What we did on our summer vacation

July 6, 1999

It has been a busy few weeks around the Gehlke household. With Glenn on vacation from June 19 through July 6, there was plenty of time to relax, or at least think about doing so, as we trundled around the state in search of fun and family bonding experiences. Here is the quick version of our 18-day vacation odyssey:

Saturday, June 19 -- We drive down to Lake Del Valle in Livermore to celebrate the birthdays of Roni's sister Jacki Coughlin and nephew Bobby. The weather is fine and the park is busy on this Father's Day weekend. Roni and Benji go wading in the lake, and there is an intense game of Frisbee on the lawn area.

Sunday, June 20 -- Plans to visit the Hilmar Dairy Days festival fall by the wayside as Roni attends an Oakley Almond Festival volunteer rally. But we enjoy the day at home for the most part, complete with a Father's Day chicken barbecue.

Monday, June 21 -- We're off to Sacramento to spend the day at Railfair '99. We nearly suffer smoke inhalation from all the steam locomotives on display, but there is no shortage of fun, particularly for diehard railfans Glenn and Benji. Roni manages to shoot four rolls of film before we finally drop at around 6 p.m.

Tuesday, June 22 -- Roni runs errands in the morning that include dropping off our film for processing. Benji takes advantage of the opportunity for some play time with Dad. With the temperature soaring, we head for the Prewett Park waterslides in Antioch around 4 p.m. Benji falls in love with the water.

Wednesday, June 23 -- We spend the day at home and cook up some more chicken for a picnic lunch the following day.

Thursday, June 24 -- After a late start, we travel south into the San Joaquin Valley to enjoy a couple of hours and lunch by the Merced River. We had hoped to take some train photos near a trestle over the river, but alas we can't find a place to pull off the highway and wait.

Friday, June 25 -- It is time to think seriously about taking a full "getaway" vacation. We are toying with the idea of going to southern California to visit Legoland or Disneyland. We are also toying with the possibility of going north... or east... or west. We decide to sleep on it. As we are preparing to hit the sack for the night, a supply line to our sprinkler system bursts and floods out the front flower bed. Fortunately we catch the break before extensive damage occurs and are thankful the break didn't occur during our four-day getaway. We shut off the water for the night.

Saturday, June 26 -- Glenn does a quick repair of the gushing sprinkler and we proceed to prepare for our trip. After some discussion, disagreement and a massive tickle-fight, the three of us hit the road to the southland shortly after noon. We take Highway 101 down, with stops at Mission San Juan Bautista for lunch and Santa Maria for dinner. Roni handles driving chores until her glasses break outside of San Luis Obispo and Glenn takes over for the trip in to Buellton, where we purchase an eyeglass repair kit from a gas station. We press on through the night in search of a motel room, finding one at last around midnight at a Motel 6 in Thousand Oaks. Reservations? What are reservations?

Sunday, June 27 -- After dining at the International House of Pancakes, we take a leisurely drive along I-405 and decide to check out LAX. The airport is mobbed and we get stuck in horrid traffic. We then head out to Hermosa Beach and walk along the golden strand with all the other sun worshippers. There is time for playing chicken with the waves and cooling off before hitting the road again. We hug the coast, admiring the luxury homes, lighthouses and high cliffs until hooking up with Highway 1. We happen upon the Lomita Railroad Museum in Lomita and enjoy hanging out in the cab of a Southern Pacific steam locomotive. Then it is on to Anaheim for another night in a Motel 6. Benji and Glenn take to the swimming pool after a Burger King feast.

Monday, June 28 -- Well, here we are in Anaheim, so we might as well do the tourist thing and visit Disneyland. We keep the visit a secret from Benji and wait for him to figure it out. After passing the large Disneyland sign at the parking lot entrance, strolling to the tram past pictures of Lion King characters, listening to the tram driver chatter about Disneyland for three minutes and standing in line while Disney music plays and characters waltz about near the main gate, Benji still has no clue. Finally he offers, "We're NOT at Disneyland, Dad." And looking over at the Disneyland Railroad steam train running about on the track ahead, he says, "I think this is a train museum." OK, whatever it was or wasn't, Benji quickly decides it looks like fun and spends the rest of the day leading his parents from one ride to the next. We hit Pirates of the Carribean, Snow White, Pinocchio, Small World and the Jungle Cruise, among others. Of course, there are photo sessions with Mickey Mouse, Pluto, and Chip and Dale. Exhausted by the end of the afternoon, we go out to dinner at Baker's Square and then return to our motel.

