Family Road Trip to Lost Worlds Adventures in Livermore, California (Featuring the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport) by Nick Shell

Sometimes as a parent, you end up having to settle for the back-up plan; or even the back-up plan of the back-up plan, but as long as you’re with the people you love, you just might have a great time anyway. You may even get more than you expected, in a good way!

That is exactly what happened last week while I was out in northern California with my family. My wife and I had planned a trip to the Santa Cruz boardwalk, where we had taken our son nearly 3 years ago.

But after learning from our experience the week before that our 2 year-old daughter was getting burned out on so much travel (after all, we had flown in from Tennessee), we decided to find a closer carnival destination; as Santa Cruz is nearly 2 and a half hours away from where we were staying with my mother-in-law in Walnut Grove.

It just so happened that there was a County Fair going on in Pleasanton, just about an hour and 20 minutes away; which would shave an hour or so off of our originally planned travel time.

That way, our kids could still get their fill of games and rides, like at the boardwalk in Santa Cruz. But after my wife bought the tickets to the County Fair on Groupon and we actually drove there, we learned that the fair didn’t actually open until Wednesday: We were there on Monday.

After getting a refund on our tickets online, my wife found a place called Lost Worlds Adventures. So we drove the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport just 6 miles down to the road to the neighboring town of Livermore.

Fate would have it, our family had just as much fun at Lost Worlds Adventures as we would have had at the Santa Cruz boardwalk, or the County Fair… if not more.

Not to mention, it was actually less expensive than both of those plans, as well!

Fortunately, the whole place was dinosaur themed. For a 7 and a year-old boy who’s currently very excited about seeing Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, that served as the perfect ambiance.

We started things off with a fun game of glow-in-the-dark miniature golf. I’m pretty sure our son won, though we weren’t keeping score.

Then we gave our son $20 to spend on games; in which points were earned to earn prizes at the end. I am amazed by how much we got for that amount of money.

Not only did our 2 year-old daughter enjoy playing the games for free on demo mode, as she didn’t know the difference anyway, she also got to help her brother roll the ball for the Milk Jug Toss and Skee-Ball.

However, our son had to explain to her, “Holly, you can’t just crawl up and drop the ball in…”

And speaking of our son Jack, he made out quite well as far as earning points for prizes. He stumbled upon a game called Big Bass Wheel Pro, where the concept was that the harder you pulled the lever down, the harder the wheel spun, and therefore the more points you earned.

But we realized pretty quickly that A) what value the spinner landed on was completely random, and B) the game seemed to just keep giving my son bonus spins for no reason. So in the likeness of pushing the button in the Swan station on the TV show LOST, my son and I starting taking turns pulling the lever, to keep the game going, and therefore, the points racking up.

So with the 2,240 points my son earned (most of which were from the same game), he was able to get his very first Care Bear, along with a couple of planes and balls and squishy toys. In addition to a pig whose eyes popped out when it is squeezed and some stickers, my daughter was very proud of her poop emoji purse and matching plush poop emoji key chain.

Yep, that’s what she chose, so we didn’t turn her down.

Yes, sometimes life is about the back-up plan of a back-up plan. And great times were had by all!

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
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Family Reunion in Lodi, California (Featuring the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport) by Nick Shell

My wife is the 9th of 10 kids. That means that nearly 10 years ago when we got married, I instantly became an uncle to more nephews and nieces than I can count; even still today!

Every summer, we take a trip out to northern California where my wife is from, which ultimately leads to a family gathering or two.

This year, it was an all-out official family reunion; which happened to take place in a city made famous by a 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival song, “Lodi”.

The town is just a 30 minute drive from where we were staying with my mother-in-law in Walnut Grove. This made our first outing in the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport we had for our 2nd week in California.

What was most interesting to me about the family reunion was how independent our 7 and a half year-old son was. I toted around our 2 year-old daughter most of the time, while keeping watch on our son, who was constantly migrating with his older teenage cousins.

In fact, at the end of our 2 week trip to California, I asked my son what his favorite part of the entire vacation was. His instant response: “Probably the park with all the family.”

