“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” — Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh
Sometimes in life an opportunity so profound presents itself that despite fear, insecurity or debilitating uncertainty the only passage through it is forward.
Allow me to share some relevant back story…a few years ago, in my professional life as a Children’s Hospital Nurse Case Manager-I had the privilege of meeting Peter and Charlotte Wenham the CEO’s of pNeo that would ultimately direct my life’s trajectory on a course I never would have imagined.
pNeo is a Greek word meaning “breath and life force”. Brilliantly fitting for this dynamic duo who have singlehandedly cultivated a talented team of visionaries bringing to life products formulated on simplicity, nurturance and infant building block innovation for the wellbeing of optimal growth and development for babies and beyond.
Our paths connected in happenstance but remained due to the popularity of the creations generously donated to my hospital organization.
Unbeknownst to me I soon became the unofficial community ambassador for one of their most coveted commodities The Baby Shusher – Sound Machine for Babies – a simple portable sound machine device that offers comfort and soothing measures with therapeutic ingenuity. For 2 years, through promotion, advocacy and a venerated word of mouth, passionate grass roots campaign I sang Baby Shusher praise-an easy task due to the unprecedented success of this groundbreaking genius game changer.
The earlier mentioned opportunity was to accommodate Charlotte from pNeo to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Experience 2022 Exhibition and Conference in Anaheim, California AAP Experience: National Conference & Exhibition – October 2022 to help work the booth and share my valued experience with the Baby Shusher. She did not have to ask me twice. And so that is how and why A Girl Her Hubs and a Suitcase…. edellescipades.com landed in Anaheim October 7-10, 2022.
Day 1 Anaheim, California
First the work…
As the wheels screeched down on the Anaheim tarmac-humidity, heat and haze waved to me tauntingly from the American Airlines airplane window. Tampa, Florida’s oppressive humidity followed Hubs and I unwelcomely through 6 hours and 3 time zones.
Entering the Marriott, the atmosphere held a palpable worldly and cosmopolitan academic vitality, scholarly controlled frenzy, clusters of AAP badge holding registrants and families congregated in the spacious lobby.
We took an Uber to our hotel destination for the next 3 days to the Anaheim Disneyland Marriott. The traffic was strangely light: the driver discussion somewhat heavy yet entertaining filling us in on his astute views regarding electric cars, the current governor, the fuel crisis, rolling blackouts and the exuberant and obscene cost of taking his family of 6 to Disneyland.
We checked in and soon after met up with Charlotte. This would be our first face to face meeting after 2 years of virtual correspondence. We met in the lobby, her tiny slender arms wrapped around me in a surprisingly firm hug. She presented petite and soft-spoken (cool New Zealand accent) with poised grace and composed strength. Her calming nature combined with humble confidence and soft finesse immediately put me at ease. Later, she would reveal compelling details of her life as a risk taking, adrenaline junkie, sky diving thrill seeker. Coupling her talents as a former ER Nurse and now a savvy driven business entrepreneur made her a true Renaissance woman.
We went over a few key points and all indications suggested she believed in me, my representation and application of the products. Blind trust is not something taken lightly and in the next subsequent days I would learn I excel and thrive in self-governance and autonomy.
We disbanded, Hubs and I making our way to the 11th floor. Our room faced the shimmery pool, below the suburban mirage of beige boxy homogenous homes lined the quiet neighborhood with little signs of life. Off in the distance rising mountains surrounded the landscape from all angles.
We got settled and ready to participate in the courtyard food truck rally planned for this evening. But first I would need to get my registration for the exhibition. My sole focus for these 3 days was to completely immerse myself into the world of pNeo. I would not be participating in any sessions or lectures. My only purpose was to promote, support, educate, instruct, inform, and remain wholeheartedly engaged and present throughout the exhibition hours.
Just a convenient 2-minute walk to the Anaheim Convention Center entered the vast space, the same intellectual atmosphere prevailed. Pockets of intimidating credentialed physicians cross covering every demographic filled the room. I received my exhibitor badge, exhilaration, goosebumps and hyperkinetic butterflies infiltrated my overactive nervous system
Outside, a large stage held a rambunctious band signaling the start of the festivities. The queues for food snaked around the slightly claustrophobic fenced in area. A potpourri of pungent aromas wafted in the steamy air. An early 6 am flight, followed by a long day of travel and a 3-hour time change made this sensory overload amplified.
We chose to dine in the hotel bar/restaurant nFuse opting out wisely of the rowdy celebration outside. Hubs and I sat in the busy but quiet restaurant, baseball game on, Manchego queso and homemade chips, juicy burger and beer for Hubs providing a pleasant end to a hurry and wait kind of day.
