Road Trip VI, Days 1-3: Tacoma to Oakland: Pitcher Plants and Sticky-fingered Hugs

Two year-olds have their own gravitational pull. Two year-old TWINS have a pull exponentially stronger. That explains why, for the second year in a row, our road trip brings us first to Oakland. That’s where these cuties live–our pseudo-grandkids. (They’re actually some sort of cousin, but who looks at anthropological charts when they can look at these guys?)

These guys.

These guys.

But much as we’ve looked forward to being hugged with little sticky fingers, The Mate and I have not rushed headlong to Oakland. There are too many pretty places in between. After a short visit with vibrant old friends in Eugene, we zipped off the interstate and headed for the California redwoods, which exert a pull of their own. And that meant…

Oh boy! Highway 199! We love this road. From the bowl of Grants Pass (“Grass Pants,” to our family), it winds up through mixed-forest hills to the high valley of the Illinois River, near Cave Junction. Acting on a tip from a friend who grew up here, we turned off on Eight Dollar Mountain Road and went for a bike ride and then a hike-picnic in a very unusual ecosystem.

This place.

This place.

Pine trees + manzanita = Dry. Moss + pitcher plants (tall, insectivorous swamp-denizens) = Wet. This little mountain features both of them together. How weird is that?

These guys.

These guys.

Another cool feature of our outing: serpentinite. Yes, I did read the info kiosk that told me exactly what makes this glossy green stone so green and glossy–and no, I don’t remember what it said. All I know is, I picnicked sitting on something we dubbed “the emerald throne.”

This stuff.

This stuff.

And then, yes…off we drove to our happy place among the redwood giants, about whom I’ve written before. And from there along the crashing coast, back up and over the hills, moving through fog from redwoods to oaks to vineyards to the Bay. And the babies. Feeling gratitude for all creatures great and small.

Grandparenting Practice: Bring it On!

The Mate and I are not grandparents–unless you count our grandsnake (although Son One gave him to a school a couple of years ago). Or the grandgarden Son Two planted at our place this summer. Maybe I should just say, we don’t have any grandkids…yet, anyway. (No pressure, guys. Really. No, REALLY.)

But this is all the more reason why I’m looking forward to joining my Mate down in the Bay Area this weekend. Yesterday he flew down there to see his nephew through hip replacement surgery. I’m joining him this weekend. Oh, the nephew’s not that tough a patient. It’s just that he’s the dad of two year-old twins.

Two year-old. Twins.

Said nephew’s wife keeps telling us how happy she is that we’re coming. And I actually believe her. Did I mention she has two year-old twins?

Lucky for us, they are SUPER CUTE. Oh, I know they’ll probably be pretty shy at first. We might just end up doing errands and cooking for the time that we’re there, or taking care of Dad while Mom takes care of kiddos. We are thrilled to be able to finally participate in something we’ve always watched from afar: being there to help our adult “kids” take care of their kids. A.k.a., grandparenting.

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Except for one grandma, my family was always strictly nuclear, no extended family around. I always felt a little envy when I heard my friends say, “Oh, we’re just leaving ’em at grandma’s for the weekend,” or, “Oh, my folks’ll stop by to help.”

Now we get to be the “folks.” And I can’t wait!

How many of you have played the grandparent role for your family members, or had them do it for you? Would love to hear.