We arrived in San Francisco early enough on our first day out to explore the Fisherman's Wharf area. I first made us walk up to Ghirardelli Square where we enjoyed an ice cream sundae among the throngs of tourists like ourselves at the Ghirardelli store. We then walked down to the waterfront for some photo-taking. The skies were clear and blue, and there was no haze - Alcatraz looked so close out in the bay.
We were thwarted from eating our dinner of choice (at Boudin's Bakery for some sourdough delights) by a nasty power outage which lasted most the evening. We wandered into a pizzeria during one of the fleeting powered moments, and were able to place our order between power-outages. I took it all in stride, mostly amused by the silliness of it all, but when I was shaken awake by an earthquake at just before 5am the next morning I swiftly decided I had had just about enough of San Francisco for this trip.
Earthquakes aside, Day 2 was pretty wonderful. We set out early and had the city streets mostly to ourselves as we drove out towards the Golden Gate Bridge and beyond over to Highway 1. We stopped by the Muir Beach Overlook and had a chance to witness the amazing views all by ourselves.
Our next stop was Point Reyes. We got there early, before the staircase down to the Lighthouse was opened. It would not have mattered much anyhow, as there's no way I would've been able to successfully ascend roughly 30-floors worth of those steps on the way back up. And it was really foggy, so we couldn't even see the lighthouse in the distance, we could only hear the foghorn. But we spotted a bunch of deer and their fawns, so the small hike in the morning fog was worth it.
The rest of the day was full of winding country roads and breathtaking ocean views (Sonoma Coast State Beach/Goat Rock was particularly spectacular). Late in the afternoon, after breezing through the redwood forests near Hales Grove, we landed at the Benbow Inn.
From the Benbow Inn we took off north on the 101 and meandered through the Avenue of the Giants - a wonderful display of those mighty Redwood trees. My photos could not do the forest proper justice. I don't remember much else from that day other than the fact that we crossed the border into Oregon much earlier than we expected.
We stayed that night in Shady Cove - a small recreation town along the Rogue River, which our motel room overlooked. We dined at a "family restaurant" with a Mexican theme (think smalltime El Torito or something), and thankfully the food was much better than anticipated.
They don't let you pump your own gas in Oregon, so this morning was my first experience of having someone else pump it for me. It's a strange thing. But then off we went for Crater Lake. I was worried that the drive up to Coos Bay was going to be too long with the visit to Crater Lake factored in, but I ended up being way wrong about that.
In hindsight, we should have spent more time up at Crater Lake. Have I used the word "spectacular" too much? 'Cuz it totally fits. The water in the volcanic lake is such an intense shade of blue that in some of the photos I took it looks like I'm shooting trees against a very blue sky, but in fact it's just the vast lake beneath them. At one of the viewpoints we had a chance to come to the aid of some unprepared tandem cyclists who made use of our sunblock and remaining bottled water. They both needed it far more than we did.
I took this morning in Coos Bay as an opportunity to sleep in a bit. We had made such great time the day before I felt like it wouldn't put us too much behind. Once we got out to the proper coast we were again greeted by a thick layer of fog. We stopped at the Seal Caves - known for being the "largest sea cave in the world" (I don't actually know this to be a fact).
A few other high points of the day were when we stopped at the Tillamook cheese factory (Cheese! Hurray!) and the beaches at Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park (both featuring famous scenery from The Goonies). Before long we were in Astoria, just below the Washington border, where we stayed for the night.
The first stops of the day were Goonies-related: the county jail where the Fratellis escaped and the Goonies house where poor Chunk was forced to do the truffle-shuffle. Originally, we were going to do a straight shot to the 5 so that we could be in Seattle as soon as possible, but our temp housing wasn't going to be ready until 3pm, so we decided to take a more scenic route. We crossed over a very long bridge in Astoria and crossed over the border to Washington State, headed, in a roundabout way, for Aberdeen for lunch.
From there on it was just a big push to the end of the line in Issaquah, where our temp housing is located. We had to make a quick stop near the Microsoft campus to pickup our keys, but we were nestled into our temporary abode by around 4pm.
I'd stop here, but unfortunately, there's more to tell. After we got settled in a bit we decided to step out to stock up on groceries and maybe to find a wifi access point, as our rental place hadn't been setup for internet yet. After an extended session of shopping at Albertson's, my car started idly roughly and bottomed out while idling in the parking lot in front of a Starbucks. And then it would not start back up. After I did a bit of panicking, Erik called up AAA and we were towed back to our apartment to figure things out.
