Sunday, November 27, 2022

Short Trip to Pinnacles National Park

A few tips

* Please do not attempt Pinnacles in Summer. In Winter itself, the temperatures at noon were high, and did get a bit hot.

* Go early, as parking spots are limited.

* Carry essentials like food, water, first aid with you

* Hollister downtown is a nice little downtown to stop for good food options 

The past few months, we have not exactly had much family time, especially a trip where we could spend time together. Even though we did not have any plans earlier, we thought making a quick trip to Pinnacles during the thanksgiving break will be a welcome change. We can actually do Pinnacles in a day from Bay Area, but we wanted to avoid the 2 hr drive in the morning, and hence decided to go the previous day, stay in hollister and then spend the next day in Pinnacles.

Its always the small things that always give so much joy and this trip was no less.

On black friday, we did some quick packing and left around 1:30 PM. We had not had lunch, so we got a quick bite for kids from 7/11. Their Pizza is good, and we just got two slices of that. We drove to hollister which was just an hour drive. We reached hollister around 3, and decided to have food there, in a Pho place. But this place was closed. We walked through the cute downtown of Hollister and got into a small mexican place. There were only few staff, and there was a wait for the food, but the food was yummy! I had mexican soup, and kids and Sree had tacos.

We decided to go to the hotel, checked into our room, rested and decided to go to the pool. The kids always loves the pool, and this one had an indoor heated pool. There is a general excitement around staying in a hotel for the kids. We enjoyed the pool, where Tara and Pappu showcased their swim skills and after an hour and half, decided to go back to the room.

In the room, we all took bath, and had PB&J and decided to call it a day after a bit of TV.

On Sat, our plan was to leave around 7:30 AM from the hotel after breakfast, to reach Pinnacles early.

But, we all woke up a bit late, and we hit breakfast only by 7:30. The kids enjoy hotel breakfast. So they had that, and we started to Pinnacles around 8:00 AM.

We were just about to reach Pinnacles, when Pappu felt nauseous. We had to stop, make him feel comfortable and also change his clothes. We reached inside pinnacles around 9:15 or so, and got the last two parking spots at bear gulch trail.

The weather was perfect and we enjoyed hiking this trail. The caves were the most amazing and the reservoir at the end too was very serene. The kids cooperated very well. After this hike, we rested for a while and had PB&J again. There are no restaurants in Pinnacles, so its important to carry your essentials into the park. You do have a visitor center store, but thats at one end.

After this short break, we decided to do the contour gulch hike till the overlook. This one was steap, and the sun also made it harder. Pappu and Kungu had falls, and they were also a bit more cranky. But we managed this hike. I was not too impressed with the overlook view.

We came down. After we reached the car, we were thinking if we should head home, or stop for early dinner at Carmel or Santana Row. Then we just stopped at visitor center, got ice creams and decided to head home straight.

And thus our short + sweet trip ended.

The little things that we enjoyed in this trip

 Getting roses from the seller inside the mexican restaurant :)

* The holiday vibe and food

* The hotel pool

* The clean and comfortable hotel room + bed

* The hotel breakfast

* Pinnacles bear gulch hike and exploring the caves

* The short nap in the car post lunch

* Kungu's random jokes as we hiked

* A nice man lending us bandages for Pappu, and Pappu mentioning, we should meet up with him sometime :)

* A quick break in nature from the normal routine

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Trip to Disneyland!

 Finally, its time for the Disneyland trip! The kids have never been there, and they were very excited.

The only bummer was that, Sree had to make an emergency trip to India to take care of his mom's health, and this definitely affected the happiness quotient in our house. Especially Tara, she was really upset, he was not part of the trip. They were couple of days, she was feeling too upset and we had to console her a lot.

A few things that made this trip doable as a single parent: 

  • My childhood friend Shanaz, who lives in LA, graciously agreed to be with us for two whole days. This was one of the main reasons, the trip went without major roadblocks even though this was my first trip alone with the kids anywhere. 
  • We also changed the original plan from driving down, to booking the flights to LA. This was a must. Driving would have just been too painful with two kids in the back. But at some point I want to try it. 
  • Also additionally, I took a thursday off, so that I could reach there early, and we can fully utilize friday and saturday in Disneyland.

