Adventuring: No Kids & Vats of Mud

Dr. Wilkinson's Spa

Dr. Wilkinson’s Spa


Ahhh… just what the Dr. Wilkinson ordered. Some adventuring in Calistoga without kids or husband or a car full of swim supplies and pillow pets in tow. Just me, a coffee, and my music on a long, beautiful stretch of road through wine country.

I went to meet an old and dear friend in Calistoga at Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort. I’ve heard about this place, always with the same asterisked statement:
It’s relaxing and awesome*
*but no frills.

And it’s true, there are no frills. It’s not a Day Spa, it’s a Health Spa with a true old-school-no-nonsense approach that whips, rather than eases, your body into relaxation.

I am going to digress here for a sec but if you’ve ever had a Thai massage then you might have experienced the following progression. First surprise “WTF? Why is this person beating me up?” then fear “WTF, I can’t breath with this foot crushing my chest” and finally bliss “OMG, my body feels amazing.” Sitting in hot mud is a little like this progression.

When you walk into the treatment room at Dr. Wilkinson’s, you smell the hot mud even before you see the giant tile vat. Dare I say it had a slight manure smell to it? It’s volcanic ash, peat, and spring water… no manure here, just mud. Hot mud.

Vats of mud

Yep, it’s mud

Yep, it's mud

Vats of mud


                                                  
Once you ease your way into the mud, you’re then covered up to your chin and a facial mask is applied to your face. Then two cucumber slices are plopped onto your eyes and you sit there for 10ish minutes. It takes a minute to get used to the heat and weight of the mud on your chest (oh, and the smell) but once that subsides, it’s really very relaxing. You’re suspended in the mud, the heat all around you, and your skin feels slightly numb and tingly. So it’s like this: “WTF, that mud looks and smells like my garden” then “WTF, this is super hot and kinda stinky” then “OMG, it’s already time to get out? Can I stay in?”

My favorite touch is the shovel in the corner.

My favorite touch is the shovel in the corner.

I am REALLY mad at myself for not asking the very friendly spa technician to grab my camera and snap a shot of me stuck in the mud. Oh well, next time

You then rinse off all the mud and get into a bubbling mineral bath. But again, we’re not talking spa jets here. It was a tube and pump kinda thing that made some serious bubble action. I felt like what an egg must feel like in a pot of boiling water but without the heat.

I then hit up the steam room, standard stuff here, and then got wrapped in a light blanket to normalize my body temperature with a couple more slices of cool cucumber on my lids.

Going into this adventure, I was feeling a little rough from some wine tasting the day before. Coming out of this treatment, I felt refreshed and detoxified. Dr. Wilkinson’s gets my thumbs up.

Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort
http://www.drwilkinson.com/

Leaving Calistoga

Leaving Calistoga

Adventuring: Wind, Water & Pinkberry

We were going to head to the ocean today but the cold, windy weather threw a kink in that plan. We only had one adventure day left in this long weekend so I had to think quick and recalibrate towards warmer climates. Eastward bound it was.

In some early morning research, I had found a kite festival in San Ramon which I plotted as the first point in today’s adventure. I then searched for additional kid spots in the area and found an awesome looking aquatics center. I checked the temp and it was supposed to be 75 degrees in San Ramon which seemed within the acceptable swimming range. Done and done, we headed out.

Today’s Adventure:
San Ramon Art & Wind Festival
San Ramon Aquatic Park
ZPizza
Pinkberry

San Ramon Art & Wind Festival

Kites

Kites

The San Ramon Art & Wind Festival was so-so for us. The festival itself had lots of booths which is nice for some but Jack bluntly called it “boring” and I had to agree. I expected to see some really cool kites in the air but it was mostly competition kites which don’t look anything like a 50ft Octopus flying in the sky. Watching a kite flying competition is a little like watching the movie Best in Show, complete with satire inspiring commentary. “That’s a little bit of magic in the air right there.”

The kids did hit up the kite making workshop which was fun. They decorated their own kites and we flew them for a few minutes before the raindrops started.

