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EAT, DRINK & PLAY   -   GET OUT OF TOWN
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Sometimes you just need to hide out. Find a place where you can hole up for a few days and not change any diapers, pick squished bananas out of a high chair, or utter the phrases, "Stop hitting your sister," and "I don't know where you left your shoes."
If you have your own shower, a king-size bed and a hot stone massage, can you really call it camping?

That's debatable. At El Capitan Canyon they call it "glamping," aka glamour camping.
My brother-in-law Javier had been talking for years about putting together a weekend mountain biking trip to the Central Coast to ride his favorite trail.

But like a lot of "guys-trip" ideas us 30-something husbands and fathers discuss, it got lost in the shuffle of our more mundane weekend duties. That is until my other brother-in-law, Tim, got his report date for Marine Corps Basic Training.
As far as timing goes, scheduling Valentine's Day in February was a brilliant move. I don't know who makes these decisions, but I'm sure it's a woman.

She undoubtedly scanned the calendar for a time when men would be free from obvious distractions. February certainly is the obvious choice. The Super Bowl is a distant memory. March Madness is still weeks away. What a perfect time for a girlie holiday!
If your mother, or mother-in-law, is anything like my mom, then she expected you to have your Christmas list compiled and submitted weeks ago.

And if you are a son, or son-in-law, like me, you have more urgent priorities during the holiday season - like making your college football bowl picks for the office pool.
Given that our nation is at war and in the high season of spin from another presidential campaign, it seemed fitting to visit the Norton Simon Museum and see their current featured exhibit.
Maybe I'm getting old. I've forgotten how much helmets make you sweat. How hard your body works to keep a small motorized vehicle from spinning out of control. How acceleration leads to exhilaration.
My kids learned a very important physics lesson on the shore of Barrett Lake near Mammoth: bigger rocks make bigger splashes.

Skipping stones is a favorite lakeside activity, but a shortage of the round flat rocks needed for skipping forced the kids to improvise. They soon discovered the satisfying kerplonks, splashes and ripples that come from simply throwing rocks in the lake. And when they figured out I could throw rocks higher than they could - and achieve bigger splashes - they scoured the shore for the largest stones they could bring me.
It was gold that first brought people to the mountains east of San Diego, and led to the founding of the town of Julian. Today they come for shopping, dining, relaxation and apples. The annual apple harvest draws thousands of visitors on fall weekends.
OK, so they don't know my name at Burbank Bar & Grille. But like Cheers, it's a place where you can feel comfortable.

BB&G occupies the top floor of a building overlooking the corner of Olive and San Fernando in Downtown Burbank. So if you're feeling spry, you can climb the stairs, but if you want to enter in a more leisurely fashion, you can take the lift.
I may have a big problem on my hands in 11 years. My oldest daughter, 5-year-old Laurel, likes to go fast, but she can't necessarily steer. I learned this at Legoland California in Carlsbad, and it has frightening implications for her teenage years.

One of our first rides of the day was on Coastersaurus, a small dino-themed roller coaster that served to whet Laurel's thrill appetite. She wanted to ride The Dragon as many times as she could, and we took three consecutive trips on the quick coaster that features tight, banking turns. From there it was onto the Aquazone Wave Racers, a spinning ride that goes, you guessed it, fast. Those were followed by the Lego Technic Coaster, another hand-raising, hair-blowing experience.
Editor's note: This is the second installment of Eric's two-part series on exploring San Diego.

I may have a big problem on my hands in 11 years. My oldest daughter, 5-year-old Laurel, likes to go fast, but she can't necessarily steer. I learned this at Legoland California in Carlsbad, and it has frightening implications for her teenage years.

One of our first rides of the day was on Coastersaurus, a small dino-themed roller coaster that served to whet Laurel's thrill appetite. She wanted to ride The Dragon as many times as she could, and we took three consecutive trips on the quick coaster that features tight, banking turns. From there it was onto the Aquazone Wave Racers, a spinning ride that goes, you guessed it, fast. Those were followed by the Lego Technic Coaster, another hand-raising, hair-blowing experience.
Upon discovering what we know today as San Diego, explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo deemed it "a very good enclosed port." The same spirit of discovery gripped my 3-year-old son on his first visit to the area some 460 years later.
Sometimes you need a place to go where you can hide out for the weekend and do as little as possible.

April and I were in need of that with the impending arrival of our fourth child. So, with the kids safely deposited in the care of my mother-in-law, we headed for Summerland one Friday night. In little more than an hour, we found ourselves in the perfect place - the Inn on Summer Hill.
Huddled in the pre-dawn chill just outside the Coliseum in south Los Angeles, everyone is a little anxious. Echoing booms pierce the sky overhead and there is a collective twitch in the crowd.
"Because it is there." That was mountaineer George Mallory's answer when asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest.

The same reason can be applied to Mt. Whitney, half the height of Everest, yet still the tallest mountain in the continental United States. But an even better answer is, "Because you can."
Drive around Prescott, Arizona, and you'll see a small city similar to any other in America. They've got a mall, a Wal-Mart and a new Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse.
Food superlatives are admittedly a subjective topic. Everybody has an opinion about where to find the best fill-in-the-blank. Whether it's sushi, steak, pizza or donuts, we all make our cases about who does what best.

Sometimes the food speaks for itself, and when it's been saying the same thing for more than 60 years, we ought to listen. Such is the case with The Apple Pan, a legendary Los Angeles lunch counter with devoted followers who, like me, will argue the eatery serves the best burgers anywhere.
Next time you're staring at that tropical screensaver on your monitor, and counting the days until your next visit to the islands, don't get depressed.

Yes, that next vacation may be far off in the future, but a little taste of aloha is closer than you think. It's just over the hill in Malibu at Duke's Restaurant and Barefoot Bar.

The eatery is inspired by legendary Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku, who was appointed Hawaii's "Official Ambassador of Aloha" in 1960 after the islands achieved statehood. Duke's is part of the family of T S Restaurants, the same company that operates two other Duke's in Honolulu and Lihue, along with Kimo's, a landmark in Maui's Lahaina.
The trip looked like a disaster in the making. We left late on Friday afternoon. We were headed for a campground we'd never visited. The drive took longer than expected. It was the maiden voyage with our new tent trailer. My wife's sense of foreboding grew with the elevation as we drove toward Huntington Lake outside Fresno on a windy mountain road. It was midnight when we finally pulled into the Rancheria Campground and started searching for a site.
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