Please, don’t fall over at the second post in two days!

So, a month ago.  We took a trip.  (Not on a magic rocket ship however.)  Josh’s baby sister was getting married!  Hurray!  But they live in a teeny tiny town in northern California that would have cost us an arm and a leg to fly into.  And we didn’t relish the idea of four to six days spent in a car (2-3 in each direction), what with the two children we’d be bringing.  We looked at other locations we might fly to which would only be short days drive to the wedding locale.

First up:  Sonoma.  Oooh!  Wine country!  That would be fun!  Oh, wait.  Two kids with us…yeah, no.  We probably want to actually retain custody of said children.

Next:  San Francisco!  Hey!  The Boy is a fan of Maybelle.  And there’s all sorts of kid friendly stuff there!  Google Maps says it’s only a 5.5 hour drive.  Sold!

We had hoped to entice Josh’s sister and her family into traveling with us, but alas, they postponed purchasing plane tickets until it was at ouch levels.  Next time.

The only detail I did not like about our ticket purchase was the departure time.  See, the week before the wedding was Sturgis.  You know.  Motorcycle Rally.  Crazy insane number of visitors to the Hills.  That meant lots of folks trying to get home as well.  The cheapest flight option?  Departing on Friday the 13th.  (Actually, not a big deal to me.  I figure the superstitious won’t be flying so maybe it’ll be easier going.  Less freaks.)  Also?  Our flight left at 6:18 am.  A! M!  We live 40 minutes from the airport.  Thankfully it’s a small airport so the two hour rule doesn’t apply, but we were planning to check a bunch of luggage – 2 car seats (free!) and 2 suitcases (not so free).  That meant we left our house at 4 am.  My head still hurts thinking about it.  And you wanna know what’s totally crazy?  My mom volunteered to drive us in and drop us off!  The things you do for your kids.

Everything went smoothly in the morning.  The Boy didn’t sleep in the car, but the Girl stayed dozing until our arrival at the airport.  We brought our baby jogger which allows two kids to ride in the space of one.  (Um, it is so not designed for this intent, but it works.)  The kids were pretty good on the first flight.  The Girl sucked her bottle down before we managed to take off, but she didn’t fuss much either.  Just threw her pacifier around a few times.  And of course flying out of small town America means you fly on small planes as well.  So the kids and I were on one side with Josh across the aisle.  The Boy had a few toys and my iPod to keep him entertained.  The Girl took up removing the inflight mags from the seat back and playing catch with them.  Thank heavens it was only a 50 minute flight…

Upon arrival, the Boy asked where the Denver Broncos were.  (They did actually play that day, but I’m sure they were already across the country getting ready.) 

Next up – Denver to San Fran and one big plane!  I’d selected the 3 middle seats – for one, we could all sit together; two, it was relatively near the front; and three, it was by a bulkhead (extra leg room!).  Brilliant idea except no window for a certain someone to look out.

Hi Wolfie!  Oh, and look, it’s that Broncos jersey again.

Both kids socked out on this flight.  It was all of around, oh, 8 am?  Hoo boy.

Second flight went well as well.  We land, hit the bathrooms, gather our luggage (all arrived!  all in one piece!), and are greeted with a pleasant surprise – a free train that takes us to the rental car agency!  A not so pleasant surprise – I’ll be standing in line for an hour to get the car.  Oh, and despite the verbage on the website that the category car I rented is a 4 Door model, all they have is 2 doors.  But don’t worry, for an extra $10/day I can upgrade to a GMC Terrain (small cross-over SUV with rather surprising 32mpg highway rating).  We take the extra $10/day and are glad for the extra space.  Multiple times during the trip.

We make our way to our hotel, one of two Embassy Suites near the airport.  I’d really wanted to stay downtown, but the prices on the most basic rooms pushed us out toward the airport.  Plus we could get a suite.  And not have to pay $50/day for parking.  Tradeoff: no quick jaunts back to the hotel for naps.  We were pleasantly surprised with the hotel though.  Great staff, nice rooms, comfy beds, and a free pack & play for the Girl.  A few more perks we’ll get to as the story unfolds.