Kite Decorating

Kite Decorating

Jack's Kite

Jack’s Kite

Ellie trying to get her kite in the air.

Ellie trying to get her kite in the air.


The best part of this leg of our journey was the park itself, San Ramon Central Park. It had a skate park where we ate our picnic lunch while watching mostly scooters (?) roll around the bowls. Not sure where all the pimply, smoking, skaters were.

The park also had an awesome play structure complete with water features and a cool climbing ball that Elise loved.

Climbing Ball

Climbing Ball

Water Play

Water Play

Skate Park

Skate Park

So Dainty

So Dainty

San Ramon Aquatic Park
http://www.sanramon.ca.gov/parks/programs/aquatics.htm
Turns out it got nowhere near 75 but we still hit the pool in hopes it wouldn’t matter. That kinda worked for Jack but the rest of us were freezing. We lasted an hour which didn’t matter since it’s only $4 per person to use this facility. FOUR DOLLARS. A serious bargain for how spacious, clean, and well equipped this place is. We will return on a nicer day. Though the Lifeguard told us they get 1,000 people through there on hot days!

As you can see by the empty pool and large gray cloud overhead, not the best swim day.

As you can see by the empty pool and large gray cloud overhead, not the best swim day.


BRRRRRRRRRR!

BRRRRRRRRRR!


What cold weather?

What cold weather?

BBQ Chicken Salad & Slices

BBQ Chicken Salad & Slices

ZPizza
http://www.zpizza.com/
Swimming makes you hungry, even if it’s for, like, 10 mins of actual active pool time. We wanted pizza so I searched Yelp and found ZPizza, a So Cal chain that’s made its way north. We got a bunch of slices and a salad. It hit the spot and everyone was warmed up, fed, and happy. Elise chose a chocolate chip cookie for dessert because she absolutely, 100% did NOT want frozen yogurt. Uh-uh, positively a chocolate chip cookie.

Pinkberry thief.

Pinkberry thief.

Pinkberry
I have never had Pinkberry but am aware of it’s popularity so I thought I’d see what all the hype was about. That and it was in the same strip mall as ZPizza. You know… it’s really pretty good. I had coconut which was tart and, well, coconutty with some fresh strawberries and milk chocolate shavings. Jack chose pomegranate with mochi, gummy bears, and fresh raspberries. Elise and Mike just ate all of ours, conveniently forgetting they had chosen cookies as their dessert.

Adventuring: Mt. Diablo State Park & Hap Magee Ranch Park

I woke up this morning, poured myself some coffee, and got to work Making Up today’s adventure.

In the Bay Area, this is no easy task for the blurry eyed, indecisive among us. We’re lucky to have a lot going on around here, in every direction. But as the coffee worked its magic, the adventure unfolded.

Today’s Adventure:

Rock City @ Mt. Diablo State Park
Hap Magee Ranch Park
Sideboard Cafe
Street Sweets

Rock City, Mt. Diablo State Park

Rock City, Mt. Diablo State Park

Rock City @ Mt. Diablo State Park
http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=517
According to Jack this place gets “1,000 times all the thumbs up that exist in the world” it was so good. Full of huge rock formations with cutouts, caves, and amazing views, we all had fun scampering all over Rock City. It was super easy to get to, appropriate terrain for all ages, and just enough challenge here and there to keep the rock scaling interesting. We will return!

We called this one Monster Rock.

We named it Monster Rock.

Hanging in the caves.

Hanging in the caves.

The View from the Caves

The view from the caves

Modern Day Cave Paintings including the famous "Norm"

Modern cave paintings including the famous “Norm”

Hap Magee Ranch Park
Down the mountain we went, heading straight for Hap Magee Ranch Park. During my early morning planning, I had searched for other kid-friendly spots and found Hap Magee Ranch Park on Red Tricycle. A sparkling, movie-set-of-a-park in Danville, it boasted a water play area, cool wooden play structures and, to Jack’s delight, three different types of monkey bars. Overall, the park was not so cool that I would travel to Danville just to go, but definitely cool enough that I would make a pit stop whenever nearby. The kids both gave it double thumbs up.

