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A 30-something living in the foothills of the Virginia mountains; I'm saved by grace, addicted to coffee and my little sister is my best friend! I devote most of my time to exploring, reading, attending as many Nationals games as possible and documenting life here. My Prince Charming got lost somewhere along the way...but I'm trying to remain hopeful that true love exists.

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

California 2016 - The Wrap Up

The final California post...isn't that sad? After this post there will be no more beach pictures featuring windblown hair and sand underfoot...terribly upsetting, I know. We can all try to make it through the letdown together! 

Thursday evening after driving through the crazy California traffic for what seemed like hours - I'm sure it was worse for my Dad, who was actually driving - we arrived at our families' house. Now..let me break down this family connection for you in a way that is not too confusing: we stayed with our cousins JoAnn and Gerry; JoAnn is my Dad's first cousin - her mother Joyce and my Dad's father Huey were siblings. So...she is my second cousin and her children (who are all my age or a bit older) are my third cousins!

When my family was stationed in California all those years ago, the only family we had in the area was my Aunt Joyce; who acted as a surrogate grandma for me, and her children JoAnn and Wayne and their families. I like to think we have a pretty close relationship with the California branch of the family and we just had such a wonderful time spending the last few days of our vacation with them!

On the campus of Biola for my cousin Kyleigh's graduation...
Pool noodle "poofs" dangling from the trees above the sidewalk..
The excellent commencement speaker - he was British!
Friday was fairly low key and we slept in before heading into LA (and that traffic) around noon! We met up with more family for lunch at the Spaghetti Factory before heading to the nearby Biola University for my cousin Kyleigh's graduation. Lunch was wonderful...no doubt because the company was so enjoyable and the food was delicious! I know we all enjoyed getting to see a bit of Biola's campus and Lindsey and I did our best to rush to the front of the seating area to nab seats for the graduation...even if our cousin Tammi (mother of the graduate) did beat us, ha-ha! The ceremony was nice and the speaker was excellent...and what's more - by the time we headed back to Oceanside, the LA traffic had cleared out enough that it was a fairly easy drive! Win! 

The beach at Oceanside
Lindsey & I on the beach!
Saturday allowed for sleeping in also - which was nice since we didn't return from graduation until shortly before midnight! My cousin was hosting the entire family for a cookout in the early afternoon and so we decided to clear out for a couple hours to let her do her thing - this also gave us a chance to check out the beach and a nearby mission. We wandered the shops at Oceanside Marina and took a quick walk along the beach before stopping at Mission San Luis Rey on the way back to the house.

Mission San Luis Rey was a much more well established mission and cost money to tour. We didn't really have the time to spend on the tour, so we looked in the incredibly beautiful and detailed chapel and gardens before heading back to the cousin's house - but I'm glad we were able to stop in. It was a beautiful mission and the chapel itself was absolutely stunning!

Saturday afternoon was spent eating delicious food and soaking up the sun and time with family in the backyard - poolside, of course! I saw cousins I hadn't seen for years! So many years - my cousin Jeff and I served as the flower girl and ring bearer in my Uncle's wedding and I believe I was all of almost three when that happened! We chatted, caught up, watched my cousin Jeff's kids antics and laughed and as the evening turned a bit cloudy and cooler, a couple of us even ventured into the hot tub for a bit. We also celebrated Lindsey's promotion to First Lieutenant with a Costco cake - one of JoAnn's favorite things! It was a wonderful day! 

Mission San Luis Rey
Just a part of the gorgeous ceiling(s) in the chapel...
Statuary in the mission gardens...
Gorgeous flowers in bloom!
Sunday was our last full day in California and in true Summerlin vacation fashion - we made sure to fill it to the brim. We do our best to make sure we do everything we can while we can...not a bad choice I suppose. We drove down to San Diego on Sunday morning to have brunch with our friends JJ and Jess and their precious girls, Evie and Rebecca Mae; our first time to meet Rebecca Mae and also our first time to be so thoroughly entertained throughout our meal by Evie! We also might have done a quick drive past Petco Park so I could snap a picture...I mean, might as well, right?

Petco Park - Home of the San Diego Padres
Evie putting on a one woman show at lunch - so sweet & funny!
Lindsey getting in some cuddles with Rebecca Mae!
After gathering up the nine crumpled napkins I received as a gift from Evie during lunch - treasured napkins - we said our goodbyes and parted ways. We went out to the Hotel del Coronado to walk around and snap a few pictures and had out last walk on a beach situated on the Pacific before making the drive back toward Oceanside to grab our bags and head toward LAX. Fear not though - the day was still young and there were many more stops to make before we arrived at LAX at the end of the day... We looked through my cousin's orchard(s) before hugs were given and we climbed into the car to continue our day.
Sand sculpture on the beach...
The Hotel del Coronado
Roses abloom in the garden.
Peaches in the orchard - there were also lemons, oranges, tangerines & pomegranates... 
We made it to LAX around 5:00 and drove right past the entrance to the airport - our flight(s) didn't leave until 11:20 - and straight to the In & Out Burger! I've never had the privilege of having food from In & Out but I am a fan after our visit - there wasn't anything spectacular or different, it was just a good burger! We sat outside so we could watch the planes landing at LAX; they would appear in the distance as lights on the horizon and grow closer...closer...closer...until the planes were soaring right above your head to land. The LAX In & Out is like the Los Angeles equivalent of DC's Gravelly Park. Getting my Dad to finish his food before it got cold...as opposed to grabbing up his camera every time a plane flew by - the struggle was real!

Up close & personal with the airplanes...
Y'all just don't know how hard it was for my Dad not to turn around & look at that plane....
After dinner, we drove about ten miles up the road to the Santa Monica Pier for one last California site seeing stop off. We walked onto the pier with what felt like half of California - everyone was out at Santa Monica Pier on Sunday evening - it was crazy! We posed with the sign marking the end of Route 66, peered over the sides of the pier at the crashing waves, watched the rides twist and swirl at the end of the pier and bid the sunshine farewell as it descended over the rugged coast in the distance.

Sunset on the Santa Monica Pier
The end of the line...
One last look at the Pacific Ocean...
Going to California was the trip of a lifetime. Now - before you tell me I'm being dramatic about that, I think you should hear me out. Some people live in the same place their whole lives and if they do move, they may not be afforded the chance to return to "where they came from" but I am lucky enough to say that I have been blessed to live in more than one state and I was able to return to visit the place I was born - almost literally.

There are also people in this world who haven't been blessed with a family that they would willingly and more than happily spend a week's vacation with - but I also have that blessing - in spades. My sister and I are surrounded by friends that are already married and have their own families...and I often find myself wishing for that for myself. However, I know one day a trip like this one won't be possible for the family I have right now - there will be other commitments, other family members, deployment(s) and extenuating circumstances that just won't lend themselves to this type of trip - and so for that reason...it was the trip of a lifetime. 

I so thoroughly enjoyed this trip and the memories my family made and I hope that just maybe you've enjoyed getting to relive just a few of the bits and pieces of this trip with me! 



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