Family Christmas 2014

December 25, 2014

2014-12-25a At Craig's for five days

Thursday, Christmas 2014
Time with the Whole Family at Craig’s! 

We arrived in the early afternoon and set up the coach in Craig’s driveway for the next five days. Lavonne and I drove the coach and the car up so we’d have the car available while we were there. We planned to spend the next five days at Craig’s with our “home” parked in the driveway. 

It was Christmas time! Thanks to all the background work of the family, and Craig’s generosity, we planned to meet for a big dinner, gift giving, and game playing at Craig’s on Christmas Day. 

2014-12-25b Craig's  SeaRayCraig’s new toy docked at his backyard Delta dock. She’s a 34′ Sea Ray, a very hi-line boat for cruising and over-nighting on the Delta. This must be the fifth boat in Craig’s fleet!

2014-12-25d Christmas at CraigsFamily members preparing the big meal of ham, turkey and all the trimmings. It was not a good day for my diet!

2014-12-25e Christmas dinner at CraigsFifteen of us gathered to share Christmas together. It was a great day! From left, Brett, Stephanie, Garrett, Carly, Mike, Javier, Jacky, Breanne, Craig, Laura, Darren, Ashley, Lavonne, Dale, and Janice.

Allen’s family, including Erica, Jason, and Norma, would arrive the next day, the 26th, to spend four days with us. We would drive the coach to the Sacramento Airport to pick up the Colorado tribe and they would enjoy the season with us ’til Tuesday when they’d head back to their various homes in Salt Lake City, Denver, and London.

Dinner was the usual warm and happy family time. We enjoyed ham, turkey with all the trimmings including dressing, cranberry sauce, taters and on and on. Everyone gave thanks as they began; I begged forgiveness afterwards. And rightly so – I was as stuffed as the turkey!

After dinner we had a good time at the gift exchange which was actually a game of chance. Each one was issued a number and in that order we could pick one wrapped gift from the many to choose from. If the member who was called to choose a gift liked the opened one another member had, he could just take it instead of taking a wrapped gift. And we often did. I picked a gift that was a photo album and picture frames, but traded it for a selection of car cleaning products. One particular blanket changed hands three times, which was the limit; no gift could be taken that was with its third owner. We had a grand time. After the gift game the family played Christmas Bingo, but I chose to head to the coach for the night. I was so full and so sleepy that I just wanted to plop somewhere. I did manage to stay awake ’til 2200 somehow, and when Lavonne returned to the coach, we hit the sack. It had been a big day!

Thursday, Day 2, My Birthday 2014

We were up and about in the coach around 0600, but the rest of the family were a bit slower on the morning thing. I think some would prefer to not do mornings. But in time we were sitting around Craig’s elevated living room, overlooking  the Delta and planning the day’s activities.
2014-12-26a Birthday morning in the coach. This was a good start on the birthday thing.
I began the day in the coach, well rested and happy to be there. It was a grand beginning to my 71st birthday!

Lavonne and I headed for the airport around 0930 to pick up the Denver crew. The whole trip went very well, and we were en route back home with no delays at the airport. We pretty much filled the bedroom with all the luggage five people and one dog needed. Yes. A dog. It was a shaggy little thing, but absolutely no trouble and in fact a pretty cute lil’ pooch. Erica brought her on the plane, in her lap! I’d never heard of such a thing. There’s another reason I added to the list of why I don’t fly!
2014-12-26c back in Stockton we stopped at In 'n Out for lunch aboard.
Parked at the In-N-Out for lunch in Stockton.

Once back in Stockton we pulled into the local In-N-Out Burger and had lunch. The gang went into the store and got the stuff, then brought it out to the coach. In the meantime I dropped the jacks, motored out the slide and we all sat pretty comfortably in the coach for lunch. We had a good time – a better time than I’d have had in any restaurant!
2014-12-26d mmmm good burgers and good company.
One happy bunch having a leisurely lunch aboard Dale’s Diner. It seems Dale’s Diners are everywhere!

We headed on over to the Craig’s Castle after lunch, and met up with the rest of the family. It was the usual joyous reunion of a very close family, and the afternoon was spent in the splendid chaos that the whole family seems to relish. Except the grumpy Old Man. While I hung around the coach all afternoon doing a few things, the men folk went for a ride with Craig on the new Sea Ray while the women folk went shopping and were gone ’til after what was supposed to be dinner time. Except for Lavonne. She stayed with me. Everyone seemed happy with their little part in the chaos.