Day 2 AAP Exhibition Experience Anaheim
Our stubborn bodies lingered on Eastern Standard time allowing sleep to come easy. My willful circadian rhythm refused to adjust to Pacific Standard Time. Awakening early, nervous anxious excitement and apprehension greeted me with the sunrise. I stood on the balcony, one lonely swimmer floated supine in the pool below. I thought about the days ahead of me, expectations for myself and Charlotte. This would be new territory for me-my maiden voyage doing something other than what I have done for more than half my adult life. I took a quick assessment of myself and realized I was born for this. Every day of my existence I am trying to sell an idea. Whether it’s lobbying a friend to run a 5K with me or petitioning Hubs for a new refrigerator-my approach is similar and centers on tapping into the needs and bridging relatability. I have placed myself in way more uncomfortable, out of my paygrade situations-some my faithful following can conjure up a few cringeworthy moments in previous A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase proudly documented in edellescipades.com
Hubs and I returned to nFuse for breakfast. A long line of 40 or so hungry badge wielding hotel guests obviously had the same idea. While Hubs stood in line advancing every few minutes, I hit the gift shop. Through the glass window that divided us, he monitored my whereabouts sending me telepathic messages to “Behave.” Just a few knickknacks procured- a keepsake to memorialize these 3 days.
A hearty bowl of oatmeal ignited my synapses, providing me with a surplus of buoyant reserve for the next 4 hours as I would be nonstop. Hubs and I disassembled as I made the short walk to the grand exhibition hall.
Entering the massive space, I immediately felt an intense temperature surge-a hot flash 2.0 rapid heat fired through my sweat ducts resulting in a perspiration mustache and clammy damp panic. I swiftly made my way through the 336 vendor stations-a who’s who of pediatric royalty- Abbott, Baxter, Kate Farms along with world class children’s hospitals, just to name a few. Like a rock band groupie, I swooned, sighed and yelped in glee as I speedily made my way to Charlotte and the pNeo booth.
She was there waiting for me, our organized space put together by her the night before. The products Baby Shusher, CLEARinse and Tumzee Tummy Time Pad showcased proudly on a glass tower shimmering under the severe, garish white light. We went through a quick tutorial, some Q&A-a cliff notes version followed by a much-needed tough love pitch a “you can do it” inspirational TED talk.
Almost immediately, packs of antsy attendees began to stream in. I watched in awe, as Charlotte described the products-her hypnotic Kiwi drawl mesmerizing, her audience spellbound as she assertively gripped the CLEARinse with authority illustrating the fine points of congestion suction. A gaggle of humans swarmed around us, a revolving door of inquisitive, curious Physicians “What’s this? How does it work, how can it help?” One by one, we volleyed the Baby Shusher back and forth like a baton in a race, spelling out the therapeutic benefits. Never before has a doctor been so focused on my responses.
As the day progressed, I began to gain more courage eventually developing a rhythm, cadence and flow making the 4 hours fly by. Afterwards, tired bones, dehydrated, hungry, aching all over-I realized I have never felt happier and more alive. It was the first time in my professional life I had ever encountered this level of pure satisfaction involving contrasting qualities than my present role as a caregiver. Without my clinical expertise and decades of bedside nursing, I would never have been able to confidently speak to the products in the way that I did. It was evident that I needed to appreciate my past and present as it brought me to this joyful state today. All- in- all, the day was a complete success. I left exhilarated, euphoric and exhausted.
As I headed back, I realized I had not eaten since breakfast. Hangry and longing to share this magnanimous day’s events with Hubs an impulsive poor regretful dinner choice was made of overpriced, reflux inducing undercooked hotel pizza
He had kept himself busy exploring the hotel, watching football at the bar, grazing snacks, and resting. He listened as I deliriously rambled my day to him. I encountered so many people, from all demographics and ethnicities, I spoke with doctors from Peru, Belize, Argentina, Mexico, the Philippines, Canada and literally every state in the USA all from an impressive variety of specialties and practices. He listened, nodded, yawned and interjected when needed-but clearly and understandably was unable to muster the same enthusiasm that was busting out of me. Evan as the day turned into night, I continued to process all the encounters and marinate in the unfiltered joy and gratification I was feeling. As I laid my head on the pillow that night, I slept easily for the first time in a long time letting the element of purpose lead me into a blissful slumber.