I can appreciate that he enjoyed sort of tagging along with the older kids and that they totally engaged him the entire time.

Whereas I have one child who is still understandably in need of constant attention and direction, my other child is finding his identity in spending time with other people. This is a good challenge for him; I can clearly see this as part of his character development.

It was also great that one of my sister-in-law’s family was staying with us at my mother-in-law’s house. Therefore, it was almost like my wife and I had two free baby babysitters the whole time: a 15 year-old and a 19 year-old.

Whether it was the old bouncy house in my mother-in-law’s backyard, or the hot tub, or just playing with retro toys leftover from the 1980s, both of my kids had some awesome cousins to entertain them.

Needless to say, every summer vacation we have out in California is a family reunion; by default.

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

As the World’s Manliest Vegan, I Proudly Endorse All-Natural, Essential Oil Based Products from Jack Black (Courtesy of Boardroom Salon for Men in Nashville on West End); Also Featuring from Prep U

As an accidentally popular Nashville-based daddy blogger and YouTuber who happens to be The World’s Manliest Vegan, or at least The Manliest Vegan on the Internet, I’m not “get a free family vacation to Disney World” famous.

But I am “get a free trip for myself to Florida to see the Grapefruit League Baseball Series” famous.

I’m also “famous enough to get a free car with a full tank of gas for a week” anytime my family goes on a road trip or takes a vacation.

And to my delight, I’m also at the point now where on any given day, my wife may announce to me, “Nick, some company set you a package in the mail…”

This week, I got a care package courtesy of the newly opened Boardroom Salon for Men in Nashville on West End, including all natural, vegan-friendly products from Jack Black that they sell at their location:

Jack Black Charcoal Body Bar Messaging Soap

You may remember how about a month ago, I did a special video there when they gave me my first ever clean head shave.

Well now, a month later, they’re still keeping me in the loop. Apparently, they learned how passionate I am about all-natural products; ones that are based from essential oils, not weird chemicals.

Coincidentally, I also happen to receive a care package from Prep U:

Prep U Body Wash

Prep U Active Dry Powder

Prep U Body Spray

Prep U Natural Deodorant

The Prep U product line is specifically made for pre-teen boys; though I must say, their deodorant is my new favorite, of any brand! It works so well.

In case you didn’t know, about a decade ago, I stopped using personal products that contain shady ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate. I also stopped using deodorant that contains aluminum.

I am a dyshidrotic eczema survivor. In order to be healed of my disease, I had ultimately become a vegan (5 years now) and only use all natural products.

So as you can imagine, the products sent to me this week by Boardroom Salon for Men in Nashville on West End are obviously an extension of my identity and completely inline with my own brand image.

In addition to being all natural, they also smell very clean, in a classy, subtle, masculine way. In other words, not like Axe body spray.

For me, this is like Christmas in June. I’m the 37 year-old dad and husband. I don’t get nice stuff for myself. My money goes to my family- and my attempt to pay off the mortgage early.

Getting these care packages this week made me very grateful and very happy, as you can see in the picture below.

Thank you Boardroom Salon for Men in Nashville on West End. I am honored to serve as spokesman for natural products for men!

Dear Holly: Your 1st Harmonica Lesson

1 year, 10 months.

Dear Holly,

Now that I am basically building my own side business by writing articles with accompanying videos for companies to promote them in social media, you have seen me pull out my guitar a little bit more, as I craft and create unique music each for the videos.

As you were sitting at my feet while I played guitar a few days ago, you wandered over to my guitar case and found my harmonica. I actually had forgotten I left it there. So you did me a favor when you found it.

I immediately thanked you, “Oh Holly, good job! Now I can play my harmonica again!”

It had been several months since you saw me play it, but the moment I put the harmonica to my lips, your eyes lit up, knowing what you were about to hear.

Once you heard the first note, you were already reaching for the harmonica. I was caught off guard by eagerness to play the instrument.

So I let you have it.

This resulted in you basically biting the harmonica, but I can tell you were attempting to actually blow air into it, or breathe in; either of which would have resulted in musical sound.