For my birthday it was decided to go to my favorite Chinese place, Dave Wong’s, which is just a short drive from Craig’s Castle. There were no private rooms available, and surely the place was a zoo on the Friday after Christmas. So the kids brought the food in and we had a grand feast of Dave Wong’s good Chinese food at The Castle. I was pleased to miss the crowds and noise of the restaurant and I think most of us liked eating in.

2014-12-26e Dave Wong's Chinese brought in for my Birthday. I was lovin' it! The family and friends (L-R: Breann, Javier, Brett, Brittany, Carly, John, Mike, Laura, Jason, Norma, Erica, Allen, Lavonne, Nancy and Dale) gathered at Craig’s Castle as we celebrated my 71st birthday.

We gathered as part of the family Christmas Week get-together. Well… ’til Tuesday anyway. It was nice to be remembered on my day.

Family and friends totaled about 16, I believe, and they all sang Happy Birthday to me. Twice. I felt well celebrated and appreciated the good wishes. Lavonne made a pumpkin “dump cake” for me, and it is a favorite of mine. All 71 years were represented by a single candle as she couldn’t get a fire permit for 71 candles.
2014-12-26f Me 'n Lavonne and her pumpkin dump cake. What a lucky guy!
Me ‘n my lovely Lavonne and the cake she made for me. I am a very lucky Old Man!

After the big Chinese feast, the family began their gift exchange much as they did the night before. I’d had enough party for one night, so I headed back to the coach. Lavonne’s birthday gift to me was a pack of 15 Johnny Carson Show DVDs. I began watching them as I mixed and enjoyed a couple Tom Collins cocktails in the quiet and solitude of the coach. A bit before 2200 Lavonne joined me in the coach for the night, and we hit the sack a bit later. It had been another big day and a Happy Birthday.

Saturday, Day 3: At home in the Driveway

Saturday was the day the family chartered a small bus and everyone except Lavonne and I headed off on a wine tour of Napa.
2014-12-27a The wine bus.
The little bus pulled up to The Castle and the family climbed aboard for their Napa wine tour.

Lavonne and I chose to stay home and miss the crowds and the long drive. Everyone else left around 0930. They returned home around 1900, surprisingly sober yet a bit weary from the long trip.

Soon after, high in The Castle overlooking the Delta, we enjoyed a dinner of leftovers. It was a grand meal with choices ranging from the Christmas turkey, ham, and trimmings to the leftover Chinese food from my birthday dinner. Mmmmmm. We were all well fed!

After dinner we discussed the next gathering and considered having the next bash at some resort where we’d hire help to do all the food preparation, cleaning up, etc., to relieve the family of all the work. Such an affair would include Dean and his family, too, if it could all be arranged. Time will tell.

While the family played table games after dinner, I retired to the coach and watched some more Johnny Carson silliness. Those DVDs were a lot of fun. By 2200 Lavonne returned to the coach and we soon hit the sack for a good night’s rest.

Sunday, Day 4: Hangin’ with the Family at Craig’s Castle:

2014-12-28a sunrise from Craig's drivewayThe day dawned cold and foggy in Stockton. But when the sun finally rose in the east it was quite a sight! I stepped out of the coach for this shot, and it was worth the effort as it turned out like a Christmas card.

The day was pretty much unplanned, and some went shopping, some went nowhere and some went for a boat ride. Lavonne and I just hung out with whoever was around, and I mostly hung out in the coach.

During the afternoon Craig fired up the new Sea Ray and Allen, Mom, Javi and I joined him for a ride out to the main channel of the San Joaquin River. The new boat was incredible!
2014-12-28b Capt. Craig and Allen
Craig at the helm and Allen on the phone as we head out to the river.

2014-12-28c Lavonne aboard. Now that's something!Lavonne enjoying the cruise.

2014-12-28d retired Capt Dale at the helmRetired Capt FishWisher at the helm for a short while. What an awesome boat – but it would not likely see fish guts on her sole as did all my boats!

2014-12-28e Capt Craig and JaviJavi keeping an eye on the captain.

The cruise was only an hour or so, but it was a lot of fun to ride in the classy new Sea Ray. It has twin 8.1L GM engines, a water cooled generator, a forward lower cabin with bed, galley, head, shower and the works. Craig will enjoy that boat for years and years to come.

The family decided they all wanted to go to Bud’s Beef, a nice restaurant about 20 minutes away. They left a bit before 1800 and I chose to stay at the coach alone and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Lavonne was back at the coach around 2030 as the rest of the tribe returned to The Castle. We spent what remained of the evening in the coach, with Lavonne heading to bed a bit early. I followed a bit after 2200 after watching more DVDs and enjoying a couple good Tom Collins drinks. I slept well, as usual.

