Got back from my annual vacation with my parents yesterday.

The trip down went well, main problem was getting started a bit late. The chaos of the potential schedule changing on a day-by-day basis meant that I never really worked out just what I wanted to bring with me, so I was thinking of little things I ‘forgot’ all the way down. Oh, and I got lost a block from my parents. Well, not lost, I knew where I was, I knew they were close, it was just that when struggling to read the directions in the dark I missed a step.

The new place is very, very nice. It’s much larger, brand new, and they got to choose a bunch of options in the floorplan, so it’s personalized to them. One problem: the guest bedroom (which is normally an office-ish space for my Mom) is on the opposite side of the house from the guest bathroom (which is next to my Dad’s den/gaming room, which would ordinarily be a pair of bedrooms, so it actually does make sense).

A neighbor took photos of the entire process of taking the old mobile home out and putting in the new ‘manufactured home‘ (which seems to boil down to ‘post-1975 mobile home’), including a few taken from his roof, looking down at the process. Great reference, and it might be nice to get a copy of the CD he did.

Technical duties were limited this year. Figured out the TV/VCR/DVD setup, which involved examining the back of the TV and swearing at the manual, which was done entirely as guide to the remote; never once diagramming what connections the TV itself had and only in passing mentioning that the extra inputs are treated as extra channels on the last page. Set the router up physically in hopes that everything will do its job right when the DSL is finally activated. Oh, and I helped with a neighbor’s (same one as above) software difficulties. Thankfully, he had most of it figured out, I generally just had to describe what a Video CD was (he had a CD-burner but not a DVD-burner), and finding something that could play one to test (only my Dad’s computer—with Vista—completely got it).

The game room is still being set up. I helped my Dad put together a bunch of the short cheap prefab bookcases. These will be the base of the table. Since that comes a bit later, we were left to networked computer games for gaming this year. We ended up going through a couple of Age of Wonders 2 scenarios, and had great fun beating up on the computer together.

We took a small trip up to an area just north of Cherry Valley, that has lots of apple groves. We missed the end of apple season, so most of the town was closed up (very seasonal). We ate at the restaurant that was open, and had very good apple cider and pie (the main course wasn’t bad either).

On Saturday, we visited my Aunt Ruth in Fallbrook. And took a look around my old home town. It’s in much better shape than I expected. It seems that the fires were very fast ones that just burned out the underbrush and only singed the trees. There’s burned off hillsides, and trees where all the leaves are brown and dead, and untouched areas in between.

My old place wasn’t near the fires, but Smudge’s was inside the fire area. It’s perfectly fine, with a grove that didn’t exist ten years ago in the front yard. Not far away, on the south side of Mission, the entire hill is black and charred, but the little Valentine/Capra area is fine.

In between those two trips, I visited Elaina, Mike and Rowan for about a day and a half. They’re doing well. (Or at least, as well as can be.) Rowan (now 3) still remembers me from last year (mostly for puzzles and seeing Christmas lights in downtown Riverside with everyone), and is still cutely demanding in that way that only small children can manage. Still extremely bright and much taken with “Uncle James”, which does make visiting with Elaina and Mike themselves a bit harder.

The drive home went well. Got started on time, got home early. Had a lot of unpacking to do (ended up with a lot more books than I started with). It rained a lot Saturday, but was clear, if a bit damp the next day. Lots of picturesque snow-covered mountains to see. In fact, the snow line got down to about 3700 feet in the Grapevine, giving me a much closer look at snow than I’m used to. And I could see exactly where the lee-side of all the slope were.