Your first harmonica lesson was mainly just about you becoming familiar with holding the instrument and attempting to make any sound at all. I figure that’s typical for the first music lesson for most musical instruments.

We’ll see where this thing goes.

In my mind, it’s a given that I’ll be teaching your brother to play guitar.

But I admit, I would be equally honored to teach you the guitar as well. I can already imagine you as a teenager girl wearing a dress with cowboy boots, playing the guitar and singing; thanks to Daddy’s lessons.

Love,

Daddy

 

P.S. To see me playing harmonica, check out this video I made before you were born…

Dear Jack: The Paradox of Receiving a Berenstain Bears Book and HALO Action Figure on Valentine’s Day 2018

7 years, 2 months.

Dear Jack,

I don’t know how normal it is to receive so many little gifts from your parents on Valentine’s Day, but apparently, you are one lucky kid. Because before you even left for school yesterday, you got all your Valentine’s Day gifts from Mommy and me.

It was funny to me; I remember on your 2nd Valentine’s Day, Mommy asked me to pick out a little toy for you. This was a new concept for me. I had never heard of parents getting their kids gifts for Valentine’s Day.

I picked out an 88 cent Hot Wheels red monster truck for you. And since that day back in 2012, I have seen your Valentine’s Day gift selections grow a little bigger each year.

This year, you received a mini Hatchling, a stuffed animal ball, a bag of Trolli gummies, and an inflatable Hulk.

But looking back, perhaps it was slightly ironic, and definitely easily hilarious, that two gifts in particular couldn’t be more opposite:

A Berenstain Bears book called Valentine Blessings, which includes Bible verses about the Biblical definition of love.

And…

A Mega Construx HALO action figure, ready for war!

But in addition to it being both ironic and hilarious, I also see it as perfectly ideal for you right now, as a 7 year-old, 1st grader boy.

While you very much enjoy action of any kind, including your now growing collection of HALO figures, as well as your obvious and, by default, fascination with super heroes like the Hulk, you still are very excited to receive a fluffy stuffed animal or another book from that lovable family from Bear Country.

You are a sweet and sensitive boy, yet I see those undeniable glimpses of you as a pre-teen, as well.

And really, this is exactly how I remember being, 30 years ago, when I was this age.

I think your Valentine’s Day gifts from Mommy and me were a perfect representation of who you are to us at this age.

Love,

Daddy

Despite the 1990s Sitcom Cliche, I Actually Really Like My Mother-in-Law (Featuring the 2017 Mazda 6 Grand Touring)

I feel like there’s this familiar cliche from family sitcoms of the 90s where the mother-in-law comes from out to town to visit, which inevitably yields 23 minutes of zany frustration for the husband and father of the household; accompanied by laugh tracks, of course.

Maybe that’s true for some men out there, I don’t know.

What I do know is I personally can not relate to this stereotype at all.

My wife and I have been married for nearly 10 years. I can honestly say that I have never once felt frustrated when my mother-in-law comes to visit or when we visit her in California. In fact, she has the opposite effect on me: I feel more relaxed with her around.

I assume I’m the typical American dad in that I am heavily involved not only with the kids, but also with the household chores. The only real free time I have is when everyone else is asleep.

During my waking hours, I’m either taking care of at least one kid or I’m helping clean up a mess. Because with young kids, there’s always a mess to be cleaned.

But when my mother-in-law is in town, I get a break from reality. I actually have pockets of time where I can do things like, you now… learn what it feels like to sit on my own couch for 5 minutes; thanks to my mother-in-law insisting on preparing dinner without my help, telling me, “Now Nick, sit down. I’m taking care of all this over here. You just take a seat and relax.”

This is all especially fresh on my mind, as my mother-in-law is currently staying with our family here here in Tennessee this week.

When the folks at Mazda heard about our special guest flying in from the West Coast, they dropped off a 2017 Mazda 6 Grand Touring with a full tank of gas, to make the week-long visit extra special.

It’s funny because despite only living about 40 miles south of Nashville, I only see that wondrous and trendy city a few times a year. But knowing we had a fancy car to get us there, we loaded up in the Mazda 6 and took our mother-in-law out for a magnificent lunch.