Day 3 AAP Exhibition Experience Anaheim
Today’s exhibition hours would be longer and start earlier. Lucky for me, I was still riding high from yesterday’s momentum. We had another enjoyable breakfast at nFuse and went our separate ways. Waiting at the booth were all new faces mainly representing the illuminati of CLEARinse-dare I say-the Mount Rushmore of nasal aspiration-Inventors Nurse Practitioner Jill and her husband Chris, a well-seasoned Pediatric ER Physician, CEO Steve, Engineer Matt and Project Manager-Liz. Together these nasal suction superstars are normalizing suckage, redefining sinus health and MAKING SUCTION GREAT AGAIN. Being amongst such brilliance was slightly intimidating, but this mastermind quintet despite their medical and business virtuoso were incredibly down to earth, friendly and funny. It was an honor to be amongst them I genuinely relished my short time with each one of the fab five.
Our booth was hopping and getting a lot of traffic, all 3 items were receiving a great deal of attention. Today’s turnout was more international, a United Nations of diversity and talents. The global attendance was astonishing and encouraging. This day proved more interactive, generating a lot of questions, demonstrations and an overall eager curiosity as the crowd maintained a feverish frenetic presence.
I did a speedy orbit around the exhibition visiting vendors, swapping stories and refreshing my brain. We remained steadily busy and went until the lights were turned off.
I quickly picked up Hubs for part II of this long day. Sporting Minnie ears and Winnie the Pooh shirt we Ubered for the short 6-minute drive to Disneyland to preserve slowly depleting energy. We had pre-purchased tickets and took advantage of the AAP discount offered which only amounted to $9 off per person. Nevertheless, it was an uncomfortable, unforgivable indulgence. We live 50 minutes from Disney World in Florida and have not been in over 20 years, which added to the lunacy of this extravagance.
Somehow in the planning, we lost sight that we were amateurs within the Disney realm. I had no knowledge of the significance of the Disneyland Mobile App (even though I downloaded it) and found ourselves lost in a sea of Halloween dressed teenagers, families on a mission and annual pass holders-all much savvier than us. The lines and wait times were staggering and futile. We dined at a Mexican restaurant and enjoyed fresh, tasty taco salads. We made our way through the crowds only to notice, the later it got the more packed it became. Stores were impossible to get through. We did go on the The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Pirates of the Caribbean
We laughed, screamed, oohed and ahh’d to the vivid colors and animated imagery as Disney childhood memories flooded back to both of us. In the end, the swelling push of riffraff and inability to combat the lines made it no longer “the happiest place on earth.”
Escaping the park on foot, we found ourselves at a Coldstone Creamery-no line there. We devoured our cold, creamy sugary concoction across from the park, the full white luminescent moon lighting up the dark sky. It was impossible purchasing Disney souvenirs in the park due to the long lines instead we went to Walgreens where I purchased a T-shirt and Minnie magnet-a fraction of the cost-however Minnie is missing an eye and does not look well.
We made it back to the hotel, tired after a long day but just as content if not more than the night before. Legs cramped, feet sore and belly full; dreams of Baby Shushers lulled me into a serene siesta.
Day 4 AAP Exhibition Experience Anaheim
Being our final day in Anaheim, we packed up, had a quick bite at nFuse and then Hubs and I went our separate directions. He went off to pick up the rental car for the remainder of our trip and went off to the Richard Nixon Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California. (More to discuss on this-later)
Today would be the last day of the Exhibition and closing day with pNeo and Charlotte. Inspired by our time together, I learned so much and genuinely cherished the entire experience. Our product supply had been entirely drained with only samples left for us to demonstrate.
The spectators on this final day had an agenda. This crew clearly were the ones who had missed out or the “last chancers”. Free swag was flowing, people on the lookout for the last of the giveaways, seemingly tethered with multitudes of overflowing bags hanging from any accessible appendage as their stockpile of loot spilled out precariously.
On the flip side, we also connected with individuals the most interested, intrigued and invested. They were down to the wire, pressed for time, limited patience and permitting the bare minimum of bullet points. As the final hour approached, many vendors came by drawn to the Baby Shusher’s striking orange hue. Countless others popped by disclosing their positive firsthand accounts, emphatically grabbing the device that got Mom and baby through a challenging time. Dads’, grandparents and physicians all shared heartfelt proclamations revealing touching personal testimonials. As the show grew to a close, several hospital organization representatives visited to express their gratitude for having Baby Shushers provided to their patients already. One of which was my former employer that started my pNeo journey. They touted what I had known for so long that it provides comfort, security and soothing measures for numerous medical conditions that ultimately aid in recovery.
I witnessed a full circle moment for Charlotte when she was approached from an administrator from Children’s Egleston Hospital where Baby Shusher’s very own Nolan Moore a former open-heart patient credited his recovery to the Baby Shusher. His parents run an annual donation drive for Egleston to give back to those who can benefit the same way he did. Nolan is also the baby that was displayed on the large canvas in our booth. His knowing eyes seemed to acknowledge this sentimental affirming moment.
