Just because I was unsuccessful at getting a signal in the Redwoods doesn't mean I wasn't in absolute awe of the 100 foot wonders. My kids were blown away at the magnitude of it all. Just for extra wows, I pointed out to them that not only were the trees reaching to the sky, but they were also plunging down the valleys below. "WOW!" I couldn't help but smile when I told them that we were going to go drive under one of those giants. Too bad I couldn't shove my LandCruiser under the one we visited. I did, however, get a cool shot of the kids in the tunnel and in front of a massive chunk of trunk from a six-hundred year old Redwood.
Because of the congestion going south on the 101 due to so much construction, we weren't able to stop in Marin as I had hoped. I was a bit wistful as we passed one familiar street name after another. Next time, I thought. City Girl was waiting for us in the lobby of the Hilton when we finally arrived at near midnight. She bunked with us for the next couple of nights, which her younger siblings thought was just so cool.
Little aside... since The Pilot travels so much leaving me alone most of the time, his Honor points are now mine. I deserved a suite with this view:
The next morning, after eating the best damn french toast ever and buying some chocolate and peppermint macaroons for the road from this awesome bakery that City Girl works at...
...we took off for the Conservatory at Golden Gate Park. What about the Exploratorium? Oh, that will have to wait 'til next time, too. I mean, how could you pass up on beautiful orchids and a butterfly aviary? You CAN'T!
We sweated through the humid building checking out an aquarium of lily pads, carnivorous plants, and orchids of every color. It was all very gorgeous, but we had to go outside for a momentary breather before going back in to the aviary. Once back inside, we pulled out our butterfly chart and started hunting down the lovely bugs. Did you know that butterflies are attracted to pink, orange, and yellow flowers? Did you know that their little "straw" is called a probiscis? Did you know that once they are in the safety of the chrysalises, they turn into DNA soup? Well we didn't. At least not until the docent arrived and gave us her presentation and then read all the informational "dots" throughout the aviary. We chased butterflies and read about all the other insects and critters that assist in the pollination process for as long as we could...
...until The Boy got a bit too antsy and the docent got a bit too anxious. Oh well. Then it was off to get the wiggles out. We headed to the playground near the Haight entrance to the park where we had an accidental physics lesson. The kids called it a Torture Chamber. Watch this:
Later that night, we ate at Louise's. We sat under an old bi-wing warplane. The Boy was pretty stoked about that. I was too tired for a physics of flying lesson, so we just ate greasy spoon fare instead.
Saturday, we got up as early as we could, which was still not early enough to avoid the longest line in the world. It was the opening of the California Academy of Science Museum. Well, at least that's how it looked. I dropped all the kids off to line up while I drove half way around The City and back out in front of the De Young twenty minutes later just to have some scrawny kid put the "Lot Full" sign out in front of me. He thought twice once he saw my crazy eyes and let me in... thank GOD... for him. I found the kids after following the cue back for about a mile or two. I'm serious. We stood in line for four hours. FOUR.
Oh boy. After the first two hours, I jumped out of line and ran to Safeway for some provisions. It was either that or leave the line altogether. The poor kids held up, but they were growing pretty darn weary.
(The shot above was of the last hour before getting a ticket to come back and stand in a crowd before making one final push to get in.)
I was starting to wonder if the museum would be worth it... IT WAS!
For the last four years, the museum has undergone major reconstruction and 'greenification' of the original structure. I could tell you all about it, but I'll let them. Here's all the nitty gritty.
The best fun was at the end of the African Hall, the first exhibit we visited. We met the cutest little penguins in the whole wide world! (Sorry Sea World... your penguins got nothing on these guys!) They were totally playing the crowd, bobbing up to all of us on the other side of the glass. Some of them were playing an impromptu rock game, chasing after each other and snatching the rock or diving after it if it came loose and then giving chase to those that missed. Check out the Penguin Cam and see their cuteness for yourself. We couldn't tear ourselves away. But eventually I moved us along to the rest of the exhibits so as not to waste those four hours in line.
FOUR HOURS! (still having nightmares about that...)
We went through the Northern Coast and Farallon exhibits, peeked at the albino alligator (sorry, but eeeww... freaky!) and then grabbed a bite to eat at the center court. The center court will apparently be available for weddings and special events. How cool would that be? Very. Then it was off to the Rain Forest globe... where we came upon yet another line. This one was only half an hour, so I stood while City Girl took The Boy and Banana Girl to check out the exhibit on Climate Change. There was a book to write suggestions for helping the planet. Banana Girl wrote, "Ride your bike everywhere." Good girl...
The Rain Forest was hella cool, people. It was four stories of every science lesson right in front of our faces. You start on the Ground Floor of the jungle and wind your way around and up through the Understory and then to the Canopy and above. All the way, there are kiosks with information about the different levels and all the creatures therein. Floating around were gigantic butterflies, one of which we thought had died as it was just lying on the floor. Like a good blogger, I pulled out my camera. As I was shooting the gloriously blue wings, The Boy nudged her and she fluttered up and onto my leg. A little girl nearby said, "Wow, she's so lucky!" I thought so, too.
Once at the top, we took the elevator down to the underground level aquarium. Before getting out, we were surrounded by water and fish in the glass elevator. What a site! We walked through the tunnel and watched as the sea creatures floated above and around us, then we headed towards the Farallons exhibit again as we had apparently missed the touching portion of the tour. We all took turns turning starfish and sea urchins over and trying to loose the abalone from it's death grip on the shallow pool. The kids (including 20 yr old City Girl) loved it. That was about all our exhausted bodies could handle. The Planetarium was going to have to wait until next time. The Living Roof would also be visited next time. Not enough coffee in the world was going to perkify Sugar Mama.
But believe it or not, I actually drove us home that evening. Sort of. Thank God for rest stops. At five in the morning on Sunday, I woke up somewhere north of Santa Barbara (Gaviota? I think?) and continued our drive. I was really bummed to pass up all the historic landmarks while blasting home. I kept wanting to get off and explore some more. I did not want to go home! But we had to get back to the real world and our regularly scheduled obligations.
I think "next time" is going to come a lot sooner than I thought.
Are you thinking about homeschooling? Look into k12.com. That's the program we use. Many states utilize that as an Independent Study Program option, which means all materials are supplied just as though your student was in a traditional public school. It's a great way to ensure your child meets all state requirements while allowing for hands-on instruction like our trip. Retention is optimized when kids are allowed to explore. Curiosity is an invaluable learning tool!