[life + photography] road trip

We had a fantastic trip up to the Sierra National Forest. It has taken me awhile to get back into the sway of life so it must have been a good trip. Our drive through LA was unfettered but the kids had a difficult time sleeping in their car seats. Jim was determined to drive all the way through so my job took a back seat..(hah!) soothing Maliea and calming Merrik. Our destination was Fresno where Jim spent 4 days swimming in the United States Masters Swimmers Short Course Yards National Meet.

While he was busy setting records and “sailing away” with his heats, Merrik, Maliea and I explored Fresno and enjoyed swimming and putting on the 9 hole green at our hotel: the Picadilly Inn. It was a nice hotel but a bit too far from the meet which was located at Clovis North High School. We kept up with Jim’s race times during the meet by logging on to the real time results web page so it was easier to let the kids nap in the room rather that at the crowded and hot meet.

We also checked out the historic Santa Fe railroad depot in downtown Fresno where the BNSF trains and Amtrak’s San Joaquin passed by with a roar. Then it was over to the Union Pacific Mechanical Department where all the graffiti covered boxcars were being worked on in the yard. On another day we enjoyed several hours at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo where we petted stingrays and fed giraffe. Some of the places we ate at included Country Waffles, a funky but entertaining restaurant in downtown Clovis where the piped in music played to eerily empty streets and The Elbow Room.

Our last day in Fresno was Mother’s Day and we had the chance to stop by my cousin’s house for a visit and I did some simple family photos of his family. You can see them here. Then it was off to Oakhurst once Jim was done with his last event. The drive to Oakhurst was easy and scenic. We arrived around 3:30pm and checked into our hotel, The Queens Inn by the River. It is a beautiful little hotel with 8 contemporary rooms featuring HD, WiFi and a river surrounded by oak trees just out the back door.

We enjoyed a mountain meal at the Sweetwater Steakhouse just seconds from our room. The following morning we headed into the mountains to Yosemite which I consider the ultimate National State Park. The beauty is so concentrated it is overwhelming and hard to believe but so easy to access with little ones. I swear it looks like a matte painting everywhere you go there. We visited several falls as there was lots of water at this time of year and many of the trails are even flooded on either side and Merrik finally got to try out his new fishing pole in the Merced River. After a couple of short hikes we enjoyed lunch at the Ahwahnee and explored the grounds.

Photographing Yosemite with two little kids was like trying to find a good surf spot near a safe anchorage in French Polynesia-the two just don’t work well together. Every time I spent a moment to study a spot I found myself chasing after Maliea to keep her from jumping in the river or climbing off the bridge. As soon as we started in to a more remote part of the park, she and Merrik were ready to go back to the car or eat. I’ve had my time in the mountains by myself so it wasn’t as frustrating as it could have been. I had a great time setting up a few images to play with for HDR and many others include my two fun kids in a beautiful mountain setting.

The last day of our vacation we drove back up the mountain from Oakhurst to the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad for a fantastic one hour steam engine ride back in time. Did I ever mention that Merrik loves trains? Well, he was in heaven. It was loud and smokey and he sat as close as he possibly could to it. It was a great experience for all of us and a wonderful trip.

Not knowing exactly what was going to come of our trip to Fresno, it ended up being one of the most memorable car trips we’ve done. The drive through LA is torture and was hell both ways with a-holes driving purposely as close to your back bumper as they possibly can and horrible traffic but overall the trip was great. We even checked out the cool little Bravo Farms on the way home which helped break up the drive.

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