This day was spent trying to pickup the pieces of my dead MINI. Erik called his relocation contact to get a rental car so we could get around, and we found a nearby Tully's coffeeshop with free wifi so that we could research places to get my MINI fixed.
It just so happens we're in the AAA-allowed towing radius of the only auto shop with a MINI factory-trained mechanic on staff in the entire region. So my MINI took it's second ride on a flatbed towtruck in as many days over to Eastside Bavarian to get diagnosed.
Day 8 - Today
Turns out the fuel pump is shot, and the filter should probably be replaced as well. It's going to cost me over $900 to get it fixed, but gosh, having a non-starting MINI is one of the worst feelings in the world, so it needs to be done. Other than that, we now have internet access at the apartment, my MINI is going to be fixed, I have a third (and in-person) interview at a really exciting company setup for next Tuesday, and we should be going out to look at permanent apartments sometime next week. Things aren't going perfectly, but I'm still pretty stoked about the whole thing.
I've mentioned this only briefly, but Erik and I traveled up to Toronto in mid-August, and I wanted to share a few of my memories from the trip:
1) I am very afraid of heights. This is no longer a fleeting thought, but a hard fact. We spent an unfortunately-overcast Saturday afternoon at the CN Tower, which is the world's tallest freestanding structure on land. Just being that high up is enough to make me dizzy, but the glass panels in the observation deck made me shiver. And seeing Erik jump on them in an effort to indicate to me that they were structurally-sound threw me into pure panic-mode.
2) We spotted a lot of Amish folk while we were up there. I had never encountered any in-person before this, but I guess there's a small population up in Ontario who, just like everyone else, like to go to the zoo to see all the cool animals (especially wombats!). I had no idea.
3) I had a moment of culture shock in Toronto that continues to boggle my mind: the Canadian version of a Shirley Temple. I'm not a big consumer of alcoholic beverages, so I tend to opt for Shirley Temples when out for a nice dinner. Or any dinner in a restaurant, really. So when I received my "Shirley Temple" at the Wayne Gretsky Restaurant near the SkyDome, I was in for a shock. It looked... cloudy. And bizarrely-orange. Upon tasting it, I couldn't quite put my finger on what the ingredients might be. This was definitely not just Sprite and grenadine. Upon questioning our aloof Canadian waitress, we found that they add... prepare for this... orange juice to the drink. WTF? I tried ordering again the next night and received the same thing, however then I decided to send it back and asked them to hold the OJ, please -- which reminds me...
4) Before making the trip, I had done some research into what food establishments might be fun to dine in. Among those was a steakhouse chain called The Keg. Erik and I are always up for some good prime rib or filet mignon. I wasn't particularly expecting much, but I gotta tell you, our meal there was quite-possibly the best meal I've ever had! From ordering a proper American-style Shirley Temple, to the bread and crab/spinach dip appetizer, to the wonderful bacon-wrapped filet with garlic mashed potatoes, to the cheesecake dessert - we spent most of the night making "wow" eyes at eachother, mouths filled with such delicious food-stuffs.
Overall, the trip was a lot of fun. As usual, I spent far too-much time on my feet, which led to a lot of pain, but that's just because I'm horribly out of shape. Toronto was really nice, and I'd love to get back up there again to take in the waterfront, and some of the outerlying parks and ethnic neighborhoods. But there are so many other places I've got to see before redoing Toronto. We'll see what happens!
P.S. - You can see more of my photos from the trip in this Flickr set. Thanks!
Yesterday was rather long. We woke around 8am, packed up Erik's MINI and had brakfast at the Old Smokey's Pancake House right across the street from the motel we were staying at. We departed from Williams, AZ at around 10:30am and headed out back to Kingman, AZ to gas up and take the Route 66 offshoot that heads out to the infamous mining town of Oatman - a far-out little old-western town where wild burros roam the main street looking to be fed carrots by tourists.
We stopped in Oatman for awhile, hung out with the cute donkeys and had a very-mediocre lunch at the Olive Oatman Restaurant & Saloon, where we were able to cool off for awhile, watch some bearded cowboy sing a Johnny Cash song (among other country classics), and see some of the gunfight re-enactors (we, unfortunately, didn't witness one) dismantle their guns for some awed 10-year-olds. We then departed to get back to the 40.