Our friend Preetam, dropped us at the San Jose airport at 8:00 AM. The TSA-pre came into a lot of help, we went directly to security, and then was at the gate early. We had time to get coffee/hot chocolate, and we waited at the gate. This was a short flight to LA, and we reached in no time.

The most challenging part was figuring out where the uber stop is in LAX. Finally, I realized we had to take a shuttle to the uber stop, and drag all the luggages and then finally get the uber. The uber ride was almost 45 minutes to our hotel which was Holiday Inn for tonight.

Once we checked in, there was an issue with our key, and I had to leave the kids near the hotel door, and get one of the cleaning ladies to open the room for us.

We ubered some yummy panda express food. Then changed and went to the pool around 3:30. We spent a good hour and a half there, where Tara was trying to teach me swimming :)

Afterwards, we dressed up and went to the Disney Downtown. We went to the Lego store, where the kids video chatted with Sree on all the legos, had some churos, and listened to some music and reached back to the hotel. We had some yummy food in the evening. This holiday inn, had that kids eat free with an adult, and each booth had a TV of its own showing Disney movies.We slept early.

Friday Sep 23rd

We had a quick breakfast, and I had to leave the kids at the breakfast table, and go and get all the luggage from the room. I got an uber, and we went to check-in to Disneyland Hotel.

We checked in, kept our luggage in storage, and Shanu also arrived. Once we met Shanu, we all started off to take the monorail. The fact that our hotel was so close to Disney downtown really helped!

The monorail took us directly to Tomorrow land! Our first ride was the Finding Nemo ride on the submarine. I could see the kids really enjoying it! We then went to the star wars ride, and I did a ride with Pranav, while Shanu and Tara got a corn dog. We also did Astro Blasters which was a hit with the kids. After tomorrowland, we went to Fantasy Land. Here we did all the Pinnochio rides, then merry go round, the Alice in Wonderland rides etc.

We got the kids cotton candy, which was a must for Tara, and some gifts from the gift shops. They got a Buzz, Woody, and some star war characters. We also had lunch at one of the restaurants in between and sat and rested for a bit.

By 3 PM, we were tired. We walked back through disney downtown. Me and kids left shanu, and went to starbucks and had a drink. Then we walked back to our hotel.

After resting a bit, we changed and went to the pool! It was a heated pool with water slide. Such a big hit. We spent 3 hrs there. Came home, had a bath, and I ubered some yummy Indian food! And Tea!!!

Ofcourse there was an incident when the kids accidently spilled my tea all over, while I was trying to get some cutlery from downstairs, and I lost it on them, but I re-ordered the tea, and all was good!

We video called Sree and showed him fireworks through our hotel window. It was a great view!

Sat Sep 24th

I went down to get some breakfast for kids. Shanu came in early and met me at the coffee shop. She came to the room, kept her luggage and we started off to monorail to have another day at Disney.

Today we targeted the Rise of the Resistance. It had a long queue, but it was good. We got the lightening pass, but some of the rides dont take lightening pass. And once we choose it on one, we have to claim it before we can use it on another.

Anyways, after rise of the resistance, we did one more star wars ride where Tara could be a pilot, and Pranav was also given a position. The long waits did make them cranky though, but a bit of talking, distracting etc helped.

Then we went and did Splash mountain, pirattes of the carribean, the haunted house and in between Shanu got us some lunch too. For some of these we used the ligtening pass.After this, we went to the room and settled in for a bit. We changed, because today also we wanted to hit the pool.

We went to the pool, and enjoyed the pool for another hour or two. We introduced the water slide for Shanu, and also enjoyed the Jacuzzi. We went back up, changed and went and had an amazing dinner in the taco place in Disney Downtown and chatted for a while.That was nice.

Came home, watched fireworks from the window again, and slept.


Early morning, we packed and started off to the airport. Shanu dropped us, and then we got our flight back to San Jose, where our friend Bharatan came and picked us up. One exciting thing was when Delta was delayed, they brought a spider man to entertain the kids for a bit and give out marvel comics :)