Our Family Spot at King’s Beach on the California Side of Lake Tahoe

When our family is ready to hang out at the beach, why drive 6 and a half hours from our home near Nashville, Tennessee to Destin, Florida when we could fly all the way to the other side of the country to Lake Tahoe in California?

As far as my kids are concerned, they have just as much fun either way. When you’re a kid, it’s sand and waves- and that’s all that matters… even if the water is much chillier on a lake that is more than a mile higher than sea level.

Our tradition is to hang out at King’s Beach, which is at the very northern part of Lake Tahoe. I love being able to see the snow-capped mountains all the way across the other side; which is 22 miles away.

For years now, my son has enjoyed making sand fortresses. He’ll get in the water a little bit, but mainly just to wash off the extra sand in between his toes.

I was amazed this year by what heavy stones he was able to find and carry over to his construction sight.

For all I know, there are much better spots at Lake Tahoe. However, King’s Beach is the most convenient for our family, since we are always ultimately en route to Sacramento from there anyway.

There’s a really nice pier there that is fun to walk out across and take a family photo or two.

Not to mention, there is a playground, easily accessible restrooms, and even a grocery store in walking distance; so you can easily buy everything you need to have a picnic there on the beach.

King’s Beach is our spot on Lake Tahoe. Granted, I’m fully aware that thousands of other people feel the same way, but it still feels like a well kept secret to us.

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Accidentally Family Glamping in Squaw Valley, California: Home of the 1960 Winter Olympics

It was the closest to camping my wife will ever be and she wanted to go home right then.

I admit I’m borrowing from the memorable 1998 hit song “Iris” from Goo Goo Dolls here.

(“You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be and I don’t want to go home right now.”)

In hindsight, I understand now that we accidentally ended up glamping for a few days of our family vacation last week in California.

For the first three nights, we stayed in Squaw Valley; home of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Imagine the scene:

My kids shared a fold-out couch on one side of the rustic motel, while my wife and I shared an actual bed. The thing is, it’s typically so cold in this part of California, where it is more than a mile above sea level. Therefore, the building is not equipped with air conditioning.

So instead, there were fans in the windows and ceiling fans above us to pull in some cooler feeling air. But during the middle of the summer with the temperature being the highest, it’s not the most comfortable way to fall asleep.

Our bed was right next to the window connected to the outside hallway, so that other fellow guests could basically see through our window while we slept, since we had to keep the curtain open in an effort to prevent blocking the fan.

I should mention the shower, too.

It was basically a giant tray on the floor of the bathroom in which I had to spray my kids with a hose. It was like giving a cat a bath.

But fortunately, we were able to overlook all that and appreciate the beauty of our surroundings during the daytime.

I’m pretty sure this was the closest my wife will ever get to camping. As for me, I grew up in the mountains of Alabama, so it’s what I know.

Here’s to family glamping!

My 3 Year-Old Daughter’s Bigtruck Hat Souvenir and Our Consequent Tour of the Bigtruck Factory Store and Custom Hat Bar in Truckee, California

Upon arrival in Truckee, after the short drive from Reno where our flight landed, we began our summer vacation by visiting the first souvenir shop the kids saw.

While my kids’ agenda was to immediately spend their $20 souvenir stipends, my wife was more concerned with finding a hat to cover our fair-skinned 3 year-old daughter from the California sun in Lake Tahoe.

My daughter wasn’t quite sold on the simple and practical sunhat my wife found. Instead, my daughter was lured by the irresistibly trendy Bigtruck trucker’s hat with a yellow flower on it.

She still had a leftover gift card from her birthday back in April; to extend beyond her souvenir budget.

It turns out she loved this “flower hat” so much, that she chose to deplete the rest of her gift card money on it!

I will admit: I’m glad she did.

What an awesome hat for a cute little girl spending a week of summer vacation in the Lake Tahoe area.

She totally rocked that hat and she knew it.

Of all coincidences, by the end of our week-long vacation, we just happened to stop for lunch at a deli right across the street from the Bigtruck Factory Store and Custom Hat Bar there in Truckee!

After lunch, my wife stayed in the truck with our daughter who quickly fell asleep for her afternoon nap.

Meanwhile, my son and I invited ourselves in for a tour; where we met Triston Sceirine, the company’s Production Manager, who was happy to show us around the place.

We had a great time checking out how they make the hats, and even learned they have a “hat bar” where customers can customize their own hats.

I have a feeling the next time our family is in Truckee again, we’ll be heading back there to make some cool hats!

And thanks to my daughter’s hat choice, we have brought a piece of Truckee back to Nashville, Tennessee.

2019 Family Reunion in Lake Tahoe: Celebrating the Life of My Wife’s Father and Grandfather

In case you somehow didn’t know this by now, my wife is #9 of 10 kids. So every year, our official family summer vacation is going to visit as much of her family that can show up in the Sacramento, California area; which is where they all grew up and some still live.

And in case you’re not so familiar with the geography of Sacramento, it is in northern California; just a little over 2 hours away from Lake Tahoe, which also borders the neighboring state of Nevada.

This summer, Lake Tahoe served as the central meeting place for the family; this time to especially celebrate the life of my wife’s father (who passed away a couple months after we were married in 2008); as well as her grandfather Gus, who passed away last fall.

Everyone was given the opportunity to share memories and stories of both men. Being that I married into the family, I wasn’t planning on saying anything.

But when I was asked if I wanted to share something, after I had the opportunity to hear what everyone else said, I decided to speak.

I explained that my takeaway from what they all said about these two very important men in their family was this:

It was undeniable that these men sacrificed much for the sake of their family; even if they weren’t able to be appreciated or feel appreciated at the time.