We got to Needles, CA not too long after that, but Highway 40 outside of Needles SUUUUUCKED. There's some road contruction going on, causing one of the lanes on each side of the two-lane highway to be closed - and this alone caused a 7-mile backup, resulting in a wait of at least an hour in nearly-stopped traffic. Erik came quite close to a meltdowm, but luckily the traffic got moving just in time.
Knowing that the ride back on Highway 15 would probably be just as horrible, we decided to take a little adventurous detour and try to hop on the 58 West towards the City of Mojave to link up to the 14 instead of battling through the 15 out of Barstow. I believe we made a wise choice. We were back to my house before 9pm, and chowing on Del Taco, which gave Erik a wee bit of time to rest-up before having to backtrack out to his house in Studio City.
This weekend was a fantastic time. I have lots of photos (over 700) to sort through before I can upload any of them, but you can expect to start seeing those up on Flickr starting tonight. I love that Erik and I are able to holiday a bit this summer. Toronto was great, this quick trip to the Grand Canyon was surprisingly refreshing, and our upcoming trip up to Mammoth in a couple of weeks is going to really help us get through this next year.
Coming to you live from the eastern-most Motel 6 in Williams, AZ! No, the Motel 6 doesn't offer internet access -- I'm using a free wifi connection provided by the nearby Grand Canyon Railway Depot. Shhhh, don't tell them! In fact, I can hear one of their classic locomotives chu-chu-chugging away as I type.
Today was a long day. The alarm went off at 6am, and I spent about an hour refusing to leave the bed. We had a nice little "continental breakfast" offered by the motel, and then made our way from Kingman, AZ out to, well, it feels like everywhere.
We left Kingman and then stopped in Flagstaff to gas up. After that, we made our way from Interstate 40 to Route 89 - which would take us through the San Francisco Peaks area (in Coconino National Forest) and ultimately into Hopi and Navajo land. We wanted to make an effort towards having a glimpse at Monument Valley, but we got as far up as Tuba City and decided to turn around and head back down to Route 64, which would bring us to the Grand Canyon from the east instead of the south.
We rolled up into Grand Canyon National Park just after noon, and had our first glimpses at the Desert View vista point. Now, I've been to the Grand Canyon previously, but this had been Erik's first time. I don't believe he was at all disappointed. The weather was warm, but the breeze was cool - and while the sun beat down on me pretty hard, it wasn't enough to be too uncomfortable. There were also a few clumps of gorgeous poofy clouds tomake the scenery that much more favorable.
As some of you may already know - I have a pretty big fear of heights. More specifically - I'm afraid of seeing people (or experiencing myself) fall from great heights. And boy, did people allow themselves the opportunity of that possibility! Something about huge canyons and 2000 foot falls lures people to do the most idiotically dangerous things. Barely-clothed young women from the UK wearing flip flops getting precipitously close to the edge of a huge drop in order to get a fun snapshot for their myspace accounts - and youngish hippies in Birkenstocks scrambling up rocky outcroppings far beyond the railing in order to please a relative on safer ground - who ultimately drops their camera anyways.
When I see these people get close, and slip a little and giggle, or step on a flat rock that tilts underfoot when pressure is applied, my heart jumps in my chest (you know, that feeling when a rush of adrenaline races into your bloodstream) and I have to turn around and try to forget where I am. But it wasn't all bad. I was able to get within a foot of an edge, while keeping my sneakered-feet steadied firmly behind a rock and leaning backwards. And Erik helped me stay alive a few extra years by not performing any acts of stupidity himself.
So we did the normal Grand Canyon-touristy-thing: We simply drove around to the various vista points, and shot off lots of pics and stood stunned at the immensity of everything. And then we tried to get near the visitor's center. And then the traffic backed up beyond belief. And then we decided to turn around and head to the new motel in Williams, AZ. It was a good choice. The park was being inundated from the south by hundreds of private vehicles and tour buses, at a complete stop for miles down the road before the south park entrance. We were mighty glad we didn't try to leave this morning to make the trip. The wait would have proved extremely displeasing.
So we got to the motel early, checked in, and walked down the main drag here to find a place to eat. The steakhouse was closed so we opted for a pizza place instead. It was quality, filling stuff. And now we're exhaused and will be going to sleep. We've got a loooooong trip ahead of us tomorrow!