Monday, Day 5 in the driveway.

The family wanted to take a tour aboard the coach on the last full day of the big Christmas week. The younger generation seemed to have slept in as nobody was stirring in The Castle. The middle agers were at Laura’s home nearby, sitting around and visiting. Lavonne and I dropped in and joined them, but I left soon afterwards as I had to take the coach to a nearby RV park and dump the tanks. When I returned to The Castle, they were there and still sitting around talking while some made a quick breakfast. Eventually we decided to take off on our tour aboard the coach.

We left around 1130 and headed first to Lodi to pay respects to Carolyn and Lonnie at Cherokee Park Cemetery where they are entombed. The family visited in hushed tones at the site, remembering what very special and beloved family members they were.
2014-12-29b Carolyn and Lonnie's crypts.
Lonnie and Carolyn’s vaults.
2014-12-29a At Carolyn and Lonnie's crypts. 
The family paid respects to our loved ones who have passed.

After the visit we drove into Lodi’s business district and found a restaurant and ate lunch. It seemed that we just had breakfast, but overeating is a family tradition when we get together, and there’s little reason to resist.

After lunch we headed south toward Parkview Cemetery near Manteca to visit Jeff’s grave. Jeff left us way too early, and his death is still so difficult to accept. The family stood quietly around his grave, remembering someone we loved deeply.

2014-12-29d At Jeff's grave Parkview CemetaryThe family at Jeff’s grave, remembering one who left us way too early.

2014-12-29f Jeff's StoneOur beloved Jeff’s head stone and grave. We miss him so very much.

2014-12-29e At Jeff's grave Parkview CemetaryBig Blue waited in the background to take us all home.

The tour was a sobering one this time, but it was good to remember our loved ones who have passed. And while visiting the graves was sad, our travel was fun and everyone enjoyed the good times that roll when the family is together.

We arrived back home sometime around 1530. Craig helped me on a couple of small projects on the coach, and others visited in The Castle.

A bunch of ribs cooked in The Castle’s kitchen while we were touring. Other family members were expected to drop in during the evening to enjoy yet another big dinner. We also had chicken, polish sausages, a thick, bread like Spanish dish called tortillas, but nothing like tortillas we are accustomed to. And of course more side dishes to compliment the main dishes. 

I excused myself around 1930 to head back to the coach as the rest of the family began playing games. I worked on this travelogue, watched more DVDs, and passed the time in the quietness of the coach.

Lavonne left the party in The Castle and returned to the coach for the night around 2200. We hit the sack a few minutes later, as usual, and slept well.

Tuesday, Day 6: Our last morning in the driveway.

The Colorado tribe would head for home on Day 6. After the airport run aboard the coach Lavonne and I would also head for home. And while the six days and five nights with the family were very pleasant for all, it would be good to be home again.

Breakfast that last morning was an individual thing, it seemed. Everyone was doing their own thing in the kitchen. I headed back to the coach and zapped one of those frozen breakfast sandwiches that are so easy and tasty.

By 1130 the luggage was loaded and after the good-byes and hugs, we finally herded the whole gang aboard the coach. We pulled out of  the driveway at Craig’s Castle and headed for the airport in Sacramento. 

2014-12-30b Allen Dale
The selfie expert, the driver, and the passengers had a grand time as we streaked north toward the airport.

2014-12-30a ride to airportAnother shot of the happy passengers as we headed for the airport.

It was a very windy day, and I fought a terrific headwind as we headed north. We arrived at the airport safe and sound at 1230 and the tribe tumbled off the coach with their luggage. After another set of hugs and good-byes, Lavonne and I headed south with the wind, and the drive was much easier than when we had to drive against it.

On our way back Lavonne and I stopped at The Castle one last time so Lavonne could get our car and drive it home. We then headed for home, hearth, hot-tub and a long leisurely shower at home – not a hurried RV shower!

It had been a very memorable Christmastime with family and friends. With a big, fun-loving family and Big Blue the coach, life is good!

About FishWisher

Over the years I have posted many exciting fishing and boating stories here, but now in my seventies, it was time to sell the boat and find less demanding pastimes. All the fishing stories are still here! I will now post my travels aboard the motorhome and other activities. I hope y'all will still enjoy the fishing and boating adventures and perhaps peek in on my post-boating activities on occasion. Thanks for dropping in and I hope you enjoy your visit.
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