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

 

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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.

Plant-Based Millennial Family Checks Out Vegan-Friendly Restaurant Called “Squeeze In” in Truckee, California (Featuring the 2018 Mazda3), by Manly Vegan, Nick Shell

I didn’t choose the vegan life: The vegan life chose me.

Yes. I’m saying it: If I didn’t have to be a vegan, I wouldn’t be. Right about now, I would totally be downloading some greasy fried fish, dipping it in gobs of tartar sauce, and then washing it down with a Super Big Gulp size cup of sweet tea.

Amazingly, that is my fantasy non-vegan meal choice; not a big steak or a juicy burger with bacon and cheese.

If I ever returned to eating meat, eggs, and dairy, my thorns in the flesh would return as well: dyshidrotic eczema, constant sinusitis, and extreme allergies to animals.

But for over 5 years now, I’ve completely been cured of my ailments. For me, being a vegan is a choice of the head, not of the heart.

Either way, being a vegan has been part of my identity for over half a decade. Not to mention, I’ve also been a vegetarian for 6 and a half years and kosher (no pork or shellfish) for 9 and a half years.

My wife has been a vegetarian as long as I have, and both our our children have been their entire lives.

So naturally, road trips have to be a little bit more planned out for us; since we can’t just stop at the first exit we see. This month we took a road trip across northern California as we made our way to Lake Tahoe. Since I didn’t know about meal prep delivery at the time, my wife found a place called Squeeze In, which is located in the center of a nearby town called Truckee.

If your family is also plant-based like mine, then research no further. Squeeze In is where you’ll be dining next time you go to Tahoe.

I was so pleased with my veggie burger and elaborate salad. It’s such a cool environment, too.

And I really appreciated the bucket of toys the waitress brought to the table, to help occupy my tired and hungry kids as we waited for our food.

After our beautiful drive in the 2018 Mazda3 through the scenic mountains of northern California, the Squeeze In was quite the oasis for us.

I’m convinced that even if you aren’t forced to be a vegan like I am, you will still have a wonder meal and a great time at Squeeze In.

Thanks for checking our my blog; for I am the manly vegan. And you never know, maybe next time, I’ll be coming to your town.

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

Lake Tahoe Family Road Trip for Our 10th Wedding Anniversary 
Cabin Life in Truckee, California for Our 10th Wedding Anniversary 
Plant-Based Millennial Family Checks Out Vegan-Friendly Restaurant Called “Squeeze In” in Truckee, California

Cabin Life in Truckee, California for Our 10th Wedding Anniversary (Featuring the 2018 Mazda3) by Nick Shell

When you’re 37 years old, the definition of cool is to spend a few days in a totally rad cabin out in Truckee, California with your wife and 2 young kids; as part of your upcoming 10th wedding anniversary celebration.

So we left my mother-in-law’s house in Walnut Grove (elevation zero), stopped by It’s a Grind for some coffee and a Father’s Day mug, and drove the 2018 Mazda3 to Lake Tahoe (elevation 6,225).

Just about 25 minutes away from King’s Beach, our family got to experience my wife’s version of camping out in the wilderness. It’s funny because we happened to be there in the off season, so we were literally the only family staying there in the community. We had the entire mountainside all to our ourselves.

The cabin was perfect for our family. It was 3 stories tall, with the kitchen and living room taking up the middle floor.

I finally got to see Toy Story 3, as my kids’ default channel during dinner was Disney. It was touching, but still didn’t make me cry the way Inside Out or Coco did. (Oops, I wasn’t supposed to admit that!)

It didn’t take my wife and me long to agree how awesome it would be to actually live in a place like that. If only we could live in that cabin up in Lake Tahoe.

I suppose being on vacation is supposed to make you feel that way, though. It’s a glimpse of what an easier version of life would be like, where you didn’t have to work for a living and just got to take it easy, like modern Country music songs often talk about.

But this is part of the reason my wife and I work so hard, to provide adventures like this for our family to relax and enjoy.

This is some of my highlight reel; not my everyday life. But years from now, I won’t be thinking about all the hard work, I’ll be thinking about the good times like these… the cabin life.

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

Lake Tahoe Family Road Trip for Our 10th Wedding Anniversary 
Cabin Life in Truckee, California for Our 10th Wedding Anniversary 
Plant-Based Millennial Family Checks Out Vegan-Friendly Restaurant Called “Squeeze In” in Truckee, California

Lake Tahoe Family Road Trip for Our 10th Wedding Anniversary (Featuring the 2018 Mazda3) by Nick Shell

It’s somewhere between ambitious and foolish to travel from Tennessee to California for a 2 week long trip when you have 2 young kids. But since that’s exactly what we did, my wife and I decided to make the trip our official vacation to celebrate our upcoming 10th wedding anniversary on July 5th.

Going in to it, my wife and I knew it would be a mix of both challenging and rewarding, as parenting itself is in general. So we drove the 40 miles from our home in Spring Hill to the Nashville airport, then took a 5 hour flight to Sacramento, California (which included a layover in Las Vegas), then another 40 mile trip to my mother-in-law’s home in Walnut Grove; which would serve as a our base for the 2 weeks.

From there, we embarked on another 2 and a half hour journey to Truckee; where we rented a cabin (which my next blog post will focus on) just 25 minutes from King’s Beach on Lake Tahoe. Just imagine what all that must have been like with a little girl who, despite being extremely adorable, has officially begun the Terrible Two’s.