The idea of spending a weekend laying around watching movies was appealing in a sense, but when Erik asked me what we were going to do this holiday weekend earlier this week, for some reason I responded with "Let's go to the Grand Canyon!"
Of course, I had no idea he would think it was a good idea. We already had a standing appointment to service our MINIs first thing this morning. Originally, we intended to leave early (4am-ish) on Sunday morning - drive straight over to the Canyon, stay the night in Williams, AZ, and then trek back on Monday. Well, our MINI appointments went quicker than expected, and we zoomed back to my place to search for a room for Saturday night.
We decided to not go too crazy, and settled on Kingman, AZ for our first stop for the weekend. And it took us, wow, 7 hours to get here? I can't even remember. I'm so insanely tired that I can't think. Erik is being crazy and wants us to wake up at 6am tomorrow morning to start tomorrow's journey to the Grand Canyon and possibly beyond. And I'm being bratty and complaining about it. But I should stop and get to bed. Wayyyyy tired. Wayyyyy incoherent post.
I've got a long list of places I'd like to travel to. New Zealand, Japan, Italy - you know, those requisite places everyone wants to go before they kick over. But on my list, there are a number of bizarre, outtathaway, and, oddly, mostly cold places that most people haven't even heard of, much less would want to spend their hard-earned vacation time visiting.
One of those spots I'd like to go to is Svalbard. I found this place simply by looking at a globe and finding some island, off the coast of Norway, which seemed above everything else. And it was! Svalbard is a territory of Norway, and it lies WAAAY up in the sea between Greenland and northern Europe. It's so cold there sometimes they don't even bury people (the ground is too hard with permafrost) - they blow them up!! (this might not be true, but heck, it sounds cool!)
There's really not much in the way of attractions in Svalbard. There's a gallery featuring a local's artwork, there's a museum containing mostly mining equipment, and there's a church, which also seems to double as a cultural arts center as well. No, the main draw of Svalbard, for me anyways, is how remote it seems, how stark the landscape is, and there you will find the northernmost city in the freakin' world!
...Oh, and all the polar bears!
Looks like most people get their kicks up there by going on dog-sledding trips, or hiking out in the tundra, or even taking little boat-cruises around the islands. It looks HOT. Well, I'm speaking figuratively here, 'cuz ain't nuthin' on Svalbard is "hot"... ever. My goodness, have I gone mad? What on earth am I thinking, wanting to go up there? I should just call it even with the north after going to Iceland!
*Whew!* I just finished editing, uploading, and tagging the remaining photos I have for the London 2005 site. They're hosted over on our Flickr site for the trip. I'm pretty proud of what we have up there.
Well then, I suppose all of you know by now that Erik and I are travelling to London and other UK sites starting next Tuesday. And being as geeky as we are, of COURSE we needed a blog just for it!
Go ahead and check it out! London 2005
I'm finally back from a long weekend in San Diego. To try to write about it all in detail would take far more energy than I have the capacity to muster right now, so I'll leave you these few tidbits:
1. I pet a dolphin.
2. I was shat upon by a lorikeet.
3. I pet a dolphin!!!
5. Emperor penguins are cool.
5. Our tram tour at the Wild Animal Park was narrated live by Martha Stewart*.
6. I PET A FRICKIN' DOLPHIN!
*Okay, maybe it wasn't actually Martha Stewart, but it was her voice double, and I have the video to prove it!
So yeah, good times. I apologize for my brevity, but let me make up for it with this photo of me being attacked by lorikeets:
OH. And one last thing. I mentioned above that emperor penguins are cool. Let me just point you in the direction of this movie trailer I found this evening for the documentary March of the Penguins. Best film of the year so far? I think it just might be. Looks like it at least has best documentary all wrapped up. And come on... penguins!!
While preparing for my 10-day road trip up to Washington State with Erik (only two weeks away!), I’ve stumbled upon a new hobby: Google-driving – utilizing Google Maps to take a mini (or massive) road trip without leaving your chair. I’d like to think that I coined the phrase, “Google-driving”, but a quick search dashed my dreams of internet super-stardom, as it’s been mentioned before here. *Sigh*. Such is my life.
