Egg Drop!

Forsyth County's Finest
A fun (if slightly scary) tradition our first grade has is the annual Egg Drop Contest. Kids design a contraption that they hope will keep their raw egg safe, then we teachers get to drop them from the top of the fire truck ladder. Violet got super into building her egg container... she even made Matt drop it out our second-story window to see if it would survive. But I'll admit, I was a little shocked to see how high up 60 feet really is! First the basket lifted, then extended out with a bit of a jerk and sway... I'm not scared of heights, but nevertheless... The firemen were all wonderful and reassuring. They do this every day! Well, not this exactly... But it did make up for the fact that they wouldn't come rescue Gus out of the tree that one time.

Heading up with Fireman Jeff.

My tiny class down below!

Quite a beautiful view...

Getting ready to make the first drop!
I would yell each student's name before I dropped their egg and all the kids were chanting "drop that egg! Drop that egg!" It was so fun. There were some obvious splats, some promising bounces, and a couple parachutes that gently drifted down. Out of 22 drops, eight of the eggs survived the fall! We had talked a lot beforehand about how to react if your egg broke, or what you could say to someone who's egg didn't make it, and the kids did such a great job being sweet and supportive towards each other. We banned the words "winner" and "loser" from the event and just focused on having fun and being positive. Fortunately there were no tears shed, not even from Violet, whose parachute idea never quite materialized. What a memory we made!

My sweet girl... we ended up with scrambled eggs but still had a great time.

San Francisco - Day 4

On our last day in San Francisco, we needed to find something to do that would allow us to get back to our house (and luggage) in time to make it to the airport for our red-eye. We decided to head back to Golden Gate Park, a spot we noticed our first day while on our double-decker sight-seeing bus.

Golden Gate Park is a long, narrow park in the city with lakes, fields, a science museum, segway tours, you name it. It also has a Japanese Tea Garden, which we stumbled into. It was a delightful little getaway. It reminded me a lot of when Matt and I happened into the United States Botanic Garden while killing time before our tour of the Capital... who knew there could be such tranquility in the middle of the hustle and bustle?

Man, our weather this trip was terrible... all that fog...!

This land is your land, this land is my land...

One last family picture...
After wandering around the Japanese Tea Garden, we swung by the Arboretum because it was "get in free Thursday" - how convenient! Then we caught a bus to the other end of the park, situated right on the Pacific Ocean. We grabbed lunch at an ocean-view table, then headed home to grab our suitcases, say our goodbyes and try to grab whatever sleep we could. What a great trip!

The Arboretum... check out that baby pineapple!

A little beach in my hand.

Couldn't leave without stopping by the Pacific Ocean!


Golden Gate Bridge

Day 3 in San Francisco dawned with the decision to bike across Golden Gate Bridge. We'd stopped and gazed our first day as one of the stops on our tour bus, but Matt and I needed to get up close and personal. A coworker of mine had recommended it and after running a 5K the day before, I figured, why not? We got up early, headed to the waterfront to pick up our bikes and set out.

Confession: I wasn't sure I could still ride a bike. I mean, I knew I could ride a bike, but actually, legitimately pedal my way eight miles from Fisherman's Wharf to the Ferry Pier in Sausalito? But Matt was gung-ho and so we set off with only a brief glance at the map in bike rental shop and a few puffs of the inhaler for me.

The route is a combination of bike paths and road sides. Sometimes we were right there next to the cars. Sometimes we were rolling through a national park. The steepest climb was getting up to bridge level - the hardest part of getting over the bridge was actually just dodging the many pedestrians along the sidewalk. The views were always lovely and once more we had clear blue skies. It wasn't even too cold and windy on the bridge, something we had been warned about. Seriously, we got the best weather on this trip.

Helmets on, ready to roll!

I can still ride a bike!

The beautiful path along Crissy Field...notice the bridge in the distance?

Stopping for a photo opp near the Warming Hut

And the approach!

The view going the other way was just as worth it!

Passing through...


We made it!
So long story not too long, we made it across the Golden Gate Bridge! The eight miles took us about an hour and a half of riding. Once we got into Sausalito, we roamed around until Matt's parents joined us via ferry so we could all enjoy lunch. It's a cute little town to see. We had gourmet burgers at the Napa Valley Burger Co, grabbed ice cream cones and pedaled around the pier area until it was time to board our ferry for the return trip. I was surprised that I wasn't sweaty and exhausted - the breeze and downhills kept things relatively easy. I'd definitely recommend the experience!

Meet me by the elephants...

Cute town.

Ice cream!

Waiting to board the ferry.

Matt quickly became obsessed with his bike and tried to convince me to bike back home, but we had evening plans to meet up with friends in San Mateo and I was worried about making the train...

...so we and the entire rest of the city boarded our bikes onto the ferry for the ride back to San Francisco. How we all remembered which bike belonged to who, I'll never know!

Catching a glimpse of everyone's favorite maximum security island prison on the back!
After we returned our bikes, we hoped on the Muni to the train station, then boarded a commuter train with five minutes to spare for our trek to San Mateo to visit with our old neighborhood pals, the Smiths! It was a relaxing way to end our long day - dinner and friends.



So if you go to San Francisco, there are two things everyone will ask if you're going to do. The first is ride a cable car. Which we did. In my opinion, it was rather over-rated. We waited for at least an hour to board, then it took us to the other end of the city. It was basically just a form of transportation jammed with passengers. But there you go, we did it.

