One of the main reasons why we started our travels in California is because we both have family there, many of whom we haven’t seen in a while or have never met. We thought it would be a good opportunity to see them while we are still only a state away. It would also help to have some down time to figure out how this whole travel thing was going to work over the next few months.

Lafayette, CA

After having a great time in San Francisco for our anniversary, we headed over to the small town of Lafayette (population 30,000) on Monday, September 11th, where Casey’s aunt, uncle, and cousins live (Rob, Cheryl, Adam – 8yrs, and Connor – 5yrs). They were super accommodating and allowed us to stay as long as we liked. Most of our visit with them was limited to evenings and weekends since Rob and Cheryl work during the week and the boys are at school. So we generally had dinner with them every night – we even cooked a meal for everybody!

When the boys came home from school, we had taken a couple walks with them on the nearby community trail that goes through a part of the town. The trail runs for about 6 miles and is a very popular feature in the area. The surrounding neighborhoods are very quiet and the people are nice. The boys were almost always playing with the neighbor kids right after school.

Kids playing in the creek off the trail.

We enjoyed watching Adam at his soccer game and Casey helped him out with his math homework. Adam and Connor both love Legos and showing off their creations. They are smart kids and have so much energy! We were really impressed with their eagerness to play outside and create things.

Connor being silly.

Over the weekend, Casey and I did a short hike around Lafayette Reservoir where we saw lots of wildlife. We even came across a buck chasing a doe, and they were not shy of people walking on the trail right next to them.

Lafayette Reservoir

Since we intended on staying at the Nolan residence for a week or so, we wanted to at least partially earn our stay by doing some work around the house. Cheryl pointed out a few things that needed to be fixed but said it wasn’t necessary for us to do anything. By the time we left, I had reattached a gate latch, greased some noisy door hinges, and replaced a potentiometer in the gas stove top. All in all, we had an awesome time spending the week with them. Rob, Cheryl, Adam, Connor, and Kona (the dog) – thank you for letting us into your lives for a week! Love you all!

On a side note, our time in Lafayette was also a chance to get some much needed work done. Since Rob and Cheryl work during the week and the boys are at school, we had lots of time to ourselves to get the logistical things out of the way. A big thing on the to-do list was to set up mail forwarding. We really should have set that up before we left the house but there was just so much going on during August that it was neglected. I’m going to post a separate blog on that whole process of picking a mail forwarder (there really is a lot to explain as to why we chose who we chose).

We finally purchased a DSLR camera while we were in Lafayette. Casey and I had been doing some research on which one would best suit our needs and budget. We ended up going with the Nikon D5600 that came with two zoom lenses. They’re your typical basic lenses. We didn’t want anything too fancy as we are just starting out with photography. This will also probably be used for when we start vlogging. We decided not to get the bundle, so right now, we’re lacking many accessories, including a bag to hold everything. Once we get those things, we can practice taking better pictures.

One big thing that needed to be accomplished was working on our blog posts. A lot of stuff happened while in San Francisco that we hadn’t talked about yet. Casey has been the one writing all of the posts and then I proofread. This is actually my first post that I’ve written on our website! (I promise, my writing will get better, lol)

Visalia, CA

Before heading off to Hume Lake, Bill and Brenda were our hosts for a week. Brenda is Casey’s grandpa’s sister….so, great aunt and uncle. You’d think spending time with a couple old folks would be boring but that was definitely not the case with them. I had met Brenda briefly a few years back but Bill was not with her and this was my first time meeting him. Bill and I instantly hit it off talking about motorcycles and his years (28 I think) working for the California Highway Patrol. He always had a story for everything. I enjoyed listening to every one of them and I could tell he enjoyed telling them.

He also showed me a couple “toys” that he has in his garage… a 1946 Ford Pickup (that he’s owned for about 50 years) and a 1990 Harley Davidson Super Glide Lowrider. The Ford had been sitting for a few months but with a little dusting and charging of the battery, it fired right up. Bill took us for a ride in the Ford a couple times taking pop cans to the recycler and stopping by a Mexican grocery store to pick up some tamales. The Harley he bought brand new and has put over 200,000 miles on it! That is so much riding… but when the weather is nice almost year round, it’s easy to take advantage of it. He doesn’t ride much anymore and sometimes debates about selling it. After talking about the Harley a lot, he practically insisted that I take it for a ride. He didn’t have to twist my arm very much for me to say yes. Casey and I ended up taking a ride to Lake Kaweah near the town of Three Rivers. It was a gorgeous day and a very relaxing ride. Bill said I’m probably the third person to ever ride that bike. I felt honored that he would allow me to have that opportunity.

Many of our days at Bill and Brenda’s consisted of doing work on our laptops, visiting with Brenda while watching tv, and helping Bill prepare some awesome meals. There’s not a lot to do in Visalia and we were mostly there to visit and get some more work done. We later spent a couple more days at their house after coming back from Hume so that we were able to figure out the logistics of our next destination. Even though our stay was short, lasting memories were made with Bill and Brenda and I can’t wait to see them again.

Bill and Brenda were awesome to spend time with.

McFarland, CA

Casey’s grandpa (Merlin) and family grew up in this little farming town just north of Bakersfield. Many years ago, cotton was the crop of choice. Today, cotton is still farmed but there are a lot more almonds and grapes now. There are still some Bowmans (Casey’s maiden name) left in town and we stayed with Lloyd and Shirley to visit family. Lloyd (94 years) and Shirley (89 years) have been married 70 years and have lived at the same house!

Their approximately-160-acre farm just recently finished the almond harvest and we got the opportunity to eat some almonds, freshly roasted from the oven. We also learned that they sell their almonds to none other than Blue Diamond! We left with a couple Blue Diamond Almond treats for the road. Nearby, there are groves of grape vines being harvested. We came from wine country so we are used to seeing grape vines, however, these are not those kind of grapes. These are the kind you buy at the store and eat as a snack or add to your fruit salad. Lloyd gave us the opportunity to pick some fresh from the vine. They were so juicy and tasty!

We were only planning to spend a few days in McFarland so our intention was to visit Casey’s family in the area and go to the church that they have been going to for a long time, Church of the Living Savior. Early in our visit, we spent time with Martha and Richard. We had a good time sharing stories and catching up from when Casey last saw them. Martha made sure that we left with some almond treats. After a great church service, we spent time with Wallace and Edith and their family for lunch. Everyone wanted to know about our travels and what our plans are. It’s great to receive support from the people that we share our story with, especially from friends and family.

Off to Los Angeles

Much of our travels thus far have been visiting friends and family and it has been awesome for me to meet new people. We can’t thank those enough that have hosted us and have supported us in this new lifestyle change. After McFarland, we went to LA….a city that Casey has never been to. We’ll save all those stories for another blog post though….stay tuned!

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