Anyhow, in searching for routes to various locations, I’ve been having a lot of fun switching between the Map and the Satellite views while following any particular road – the 5, the 101, the 1, the 395, etc. I’ve seen the scars of the lumber industry in Washington. I’ve seen Crater Lake in Oregon in all its deep-blue (as it’s known as the bluest lake on earth) glory. I’ve followed a road through the snow-capped mountains in North Cascades National Park. I’ve crossed the Golden Gate Bridge over the pale, reflective brownish-green waters of the Pacific, as speedboats sped by on the sea below, leaving their white wakes.
It’s a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with the geography of places you haven’t seen before. And it’s an even greater way to spend your idle time at work, waiting for the rush orders you know are going to come in, as it’s a Friday afternoon – and that’s what clients do to mess it all up.
Waking up on Saturday mornings almost always sucks. Especially when the alarm goes off at 6:05am. Who in their right mind wakes up that early? Well, you do when you're about to be whisked away for the weekend to Monterey Bay, to visit with the fishies.
I may have been awakened by the alarm at 6:05am on the morning of March 12th, but that doesn't mean I actually got up at that time. The daily virtual-snooze scenario took place like it does everyday... awakened by the alarm only to quickly reprogram the cellphone for a later alarm time. It's funny when I set it wrong in my morning haze. Being a half-hour late is always fun.
I dragged myself out of bed just shy of 6:30am, which was fine. Erik was to be picking me up at 7am, and I had prepared everything save for a few key toiletries the previous night. I doddled and paced and checked and checked again as I stood waiting for Erik's call.
The ring came right on time, and I told my pops "See you Sunday night!" as I ambled out the door, ready for the road. After making our way out of Simi (thank goodness!), we stopped, briefly, so that Erik could fulfill his morning caffeine quota at a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf somewhere in Oxnard, and breakfast was just a little bit further up the 101, at the Summerland Beach Cafe.
Funny thing about driving a MINI anywhere - you're bound to get comments. And we met that goal early, standing in line on the steps of the cafe, while waiting to be seated. Something about someone owning a classic MINI in Lebanon, and hijinks involving the tipping of said MINI.
We were seated at a small table directly under an autographed photo of Mayim Bialik. Score! The breakfast erred on the side of perfect, with some of the best bacon I've had in years. Then it was back in the MINI to figure out which way we were going to head next.
The plan was to take the 154 to the 246 through to Solvang, and further north to the infamous Ostrich Farm. The weekend was mostly overcast, but as we crested the 154 to drop into the Santa Ynez Valley, the fog disappeared and we were greeted with blue, blue skies. Erik successfully navigated us to a nice view of the Cold Springs Bridge. After copious photo-taking, we were back on the road, towards Solvang and the ostriches.
Emus and ostriches may be smelly, but they are also almost endlessly entertaining, especially when your driving companion insists upon feeding said dirty, dirty birds. The emus looked absolutely ferocious and I would not have attempted to pet one even if Erik offered me a nice shiny new quarter. I felt freaked out enough just by getting close enough to get a good shot of them.
And then, the ostriches. I still don't believe Erik's quip about humans being able to ride them. I can't really say much else about the ostriches, so I'll leave you to this video:
Back to the road... we decided, at the last minute, that, yes, we would have time to hit the Santa Rosa Road to take us back towards Santa Barbara. Shortly thereafter, it seemed like a bad idea, but now, it was worth it. Bicyclists literally took over the pass the entire time, as they were participating in some sort of ride (century, half-century, whatever, all new to me). It was fun for me, as passenger, to sit and watch Erik try to navigate through the swarm of cyclists.
Before too long, we were back on the 101 headed South (?!?) towards Santa Barbara, because Erik just HAD to show me UCSB. We parked on campus and walked through to some student center, where Erik illegally purchased a copy of iLife '05. Heh. After that, it was time for lunch. The hike down into the township of Isla Vista was enough to make me hungry again.
And hungry I needed to be, apparently, because I was excorted to FREEB!RDS, a 24-hour burrito place right off campus that rocks harder than any other burrito place I've been to. It's a choose-your-own-burrito-adventure, people! Need I say more? I stuffed myself silly and we lugged it back to Erik's car, climbed back in, and thought, "Next stop - Elephant Seals!"
The next stop actually turned out to be a Chevron Station in San Luis Obispo, but that was hardly worth mentioning. Then we were back on the 1 heading towards Morro Bay (so foggy we couldn't even spot famous Morro Rock!!). Through the winding roads we went, and stopped off near Point Piedras to watch another smelly species, the elephant seal, essentially sleep.
