It Happened in Monterey


Okay, I admit that the last-minute trip to Monterey may have been a hair-brained idea. But our little crew needed to do something a bit hair-brained. Desperately. Who would have known that our trip was doomed?

Erica and I were going a bit stir crazy after a week of the stomach flu working its way through our kids. So when Thanksgiving week arrived and the kids had a break from school, we determined that we’d set off on a pre-Thanksgiving adventure. It must include a car ride and an overnight stay to be fully efficacious, we figured.

After knocking Yosemite off the list due to a rainy forecast we turned our attention to Monterey on the Northern California coast. Sunny, unseasonal 74 degree weather, ocean vistas, and a Ghirardelli Ice Cream shop were all within reach.

We booked a cheap hotel and packed bags for the whole family. After all, we’d leave the next morning. We even cancelled our kids’ dentist appointments for the morning so we could set off that much earlier.

I’m not sure our kids knew what hit them that morning as we whisked them away into our van. We tantalized them with visions of the beach and a bag full of snacks, so nobody complained.

A few hours later and we were there…


A family with small children walks toward FIsherman's Wharf in Monterey, CA.
Beginning at the Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, without any sand in our shoes.


Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey is pretty much only Clam Chowder restaurants. Which is awesome.


A little boy looks through a chrome, coin-operated viewfinder.
Liam kept an eye on things. Or he would have if he had a quarter for the machine.


Colorful ship's boats moored at Monterey's fisherman's wharf.
I got the feeling this bird was the only passenger this boat had seen in a decade.


A young boy looks frustrated as he holds a restaurant menu.
We took a seat after wandering up and down the wharf. Ashton’s patience was wearing thin. Or was his hunger wearing fat?


Two children look at a sign that instructs them not to feed the wildlife.
I suspect this sign was planting the idea more than it was dissuading them from it.


A single bird sits upon a rock just offshore from Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey, CA.
Unfed wildlife.


A young boy looks grumpy as he lounges against a window shaped like a ship's steering wheel.
Moody shot.


A young boy in a plaid shirt stands against a rock wall in Monterey, CA.
When your kid volunteers to pose for you. I think the thumb indicates he’s happy about standing against a rock wall. I love this guy.


A portrait of three siblings with Fisherman's Wharf in the background at Monterey, CA.
A rare sighting of my three kids embracing at Fisherman’s Shoreline Park.


A mom leans over to capture a photo of kids on a beach at Fisherman's Shoreline Park.
Here’s what most of the Oswald sibling photos become by the time we’re finished. She’s one patient mamacita.


A woman look at her phone while standing on the beach at Fisherman's Shoreline Park.
Checking the shot. And wondering how long she wanted to hold the shells the kids were collecting.


A young boy leads his sister and mom up a stair case at Fisherman's Shoreline Park.
Who’s leading who? Evidently our youngest knows where to go…in a city he’s never before visited.


Landscape photograph at the trailhead of Marina State Beach.
I had promised everyone a trip to see some sand dunes, which excited the kids despite not knowing what sand dunes were.


Three kids run down a sandy pathway in their shoes.
They started down the path with shoes on…


Three young children walk barefoot down a sandy path at Marina State Beach near Seaside, CA.
…Until shoes became inconvenient.


Landscape photograph of sand dunes at Marina State Beach near Seaside, CA.
Okay, okay, I was excited about the dunes too. For photographic reasons.


A black and white photograph of a mother and child walking down a sand dune to the beach at Marina State Beach near Seaside, CA.
We didn’t quite know what to expect when visiting Marina State Beach in late fall…


A sweeping vista of Marina State Beach near Seaside, CA.
…And what we got was stunning.


Portrait of a young boy dressed in plaid at the beach.
Ashton had given up on being exasperated and settled for being plain ol’ happy.


Two children play in the and at Marina State Beach with Monterey, CA in the background.
The joys of sand.


Black and white photograph of three silhouetted children stand in a line leading toward the waves at Marina State Beach.


A little girl taunts the ocean waves from the edge of the water.
Kali taunted the waves as though she had any hope of staying dry.


A young boy runs up to the beach fto avoid a crashing wave.
Running into/from waves is what kids are made for.


A black and white photo of a brother hugging his big sister on the beach.
Totally overexposed, and I’m alright with that.


A brother and sister run from the waves at Marina State Beach.
High-tailing it at high tide.


A mother leans over to kiss her little boy as she warms him at the beach.
Unscripted solid gold.


A mother watches her son try to stay warm by hiding inside her sweatshirt.
That’s one way to keep warm.


A silhouette of a brother and sister jumping into ocean waves.
Just 30 minutes before we told them not to get too close to the water. Kids: 50, Parents: 0.


Black and white photograph of kids standing on a beach as the waves recede.
When the water takes a turn running away from the kids.


Seagulls gather at the shoreline of Marina State Beach with Monterey, California in the background.
The gulls play all the same games as my kids. I’ll bet there was a meal in it for them, though.


A young boy leaves watery footprints along the beach as he runs toward a group of seasgulls.
One last charge along the shoreline before the long walk back to the car.


A landscape photograph of a man and his dog atop a sand dune at Marina State Beach in Seaside, CA.
A boy and his dog stood atop a faraway dune as we trekked back up the path.


A landscape photograph of the succeulent plant life growing on the sand dunes at Marina State Beach.
For all the crushing weight of sand, some beautiful plant life had grown up underfoot there at Marina State Beach.


A yougn boy attempts to dump sand out of his shoe while walking a sandy path.
A vain, final effort to get sand out of his shoe before getting in the car. Parents, you know what I’m talkin’ ’bout.

So wait. Why did I so ominously claim that our trip was doomed?

Everything went swimmingly up until bedtime that night, when Erica’s stomach began to churn. Was it bad chowder? Were the Thai Drunken Noodles we had at dinner spoiled?

Erica started fighting her own bout of the stomach flu in our small hotel room with three hyper kids. The opposite of a getaway. We couldn’t outrun that stomach bug no matter how far away from home we drove. This made for one of the longest nights of Erica’s life.

Morning finally arrived. We called off our plans to explore Cannery Row–and yes, even the Ghirardelli Ice Cream shop–to get Erica back home to rest. The kids understood, since we still made good on our promise to let them take a quick dip in the hotel pool before leaving. We dried off and piled back into the van for our drive back home. The Oswalds left Monterey just as quickly as they had come.

We had no shortage of adventure despite the fact our trip was just a sliver of what we had hoped. Well, maybe I shouldn’t speak for Erica, should I?

We’ll do better next time, babe!


What are some of the best memories you’ve made in Monterey? Sound off in the comments below…



  • Reply

    Looked like an amazing little trip until the stomach flu…. Beautiful shots! Beautiful family! Love the way you tell a story, so many talents!

    • P.J. Oswald 12-12-2017

      Thanks so much for the kind words, Nichole. I’m definitely blessed to be dad and husband to this crew!

  • Leave a comment