I forgot to mention this in the giant wall of text that is the OP. This isn't meant to be political, just some more facts.
My wife was born and raised in CA. For all intents and purposes she is a left wing dirty grass smoking hippy, and I dearly love her. I'm more to the center of the spectrum myself, but she's about as left as it gets. My Grandpa is an absolute hard-line right winger. The guy supports Rush Limbaugh and is more than a little racist (he's almost 70 and from the deep south). I'm hoping everybody plays nice, but there's the potential for some sparks to fly. I'm considering getting them in a room and yelling something about abortion before hoofing it to the bike and trying to outride the explosion that should follow.