Finally, after 3 days, thousands of conversations and 100% devotion to the cause-the exhibition was over. Charlotte and I transformed into a high-speed cataclysmic pit crew for exhibition breakdown. Together fueled by an almighty Herculean second win-we pieced apart, broke down, and manhandled a wooden shipping pallet with fierce ferocious fury resulting in a comical Mr. Bean outcome. Sweat puddled down my back, as we contorted our bodies maneuvering in record time. An hour sped by as our once lively booth was now contained in a complex jigsaw puzzle held together by industrial grade saran wrap and masking tape.
As the end drew near, I voiced my appreciation, gratitude and loyalty once again to Charlotte. To my elated surprise, she proposed further invitations-next year’s AAP in Washington DC and an international Trade fair in Cologne, Germany both registered for next Fall. With impassioned elation and desperate restraint, my heart sang in tachycardiac titillation while my mind raced with manic jubilation. What started out as a questioning inquisitiveness over a LinkedIn post turned into one of the most rewarding weekends of my life. We hugged and parted ways, knowing the work here may be done for now but my dedicated commitment to Shusher and pNeo will only continue to grow stronger.
Day 4 Part II-Continued-Riverside-October 2022
Now the fun…
Already packed up and checked out, Hubs and rental car waited for me patiently outside the hotel. Exiting the Marriott, we had so much to catch up on. He gave me the highlights version of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum excursion.
Highly endorsed by Hubs himself, the museum is situated on beautiful grounds a short distance from Anaheim. His analysis was very favorable- perks being uncrowded, senior discount provided and a bountiful of interesting presidential tidbits and historical facts. He was bursting with merriment rattling off the details of his solo expedition. In return, I provided a theatrical rendition of the day with the transcending conclusion.
We continued maneuvering through rush hour traffic enroute to Riverside California-shoutout my lifelong childhood friend Kristen and her lovely family who used to live there recommended this destination as a “must see” stop in the itinerary.
Off in the distinct horizon, the rounded opaque silhouette of mountains shadowed the fading sky. Riverside was a mere 37 miles away but felt worlds away from Disney. The main draw of this area is the iconic Mission Inn Riverside Historic Hotel. A one-night stay there would be a budget buster so instead, we chose a more reasonable option right down the street at the Hampton Inn Riverside Downtown-half the cost but conveniently offered stellar views of the historic landmark. We walked through the sedate downtown-autumn harvest embellishments adorned the charming window fronts of the now closed stores. The central square dating back to 1870 intertwines eclectic artesian gen Z with old world Spanish colonial revival.
Historic landmarks and celebrated figures sealed in antiquity create a promenade open-air walking museum of patinated statues-distinguished leaders including Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Dosan Ahn Chang Ho, and others.
Invasive emerald plush ivy and deep magenta bougainvillea fortified the iron ornate fence. Curved archways, majestic flying buttresses, lofty domes and spired towers competed for visual splendor. Fanciful palm trees royal and resilient flanked the entrance like soldiers safeguarding its fortress.
A baroque fountain displayed a tranquil water feature adjacent to a set of armored cannons followed by the famous Talking Parrots Josephine and Napoleon. The Nanjing Bell-enduring, unyielding and grand-the true symbol of the Mission Inn.
We eventually made our way to the hotel entrance. Black and white hexagon tile reflected off the opulent chandeliers. Thick dark wood beams the color of pumpernickel, strong and supportive crisscrossed the ceiling and vertical columns.
We made a reservation at the Mission Inn Restaurant-there are 4 diverse dining options but, on this evening, this was the only one that was open. We chose to eat inside-a regrettable decision after viewing the exquisite courtyard post dinner voted one of the Top 100 Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants in the Country.
Although quiet with few patrons, the space was invitingly captivating decorated in multicolored tiles, vaulted ceilings, ornate wall sconces and marble embellishments. The open state of the art kitchen was viewable from all vantage points for guests to witness the chefs preparing world class cuisine.
Hubs dined on Cioppino-a savory seasoned, and rich seafood stew. As a diaphoretic picante sweat exuded from his pores, he waved his empty water glass in spicy desperation. I chomped on my simple Caesar salad as his eyes teared, forehead erupted into a sweaty sheen, and cheeks flushed he fanned the white linen napkin in temporary relief and partial defeat.