Oh, there were some entertaining moments: a pair of seals whining/yelling at eachother, a baby seal tragically confusing a bull seal for a female one (to the great entertainment of any teenage boys in the area), and the most people-friendly squirrel I've ever come in contact with (I was convinced it was gonna climb up my pantleg and bite me).
After we got out fill of seals, we once again made for the road. Did I mention that is was overcast? Well, it only got moreso as we wound our way up into the fog-swamped abyss formerly known as the fun twisty section of Highway 1. Visibility became a bad joke. A pull-out that I am very familiar with became a near-death experience as Erik nearly careened off the north side of it, nearly missing the turn-off entirely due to the heavy fog. The ocean below us only existed as an aural sensation. It was like that "Love Will Turn Back the Hands of Time"/death scene in Grease 2 with all the fog. Well, not really, but it was THICK!
Again, back to the road - target: Monterey. This couple of hours was rather exhausting for Erik, I imagine, because it was fairly tedious for even me, and I wasn't even driving. When Carmel came in to view it was a glorious thing, because we knew that Monterey (well, actually, Marina) was just precious few miles away.
We arrived at our lodging just after 6pm, and collapsed from exhaustion, forgoing even the sweet relief of dinner.
It took forever for me to get out of bed on Sunday morning. I just didn't want to. Erik was awake at some crazy hour like 6 or something, but I just kept sleeping. All I can remember is that we were outta there before checkout time, and ate breakfast at the nearby Denny's. This was maybe the nicest Denny's I've ever been to. the decor was interesting with all the primary colors and our waitress was truly the nicest, most concerned server I've ever encountered. She truly looked like she loved her job. Someone get that woman an Academy Award!
After a filling breakfast we drove down to the Aquarium. I had never been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium before, and while I found it smaller than I had imagined, I still had a rockin' good time watching all the jellyfish, seeing a Great White Shark, and marveling at those funny sea otters.
Back to the MINI, and back to the road. We rode the 68 out to Salinas (I slept during the majority of this boring road), gassed up, and then rode the 101 down. By late afternoon we had psyched ourselves into having another go at FREEB!RDS, this time enjoying parking right next to the eatery (code word: "enjoying"). Stuffed silly again, we trekked down the remaining road until Simi Valley.
Erik helped me in with my bag, and he was fortunate enough to encounter my father in his post-jam session drunken stupor. My dad actually had some of his buddies over, which almost never happens, and they, apparently, had a good ol' time strumming and crooning Johnny Cash songs. Did I mention that my father was sloshed? That's always fun. Erik was a gentleman not to run, mad, out of the house (as I most certainly would have done in his position). He left a little while later, leaving me to collapse on my overly-comfy bed. *Sigh* It was a good weekend.
I could have gone anywhere this weekend – well, anywhere the span of two days allows. Saturday began with a trip to Bob Smith MINI to have them replace the mirror they broke while changing my mirror caps the previous Saturday. Scrumptious hot chocolate consumed. Email checked.
Did I mention how beautiful outside it was on Saturday? The trip was not a foregone conclusion by any means. Had it been foggy or overcast or too windy or if the sun wasn’t shining precisely the way I wanted it to, I would have ditched the idea of a trip. But everything was in the trip’s favor, so after breaking free of the dealership by about 9:30am (I must have missed you, Erik!), I was on my way.
It was early enough that I didn't get caught up in any of that nasty traffic between Westlake and Santa Barbara. I gassed up in Ventura. I was excited because I knew I only had a hundred or so miles before the official “break-in” period on my MINI expired into excessive-RPM’d glee. Ventura afforded me my first glimpse of the ocean - the first of many, to be sure.
Let me not forget to share a little about this trip’s soundtrack. Friday night I stumbled upon Pedro the Lion’s Achilles Heel album on the iTunes Music Store. I think I had maybe heard a track or two from the outfit a few years ago, but it didn’t then catch my attention. But this listen did the trick, and after downloading the album, I burnt it at the head of an mp3 cd I entitled “New-Fangled Alt Rock” which also contained tracks by Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, The YYYs, The Postal Service and the Von Bondies. I thought I’d call it “Trendy Music”, but I had wanted to use the phrase “new-fangled” for quite some time now, so…
Anyway, the other artists’ tracks were hardly played at all. Achilles Heel was the album of choice during most of the trip. I’m quite fond of the album, actually. But it was during The Killer’s “Mr. Brightside”, just south of San Luis Obispo, that my MINI hit that magic mile-number, 1250. Hee hee. I won’t admit in a public forum that I broke the law or anything, but it is within the realm of possibility that I broke the speed limit by, um, more than 30 mph. But I’m not one to gossip, so you didn’t hear that from me.
