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We’ve Been Busy! Holidays, Kayaking, Earthquakes, Family, Skunk Train, Live Crab, and Camper Overhaul!

December came quickly and we were getting into the Christmas spirit. Mike and I visited the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens Festival of the Lights. Of course, our favorite features of the light show were the sailboat and the palm trees with flamingo displays, reminding us of the tropical environment we both love. We warmed up inside with some hot chocolate as we listened to some live Christmas music.

The following Saturday we headed for the harbor for our weekly rowing course, however the rowboat operates at a first-come-first-serve basis and was full by the time we arrived. So we went back home to grab both of our kayaks out of the utility trailer and were still able to get on the water. Kayaking into the harbor was definitely a different experience than the rowboat. First of all, we got great deals on both kayaks. In our minds, sometimes being cheaper with a little more effort outweighs the benefit of extra spending. So, of course, we had some minor obstacles. Neither kayak is made for the ocean, which means we are a little more vulnerable to waves. Mike’s kayak is a short, sit-in, kid-size kayak, making it slightly unstable when an adult uses it, which only makes it funnier to watch him try to keep his balance. My kayak is a sit-on kayak with a flat bottom, which makes it slower and more difficult to keep up with Mike. The combination of everything made our kayaking adventure a little more entertaining. So with Mike trying to stay upright and me paddling as hard as I can, we headed out of Dolphin Isle marina. We passed by some private property with several abandoned boats that look like they had been slowly sinking and the others didn’t look too far behind. We continued past the main marina and the Coast Guard, which lead us into the harbor where we spotted a fishing boat throwing scraps overboard. Then all of a sudden we see a huge sea lion lunge out of the water. Then we see a seal pop his head up with his eyes just staring back at us and watching our every move. One after the other, the seals and sea lions were everywhere! We learned to tell the difference between the two from talking to a wildlife volunteer at MacKerricher State Park a few weeks prior. Sea lions are capable of barking, walking on land, like to hang out in groups, and have external ear flaps. Seals are quiet, wiggle their bodies on land, usually hang out alone, and do not have external ears. After watching them swim and jump out of the water for hours, we headed back into the main marina where we found a group of sea lions sleeping (and snoring) at the end of a dock. I could have watched them all day.

The following week Mike and I were just relaxing after work, sitting next to each other on our bean bags in the truck camper when I asked him to quit shaking his leg. This is a common thing he does and something I commonly ask him to stop doing. I didn’t think much of it, but Mike spoke up and told me he wasn’t shaking his leg. I looked up at him, and sure enough, he was sitting perfectly still, but I still felt like the camper was moving. I got up and opened the door, and there wasn’t any wind. It took me a second, but thought could this be an earthquake? It lasted about 15 seconds. The next day, it was confirmed that an earthquake of 4.2 magnitude hit 13 miles from Fort Bragg. We can officially say we have felt an earthquake!

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The following weekend came and it was finally time to go home to Nashville, TN! I tried to go back home to visit in September and ended up missing my flight, so it had been 10 long months without seeing my family. I was so excited to go home. Our flight was leaving out of San Francisco, which was a 3 ½ hour drive and the closest major airport to Fort Bragg. I scheduled an overnight flight and took Friday and Monday off work so we could get there straight away on Friday morning and have 3 full days with my family and friends. The motivation to get there on this particular December weekend was a celebration of both my parents graduating with their Doctorates of Education together! They worked so hard for the last few years and the time had finally come! So Mike and I drove down to San Francisco on Thursday night, caught our flight to Chicago, and then Nashville where my sister picked us up from the airport. We met everyone at my sister’s house, including my parents, brother, nephews, brother-in law, grandma, grandpa and step-grandma. We relaxed on Friday, had our Christmas Friday night, followed by a walk through Cheekwood Botanical Gardens Christmas light show. Saturday was the BIG DAY. We had a nice gala at the university for lunch. We were able to sneak out before graduation and decorate my parents’ truck as a surprise. During the ceremony, I had a proud-daughter moment watching my parents walk at their graduation and receive their well-earned diplomas. Of course after graduation we had to get tons of pictures of them in their regalia. We also had fun watching their reactions when they came out to their truck all decorated with balloons and window paint. We had a big celebration dinner with games and cards back at my sister’s house to finish off the day. On Sunday morning, I got to see one of my best friends over breakfast. That afternoon we got new family pictures and visited at my parents’ house watching old home videos. The weekend went by so fast that Monday came way too soon. It was time for us to pack up and head back to California.

We made it back to San Francisco by noon on Monday, which gave us a little time for some sightseeing before rush hour hit. Mike always craves chicken wings, so I promised him before we headed back to Fort Bragg, where “they don’t have a wing place” that we could get some hot wings. We also stopped by the Golden Gate Bridge and snapped some photos before driving over it. We started heading back up to Fort Bragg and took the famous, curvy Highway 1 most of the way up the coast.

Christmas was the following weekend and my traveling co-workers and I decided to have a Christmas feast at one of their houses. It has been so fun working at a place where you can work and play well as co-workers and friends!

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For New Years weekend, we decided to utilize the beach and celebrate being on the coast! One co-worker brought the glow sticks, the other brought the long-exposure camera, and Mike and I brought the wood and matches to make one heck of a New Years Eve celebration!

