A sorta summer

July 10, 2000

Taking advantage of Benji's brief break from school and a pair of four-day weekends on Glenn's schedule, we put together a semblance of a summer vacation and did some light traveling during the past month, taking a series of day trips to help recharge our batteries and rekindle our sense of adventure.

June 23 marked a key milestone in Benji's education as he graduated from kindergarten. There were no formal ceremonies, but the occasion was marked by a classroom carnival and an early dismissal for a two-and-a-half-week summer vacation. Afterward, we told Ben he could do something special and he surprised us by asking for lunch at Togo's (as opposed to Burger King or Baskin-Robbins). So we all had a graduation feast of sandwiches and potato chips.

A few days later found us commemorating Glenn's 35th birthday over the long Fourth of July weekend. We had talked about the possibility of spending a few days at Monterey, but thought better of it in view of the fact we didn't want to spend the money for motel rooms and hadn't made reservations.

Instead we opted for several day trips, the first of which took us to Half Moon Bay in search of warm sun, a sandy beach and a sea breeze. What we got was rain and temperatures in the upper 50s, but we didn't let that dampen our spirits. We joined several hundred other fun-seekers at San Gregorio State Beach, where Benji frolicked in the surf and attempted to collect sand crabs. Roni and Glenn were mostly content to watch from the picnic blanket. The beach had obviously been collecting driftwood for some time as there were piles of the stuff everywhere. Some ambitious party-goers had used the larger pieces to construct forts and teepees, held together by nothing more than gravity and luck. Ben encouraged us to try our hand at construction as well, so he and Glenn built a mini structure that they teasingly referred to a Roni's dream kitchen. Before leaving town we stopped at a fresh fish market to collect some smoked salmon and crawdads to enjoy at home later.

On the drive home we got a craving for clam chowder, and being so near to San Francisco we decided it would be a simple matter to stop in at Fisherman's Wharf for some of the world's best. Of course, this was the Sunday of a long holiday weekend and the traffic in the city was thick and furious. In a 20-minute maneuver that will forever be famous in Gehlke Family lore, Glenn took over the driving while Roni hopped out, ran across the street to Fisherman's Grotto and purchased chowder bowls for our hungry trio before Glenn had managed to reach the parking lot by the wharf. Mind you, we are talking a distance of about 500 feet. By the time we had braved the traffic to escape the city, our little sidetrip for chowder had consumed 90 minutes.

The seafood bug had obviously bitten hard this day because we had only been home a couple of hours before Roni decided it was time to break out the salmon and crawdads for a late dinner. Roni's panicked scream from our kitchen, however, was a tip off that something was amiss.

"Oh my god, they're alive!" she said, abruptly dumping the plastic bag of crawdads in the sink. Sure enough, the little critters were wriggling around and slowly making their way from the bag to the sink like a scene out of some sci-fi movie. Apparently there had been some mix-up at the fish market. The clerk had asked if we wanted them live, to which Roni emphatically told him she didn't. We were a bit surprised they hadn't escaped in the car or while sitting in the refrigerator. Needless to say, they did not escape our pot of boiling water.

Benji by the banks of the Stanislaus

On Monday the 3rd we found ourselves once again searching for water, only this time it was the rocky banks of the Stanislaus River at Knights Ferry near Oakdale. It was here that we enjoyed a picnic and the opportunity to dip our toes in the cooling waters. We could have used some of that Half Moon Bay drizzle to cool us down in the Central Valley's summer swelter. Benji plunked rocks -- or in some cases small boulders -- while Roni attempted to catch minnows along the gravel bar. Glenn caught gold fever and was convinced his crude recovery methods had yielded a flake or two, but these would hardly be cause for a cry of "Eureka!"

July 4 found us in a patriotic mood, but quite tuckered from our previous two days of travel. We took it easy, bringing Benji and his bike out to a vacant parking lot in an Antioch office complex and letting him get in some riding practice. It wasn't long before he was cruising around with confidence, dodging curbs and gutters and racing with Glenn from one end of the lot to the other. It was the first time in the two years since receiving his bike as a birthday gift that Ben had spent any length of time riding and you could see the sense of accomplishment in his smile.

That evening we barbecued hotdogs and toasted marshmallows before returning to Antioch for the annual fireworks show attended by perhaps half of the city's 82,000 people. Maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but it sure seemed that way as we slogged through traffic in a vain search for parking. We finally double-parked to enjoy the last 15 minutes of the show, which was well worth it.

Benji visits with farmer John Papini.

Among our other recent travels were a day of U-picking peaches, apricots and nectarines at Papini Farms in Brentwood, and a tour of the Jelly Belly candy factory in Fairfield on June 26.

Frustrated with the deteriorating picture quality of our Zenith television set, we broke down and got a 27" RCA at Sears on July 5. Glenn spent the next several days trying to make it compatible with our VCR and digital cable connections. At last he has it working and we have a clear picture again.

We have been keeping Glenn's sister Jennifer in our thoughts of late as she tackles the challenges a difficult pregnancy. She recently spent several days in the hospital as doctors tried successfully to prevent the premature delivery of her and husband Tom's twins. We know she is anxious to bring the babies safely to term and we wish her the best. We're pulling for you, Sis!

Benji's entry into first grade this Wednesday has snuck up on us all too quickly. His hair is trimmed, his new clothes and lunch box await, and he is in high spirits. Roni has been in training, trying to ease her body into the rigors of a new schedule that will require getting Ben out the door by 8:15 every morning -- three hours earlier than his kindergarten start time. We'll share more on school life in next month's newsletter.

Glenn, Roni and Benji

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