Whatever you can imagine that part of it was like… you’re probably right.

But we survived! And not only that, we truly had an amazing time as a family.

One thing that definitely made things easier for us is that we got to a drive a Mazda3 during our first week of the trip. It was the perfect size for our family and our ridiculous amount of luggage we had to take, including a travel bed for our daughter.

Yeah, we lived it up though. My son decided he wanted to go out on a pedal boat on Lake Tahoe, so my wife and I took turns with him on on the water, while our daughter played in the sand.

My wife was born and raised in northern California. As for me, I was born and raised in the tail end of the Appalachian Mountains in Fort Payne, Alabama; but Lake Tahoe reminds me so much of where I grew up.

Lake Tahoe is truly an extension of our family’s identity. It was worth the trip and I am really looking forward to returning next year; especially since my daughter will be a bit more independent.

I’ve still got more to say about our family’s trip to Tahoe, so stay tuned for two more blog posts about that, with more fun pictures…

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

Lake Tahoe Family Road Trip for Our 10th Wedding Anniversary 
Cabin Life in Truckee, California for Our 10th Wedding Anniversary 
Plant-Based Millennial Family Checks Out Vegan-Friendly Restaurant Called “Squeeze In” in Truckee, California

Vegan Friendly Review Of Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe

Earlier this summer our family took an awesome road trip/family vacation while reviewing the 2014 Toyota Highlander, which we drove round trip from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe.

FIreside Pizza Company Squaw Valley

While there in Squaw Valley, I kept a close watch on the “vegan friendliness factor” of the area; as I recently wrote a vegan friendly review of the city of Atlanta.

Vegan Friendly Review Of Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe

This review is for the growing minority of Americans who are living the plant-based life, or who are at least curious or open-minded about it, and may be travelling through Lake Tahoe; specifically, Squaw Valley, home of the 1960 Olympics.

Vegan Friendly Review Of Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe

It was this trip that our family officially realized the greatness of cheese-less veggie pizza.

Right where we stayed, at The Village at Squaw Valley is Fireside Pizza Company, my favorite restaurant of the entire Lake Tahoe area.

Fireside Pizza Company

We dined there at least 3 times during our stay. We were able to get vegan pizza; yes, the crust and sauce are vegan.

The food was delicious and fresh; and honestly, the prices were not bad at all.

Stony Ridge Vegan Friendly Review Of Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe

Venturing out of Squaw Valley just a few miles towards Lake Tahoe is Stony Ridge Uncommon Kitchen, a healthy cafe style restaurant at the back of a holistic grocery store called New Moon Natural Foods; where we were able to stock up on goods.

Stony Ridge Uncommon Kitchen

Vegan Friendly Review Of Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe

We also happened upon a Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company, which serves vegan burgers; given that you don’t order the type of bun brushed in butter. I was happy!

Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company

Close to Stony Ridge Uncommon Kitchen is a grocery story called Save Mart Supermarkets, that in the likeness of Kroger, has a vegan-friendly section.

Save Mart Supermarkets

They even had my favorite Kombucha… on sale!

vegan Kombucha Lake Tahoe

Between all those options, we had everything we needed.

I will say that we also dined at a Mexican place called El Toro Bravo, but they didn’t understand what “vegan” means.

El Toro Truckee

Their “vegan burrito” (that I invented and ordered off menu) included cheese on the 1st go-around. They got it right the 2nd time, though.

Also, I verified that their chips are fried in vegetable oil, not lard.

So yes, you can make the trip to Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe a plant-based one. Hopefully you have found my vegan friendly review to be helpful… or at leastly oddly entertaining!

I Found A Trail And At The End Was You

June 26, 2014 at 11:11 pm , by

3 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack,

While on our summer annual vacation in Lake Tahoe this past week, we stayed at a resort called The Village at Squaw Valley; where they held the 1960 Olympics.

I’ve never been an athlete or even into watching organized sports. I mountain bike and run- those are my weekly physical activities.

And whenever I get the chance, I love to hike!

It just so happens that where we stayed was surrounded by huge, hikeable mountains. So for a couple of mornings, your 19 year-old cousin Matt and I decided to scale the face of the mountains; along the way of the ski lifts. Sure, there were service roads and “official” trails, but for us, they simply served as landmarks for us.

As you can see, we helped save a baby snake from most likely being soon run over by a service vehicle. We even hiked high enough to touch the snow at the top of the mountain; as well as to the very “spaceshippy” ski lift operation building.

After you heard about all the excitement, you began asking me, “Daddy, can I go on a hike with you? Can we find a trail?”

Granted, there were no trails appropriate for a 3 and a half year-old little boy, but you and I found some anyway.

One included the entryway to a restaurant called Plumpjack’s, which had a cool waterfall and a bridge. There was also a “spaceship” at the base of the mountain that you and I were able to check out.

We also “hiked” along the stone pathway leading to a small pond where you got to throw rocks until your heart was content.

It was one of the most memorable parts of our vacation, spending that father and son time with you.

Of course, the flattering part of this story for me is that you wanted to “hike a trail” with me because you observed that’s “what the guys are doing.”

I love it that you wanted to follow the model I unintentionally set for you.

Just like the lyrics of the theme song to “Who’s The Boss?” say, “Found a trail and at the end was you.”

That line not only serves as the perfect way to summarize the end of our summer vacation, but also something else…

Make sure you don’t miss my next letter.

 

Love,

Daddy