Wiggly wooden swinging steps. tough stuff.

Wiggly wooden swinging steps. tough stuff.

Moments after this shot, Ellie catapulted Jack off. Wish I got that pic.

Moments after this shot, Ellie catapulted Jack off. Wish I got that pic.

A cow-horse race.

A cow-horse race.

Never leave home without swimsuits and goggles.

Never leave home without swimsuits and goggles.

Sideboard Cafe
http://sideboarddanville.com
Adventuring makes you hungry, so we hit up nearby Downtown Danville. This was an unplanned leg of the adventure so I hit up Yelp… Ike’s! That’s where I was headed for a gooey, delicious, mashed up pile of stuff in bread. Yet the mom voice in me said the kids wouldn’t be into it. UGH, the tension between selfishness and selflessness. But I was not going to Mountain Mike’s Pizza. Foot down. Instead we found a cool little cafe with good food and a patio called Sideboard where we sat on the patio and ate fried brussel sprouts (Yum!), Pulled Pork Sandwich (just ok), Hamburger (Jack: thumbs up), and Mac & Cheese (SOO good, like maybe all-time favorite kinda good).

Say Mac & Cheese

Say Mac & Cheese

Sweet Street
https://www.sweetstreet.com/
Seriously, I can’t believe I even got them to stand still long enough for this photo. Every inch of this place is filled with candy. I thought their heads were going to explode trying to pick. just. one. thing. They finally worked it out and landed on a couple of lollipops and we were headed home.

Elise's face says it all, stop the pictures!

Elise’s face says it all, stop the pictures!

Thumbs up all around for today’s East Bay adventure.

Restaurant Challenge: Hang Ten Boiler

I’m sure there are lots of kids out there who embrace new foods and don’t crumple to the ground in a pile of defeat at the suggestion of trying a new restaurant. Those are not my kids.

Well, a few months back I hit a wall. I literally could not walk through the taqueria door one more time. I mean, I love a good taco but I was desperate for variety. And then it hit me, I knew what to do.

If you recall, my son is a gamer. He is also super motivated by rewards… especially shiny, gold trophy types of awards. It was clear what needed to be done, a restaurant challenge…

Bucket of Restaurants

Bucket of Restaurants

THE CHALLENGE:
Try every restaurant in town and win a trophy.

There’s only one rule: At least try something new while there.

I live on an island which somewhat contains this, but it’s still a lot of restaurants. It’s gonna take awhile. This dawned on Jack so he suggested an amendment to the challenge: Half way through you get a medal, all the way through you get a trophy. Seems fair so that’s what it is.

Setting this up was pretty easy, I wrote down every restaurant on a piece of paper (cross checking yelp/phone book) and put it in a pot. We then pull from it when we are burnt on the old standbys. We’re a couple of restaurants into this challenge, but this is the official first post on the subject.

TONIGHT’S PICK: HANG TEN BOILER
This is a new Cajun/Creole/Hawaiian restaurant. Yes, interesting combo. The space previously had a Hawaiian BBQ so it actually makes more sense, they seemed to have just changed their business model. It must have worked because the place was packed.

Box of Meat

Box of Meat

Lumpias & Garlic Noodles

Lumpias & Garlic Noodles

They have bowls of shrimp, crab, mussels, and other seafood options which looked awesome but we decided to try meats and sides this time around.

We ate: Steamed Broccoli, Garlic Noodles, Rice, Macaroni Salad, Lumpias, and a mixed BBQ plate with Eggs, Pork Chop, BBQ Chicken, Teriyaki Steak, Kalbi Short Ribs… it was a ridiculous amount of food, I’m still full.

OUR REVIEWS:
Mike & Me: The food was pretty good, very friendly waitstaff, and a fun vibe for the kids. It’s hands-on eating so they give you waxed paper tablecloths, a roll of paper towels, and crab bibs if you’re eating seafood. We would definitely try the seafood next time, it looked great.