As we walked back, we stumbled onto a melancholy guitarist strumming a stirring rendition of The Doors-Jim Morrison classics. A few twenty-somethinger’s gathered round in a hypnotic CBD induced trance. We stayed for a few songs swaying to the acoustic ballads. We walked the short distance back to the hotel in the cool darkness ready for some much-needed rest.
Day 5 Riverside-Big Bear Lake October 2022
We woke up refreshed and ready to make the most of our few hours left in Riverside. We grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and explored more of the downtown. We revisited what we saw last night but now in finer detail. We visited a few stores noticing that all the Halloween decorations were now replaced for Christmas (although only mid-October). We planned on going to the missioninnmuseum.org but in the Museum Store learned that it was closed for renovations. Instead, we participated in a walking tour led by trained docent-Nancy Gilroy.
She provided riveting details, commentary and facts about the history, art, artifacts and architecture of the Mission Inn. With only 2 others joining us, it was an intimate walking discovery highlighting the details of this fascinating time capsule. The tour lasted 90 minutes and was well worth the $15 (AAA discount used). By this time, checkout was approaching and at an astounding $23 a day for parking, it was time to go.
One last stop though must be made as we left Riverside. We stopped at Cupcakes and Curiosities for a final sweet treat. The lemony tart and tangy, cupcake secured from Riverside would sustain us as we made the 1.5-hour drive to our final destination-Big Bear Lake.
We entered the San Bernardino National Forest just as the sky turned a menacing shade of smokey grey and meteoric precipitation assaulted our vulnerable Hyundai Elantra.
The winding roads were perilously slick as the rotund rain dollops transformed into missile like hail. The curving roadway became thick with icy slush as visibility diminished. This is not how I envisioned the start of our magical mountain retreat. The thermostat dipped instantly plummeting down to a raw 30 degrees. The Hubs unphased by the apocalyptic weather shift gripped the wheel with expert precision as the automobile hugged the glistening asphalt.
We entered the City of Big Bear Lake as the last lingering remnants of drizzle dissipated.
We stocked up on food at vons buying painfully overpriced groceries-horrified by the exorbitant inflated food prices. Driving through the 5pm traffic of Big Bear we made our way to our Airbnb in Sugarloaf
Every home was distinctly unique, fairytale chalets and cozy cabins. Earthy autumn hues bounced off a kaleidoscope of gold dapple toned leaves as they daintily fell from deep crimson maple trees. We eventually made our way to our cozy Airbnb Cabin Sugarloaf California – our home for the next 5 days. Natalie and Ben were the owners of this beguiling 1980’s slate grey chalet with a sloped gambrel roof.
The check in process was exceptionally easy as we made our way into the spacious, homey living quarters. Stocked with everything one would need, we acclimated ourselves, turning on the electric fireplace and settling in. Chef worthy appliances, a swoon-worthy gas burner stove and high-end cookware fulfilled my farfetched culinary cooking fantasies. Hubs nestled in the comfy couch remote in hand- not any different from his usual home turf. I served up a love-filled homecooked meal followed by nail-biting Netflix scary thrillers and then ending the evening with a dreamy sleep in the warm, inviting master bedroom.
Day 6 Big Bear Lake October 2022
It is an odd feeling arising in a stranger’s home, but with the fireplace on, the monotonous hum of the bellowing heat fighting against the chilly outside air-emerging into wakefulness came easy. There were no dogs to walk, no job to go to-and best yet no morning commute to fight. I made Hubs a nice breakfast as we leisurely planned out our day.
We opted for an “easy” trail close by Alpine Pedal Path Trail – a 3.2 mile loop out and back around Big Bear Lake. This fully paved very popular blacktop path snaked around the placid lake thrill seeking cyclists on e-bikes (according to the signage “strictly prohibited”) whizzed by daringly leapfrogging around us. Minty woodsy juniper permeated the air. Pinecone grenades peppered the route haphazardly ejected from the from the transitions of a season’s ending. At the midway point, we munched waterside on packed goodies in silence as the sun waxed and waned with the looming threat of rain likely.
We continued our walk passing a wooden bridge that led into a forest of spindly, gnarled trees and tall, swaying, slender pines. Striated, prehistoric tree formations fortified by stocky wide bases interlocked veiny strangled tentacle branches hyper-arched and absurdly bowed resembling an old woman’s knotty knuckles imbedded deep below the petrous earth. Above a cacophony of birds sang out a high-pitched repetitive native battle cry- a rhythmic warning call as the blue sky turned a somber ashy dusk. The stillness of the grounds changed abruptly, fighting forceful opposing winds we speedily headed back to the car. As we slammed the door, hurdling ourselves in the vehicle-literally, our shelter from the storm-a booming clap of thunder reverberated around us as the deluge of rain smacked against the window.
