Blog: Home for Christmas

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Home for Christmas - Friday, December 31, 2021
Last year, we went to LA for Thanksgiving but not Christmas due to lockdowns. But now, with a good percentage of the population vaccinated (albeit supposedly still not enough), the days of COVID lockdowns might be behind us for good.

So Priscilla and I drove down on Christmas Day, leaving around 9:15am, and we didn't run into much traffic (there were also not as many trucks on the road because of the holiday). It was around a 5.5 hour drive to get to her parents' place and we stayed with them three nights. Our time with them was pretty low-key. On Sunday, Priscilla and I visited our old church friend Cindy in Irvine; I hadn't seen her for two years, but Priscilla saw her during the pandemic. The three of us went to Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, got lunch at a Taiwanese place in Irvine, and walked around Great Park. On Monday, I hung out with four of my old high school friends and we went bowling in Pasadena, ate at a sushi place a stone's throw away, and hung out at a boba place. The rest of the time Priscilla and I were with her parents, we ate food that she prepared (mostly from the insane amount of stuff in her parents' fridge) and stuffed our faces one night at Kami Buffet & Grill (her mom got three vouchers for helping a church friend).

Tuesday after lunch, we drove north to my parents' place and stayed with them two nights. That time was pretty low-key as well and we didn't see friends, but I did run a few miles around the neighborhood both on Tuesday and Wednesday; the latter day saw me running in light rain with an umbrella. Priscilla went to hang out with Gina on Wednesday during lunch, but otherwise we both ate with my parents at each meal during our time there. My parents made a ton of food as always, and they packed our cooler and then some with a lot of food for us to bring home. They are too good to us.

We didn't see Aaron and his family this time around, as they were on a trip to New Mexico in a rented camper van. How fun!

Priscilla and I left for home yesterday. Unfortunately, the Grapevine section of I-5 was closed due to snow, so we (and everyone else) had to take the 101 instead. That added 49 miles to our trip, and it was a pretty miserable drive. It was raining steadily at my parents' place and pouring hard on the 118 and first leg of the 101 freeways. The heavy rain on the 118 made it difficult to see, and we and everyone else had to drive around 50mph. There were multiple places along the 101 where traffic slowed to a crawl due to an accident, construction zone, or just general congestion. Overall, we spent 7.5 hours on the road. Guess that's what happens when it's the day before New Year's Eve and the 101 has to accommodate holiday traffic in addition to traffic that would normally be on I-5.

To make matters more "interesting", 2/3 of the way through, the check engine light came on in the car. Not wanting to drive another 130 miles without knowing what the problem was, I had Priscilla look for a nearby AutoZone. Fortunately, there was one in King City about 10 miles north of where we were. I was able to borrow an OBD-II reader there and found out that the DTC (error code) indicated a problem either with the catalytic converter or an O2 sensor - not a critical issue requiring immediate attention. Thank God!

So we made it home at last, my head aching due to stress, and we ate my mom's food while watching more episodes of season 5 of Fringe (that season is kinda meh). Today we hit up the Sunnyvale Costco early-ish (before the crowds really started piling in), got our booster shot at the Mountain View Community Center, and went to The Dish for me to get my last run in for the year (that's my go-to place for elevation when the ground is still muddy due to rain). A more relaxing day to bookend the madness of yesterday. And as I finish writing this blog entry, Priscilla is off watching the marching band and fireworks at WinterFest at Great America. She bought a Great America season pass ("only" $85) that's good until the end of 2022, as well as a dining pass that gets her lunch and dinner (as long as they're four hours apart). She's gone twice this year and will probably go several times next year. I think it's pretty clear by now that theme parks are one of her hobbies!

Overall, we had a good time in LA with family and friends, though I was not fond of all the driving. For next year, I'm thinking of having us go down once in the summer instead of for Christmas in order to avoid the travel mayhem of the latter, as well as to more evenly space out our visits. We'll be going down in January for my Spartan Sprint, probably in April for our anniversary trip, and again for Thanksgiving. Taking another trip down around July will give us 3-4 months in between each visit. Priscilla feels that it will be weird to not go down for Christmas since that's when everybody else is seeing family and friends, but maybe we can try it once and see if we can make it work and make our summer visit meaningful. Our respective parents are cool with it. Well, I'm not sure about my dad since he's very traditional, but my family hasn't really done anything special for Christmas since my high school days or so. We can do a Zoom dinner with parents for the holiday, and maybe I can entice Priscilla with more days on which she can go to WinterFest...