I stopped for a bite to eat at a Jack-in-the-Box near the Highway 1 transition towards Morro Bay. A Jumbo Jack with cheese and no tomato or onion, fries, and a Coke was consumed as I sat in a booth overlooking my MINI, eyeballing any passersby who eyeballed my car, as well. I topped off the gas before getting back on the road. Before too long I was greeted by those familiar smoke-pipes (or whatever they are) and the long, long beaches of Morro Bay and nearby Cayucos.
Now I was really able to kick it into gear – passing other, more law-abiding drivers with ease on the softly winding roads leading to San Simeon and beyond. Of course I stopped at Pt. Piedras to have a look at the elephant seals… because, I mean, one HAS to just stop and LOOK AT THOSE ELEPHANT SEALS – OH MY GOODNESS LOOK HOW BIG AND LAZY THEY ARE!
But I had road to tame and beauty shots of my MINI to take, so I was back in the car in no time. The aforementioned beauty shots were taken at a turnout I used to like to refer to as my favorite spot on the planet. After having traveled considerably more since I first coined the reference, I’ve come to understand that several other places share in that distinction. The turnout is rather large, as turnouts go, sort of like a dirt driveway on an ocean cliffside. It affords about a 270º view of the ocean – a glorious view (particularly at sundown, but it wasn’t so bad mid-afternoon, either!). I had previously spent hours and hours at this spot, contemplating the beauty of nature, and my place in it – but this time, the beauty I wanted to admire was that of my new MINI.
Travelers came and went taking snapshots of the ocean in the foreground – but for me the sea was simply a pretty backdrop for the gorgeous Electric Blue MINI Cooper before me. I spent nearly an hour taking photos from every possible angle. I was less-than-impressed with the majority of the results, as the light just wasn’t “right” for me, and the glare of the sun kept impeding on my photos… but then again, maybe if I learned to properly use a camera I wouldn’t have so many problems. A few of those shots are shown below:
Oh, I took a couple of nature shots, when the thought struck.
I reluctantly got back in my car and began driving north. At this point I was aimless. I didn’t really want to make this a two-day adventure, because I thought I’d want to spend Sunday Christmas shopping or seeing a movie or something (silly rabbit!). So when I reached Carmel and nearby Monterey Bay, I made the split-decision to head inland, towards Salinas, and take the 101 back down to Simi. As the sun finally went down, I figured I’d be home by around 10pm – and I was exactly right.
I stopped, again, at San Luis Obispo to attend to the final fueling – both for the MINI and myself (thank you, Red Bull!), and to thoroughly clean my bug-splattered windshield. They must not get many MINIs in S.L.O., because several people chatted me up at the gas station about how cool my car was, how awesome the color blue was, how many miles-to-the-gallon I got in it, and (remarkably) if I liked the car. Well, duh!
By the time I walked in the door at 10pm sharp with Del Taco fast-food in hand, I was exhausted.
This past Saturday I embarked on my first long-distance day-trip in my new MINI Cooper S. After more than a couple hours of sitting in a dealership service department (when, all told, the job should have taken maybe twenty minutes maximum), I was chomping at the bit to get out on the road.
It was a less-than-perfect start, as while the service department was swapping out my mirror caps, they managed to break both mirror glasses... and they only had one replacement mirror on hand. So I was left with a crack'd passenger-side wing mirror. Yay!
Secondly, I was starving... really, really hungry. I hadn't had anything solid to eat, and their super-sugary scrumptious hot chocolate managed to dig a raw hole in my stomach lining. And the effects of the sugar were having their way with my nervous system, inducing a steady shaky, sweaty feeling. Fun!
But I started out on the road nonetheless, eager to get out onto open road. Let me tell you prospective travelers of the 101 freeway something: open road and the 101 between Oxnard and Ventura should never be mentioned together. Oh, the traffic! But it eased up considerably as I transitioned to Highway 33 towards Ojai.