Like everything with this trip, our timing was impeccable, an ongoing theme throughout the course of our time in California until and including to the very end. We preceded back to the house, a light dinner, some Hubby snuggles on the couch with more tantalizing Netflix thrillers filled out the remainder of our night.
Day 7 Big Bear Lake October 2022
Each morning we rose later and later-no longer able to blame time zone confusion. Elevation, fresh air and sunshine were making us downright lazy, and I loved it.
Our sweet mountain Shangri-la was an idyllic slice of heaven with everything we needed -which in Airbnb world is not always the case. We tried to take advantage of every amenity offered including the E-bikes. Well, at least Hubs did. Yours truly not so brave these days as the insurance deductible has not been yet met.
Hubs in all his monkey cuteness, ventured out up the hill, down the hill over and over he passed by me as I sat on the deck warmed by the sun and chilled by the cold air simultaneously.
With the completion of the bike ride, we ventured to The Village at Big Bear Lake initially to kill time before our pre-arranged anticipated and planned steam paddle boat tour on the lake. However, mid-way through our village romp, the captain called to cancel it. His 10 second dismissive call offered neither an explanation nor apology. Perhaps it was due to being the only 2 of 70 potential passengers signed up. We moseyed our way down the bucolic tree lined street, popping in and out of “bear everything” stores. Bear tchotchkes, baubles and doodads in every shape, size and price point-every store, every shelf, every nook and cranny.
In the end, after going from end to end, dragging the poor Hubs on a senseless and ultimately unsuccessful mission. We did pop in a few artesian shops offering more than just bear bric-a-brac acquiring some one-of-a-kind keepsakes for home.
Scavenging for useless, future dust collecting clutter is hard work that deserves a much-needed break and lunch. We stopped at Oakside Restaurant & Bar dined outside amongst a small growing crowd, tucked in an intimate corner we grazed on salad, fish and chips for Hubs.
Our plans for the day had completely fallen apart to no fault of our own. A color coated detailed spreadsheet, a heavily researched, pre-paid boating excursion and an exhaustive search for the best rainbow trout collapsed in a matter of seconds due to the instantaneous decision to scrap the cruise by the surly captain with no regard. Shame on you-Miss Liberty Lake Tours – Pine Knot Marina – you could have received a nice review, an honorable mention in the highly popular widely sought-after travel blog A Girl Her Hubs and a Suitcase – Travel like the little girl in you once dreamed…. (edellescipades.com
Instead-we roamed the kitschy, alpine streets of Big Bear village on a pointless (but undeniably fun) hunt for treasured bear memorabilia. For a day that was promised a paddle steamboat cruise and a fancy waterfront dinner there was no lake sunset sail, no explanation nor apology, and sadly-resoundingly no trout for Hubs. Despite the best laid plans, it was not to be.
Back at the B&B we ventured out into the chilly 34-degree weather into an inviting steamy hot tub. Like two bloated matzoh balls we percolated to peak ripeness under the imposing moon.
The sky above us dark as black tar, dotted the evening sky with a twinkling electrified galaxy illuminating the onyx sky like Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night.
The pyretic thermal bath combined with the frigid, nippy air created a steamy vaporized science experiment as the H20 evaporated from our pruned, puffy fingertips. The pulsating jets shimmied our bits and pieces hidden by the shield of darkness. Mid bobble, meditation fully underway, a bright flood light popped on illuminating our situation.
It was at this time, I realized Hubs had entered the tub with thick, white socks on. Between the stadium lighting, the soppy soggy sad socks and an intense overwhelming desire to escape-the superfluous joy evaporated very much like the moisture collecting on my forehead. The blinding beam of harsh light helped serve as a guide to our now saturated clothes and unfortunate phone. We stumbled out into the arctic air as condensation formed creating an icicle affect. The slippery steps of the hot tub exited onto shrapnel shards of rock nuggets assaulting our tender, lubricated feet. Once inside the house, we sat fireside shivering in delirium. Warped, wet and cold with a semi functioning waterlogged phone, we dragged our weary selves to the warmth, comfort and safety of the cozy bed.
Day 8 Big Bear Lake October 2022
As relaxing as this respite has been, the unfamiliar setting combined with no obligations made for a restless night of unremittable roaming. I binge watched reality garbage until dawn when exhaustion infiltrated my being. Crawling into bed, curling under the mound of covers, I succumbed to several hours of heavenly deep, hard, quality sleep.
When we did rise, we took our time as the final days of the trip were approaching. Hubs settled in for an important Yankees baseball game-an indulgent midday luxury. He swore and yelled as the innings wore on with them sadly losing.