Jack liked: Broccoli. Rice. Steak. (in that order)
These are also Jack’s favorite choices at all restaurants so he had to choose one new thing to try. He tried Lumpia. He didn’t make it beyond the first bite but at least he tried.

Elise liked: According to her, nothing. According to her empty plate, the egg and noodles.

Giving Lumpia a try

Giving Lumpia a try

What's in this?

What’s in this?

Slurpin' 'em up

Slurpin’ ’em up

HANG TEN BOILER
2306A Encinal Ave
(between Park St & Oak St)
Alameda, CA 94501
http://www.hangtenboiler.com/

Adventures Count Too…

Adventuring

Adventuring


There really aren’t any strict definitions as to what counts for the Make Stuff Up Challenge. And anyhow, we know I’m not a stickler for the rules (ahem, “daily”) so today I stretched the boundaries of what “make” means by making an adventure… one we kinda messed up on.

We had to run a quick errand down in San Jose and figured we’d take the opportunity to visit Sunol Regional Wilderness area, a spot recommended by friends for it’s green hills, open meadows, and creek that, from pictures, looked deep enough to swim in. I popped it into my GPS and we were off. Typically I would do a bit of research for an adventure, finding the right place to land when we got there, but this time it seemed small enough that I trusted the GPS to lead us to the visitor center. oops. Instead we ended up driving along a beautiful winding road to nowhere.

A one way stop in the middle of nowhere.

A one way stop in the middle of nowhere.

The only guidance we found was a series of signs indicating “park border”… like more times than there could actually be borders. And this wilderness, a mere 20ish miles from San Jose, was truly wild enough to (gasp!) not get cell reception to recalibrate ourselves with. In the end though, none of this really mattered. Sure, maybe we didn’t locate the spots that I remembered seeing in my friend’s pictures, but we were surrounded by rolling hills, oak trees and a little creek that followed in-step with the road. We pulled over at a turnout, and set out to make our own adventure.

Sunol Regional Wilderness

Sunol Regional Wilderness

There actually did end up being a trailhead at the tiny turnout so we took it up a hill… up, up, up. It started to get a little narrow and steep but we kept going until those somewhat unsteady 4 year old steps started making us feel a little nervous as we looked straight down a pretty steep drop, so we headed back down.

The kids enjoyed throwing rocks in the itty bitty creek and Ellie passed a milestone by peeing in nature. We were threatened by a bobbing lizard who we disturbed as he sunbathed, and saw some odd white “balls” in an oak tree that we determined to be tree bombs.

While we might not have made it to where we set out to be, we got to the point of a wilderness adventure nonetheless… quiet, wandering, exploration.

Sunol Regional Wilderness
http://www.ebparks.org/parks/sunol

The kids are watching a lizard bounce up and down at the tip of that log, threatening them to step back. He's very small.

The kids are watching a lizard bounce up and down at the tip of that log, threatening them to step back. He’s very small.

Jack finds some petrified scat and learns what really dry poop looks like.

Jack finds some petrified scat and learns what really dry poop looks like.

Ellie and Jack

IMG_0301

DAYS 3 & 4: Busy Making Nothing.

Well, kinda dropped the ball on this daily Make Stuff Up challenge. Fumble, fumble.

Revised Challenge Rules:
Every Day.*
Make.
Something.

*Except when it’s super nice out and Santa Cruz is calling…

…AND also especially when Santa Cruz just became the new home of your very good (very pregnant!) friends who have lived abroad for the last 13 years.

Lovely day at the beach. Santa Cruz

Lovely day at the beach. Santa Cruz

It was an awesome getaway and reunion full of creativity in its own way.

There was one particularly lovely moment I don’t want to forget. Ellie and I had been chasing waves up and down the beach and we were late to meet everyone for dinner when she asked to sit. I dropped the agenda and just sat. She reclined out on me, head resting on my shoulder, towel covering us both and we just rested there, watching the waves and the sun hanging low. She was so still for a 4 year old. Chatting, cozy, and together.

Love.