We arrived at the hotel right around noon, so we dumped our luggage and headed out to find some lunch.  The in-hotel restaurant didn’t have much for kid offerings and the prices were a bit high, so we headed in to the local downtown.  Turns out to be a cute little burb.  We find a place to park and actually end up eating at the first place we see.

Awesome vintage 20s art deco feel on the inside.  We were one of only a few patrons and they were setting up for their Friday night entertainment (free amusement for the 4 and under crowd!).  The food was also pricey, but holy cow was it good.  Josh had the Crab Cake Sandwich with avocado, lettuce, tomato and chipotle aioli on toasted sourdough.  (We went on to have a couple more crab sandwiches – none was as good as this.)  I opted for the Chicken Avocado Club – lime chicken, avocado, bacon, red onions, tomato and dressed in citrus mayo, served on a toasted ciabatta roll.  Also phenomenal good.  Really.  I think we’d both say this was one of the best meals of the trip.

After lunch we went out and found a small grocery store to pick up a few essentials like diapers (hey, why pack ’em when you can just buy them when you get there?!?).  I also picked up some salads and such that we could eat for dinner that night.  After a large late lunch, we rightly figured we’d just get the munchies around bedtime.  I also picked up a chocolate bacon bar.  Because they don’t have these things in South Dakota.  And someone had been teasing me with reviews.  It was as good as expected.  I also hid the bar so the Boy wouldn’t eat it all in one fell swoop.  I’ve rationed it out so I still have a few squares left.  I wish I’d stocked up before we left…

Anywho.  Back at the hotel we attempted to get the kiddos to take naps, but they weren’t havin’ nothin’ of it.  So I took them down to the pool to let Josh catch a quick nap.  Nice pool, two hot tubs which weren’t very hot.  That’s just fine with us though, because the Boy loves a hot tub and I could actually sit in it with the Girl.  We spent about an hour splashing around, in my hopes to at least wear one of the two out.  Back up at our room, Josh was just getting back up.

When we’d checked in, we’d been given cards for the Manager’s Reception.  I figured it’d be soda/water and maybe some snacks.  Not so!  Being a Hilton Honors member it was all you could drink beer/wine/liquor for FREE.  Plus snacks.  On this night goldfish crackers and Chex Mix.  Sweet!  Josh had a few beers, I opted for a Diet Coke (I’ll be honest – I was dragging at this point and a glass of wine would have likely left me comatose), a Sprite for the Boy and snacks all around.

I’d picked the hotel pretty much at random using a few travel sites to hunt down deals.  I could not have chosen better.  On top of a great suite for a cheap rate, free drinks and snacks, the hotel was also a huge hit with the Boy.  If you’re familiar with Embassy Suites, you probably know why.  For those who don’t, it’s this:

No, no, not his Papa.  Or his Baby Sister.  All that stuff behind them.

The middle of the hotel is essentially a huge terrarium.  Including streams with bridges.  And FISH.  Endless hours of entertainment.

We spent the evening hanging out in our room, the Boy watching a Thomas movie on Netflix, Josh watching the Broncos, and me trying to wind down and make a plan for the next day.  Also everyone going to bed early.  It was only the first day, and despite the early start, it was a great kick-off to our vacation.

I apologize for the lack of photos.  I know I took more than this on our first day, but they must still be on Josh’s computer.  We opted to only take one laptop (we didn’t pack light, but we weren’t looking to pack that heavy either).  For those who follow me around on Facebook/Twitter, you’ll know I took about 2000 photos on this trip.  That required emptying the memory cards a few times.  I keep forgetting to double check his computer for what didn’t make it to mine.  Don’t worry – you’ll probably be sick of the images by the time this trip is done being blogged.