Then, we drove just a few minutes to the starting point for Sugarloaf to Sand Canyon Loop trail. It is an easy 2.8-mile trail full of rocks, a lot of them-so much so I felt like I was hiking through a quarry. There was very little shade and at times the sun bore straight down on us. There was not a clear-cut path, but AllTrails is amazing in course navigation.
Only 1 lonely jogger passed us on this otherwise solo trip. A myriad of native trees occupied the otherwise desolate area. We looped back completing our journey returning quickly as we had evening plans.
In our very early planning stages, we researched Big Bear for fun things to do. I stumbled upon Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest and knew we had to include this in our agenda. A great deal of preparation went into this one event. For Hubs he was outfitted in Traditional German lederhosen and a wool Bavarian hat. For me, I was adorned in a customary Bavarian Dirndl
It entailed a complete team effort from the two of us, buttoning, zipping, tucking, tying and clipping these foreign items onto us. Once we were fully transformed into our Bavarian personas, we took an Uber to Big Bear Lake Convention Center-the epicenter of this evening’s activity.
At arrival, a small line was present, all of which were identically decked out in Amazon’s finest Oktoberfest wears. The last minutes of daylight were disappearing into the horizon as we entered the lively hall decorated in full fall harvest meets lager meets country. It was a sort of mish-mosh of themes with strong German influences. A band was on stage signing Rolling Stones with a thick garbled German accent. A tuba player bellowed out thick bold harmonies with his massive instrument as German Mick Jagger thrusted his slender hips.
Long tables 50 people deep went from end to end, a vibrant sense of community and friendship echoed in the loud space. Clanging beer steins toasting “Prost”, dancing ladies with jiggling bosoms bounced around while children ran around with chicken hats. Due to Covid, Oktoberfest had been cancelled the last 2 years, so people were extra rowdy rejoicing in normalcy and the return of fun.
We went outside, the temperature dropping eventually to 35 degrees. However, heaters and alcohol kept the revelers toasty. A mechanical bull bucked and reared in slow exaggerated movements as drunk partiers grasped the reigns in desperate futility. Outside a country band crooned sappy cowboy melodies competing with the energetic German band inside.
We sat on a lone picnic bench warmed up by the heater, Hubs sipping his beer as we shared an enormous oversalty, overcooked and overpriced pretzel trying to enhance it with obscene gobs of yellow mustard.
We moved inside and sat at the end of a long table; a family joined us as all seats were occupied. A contest was in full swing for the ladies testing their beer hoisting endurance competencies-a skillset yours truly definitely lacks.
The band Frankenrebellen straight from Franconia-Bavaria Germany-played an eclectic array of Polka, Traditional German and for much of the evening good old karaoke favorites. If you have never heard Country Road by John Denver at Oktoberfest there might be a reason why.
However, with the thick German accent, accordion, tuba accompaniment along with a rhythmic oompah-pah sound it’s an all-around crowd pleaser. Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline had everyone up out of their seats in a foot stomping, hand clapping frenzy all ending with the popular Zicke Zacke Hoi Hoi Hoi – translated means “the first official keg has been tapped and it’s party time now”.
With the party in full swing, we feasted on beer cheese soup, dumplings and strudel. All items swimming in copious gravy and thick soupy sauce leaving me conflicted between mild repulsion and perplexed hankering.
All in all, Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest was enormous fun for A Girl and Her Hubs and it was everything we hoped it to be. Overstimulated, bloated, stuffed with the bitter taste of gravy repeating in reflux intervals, we took an Uber back home humming the Polka version “Friends in Low Places.”
Day 9 Big Bear Lake October 2022
Waking up on our last full day I felt bittersweet our wonderful time coming to an end. But grateful we still had today. On a complete whim, Hubs suggested Joshua Tree National Park – intrigued and knowing I would never likely have another opportunity I quickly obliged.
On our way, we saw some of the most sensational scenery. The San Bernardino Mountains were awe inspiring. The soaring rock shadowed our helixed twist and turns. The elevation began to level off and the mountains disappeared and all before us was just a long road with a flat horizon. Grass and trees disappeared and all that lie in front of us was dusty, arid earth. The forecast called for major storms as we continued to make our way to the desert. We entered Yucca Valley passing warning signs for road flooding-a bit concerning as the radar showed ominous thunderstorms approaching. The blue promising sky and lack of clouds showed otherwise.
An hour and a half later we reached our destination-Joshua Tree. It was an odd, unearthly frankly foreign sight. Prickly, primal-looking cactus, scorched dry earth, clusters of bizarre rock formations-all unlike anything remotely close to anything in Florida. We stopped at the Joshua Tree Visitor Center -a very popular busy place with tourists coming and going. A park guide gave us a map, some information, valuable warnings regarding the park and the dangers of the uninhabitable desert. Here are some interesting facts about the park-it is made up of 2 distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado deserts.