Only moments passed as the wind hit my proverbial sails did a bug go SPLAT! on my windshield. Ouch - it hurt me far more than it hurt the hapless insect, I'm sure. I jumped in shock and brief agony, and attempted to whisk away the smudge with my windshield washers, to no avail. Ah well. The trauma subsided as I kicked it into sixth gear and zoomed forward on the open road ahead of me with such happy, perfect ease.
Ojai was gorgeous. Some trees has turned to their winter yellows, and were a perfect contrast to the über-greens of the nearby grasses. The cloudless blue sky opened up over the hills. Ojai is such a cute, quaint little town. On this Saturday afternoon, city firefighters were amassed on street corners, holding out their big rubber boots, collecting money, as car after car dropped various amounts of bills and coinage into them.
A stop at Taco Bell solved my hunger crisis. Ew. Why do I do this to myself? Taco Bell is N-a-a-a-a-s-t-y! But they took my debit card, and my shakes ceased, so I guess that's all that matters.
Once I made that left-hand turn back onto the 33 out of Ojai, it was twisty fun for miles upon miles. Low in the canyons, the sun would be momentarily blocked by the surrounding trees, causing flashes of light and dark in the cabin. This flashing allowed another MINI Cooper (silver) to sneak up behind me. He was nipping at my heels, so I sped into a turnout, allowing his passage. He zoomed off, and disappeared far ahead me in the canyon. (Sigh...) Someday!
I ran into him again a couple miles up the road. He had pulled off the road and was going to turn back in the opposite direction. As I approached, I took part in my very first, official MINI to MINI wave. Oh, joyous occasion!
On road trips, I have a bad habit of not stopping to take pictures. Oh, you'd think I'd want to get out and snap off a few shots, but I always seem to forget... I get too caught up in the whole driving experience. but this being my first little excursion in the new car, I had to force myself to stop and take the obligatory MINI beauty shot.
I got back on the twisty, treacherous road (no guard rails, that I can remember!), and got stuck behind a pickup truck, well, truckin' along at a tired pace. Fine, whatever - I can't really get too crazy with the car yet (saving that for post-1250 miles), so I can kick back and take stock of the scenery.
Until the silver Porsche Boxster races up behind me. This guy was in a hurry. Not the mean-spirited "I'm late for my tee-time" sort of hurriedness, but a "come on, I wanna have some fun here!" impatience. And the truck continued on its pace. After a couple of miles he got the point, and he pulled out. I then kicked it into gear. I didn't want to have to sacrifice my passing-spot to the Porsche just yet, and I didn't want to be too much of a bother, so I "opened the MINI up", just a little.
I wanted to pull over. Really, I did! But there was no place to go but down here, and the Boxster was just pushing me and pushing me. I think I did a pretty respectable job in front of the Porsche, and quickly spread some dirt on the first turnout available.
The Porsche was G-O-N-E. I would've eaten his dust, but it had already settled by the time I got back on the road (think seconds, here). I talked myself into better spirits, though, self-righteously thinking that at least I would make it off this mountain alive... take that, damned Porsche!
Many miles later I came in contact with the Boxster again. No, I wasn't driving that fast - he was now traveling in the opposite direction. I was a little pleasantly surprised when he gave me a wave of good will as he passed. I like to think that he was giving me props for my spirited motoring (even if it was only momentarily). 'Twas a proud moment for me... I never received such friendliness in my beater '83 Honda.
The treacherous twisties gave way to less s heart attack-inducing roadway as I drove down the mountain. I decided to take a right at Lockwood Valley Road - it cut a beeline through the flatlands and foothills through to Frazier Park, and the 5 freeway. A little while later I was gassing up my MINI at a Chevron station off the 5, and headed back to Los Angeles.
But I couldn't return to Simi Valley just yet. No, somehow, the idea of sitting in stop-and-go traffic all the way to Whittier sounded like a far better idea. My grandparents live out there, so of course I wanted to show it off a bit. And come on, how bad can traffic be in a brand new MINI Cooper?
The day was capped with an evening viewing of the film Closer. Not a bad day, all-told. I've definitely caught the bug, though. No, not the number of bugs I had to wipe carefully from my chrome grill (heh), but the road-trip bug has infected me, and it's going to be really, really difficult to not drive up to San Francisco and beyond this next weekend...