My wife suggested this cool Lebanese bistro called Epice.

Wow, seriously. It is now officially my favorite restaurant in all of Nashville. It was like being introduced to a whole new world of food. Not to mention, they were easily able to cater to me being a vegan.

The restaurant shares a parking lot with a very swanky “Nashvilley” shop called White Mercantile, which happens to be owned by Holly Williams; the daughter of Hank Williams, Jr.

I admit, the decor there was so cool, I took lots of pictures, made it into a collage, and debuted it as my new Facebook banner picture.

My mother-in-law just loved that store! Despite being born and raised in Oakland, California, she definitely has a fascination with the Southern motif.

After lunch, my wife and mother-in-law decided we would be stopping by an organic grocery store called The Turnip Truck; as it is soon to be a place frequented by Country Music stars.

Apparently, there were no celebrities there at the time, but at least I got a Mexican coffee out of the deal, and my daughter was able to enjoy one of her favorite snacks for the drive back home.

The next day on Saturday, my mother-in-law decided she wanted to take us out for dinner at our town’s official favorite restaurant, Viking Pizza Co. of Spring Hill.

Needless to say, it’s been a very enjoyable week for our entire family with my mother-in-law in town. Especially for me. I have enjoyed being able to remove myself just enough from the household chores, as my mother-in-law has assumed many of my roles this week, so though I could have some moments of sanity.

I don’t care what happened in 90s sitcoms. All I know is, I definitely like having my mother-in-law in town!

If you would like to learn more about the specifics of the 2017 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, check out another article I wrote; which as the title of it implies, will answer many of your immediate questions. Just click on the click below:

2017.5 Mazda 6 Grand Touring: Back Seat Space with 2 Children’s Car Seats, Fuel Door Release, Volume Knob for Stereo, Extra Trunk Space, Gas Mileage, Price

And don’t forget to catch up with me on The Lifetime Network’s “This Time Next Year” on February 20th, at 10 PM Central/9 PM Eastern; as I journey over the course of an entire year in attempt to find and meet my doppelganer!

2017.5 Mazda 6 Grand Touring: Back Seat Space with 2 Children’s Car Seats, Fuel Door Release, Volume Knob for Stereo, Extra Trunk Space, Gas Mileage, Price

This week I was sent a 2017 Mazda 6, so that I could review it from the dad’s perspective. Perhaps my top priority in featuring vehicles on my website is always this:

How much seat space is there in the very back seat if an adult has to sit back there?

After all, you never know when you might need to fill the vehicle to full passenger capacity, but have to work around two child car seats.

That was definitely the case this weekend as my mother-in-law was in town from Sacramento.

It was her, my wife, our 7 year-old son, our 21 month-old daughter, and myself in the vehicle as we made our way to our town’s favorite restaurant, Viking Pizza Co. (in Spring Hill, Tennessee).

The drive was only about 3 miles away. On the way there, I drove, and my wife sat in the back seat sandwiched in-between our 2 kids; with my mother-in-law sitting up front. On the way back, my wife and I swapped places.

I made this video to demonstrate exactly how I fit into the back seat in this situation. But at 5′ 9″ and 171 pounds, I was surprised at how “unsmooshed” I felt back there. My head didn’t even graze the roof.

It’s also worth bringing up that the 2017 Mazda 6 has an unsuspecting amount of truck space! I was nearly able to fit my guitar back there longways; with plenty of room to spare on both sides. So if you’re planning on taking this car on a road trip, you can afford to pack heavy.

For some, the “volume knob” for the stereo may be difficult to find. That’s because, to my knowledge, there’s not one. Just simply use the volume buttons on the left side of the steering wheel.

On a similar note, should you find any difficult finding the fuel door release, just look a little lower.

As for gas mileage, it averages 30 miles a gallon; 27 in the city and 35 on the highway. The model featured here on my blog, which is basically fully loaded, has a total MSRP of $34,695.

Okay, there’s your briefing.

Be on the look-out for more blog posts I have in store on the 2017 Mazda 6. Thanks for reading!