That is often the theme of being a parent: that you often are unable to be truly appreciated as you give the most of your time, energy, and soul to the people you care for so much.

I appreciated being somewhat of a grafted-in outsider that day. I feel that it took that kind of perspective to understand myself better; coincidentally during Father’s Day weekend.

It was a truly good day.

Dear Jack: In 3 Weeks’ Time, You Watched All 50 Episode of Disney’s Bunk’d for the 1st Time

7 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack,

We began our recent two week-long family vacation in northern California by staying a few nights in a cabin in Truckee, which is just a 25 minute drive from Lake Tahoe. Whenever we travel, you discreetly take advantage of the fact that I tend to let you get away with binge watching The Disney Channel.

It was then and there you were introduced to a summer camp-themed kids’ show called Bunk’d.

By the 5th episode, you had already memorized all the words to the opening theme song and were singing along.

When I was kid, the summer camp-themed show for kids to watch was Salute Your Shorts or even Hey Dude. But for your generation, it’s definitely Bunk’d.

I think the fact we were staying up in the mountains of California only reinforced the concept of the show. We even ended up going out on pedal boat on Lake Tahoe, thanks to your insisting on it.

Could that notion have been inspired by the adventures you had been seeing on Bunk’d? I submit that it was.

By the time we got back to Grandma’s house where we stayed for most of our 2 weeks, you were able to continue watching your new favorite show each day on her TV.

Meanwhile, back at our home in Tennessee where we only have the free channels that came bundled with our Internet, you discovered that Bunk’d is on Netflix!

Needless to say, you spent all of your designated screen time on finishing every episode you didn’t already see in California. Apparently, you watched 50 episodes of Bunk’d in about 3 weeks’ time.

But never fear, it just so happened that the newest season of Bunk’d, Season 3, recently premiered. So give it until Christmas vacation, and I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to watch the entire new season before you even get a chance to open the presents.

Love,

Daddy

 

The Search for Wisdom, Truth, and Meaning Ends with Life’s Responsibilities; Including Marriage, Children, and a Mortgage (Or, “I Used to Be a Lot More Fun, Yet Self-Centered and Emotionally Needy”)

As my 20th high school reunion is coming up in less than a year, I think it’s funny how certain people probably remember me as a person I no longer am; for better or worse.

Sure, I used to be a lot more fun back before I was so well immersed in all my current responsibilities. But I also know for a fact that I used to let a lot of things bother me that I no longer do.

One of the least favorite years of my life was when I was 20 years old, back in 2001. And no, it wasn’t necessarily because that was the year of the September 11th attacks. It was because, at the time, my identity as an adult was still forming.

I was finishing up community college, before transferring to Liberty University where I would get my English degree. I had a part-time job as the supervisor of an after-school program. I was a Junior High Sunday School teacher and youth leader at my hometown church. And I was single.

Back then, I was still on a noble quest for things like wisdom, truth, and meaning in life.

Fast forward to present day: I’m 37, I have been married for 10 years (as of next Thursday), I have 2 kids, and I have a full time office job in the Nashville area; in addition to my 4 side hustle jobs that also generate income (this blog, doing SEO for a major university, and 2 YouTube channels).

My wife and I are on a passionate mission to pay off our mortgage early, as we’ve been otherwise debt-free for many years now; including no car payments. We are very inspired to outsmart the system of having to work our entire adult lives just to pay interest to the bank for our home loan.

That’s where I’m at in life.

So honestly, I can’t remember the last time I thought about searching for wisdom, truth, or meaning. I don’t need to.

By default, I get my daily share of wisdom, truth, and meaning through all of my many responsibilities in life; as a married father of 2, with a total of 5 income-generating jobs.

It may seem a bit anticlimactic or unromantic, but responsibility is the answer to trying to find wisdom, truth, and meaning.

The Big 50 Foot Long Slide at Mission Hills Park in Pleasanton, California (Featuring the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport) by Nick Shell

As our family finished up our 2 week-long vacation road trip in northern California, we drove the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport from Walnut Grove to Pleasanton, where our kids got to enjoy the playgrounds at Mission Hills Park.

It was such a nice drive, as we saw the countless solar windmills for much of the way. There is so much beauty in the top half of the state of California, which often is not the region people tend to think of when they hear where my wife is from.

The kids also liked the fact that the entire roof of the Outlander was a giant window. It was almost like a ride at Disney, in a way.

The main attraction at the city park was the giant, 50 foot slide; the kind I remember from back in the 1980s when I was my son’s age. These days, it’s rare to see such a tall, metal slide like that.

(To put it into perspective, the standard length of a dry van trailer pulled by an 18 wheeler is 53 feet long.)

My son quickly learned the best way to go down the slide was to lay down, like it was a luge. The slide was up so high, we were up there with the trees!

Here’s a little video I made, in the moment:

To my amazement, my 2 year-old daughter even insisted she get to try out the slide. So I held her hand and walked alongside her as she slid down, quite slowly, with me moderating her speed.

Granted, the rest of the playground equipment was great, as well. There were actually two main playgrounds; one for older kids like my 7 and a half year-old son, including a climbing wall and ropes course.

For younger kids like my daughter, there was a separate playground across the park which was more appropriate for her age.

So if you happen to be driving anywhere near Pleasanton, California and have some adventurous children with restless energy, I definitely recommend you stopping by Mission Hills Park.

The big slide is so cool!

Have you read all 3 of my blog posts featuring my family’s road trip to Lake Tahoe in the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport? Here’s a table of contents just to be sure. Click on the title of the blog post you would like to see:

Family Reunion in Lodi, California 
Family Road Trip to Lost Worlds Adventures in Livermore, California
The Big 50 Foot Long Slide at Mission Hills Park in Pleasanton, California