In the midst of all the celebrating, Mike and I had some of our own celebrating to do. Mike had been doing so well at his job as an RV repairman. He was excelling like crazy, getting promotions left and right, and actually enjoying his job! It was so refreshing to see him light up and get excited about the work he was doing. On top of that, his boss, who had been awesome to him by offering those promotions and complimenting Mike on the great work he was doing, hooked Mike up on a great deal on a 2008 29’ travel trailer. Mike and I had been living in the truck camper fulltime for over a year and had been discussing more and more that it would be nice to have a little more space. The TT needed some work, but nothing Mike couldn’t handle. According to the original owner, the TT sat for a while with an unknown crack in the top of the front cap, which caused water to enter and rot the floor out in the bedroom. After buying the TT, Mike’s boss was gracious enough to lend us some space in his own pole barn on his property so we could work on it without worrying about weather or working on it in the dark. Mike took on this huge challenge, and with the help of his boss’ guidance, was able to finish the project in 1 month. This was definitely a proud girlfriend moment. Mike worked so hard the last month, completing the labor-intensive work in the evenings during the week and putting in long hours over the weekend. He did such an amazing job and we are both very happy with the all this new space!

The new TT was completed, which meant we had some rearranging to do at the campground. We were a little worried with how everything was going to turn out since we still had to sell our truck camper and only had enough space for 1 camper at the campground. And then “Serendipity Week” happens! Thanks to my co-worker for the expression, I now call it serendipity week because we couldn’t have asked it to go any better:

Thursday: Mike’s boss lets us move our TT from his pole barn to the work parking lot.
Friday: Truck camper is completely emptied and cleaned up, and everything gets moved into the new TT
Monday: Mike’s boss invited us to bring our truck camper to the work parking lot to help sell it
Tuesday: A guy came to Mike’s work to make a purchase and ended up getting into a conversation with Mike. Turns out he was the owner at the RV park in the harbor. Said he had one fulltime spot left. The spot was cheaper than our current spot, so Mike and I drove down to check it out after work. We took it! We got the TT moved into that spot that night.
Wednesday: TRUCK CAMPER IS SOLD! Then Mike’s boss let’s us move our utility trailer into his pole barn for storage. At this point, we had nothing left at our old campground, so we get a full refund on the time we didn’t use. We pick up our last little bit of mail there and we finally get our truck plates and registration that we’ve been waiting for since we bought it in October!
Thursday: Break in the new kitchen of the TT with a celebration dinner and chill out!

It was a heck of a week! A HUGE THANK YOU GOES TO MIKE’S BOSS FOR EVERYTHING! And to top it off, his boss decides to give Mike another promotion and his own work truck! Seriously, such a great week! And congratulations to Mike! All his hard work is definitely getting recognized and it’s paying off!

To end the week, we had train ride planned. My mom and dad got Mike and I tickets for a ride on any train of our choosing around northern California. So we picked the Northspur Flyer, part of the Skunk Train line, leaving out of Willits, which is about an hour east of Fort Bragg. After checking in and grabbing some coffee at a café down the street, we hear “All aboard”! So we gathered our things and headed toward the depot where we were greeted by the conductor and boarded the vintage 1925 motorcar. We took the back seat next to the wood burning stove and waited for the other passengers. Walking down the aisle way came a very well dressed 1-man band with a guitar in his hands and a harmonica hooked around his neck singing one train song after the next. All the passengers by this time were boarded so the conductor blew the horn and we were off on our train adventure. We made it up to Northspur after an hour and a half and had a picnic lunch. By recommendation of the concession attendant on board, we walked a few hundred feet north of the picnic area and found a naturally hollowed out Redwood tree that we could stand in. After getting a few pictures, we headed back to the train for the last part of the journey. After riding the back of the train for most of the trip back, we had completed our first train ride! It was such a special trip.

We drove back to Fort Bragg and were hanging out in our camper. Mike was on Facebook and read that the fishing vessel Princess was selling their freshly caught crab right off their boat in the marina. We had seen this vessel in the harbor a few weeks prior on one of our kayaking trips. So we decided to go out and buy some crab for dinner, while at the same time support the local fishing industry. Buying live crab was definitely a new experience! We walked down the dock to the fishing boat and asked if we could buy 2 crabs. The crabs were $6/lb and the crabs were about 4# each. They were huge! They asked us to take their picture with the crabs as part of their tradition for bringing in new catch. I was in the middle of taking a few shots with their camera while Mike was filming from ours when one of the crabs claws pinched one of the girl’s hair! As the other 2 girls helped get the crab out of her hair, Mike and I kept filming and taking pictures, which made for some pretty awesome footage. The crab finally let go, and after about 5 minutes of straight laughter, they bagged them up for us. We got the crabs home and put them in the sink. I pulled out the biggest pot I had and it still wasn’t big enough! So I made a quick trip to the Rite-Aid, which is the only place in town open in the evenings on the weekend, and bought the biggest pot they had and a new pair of tongs since all we had were plastic. I had never cooked live anything before so I phoned a friend who has done this before. She gave me great advice and about an hour later we were enjoying fresh crabmeat! I’m normally not a huge seafood eater, but this was absolutely mouth watering right out of the shell.

I am so incredibly content with life right now and having such an amazing time. It is truly amazing what new experiences and opportunities do for the soul.

To see ALL of this in action in YouTube form:

Click here for Kayaking the Harbor

Click here for The Holidays

Click here for The Camper Overhaul

Click here to watch Our Move

Click here for The Skunk Train

Click here to watch My Fight With A Live Crab

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