Tuesday, June 29 -- The final day of our trip. We hit the road early in anticipation of a long drive home, first stopping briefly at the Fullerton Amtrak depot to appease Glenn's curiosity. Benji is disappointed because we don't see any Metrolink commuter trains. We slog along I-5 with the morning commute, then decide to detour through Mojave, Tehachapi and Bakersfield in hopes of catching a glimpse of a Santa Fe steam locomotive on its return trip from the Railfair. No steamer, but we do see a train derailment near Bakersfield. We hook up with I-5 again outside of Bakersfield and make good time to Oakley, arriving by 9 p.m. The sprinkler repairs have held and the cat is still alive, thank goodness.

Wednesday, June 30 -- We assess the damage to the lawn after four days of inadequate water. It's pretty crispy. Roni begins several days of catch-up on work pending for her clients. Glenn tackles a new sprinkler line in the back yard. We visit a Pittsburg building supply company for ideas on our proposed retaining wall project.

Thursday, July 1 -- Glenn celebrates his 34th birthday and receives a G-scale train set as a gift from Benji and Roni. He is now faced with the task of getting to work building the garden railway he has been blabbing about for the past two years. Work promptly continues on the sprinkler line and plans are made to create a new planting bed behind the kitchen. Meanwhile, Oakley celebrates its first day as a city and Roni cruises through town looking for inspiration for her weekly newspaper column. We have carrot cake in honor of Glenn's birthday at the end of a busy day.

Friday, July 2 -- Glenn does "research" into his garden railway plans with a trip to Just Trains in Concord for a book and magazines on the subject. Roni, meanwhile, is hard at work printing a job for a client. Benji enjoys a play date with his friend James. Glenn completes the new sprinkler line.

Saturday, July 3 -- As the first major step in constructing our garden railway, we purchase four cubic yards of fill dirt and raise the planting area a foot. The day is spent clearing weeds and old debris from the side of the house, then carting the dirt to the back yard after it is dumped in the driveway at 2 p.m. The chore is complete by 7 p.m., and Glenn is physically wiped out.

Sunday, July 4 -- We celebrate America's 223rd birthday with a visit to Home Depot to purchase 30 concrete stepping stones for use with the garden railway project. We pick up Roni's old Toyota Tercel from Jacki and Kevin Coughlin's place to use as the transport vehicle. (The car has been at their place in search of a buyer since early June.) We take it to an automatic car wash where it suffers a major dent in the hatchback door. We wind up the day by attending the fireworks display in Antioch with all the other crazies.

Monday, July 5 -- We are all tired and wondering why. Couldn't have anything to do with two weeks of activities, could it? Nah. Glenn plots out a track plan for the garden railway while Benji plays in the sprinkler and Roni, after writing her column, rejoices in a day without any further deadlines for clients. Late in the day, we get the call from Jacki that the car has been sold, thanks in part to the $200 we knocked off for the new dent. Roni rushes over to sign the paperwork.

Tuesday, July 6 -- The final day of Glenn's vacation is highlighted by a visit from Glenn's longtime friend Glen Campi, who arrives at 4 p.m. to spend the afternoon and evening. Benji is eager to share his knowledge of trains with our guest, and we indulge him in a game of Don't Wake Daddy. Dinner is barbecued chicken, pasta salad, corn on the cob and guacamole dip, followed by a marshmallow toast.

So many activities packed into 18 days. Now it is back to work or off to kindergarten for the Gehlkes. It has been an eventful (if not relaxing) vacation. We hope your summer journeys lead you to fun and pleasant memories as well.

Glenn, Roni and Benji

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