to head back to Culver City a day before us, and my parents stuck around to see us, so when we arrived at the house, grandma was up to her ears in family, which she loves.

CaplansAlong the way to Culver City, we made a quick stop to see my cousins Randy and Lanette Caplan in Oxnard. They treated us to a yummy breakfast and let us tour their new ginormous RV – a tricked out rig with granite countertops, leather sofas, flat screen TVs, and garage that holds two quad bikes. It was a thing of beauty and makes our pop up camper look like a Barbie toy. 🙂

Maya's first pony ride!
Maya’s first pony ride!

Our time with grandma, my folks and aunt and uncle went by fast. We spent most of our time chatting and stuffing ourselves with good food at Patty’s house. One day, we all took Maya to the Fiesta del Ballona, where she rode her first ferris wheel and bravely rode a pony! It was her first “amusement park” type experience with carnival rides and food. She’s a fan of carousels, ferris wheels and ponies, but not snow cones. 🙂

Great grandma Dorothy with Cole and Maya
Great grandma Dorothy with Cole and Maya

Another day, my cousin Jon and his wife Lam visited with their 4-month old son, Cole. Just when we thought our baby cousins couldn’t get any cuter – check out this cutie pie in the photo here.

We felt a deep pang of sadness rolling out of Culver City this morning. We’ve had such a great time with our friends and family these past few weeks. But now we are leaving them all behind for the unknown. It’s just us now and our 4Runner. We have no home, no jobs, and no working phones (Verizon cut us off a day early!). We might as well leave the country.

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