The other obvious must-do in San Francisco is visit Alcatraz. And this experience did not disappoint. Clued in by a friend that we needed reservations in advance, we booked early enough to score a night tour and it was so worth it. The National Parks Service does an amazing job and has never disappointed us, and this tour was no exception. The audio tour, narrated by former guards and prisoners, the live tour guides, the ferry operators... everyone was incredibly informative, friendly, professional. Ah, National Parks Service, long may you reign.

The infamous Rock.

After an incredible lunch at the Slanted Door at the Ferry Building, we headed for our designated pier to catch our tour. We set off around six in the evening, giving us full light to appreciate our landing on the island, followed by perfect sunset views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay, ending with the gathering gloom of dusk as we experienced the fading light from inside the prison. Coming home we watched the glittering lights of shore grow closer as the ferry neared land. If you can see Alcatraz, see it by night.

After the jail closed, Native Americans occupied the island for a time in protest of government treatment. Who knew?

From the main landing, looking towards the water tower.
Once we departed the ferry in an orderly fashion, we headed up the winding road the shackled prisoners would have taken to get to the main building on the island, the jail. I was taken with how much lush greenery was present - the families of the guards and in some cases, the prisoners themselves, had planted gardens that have gradually flourished in this now empty space. We headed into the main shower room, where prisoners would have received their prison-issued clothing, and were given our tour-issued headsets before heading up the stairs to the main cell block. The audio was incredible. Narrated by guards and prisoners, enhanced by well-placed background sound effects, it gave explicit directions (now turn to your left and find cell number 104...) that led throughout the jail. I can't imagine having the same view, day after day. Apparently they also were granted "music hour" when everyone played their choice of instrument... can you imagine the din?

The cells were tiny! 

The windows of D-Block... solitary confinement.
The view from D-Block, just as the sun was setting, was beautiful. The views from inside the pitch-black rooms of solitary, less so. We heard the story of one prisoner who would pull a button off his clothes, toss it somewhere in the darkness of his cell, then hunt around until he found it, just to repeat the entire process - anything to keep from going crazy in the dark.

The Warden's House

Something I had never considered but learned during our tour - the guards working on Alcatraz had families and children living with them. The kids would take a boat to the mainland to go to school, then come home again in the afternoon. They could even bring friends with them for playdates. Imagine! If you could look past the jail, the island is not a bad place to be. Rather isolated, of course. And everything - water, food, everything - has to be brought in. But the views, as long as you're not viewing them through steel bars, are amazing.

It got colder as the evening wore on, but we had to step outside to catch the sunset.

The lighthouse.

The island is now a swell place to be a bird - no predators!

Sunset over the Bay.


San Francisco!

The view from our living room... see the city in the distance?

Spring break has finally arrived, and this year Matt and I opted to ditch the kids for half the week and take off for the West Coast. San Francisco, specifically. I love traveling with my children, but it's good to get away every now and then. We felt less guilty knowing we would still have half a week with them once we returned. Also making our decision easier - Matt's parents had an apartment booked for a a couple weeks and had invited us to join them.

I was already sweating having to make a 7 p.m. flight through spring break Friday afternoon traffic. So imagine my anxiety as I watched the the I-85 bridge spectacularly blaze and collapse the night before. I did something I've never done... I begged for a favor. We're not supposed to ask off the day before (or after) a holiday break, and I fully admitted it was a first-world problem, but I crossed my fingers and asked for a half-day sub. It helped that my AP was also trying to get out of town... we both ended up taking a half day! So what was going to be a fingernail-biting departure was instead a leisurely stroll, with a stop for lunch at Lukas's CFA before hunkering down at the airport. After being delayed a couple times, we finally took off an hour behind schedule but all's well that ends well, we made it to San Francisco.


The first thing we did was to be total tourists and hop on one of those red double-decker sightseeing buses. The theory being - we'd see everything and be better informed about where we wanted to invest our time. It was great! Everyone told us it would be surprisingly cold, foggy, prepare to buy a sweatshirt kind of weather, but Mother Nature smiled upon us. It was perfect! We ditched our jackets and basked in the top deck sunshine. The tour started at Fisherman's Wharf, took us through the city, all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge, through Golden Gate Park, past Chinatown... we saw it all. Thanks to our tour, we decided we would definitely be going back to the Bridge, the Park, and that Fisherman's Wharf is an overcrowded tourist trap that must be necessarily navigated through to reach far superior destinations.

Strolling the pier before hopping on the bus. There's Alcatraz! And the Ferry Building!

Coffee stop at Boudin Bakery

A picture-perfect day! Over the bridge lies Sausalito.

We hopped off the bus in Chinatown so we could stroll the streets and pick up some lunch. A co-worker of mine counseled avoiding anywhere we saw white people eating (haha!) and so we found the random hole in the wall vegetarian place, crowded into one of the few tables, and proceeded to stuff our faces. It was delicious! We finally made it back to the waterfront so we could catch our train home to Noe Valley. We were experts at public transportation by the time we left. After the traffic mess we were abandoning in Atlanta, San Francisco's system was just fine with us. No need for a car here! The train stop was only a few blocks from the house and a thirty minute ride would put us right into the heart of where we needed to be.

It's a shame our weather was so bad. Just hideous. 

City on the Bay

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