It is the 15th largest national park, roughly the size of Rhode Island, composed of 800,000 acres and 191 miles of hiking trails. It has 813 plant species, 46 reptile, 57 mammal and 250 bird species.
Just as we entered the park, the sky darkened to a somber foreboding murky grey. There was no Wi-Fi within the park, but Hubs was able to keep his AllTrails app map going. Otherwise, navigation would be impossible as everything looked the same making it very easy to get turned around.
Mountain ranges transversed the region with tectonic fault lines concealed beneath the earth’s foundation. We passed nimble enthusiasts climbing mammoth boulders. Twisted, spiky highly distinctive Joshua Trees populated the parched desert ground.
We pulled over at Wall Street Mill 2 miles of a gritty, pebble crunching loop. Knowing our time was limited due to the oncoming storm, we followed a long stream of tourists that eventually dispersed. Jagged, slanted molten rock transformed by wind, erosion and environmental elements clustered in fortified stone constellations. The inexplicable rock gatherings scattered randomly in an otherworldly Dr. Seuss surreal Stonehenge mystery. Caves ensconced in multicolored layers of stratified granite, sandstone, and quartzite coated in ombre shades of purple, brown and beige hues camouflaged against the muted tawny earth. Scurrying back to the car just in the nick of time, peeking in the rearview mirror a coal-stained sky released a thunderous deluge upon us. Even though our adventure was short lived-interrupted by a dramatic weather system-we were able to fully absorb the baffling and extraordinary phenomenon of Joshua Tree National Park.
We drove back under the eerie desert sky, the desolate highway and stark endless horizon looked frighteningly apocalyptic. Arriving back in Big Bear, we realized we were hungry. This would be our final meal of the trip. There is no better way to conclude an unforgettable trip then with a rather forgettable meal. A true “greasy spoon” of a joint we dined at Thelma’s Family Restaurant
Hubs picked and poked in silent disappointment at the Chicken Pot Pie. I had an acceptable veggie burger. The waitress- rather casually took our order pulling up a barstool next to us-a little too chummy for my likes. There was a palpable feeling of informality and an overly excessive relaxed state, that frankly made me edgy. However, they changed the baseball game per request to the Yankees even though the rest of the restaurant was rooting for the Padres.
Outside it was dark, rainy and chilly. Returning to the Airbnb our trip was nearly over and only the hard part of returning remained. The rest of the night was reserved to packing and preparing for our reintroduction back to reality.
In the morning, we packed up our final things said goodbye to our Big Bear grey slate chalet and made our way back through the San Bernardino Mountains. Our departure from Big Bear could not have been more different than our initial arrival. The gloomy, rainy backdrop with limited visibility was far from the majestic scene now in front of us. The sky was bright and promising as sunshine poked through the mountains, slices of dappled light danced on the treetops. We were high above the floating, fluffy clouds- a sublime picturesque landscape. We pulled over, capturing the final grateful moments of this unexpected encore presentation- an exquisite conclusion to a memorable endeavor.
Upon my return, I quickly began recounting my time in California. As one toe stayed deep in the pool of the sunny West Coast waters, the rest of me progressed forward back into the rapid-fire bullet train realness of everyday life. In less than 24 hours, I returned deep in the world of sick compromised children, solving sometimes insurmountable problems while still embracing the lessons and blessings of my trip. The respite of the mountains, fresh air and new surroundings always seem to replenish me-a reset button to what is most meaningful in my life. Reconnecting with Hubs away from the day-to-day responsibilities are treasured and cherished moments. Our trips have softened and changed over the years -having had to pivot like everyone else since Covid. Even though these adventures are a “kinder and gentler” version- these needed “time outs” allow me to see clearly the many gifts in my life. From the quiet still morning nature hikes to the goofy shenanigans of Lederhosen yodeling Hubs-California delivered in every way.
The “work” portion of this getaway tapped into a hidden reservoir of unrealized confidence, engaging fun and laser beamed focus determination. This new perspective has helped provide me with a roadmap to navigate where I will go next. My Baby Shusher crusade is certainly not over and will prevail as I work to marry both worlds harmoniously. The lesson in all this is as simple as the ingenuity of the Shusher. Follow your heart, enrich your soul and move beyond the distraction of discomfort- because what lies ahead on the other side is an endless sea of hope and meaningful purpose.
Come join me September 2023 as A Girl and Her Hubs go to Cologne, Germany.